Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Vacuum Reducer

fast, energy efficient method of reducing sauces and soups
  (+34, -3)(+34, -3)(+34, -3)
(+34, -3)
  [vote for,

When making sauces and soups, it is often necessary to condense or, as the saying goes, "reduce" the concoction. This requires you to boil off water until the mixture is concentrated enough. Imagine the energy required, and there's hours of constantly stirring so that the sauce doesn't burn and stick to the bottom of the pot.

Solution: a heavy-duty potlid with a rubber sheet laminated on the bottom, to seal any sized pot/pan(which should also be heavy-duty), incorporating a small vacuum pump.

Plug it in, toss the exit tube into an empty cup or something to catch the water, and turn the heat to "simmer"(low).

As the air is evacuated, the water boils at a much lower temperature, the excess water vapour is drawn out of the pot condensing when it hits normal atmospheric pressure, and your pièce de résistance is finished in 5 minutes instead of 5 hours, and *none* of the contents of the pot have burnt.

Mind, this is *not* a method of cooking, and it certainly isn't a way of making a good cup of tea; simply a better way to reduce stocks and sauces.

FlyingToaster, Dec 10 2007

Rotary vacuum evaporator http://www.labrecyc....html?CategoryID=38
Available second-hand [MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 10 2007]

VacuuKettle VacuuKettle#1149099570
[xaviergisz, Dec 12 2007]

Things I Wish I Had in my Kitchen http://www.nielsenh...rchives/002670.html
Also mentions this. [jutta, Dec 14 2007]

More on the Rotovap http://ocw.mit.edu/...Materials/index.htm
Video #6 [quantum_flux, Dec 30 2007]

Another form of vacuum reducer Kirby_20Lipo_20Attachment
[normzone, Jan 10 2008]

Vacuum pfoduction of salt http://www.saltinst...Vacuum-pan-refining
Removes water from salt brine by using vacuum to reduce energy requirements [AusCan531, Nov 16 2011]


       Good idea. You could just buy a rotary vacuum evaporator (link). I'm sure Heston Blumenthal has several...
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 10 2007

       ooh, I want one of those...high-class 'still replete with blinkenlights.   

       Wikipedia states that M.Blumenthal uses a vacuum jar to create larger-than-normal bubbles in dishes such as souffles... wouldn't you have to eat it in a vacuum jar also ? else the souffle would just collapse as air pressure pushed the bubbles back to their original size
FlyingToaster, Dec 10 2007

       Cool, it's like an inverse pressure cooker.
MisterQED, Dec 11 2007

       This could make some sauces, desserts etc possible that are currently quite difficult. Often the time taken to reduce a sauce will essentially "overcook" it.   

       One thing, but - //Imagine the energy required // - I'm not absolutely certain that you get to save any energy using this, however. Someone flame me if I'm wrong, but won't you be thoroughly cooling the liquid as you draw off the vapour? And won't this corresponding heat extraction be roughly equal to what you save by having it run at lower temperatures?   

       Or am I having a very long day? My point being - I thought the heat of vapourisation (by far the higher percentage of the energy used up in "boiling") was the same irrelevant of operating temperature.
Custardguts, Dec 11 2007

       //but won't you be thoroughly cooling the liquid as you draw off the vapour?//   

       well, I'm sortof counting on a "roiling boil": the water forming steam bubbles mostly at the bottom of the pot (on top of the hot element of the stove), not on surface evaporation.   

       As far as how much energy I have to dump into the system to get this to happen, I'm not a thermodynamics engineer, and the last 20 minutes spent googling '"latent heat" pressure temperature water' have proven unfruitful: all the answers state unequivocally "100C and 1 atm. pressure" and give no other references.   

       ... a little help from more knowledgeable members ?
FlyingToaster, Dec 11 2007

       I used to work with high vacuum systems (mass spectrometers); yes, you'll cool the liquid but it will still boil. Ice will sublime .... a basic vacuum pump capable of pulling 10^-2 pascals is cheap enough, and will vac out most things pretty fast.   

       You need a non-return valve in the line to the pump, the low volatility vacuum oil's not very pleasant stuff.
8th of 7, Dec 11 2007

       //I thought the heat of vapourisation... was the same irrelevant of operating temperature.//   

       That is an intriguing point. In theory, you're trying to rip molecules out of the liquid, and it should take the same energy however you do it. However, a vacuum takes the departing molecules out of the way, so they don't just go back into the liquid. Arrgh - I don't know! Excellent!
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 11 2007

       // Arrgh - I don't know //   


       Who are you, and what have you done with the real [MaxwellBuchanan] ?   

8th of 7, Dec 11 2007

       I like the speed, and the not overcooking aspects of this. Strong work. Have a bun. You will note that I have gently drizzled it with a new sauce I have developed using your invention. It has celery!
bungston, Dec 11 2007

       // celery //   

       celery EEEEEEWWWWWW HORRIDDD celery
8th of 7, Dec 11 2007

       great idea, pastry from me
evilpenguin, Dec 11 2007

       IIRC there are several terms you use to determine the energy required to boil a liquid. One of these is the heat of vapourisation, others are for the kinetic energy (heat) of the gas, there are some entropy terms, etc. I had thought the heat of vapourisation was a constant for a given substance.   

