Whether you’re a foodie or you’re just a fan of trying new dishes, garnish is everything. It takes whatever you’re eating to the next level, and if you choose the right type of garnish, the flavour of what you’re eating really comes through.

Take donuts for example: over the past few years donuts have blown up, all because foodies have added cereal, bacon, fruit, or savory drizzles. Sushi is more creative than ever. I can’t remember the last time I had a simple California roll, but deep fry it and add a salmon/wasabi dip and I’m your best friend.

Yes, you can add spices to flavour things, but why add a simple spice when you can flavour one dish with another ingredient? That’s where the Spherificator comes in. This very cool food processor style appliance takes any ingredient and makes it into caviar-shaped pearls.

What can you make with the Spherificator? I think the question really is what can’t you make. Sriracha, coffee, avocado, tomato, cranberry, mint…the possibilities are virtually endless. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical trying it, but I’ve found it’s so fun to have in the kitchen. It really adds a creative element and extra flavour to your dishes.

Here’s a look at what it was like to use the Spherificator.

Appearance

I’ve never heard of spherification before I tried the Spherificator for the first time, so much so I have a hard time pronouncing the world, but the process has been around since the 1950’s. In a nutshell, it’s the process of shaping liquid into spheres, and these small spheres resemble caviar or pearls. Prior to the Spherificator, chefs would use Molecular Gastronomy to create pearls, but it was the equivalent of setting up a science lab so not many people would try it.

After a successful Kickstarter campaign the Spherificator was born. It takes the process of spherification and breaks it down so simply anyone can try it. If I had to describe it without a photo, I’d say the Spherificator looks like a large pepper mill or Parmesan cheese grater. It’s very lightweight, so holding it with one hand is easy, and you just need to plug it in to use it.

Features

The Spherificator comes in a kit that gives you everything you need to start making pearls.

  • 200ml/7 ounce capacity
  • Variable speed control
  • 2 nozzle sizes
  • Plug in and use
  • Includes 75g Sodium Alginate
  • Includes 100g Calcium Chloride
  • One kit can produce 7kg of pearls

Testing the Spherificator

As I mentioned, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when trying out the Spherificator for the first time, but I was definitely excited to try it. When you think of all the different ingredients you can use to add flavor to another food or drink? It really gets you interested in creating in the kitchen.

For my first try with the Spherificator I wanted to stick to the recipe book. I’ve had a vanilla bean scoop of ice cream in an espresso shot before, and it’s one of my favourite things to order when out, so the idea of adding coffee caviar to ice cream was seriously appealing.

To use the Spherificator to make coffee pearls you have to brew 10 ounces of coffee and add 2 teaspoons of sodium alginate. That name sounds sort of ominous, but it’s actually a chemical extracted from brown seaweed and used as a stabilizer for food like ice cream and cheese. It also acts as a thickener for pudding, jam, and tomato juice.

Once you’ve stirred in the sodium alginate, you have to let the solution sit for around 45 minutes. That lets any air escape so you can make perfect pearls.

When the solution is ready, you have to ready your bowl of water. As per the recipe book, for coffee pearls I added 3 tablespoons of calcium chloride, a type of salt, to one liter of water. The water is cloudy at first, but when you stir it for a few minutes it becomes clear.

Next, I added about half the bowl of coffee solution to the Spherificator, plugged it in, and turned it on. Tiny little pearls will start dropping into the water, but they don’t really look like pearls at first. That’s where using the device can get a little confusing.

I wasn’t quite sure the first time I tried it whether or not I was using the right speed or holding the Spherificator high enough over the bowl. I kept trying different positions though, and eventually my bowl filled up with a bunch of tiny, coffee pearls.

To really see what they look like, you have to drain them from your bowl and rinse them in another. I recommend holding a strainer over a bowl for a few minutes to let them drip dry, and then you can scoop them out and put them on whatever you’d like.

I put my coffee pearls on ice cream, but I imagine you could put them on coffee drinks garnished with whip cream or anything else you want to add a touch of coffee flavor too. The pearl flavour is very subtle. I think if I would have used a stronger brew of coffee it would have come through a bit more, but it definitely adds a bit of kick to whatever you’re eating.

I also tried to create Ghirardelli hot chocolate pearls, but those didn’t turn out as well as coffee. Take a peek at my test in the video below, and please note, Spherificator is pronounced ‘Spher-IF-icator.’ I left out the ‘if’ when talking about it in the video.

Clean up

Cleaning up the Spherificator between uses couldn’t be easier. You just fill the interior up with water, being careful not to immerse the lower part, turn it on to run the water through, and your Spherificator is ready to create another set of pearls.

Final thoughts

I like to cook, and although I haven’t hit the Molecular Gastronomy level, the Spherificator really makes you feel as though you could. The beauty of these little pearls is that you can add a subtle or strong flavour to anything you’re creating, or put out a whole buffet of pearls so your guests can choose what flavour they’d like to add to their own plates.

It’s easy to use, easy to store, and a lot of fun. It’s actually so easy to use even your kids can get into creating pearls. I also like that the Sodium Alginate and Calcium Chloride are inexpensive and easy to restock so you don’t have to feel bad about quickly using up all of your supplies.

Best Buy has a huge selection of kitchen gadgets including the Spherificator, so go and take a peek, and if you make your own pearls, be sure to share what you made in the comments below.  

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