Around 2007 I came across a great blog about molecular gastronomy, Khymos.org, and one of the topics at that time was how much gelatin we should use with alcohol to achieve the desired gelling effect. It made it easier for me to find the right proportions of alcohol to gelatin.
I recently decided to revisit that discussion, but the post was not in the archives anymore, so I decided to sum up what the discussion was all about. Hopefully, someone will find this information helpful.
In the beginning, my post was supposed to be only a couple of paragraphs but slowly evolved into a bit longer one, as I decided to include more information and answer a few basic questions about gelatin.
- What is gelatin?
- What forms of gelatin do we have?
- What are the different bloom strengths?
- How does alcohol proof affect the gelling process?
What is gelatin?
They are two main types of gelatin:
Gelling Food Grade and Non-gelling Hydrolyzed Collagen
Different kinds of gelatin have numerous purposes and applications and have been processed differently. But since this blog is about drinks, I will only look at the food grade one.
Gelatin is the main ingredient of the Jello, a product probably everyone is familiar with, and it has been available in North America since 1897. Gelatin and Jello dessert are two different things; Jello has additives like artificial sweeteners, colors, or chemical ingredients that simulate a particular flavor.
For instance, according to Healthline.com, the Strawberry Jell-O contains sugar, gelatin, adipic acid, artificial flavor, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate, fumaric acid, and red dye #40.
Flavored gelatin is a bit better in terms of making at-home Jello and Jello shots but still has some artificial flavor additives, so that leaves us with few options.
Use unflavored gelatin and add flavor by adding pulp-free juice, simple syrups, or alcohol. Another option is Agar -Agar– plant-based hydrocolloid, but the final product doesn’t have a clear-see-through appearance if that’s needed. Gellan gum can also be used, but the jello shots have a slightly different texture.
Gelatin (E441) is made from animal collagen; once extracted, it is dried, ground into a powder, and sifted to make gelatin. It is a thickener and widely used as a gelling agent in the food industry. It creates thermoreversible – (ability to convert to a gel and revert to a fluid performed repeatedly), soft, transparent, and elastic gel.
– Bloom in cold water.
– Dissolve at around 45-50 °C.
– Set below 15 °C.
– Create gel with alcohol up to 80 proof – 40%.
Besides creating gel, it can be used for making foams as well.
Forms of Gelatin.
Gelatin comes in two forms: powder and sheet. Knox is the most popular powder.
The gelatin sheets come in different Bloom strength-gelling strengths and weights.
How to work with gelatin sheets and gelatin bloom strength:
Hydrate the gelatin sheets in cold water for about 2-3 minutes, then squeeze the water out of them.
Heat the liquid to about 50°C. Once the gelatin is hydrated, disperse it into a warm liquid and whisk the gelatin.
* If the liquid is not hot, you can microwave the bloomed gelatin until it becomes liquid and add it.
If using powdered gelatin, bloom and disperse the gelatin into the same liquid.
Since the gelatin sheets have different strengths (titanium, bronze, silver, gold, platinum), the obvious question is how to substitute them if you have titanium and the recipe calls for gold.
|Titanium||120||5.0 g – per sheet|
If the recipe calls for gelatin by sheets, 5 sheets of titanium, you can substitute them with the same amount of whatever bloom strength you have in a 1:1 ratio.
If the recipe calls for gelatin by Weight, 10 g of titanium, and you have only gold, it is a good idea to use the conversion formula.
There are different formulas on the Internet; I usually use the Modernist Cuisine website.
According to Modernist Cuisine, this is how to calculate the gelatin:
“You can convert the recipe to use whatever gelatin you have on hand if you know the Weight (MA) and Bloom strength (BA). For gelatin A, you can find the equivalent Weight of gelatin B (MB) with a Bloom strength of BB by using the formula MB = MA × BA ÷ BB. For example, if a recipe calls for 2.6 g of Knox gelatin, you could use 3.7 g of silver gelatin, which has a Bloom strength of 160 (2.6 × 225 ÷ 160 = 3.7)”.
| MB = MA x BA ÷ BB|
Weight needed = Weight known x Strength (known) ÷ Strength (unknown)
Using the formula mentioned above, you can fairly accurately make substitutions and measure the correct amount needed. The stronger the bloom is, the clearer the product.
