What is in the name Khymos?
The name of this site, khymos (χυμός), is Greek meaning “juice”. It is related to al-kimiya (كيمياء), the Arabic word that gave rise to alchemy. Other related words include Khemia, the old name of Egypt (meaning land of black earth) and the Greek khein and khymatos meaning “to pour” and “that which is poured out” respectively. Eventually these words also developed into the current word chemistry. As you can see, the word khymos provides a link between food and chemistry! I therefore thought it would be a suitable name for a site dealing with food, chemistry, molecular gastronomy and related subjects.
Who am I?
My name is Martin Lersch, I live in Norway and have a PhD in organometallic chemistry. My PhD project was about platinum complexes which perhaps one day will be used to convert natural gas to value added products such as methanol. Since 2006 I have been working as an industrial chemist in various roles in a biorefinery located in Norway. My involvement with popular food chemistry and molecular gastronomy is a spare time activity besides my research and work.
When I first became interested in the connection between food and chemistry in the late 90’s, I searched the Internet without finding much information. I did however find some very interesting books in the faculty library, including Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking – The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”. In the last couple of years a large number of books have appeared about molecular gastronomy and related subjects. Having found books about the subject, I soon started to give popular science presentations. In 2004 I was invited to attend the “International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy” in Erice, Sicily. This was a great experience and I enjoyed meeting many of the scientists, writers and chefs involved with molecular gastronomy. The first web pages I published were book and link listings related to my popular science lectures. After I left the University of Oslo, the page was moved to its present location at khymos.org. I believe the collected information is of interest to anyone interested in molecular gastronomy and the science of food and cooking. In many ways the pages represent what I would have liked to find at the time I became interested in the subject.
What is my motivation?
Chemistry for me is about the joy of understanding the material world and how things work at the molecular level. I love chemistry and I’m simply not able to put my chemical curiosity away. I bring it with me everywhere I go, and this naturally led me to ask many questions in the kitchen. Why didn’t that recipe work? Do I really have to mix the ingredients in the given order? What happens if I heat this a little more? Luckily, being a chemist, I could also answer some of questions. And being trained as a chemist I would also know where I could answer to questions I could not answer by myself. It’s a great thing that many books about popular food science and kitchen chemistry have appeared over the last decades. I have learned a lot from them, and if you’re not sure where to start, take a look at my favorite books.
An additional motivation for giving popular science lectures and also setting up this site, is the popular notion that chemistry is dangerous. When food is labelled with “contains no chemicals” it makes me sad. Even more so if labeled as “obscure and weird chemicals”. What they forget is that food is chemistry!
What is molecular gastronomy after all?
Harold McGee used to define molecular gastronomy as “The scientific study of deliciousness”. Check out the Definitions and History pages for more information. Also check out the different collections of links in the menu and some of my favorite books.
Have you made any strange observations in your kitchen? Or do you know about other books or weblinks on molecular gastronomy, kitchen chemistry or everyday chemistry that should be added to the site? Feedback and questions are welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[…] — Steffen @ 16:31 Tags: englisch, Essen, Küche, Rezept Bei lamiacucina gelernt, dass ein norwegischer Doktor der Chemie an der Universität Oslo Blogging-Events veranstaltet, bei denen ungewöhnliche Rezepte […]
[…] på Albert Adria med familj och väntade på att få ta en öl med molekylärgastronomibloggande Khymos-Martin. Själva dagen D började med att vi brottade oss igenom folkmassan (av dryga 1000 kockar, […]
Congratulations. Norway wins the Bocuse d’Or today.
results at -http://www.bocusedor.com/2009/en/presse/index.php
See photos at http://joomeo.com/sirha/index.php?fl=1
Cooking eggs: The article at https://khymos.org/eggs.php was very interesting.
Another way to control the temperature of the water: Add cooking alcohol??
Don’t know what it would do to the flavor of the eggs. See http://physics.msuiit.edu.ph/spvm/papers/2006/2006%20Dugang%20MN.pdf for mention of the fact that adding alcohol to water reduces boiling temperature.
Great site! Great information! And great photo quality – how do you do that?
What a great site! Wow I am impressed. I produce snacks and looking for some inspiration for new flavours.
As a bartender, I really appreciate what you’re doing here.