       But it's a long time since I've dealt with these calcs.   

       //will vac out most things pretty fast// Yeah, but will it "boil" off a quantity of liquid water quickly?
Custardguts, Dec 12 2007

       //yes, you'll cool the liquid but it will still boil//   

       Most evaporation takes place at the bottom of the pot, heated by the stove element.   

       //I had thought the heat of vapourisation was a constant for a given substance//   

       My (current) problem is that the references I've seen unequivocally state "100degC" for latent heat of evaporation (2k'ish Joules/cm^3) which leads me to believe that a different temperature (ie: specifically a lower temperature) would have a different figure (hopefully a smaller one).
FlyingToaster, Dec 12 2007

       Actually, because of the thermal inertia of the system, it equilibrates fairly fast, given that the pump has a reasonably constant characteristic and the volume of material to be reduced is significant compared to the capacity of the pump.   

       You're quite right; it's a surface effect, the loss of volatiles occurs at the liquid/gas interface, causing the development of a "skin" of dewatered material on the surface. If the liquid isn't mechanically stirred, then the rate of extraction rapidly slows, since there's no "boiling" to churn the liquid as there is in a conventional pan.   

       Putting an ice cube in a high-vacuum chamber, pumping it down and watching the cube just "vanish" is quite amusing (if something of a misuse of many thousands of pounds of equipment as a mere source of rather childish entertainment)
8th of 7, Dec 12 2007

       If the container is perfectly insulated, then yes, no boiling and just a surface effect.   

       [MaxB] - try this idea and see if it helps the confusion. If you put an ice cube on the counter, it melts, right? And you didn't add any energy to it, thus violating thermodynamics all to heck and back in the process. No, you didn't, you just neglected to consider that your counter, and the remainder of your house, are being heated to around 295 K just because you don't like trying to stay comfy at anything less than the mid-200's and you forget that you're paying for it.   

       So, your pot of stuff that was wont to bubble into vapor formerly did so at 373 K, and at a rate entirely dependent upon how fast you pumped excess heat into it, will now do so at a lower temperature, and still entirely dependent upon how fast you pump heat into it - but if you lower the boiling point to "room temperature" that "excess heat" may begin to come from ambient heat you paid for from your central heating, rather than that you paid for from your hotplate. (As it loses energy, if you feel the container, it will feel "cold". And if you leave your hand there, the boiling increases, and your hand starts to get cold because now you, fueled by the twinkies you ate, are a heat source.)   

       If the "excess heat" is allowed to make its way to the bottom of the container, it'll still boil at the bottom and bubble up nice as you please. Since [FlyingToaster] is still planning to add heat at the bottom, there is no problem there.   

       So anyway, in net, there isn't a reduction of energy requirement - [Custardguts], your thermodynamics reflex is on the money - but the temperature point is lowered, and does answer to [FlyingToaster]'s spec of not burning the ingredients. The speed aspect may not be quite so valid - as [MaxwellBuchanan] hints, you're just making sure the vapor pressure of the air above doesn't rise up to equilibrium, which speed-wise would place it on par with an open pot boiling with a small fan blowing air over it.   

       Last week the wife and I took twenty hours to boil down a batch of apple butter. With the lid off, the stuff spattered all over the room; with it on, all the water went right back into the sauce. I'm going to try building one of these.
lurch, Dec 12 2007

       Brilliantly simple.   

       I expect to see one of these on one of those '[INSERT COUNTRY NAME HERE] Inventor' shows.
RayfordSteele, Dec 13 2007

       -_- define "work"... I've stuffed enough thermodynamics in my face to figure out that it will.   

       Note that the steam being pumped out at 60C (which I've been using strictly as an example) will immediately condense into water... at 100C !!!
FlyingToaster, Dec 14 2007

       Well, it won't save any energy. You might look at it as the difference between pushing the water out with heat, or pulling it out with a pump--either way you have to do the work.   

       My rule of thumb is that it normally takes five times as much energy to boil water away as it does to raise it to the boiling point from room temperature. This vacuum pump might save the 1/6th of the total energy that is used for initial heating, but it probably has internal losses to more than make up for that.   

       If you really worked at it, you could design a system that recycled the energy of the recondensing vapor, for either method; heating or vacuum pumping. But that would be complicated, and isn't in the idea as described.   

       This idea would tend to prevent burning of the sauce, as everything would be happening at a lower temperature. But it would also prevent the development of tasty combinations and caramelisation.
baconbrain, Dec 14 2007

       It would be very interesting to compare the flavour of two sauces, one produced by conventional heating and the other by vacuum reduction.
8th of 7, Dec 14 2007

       I'm sorta agreeing with [Maxwell] on the energy breakdown - but I wonder if using the energy to do mechanical work would result in less environmental heating.   

       I don't have the math at my fingertips to even begin this kind of calculation. I can say it would be strange to have a vacuum pump on your list of cooking apparatus.   