There is another rough approximation method of substitutions.
1 Tbs powdered = 1 envelop(7g)granulated= 3 sheets
If the gelatin is not fully dissolved, don’t boil again, It may curdle. It is better to heat it and stir till dissolved slowly.
How to use gelatin with alcohol
The usual concentration of gelatin is between 0.6%-1.7 for gel, but when we are working with alcohol, the gelatin concentration can jump up to 7%. That means the alcohol strength is interfering with the gelling process; another factor that needs to be considered is the pH level of the liquid, levels < 4 and >9, which leads to weaker gels.
Probably the best way to see that is to look at the linear regression chart, which Martin Lersch posted on his blog, Khymos.org, in 2007.
The higher the liquor concentration, the higher amount of gelatin is needed.
He used the B-52 jello shot as an example of what the proportion could have been instead of the original recipes of 8 g gelatin for each layer.
I have the recipe under the BTR post.
Baileys – 17%, Kahlua – 20 %, and Grand Marnier – 40% alcohol.
|% gelatin to add = (%alcohol in final mix x 0.1) +2|
This formula may or may not give us the precise answer we are after, but it provides us with another tool to make an educated guess, and it worked pretty well for me over the years. After all, we are working with food, drinks, and flavors, and nothing is black and white when it comes to taste.
Some considerations on working with gelatin and its concentration:
– Serving – if the guests are to use their hands – higher gelatin concentration
– if the product is to be served on a spoon – lower gelatin concentration may be used
– the room temperature affects the melting speed.
Here are some fun, easy recipes
Port & Cheese
4 oz Port – Luke-warm
1.5 sheets of gelatin
piece of cheese
Dissolve the gelatin in the port. Let it sit in the refrigerator. Cut the port gel into small cubes, and then cut the cheese into pieces, slightly bigger than the port gel. Put the gel cubes on top of the cheese. It is a delicious after-dinner dessert. Try 1/3 port and 2/3 cheese.
Black tea gel with apple.
Make tea gel, cut into cubes, and serve on top of apple slices. ½ tea and ½ apple.
*Both recipes were created by Mark and posted as part of the discussion about gelatin on the Khymos website, 2007.
How to flavor gelatin
Another easy way to make flavored gelatin is to buy some pulp-free juice.
16 oz juice
8.5 g – 1.7% of volume Knox unflavored gelatin
Place 4 oz of juice in a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin powder over it.
Let it sit for 5 min. Warm the juice over low heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir slowly until gelatin dissolves, add the rest of the juice and stir again. Pour into mold and refrigerate.
If you prefer transparent results using pulpy juice, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth before mixing with gelatin.
*Some juices need to be boiled: pineapple juice, for example, it must be canned or boiled to eliminate an enzyme that keeps the gelatin from stiffening
Gelatin replacement options
Agar-Agar, Gellan gum, Carrageenan
Agar-Agar is a flavorless gelling agent derived from cooked and pressed seaweed and is available flaked, powdered, or in bars.
– The agar gels are not clear, and they are probably best used with liqueurs such as Baileys or Kahlua.
I used Agar to make an edible Sex on the Beach cocktail.
Gellan Gum (E418) is a plant-based polysaccharide obtained by fermentation of Sphingomonas elodea.
It has gelling, stabilizing, and texture-enhancing properties. There are two types: low acyl(LA) and high acyl(HA).
– LA Gellan – thermoreversible, hard, brittle gel, clear gel
– HA Gellan – thermoreversible, soft, elastic, opaque gel
– Jello shots made with gellan have a different texture than those made with gelatin. Jello breaks during chewing instead of melting; that might depend on what type of gellan is used. That doesn’t mean it tastes bad, just different. The texture can be modified by using sugar or other compounds.
Carrageenan (407) is a polysaccharide obtained from red seaweed (Irish moss). There are two types:
Iota type – thermoreversible, soft, thinning, elastic gel with calcium
Kappa type – thermoreversible, firm, brittle gel with potassium
Gelatin is protein, and proteins are more prone to denaturation due to alcohol, acidity, and heat, while starches (Agar, Gellan, Carrageenan) are more stable.