Today, I was going to re-read the mixology article on
ice and dilution but could not find it. Is this temporary?
Again, thanks very much for all you are doing.
I believe you’re thinking about this one:
I was hoped you could help me pursue now 6 year pursuit to discover how to make a specific cheese dip/sauce that I stumbled on to!
I’ve been researching and trying to get a clue as to what cheese is used or if possible a recipe that can produce the quality I experienced.
It sound funny but it is in fact a very simple appetizer found in Mexican restaurant, but it is also a very rare item to find! It is simply called white cheese dip.
The first time I was introduced to it was in of all placed Lewisburg, WV and I don’t think the restaurant is still there.
The last place I’ve seen something close to it was a place called Friacos Mexican Restaurant in Naperville, IL.
Description of the dip.
– Very white, with specs of green chili’s (not big), a distinctive taste of spiced and heat from the pepper, but not to spicy. The texture was what made it which was very fluid when hot (175F) and as it got cold it would just get thick but still spread about like Brie when at room temp. If you picked up some with a chip it would not be stringy like motz and it would have a smooth shiny surface and as you dipped it would go back to it’s smooth undisturbed look. Almost like a cross between thick cream and Velveeta.
I have tried several different mexi cheeses and my closes success has been with skim milk base cheese, But I can never get the just right consistence or the taste. I’m told the chili was probably ashe chili but that is as fare as I have gotten.
I found a blog a long time ago that a guy just like me was trying to find the secret behind this recipe.
I would be very great full if you could assist with this and believe me you will be happy if we where able to produce it. It is amazingly addictive and a great product.
Hello Martin! I’ve been a fan of Khymos for over a year now but this is my first comment because I believe you are the only one who can help in this very dangerous question…
I’ve been fascinated with Heston’s popping candy biscuit base and as I was trying to find some poppers for my own version, discovered that has been banned in Greece… On further research though found that there is a way to create some of my own… (http://science.howstuffworks.com/question114.htm ) But new problems have to be faced…
Thought I could use an iSi Siphon with Soda chargers and a basic caramel recipe to start with but somehow I’ve managed to restrain myself due to the danger of the exploding gas!
Now, I’m sure you have never tried this, but any advices could be very helpful!
Martin great web site! I’m relatively new to the molecular gastronomy and I have a question regarding the making and the storage of foams.
I’m making Lychee foam and I was wondering, if I can prepare it in one day in advance, store it in a container, in the fridge, to be used on the following day. I will be using ISI canister charged with N20 cartridge to disperse the foam. Do I have to stir the foam prior to using it or do something else in order to have a nice and smooth foam.
The foam should be layered on top of champagne and it consists of:
splash of grenadine
.5% of Xanthan Gum
Alex: Popping candies would be great, but the iSi canisters are not made to withstand the the CO2 pressure required. The link you provide mentions a pressure of 600 psi which is eqiuvalent to roughly 40 bar. One charger will yield a pressure of about 6 bars in an empty canister. The one I have is rated for two chargers, so with 12 bars there is still a good way to go. And – AFAIK the iSi canisters are only made to withstand this amount of gas up to a temperature of 70 °C (remember – pressures increases with temperature). So the simple advice is – do not attempt to make popping candies with your iSi canister!
peter: From my experience I expect that you should be able to store your Lychee and Mango base stabilized with xanthan for several days under pressure in your iSi canister. Before dispensing, make sure to shake the canister a little, holding it upside down so that all of the base moves down to the nozzle.
Thank you for your answer Martin, I really couldn’t find it logical to do it but you know, I couldn’t also resist the whole innovation thing!
Well thank you again.
I am traveling to europe this month. Can you recommend any good molecular gastronomy schools with 1 week courses i should look into. Or any places i can stage at. Any help is appreciated!!
Jae: I’m not aware of any such MG schools. Hervé This runs his monthly seminars in Paris – I guess that’s the closest you get.
Reply to Curtis’ request on 2 June 2009: this dish is called queso fundido, if you google that you will find several good authentic recipes, if you are in the US, use Oaxacan or Mexican string cheese: basically, chop your fresh hot chilies into a small skillet and toast them lightly, then add chopped cheese to cover the bottom of the skillet and slowly melt it, if you are using a cast iron skillet, after the cheese is melted, put the skillet close to the flame of the broiler and let it brown slightly.