       You'd still be able to achieve carmelization, but you'd have to be hovering right over the sauces as they cooked - there wouldn't be the extra water on hand to slow down the sauce going too far.
elhigh, Dec 14 2007

       I'd make shloop.
wagster, Dec 14 2007

       //So anyway, in net, there isn't a reduction of energy requirement// Aha - thank you [lurch], it all makes sense now.   

       //Who are you, and what have you done with the real [MaxwellBuchanan] ?// I'm sorry. I was trying not to appear omniscient, in case people started to think I'm a smug bastard. Somebody told me that faults are endearing. It won't happen again.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 14 2007

       No need. A rotary evaporator rotates (the clue is in the name), so the sauce is constantly churned.   

       If you were using an alternative format, just use a magnetic stirrer.   

       Incidentally, rotary evaporators are not tremendously fast. Their main advantage is their operating at low temperatures.
MaxwellBuchanan, Dec 14 2007

       [wagster] - sp. "schloop" (If you don't believe me, search the halfbakery. Actually, do that anyway - it's good stuff.)   

       Someday, we are going to need a whole category for astronautical cooking utensils and methods. With an infinite supply of vacuum, this is going to work very well indeed; just need to make sure in zero-g the sauce stays in the pan and doesn't get ejected into independent orbit.
lurch, Dec 15 2007

       Yes, good idea.   

       OASN: Can you use a rotovap for purposes of mercury evaporation used in gold panning?
quantum_flux, Dec 30 2007

       There are a lot of flavors which are blunted and changed by cooking. Some for the better, some for the worse. There was an article on Cooks challanging the idea that the wine you cook with should be the one you drink with dinner - it turns out that many of the subtler qualities of fine wine are destoyed by cooking, and many of the unappealing attributes of cheap wine are destroyed by cooking, and so one might as well cook with the cheap stuff and save the good stuff. Likewise subtle vegetable and fish flavors can be destroyed by cooking. I understand one cannot cook with stevia leaf because heating destroys the sweetness.   

       I think a lot of these subtle (and off) flavors would be retained with this method. It would be a whole new deal.
bungston, Dec 30 2007

       // With an infinite supply of vacuum, this is going to work very well indeed //   

       Yes, but maybe a bit too well. You've paid a huge price with your crude chemical-fuelled reaction engines to haul water into space, and then you just (literally) blow it out the door ...... what's wrong with this picture ? Better to use the abundant solar energy to drive a vacuum pump, and recover the water for re-use.
8th of 7, Dec 30 2007

       [baconbrain] has the best answer so far. //I thought the heat of vapourisation... was the same irrelevant of operating temperature.// ans: it goes up slightly with lower temperature boiling. Check the CRC rubber handbook tables.   

       A pressure cooker could be rigged to a vacuum pump to realize your invention. Hopefully it would not implode , so avoid the cheap Chineese knock-offs.   

       If your system is thermally insulated, the heat of vaporization will be taken from the sauce which has a chilling effect. If enough liquid is forced to evaporate, boiling ice cubes (the triple point {UnaBabba]) will be reached. Continued insulated sauce reduction results in the entire substance freezing into a solid, and direct sublimation begins. Umm... frozen custard.
CoolSolutions, Jan 09 2008

       //ans: it goes up slightly with lower temperature boiling. Check the CRC rubber handbook tables.//   

       Wow. That has got to take the world award for using the most obscure reference for a simple property.   

       The Wiki entry for Enthalpy of vaporization states that it is essentially independant of temperature, but does vary with pressure. I think this is a simplification to avoid working out the enthalpy of the gas changing with pressure. I remember doing calcs at uni where all these values were separated out, and the heat of vaporisation was a constant, not a function. I digress. Regardless, the enthalpy is essentially constant with pressure and temperature.   

       So, once again, this does not really save you any energy.
Custardguts, Jan 09 2008

       If you wanted to have a low pressure environment for cooking, but didn't need to draw off excess liquid, you could use a pressure cooker with a one-way valve.   

       As the contents of the cooker heat up the gas inside expands and exits from through the one-way valve. When the cooker is cooled back to room temperature (or below) a low pressure environment is formed.
xaviergisz, Jan 10 2008

       //the world award for using the most obscure reference// If I've said it once, I've said it a million times, don't exaggerate.   

       CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Phisics, 59th Edition 1978-1979, Steam Tables pages E18-E23. (Properties of Saturated Steam and Saturated Water)   

       Basically, when water changes to vapor at a low pressure, it's going to occupy a larger volume, thus more randomness. Let's not forget that the heat of vaporization for all liquids tends to zero at their critical point temperature.   

       P.S. I like warm custard better.
CoolSolutions, Jan 10 2008

       Aren't we just going to have a nice tall glass of water to go with this anyways?
RayfordSteele, Feb 01 2008

       This is a good idea which has been baked for many years on an industrial scale for salt production. It works just for the reasons [FT] postulated. See Link
AusCan531, Nov 16 2011

       [AC] Thanks for not leaving [RS]'s mildly confusing comment as last anno.   

       It was my 3rd or 4th post; at least some of the buns were probably in commiseration over being thoroughly trashed in "Bicycle Sidecar"(baked), the previous.
FlyingToaster, Nov 16 2011


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