How can I sign up for your blog? I can not seem to find a sign up section any place on the site…your feedback is welcomed.
Michael: You may want to try the RSS feed http://blog.khymos.org/feed/
Something which you might find interesting: principles of molecuar gastronomy entering the world of coctail-making. How about making your next drink on the Schlenk line?
Jeg lurer på hvor du vil anbefale å kjøpe gellan og carragenan og denslags her i Oslo.
Jeg har funnet Agar på helsekost.
Takk for spennende lesning, og også for foredraget på Upopulær aften på Ch. Neuf for litt siden.
Eirik: Gastronaut hadde/har Texturas produktene, men de har jo flyttet ut av byen nå. Ellers har du jo handberg.no som fører BioZoon/TexturePro produktene (men vær obs på at disse er blandet ut med maltodextrin – det gjør det lettere å få dispergert dem i vann, men til gjengjeld er det umulig å følge oppskriftene i “Texture” fordi mengden maltodextrin er ukjent). Jeg kjenner for tiden ikke til andre butikker i Oslo som fører gellan, karrageenan osv.
As a fellow scientist and food blogger, I really LOVE your blog! Molecular gastronomy is something I’ve always been curious about as it combines the two things I am most passionate about in life; however sadly I haven’t been able to experience it. By reading through some of your post it has encouraged me to start experimenting as well (only after I submit my Honours thesis of course – which is due in 3 weeks ARGH!)
Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more 🙂
[…] perspective. Cooking is one of these things. I recently discovered the blog Khymos created by Dr. Martin Lersch, which offers a vast amount of information on all things science in the kitchen. Amongst other […]
Thank you Dr. Lersch for doing the research and taking your time to record this information. I purchased a basic “starter” kit two years ago to make the “pearls” as an addition to my hors d’oeuvre garnishes and have had some success with that and have wanted to expand my molecular repertoire. I stumbled across your blog and have downloaded your 89 page recipe and information document.
Please Dr. Write a book for the chefs out here who do not have the time to experiment! Your work is heaven sent!
Hi!!! i contact you from Phaidon, one of the leading publishers of books on the visual arts, including art, architecture, photography, and design worldwide. I’d want to know if you’re interest in some editorial proposals about F. Adrian or others arguments. Please, send me an email.
I am really impressed by what you are doing here Sir. For your information, I was brought up to this site because I was searching for the best timing for cooking a soft half-boiled egg. Well it was to my astonishment that I could find a thorough elaboration on this. What a great work down by you indeed Sir. I enjoy reading these informative and educational materials and really looking forward to produce my own research papers. I really am inspired by you Sir.
Congratulations and all the best!
[…] som bl. a. Adam Savage, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Hervé This, David Lebovitz og vår egen Martin Lersch som har bloggen […]
I have a question about sodium hexametaphosphate and low acyl gellan and someone told me you might know the answer. I was told that low acyl gellan was helpful in binding calcium in combination with shmp. They said that low acyl gellan would allow one to need much less shmp to bind calcium. I wonder if you know the mechanism for that?
Also, I wonder if you know what else can be used to bind calcium besides shmp and sodium citrate?
You have a great site. I really appreciate this area of research and feel that a greater knowledge of chemistry has a great deal to offer us all.
Joyce: shmp and citrate will keep calcium in solution because of their chelating effect. Low acyl gellan on the other hand will form a gel in the presence of calcium ions, and as a consequence the viscosity will increase. I’m not quite sure what you mean by “binding” calcium though – perhaps you could rephrase your question?
Hi Martin: I’m a flavor chemist & food blogger searching for honey volatiles and ran across your site. Love it & love that you are Norwegian. I spent 1987-1988 in Flekkefjord Norway. A beautiful country that I’d love to come visit again.
hello Martin, thank you for the site…
I’m a novice breadmaker with a small, homely kitchen..
I’d like to try to make Sourdough – the Apent bakery featured on UK tv last night.
Their sourdough loaf looked straight forward and do-able.
Can you suggest a simple recipe for someone like me to try on a small scale?
I can ask a neighbor for a piece of ‘mother’ the yeast –
Kind regards from London,
Love your blog! So refreshing to have someone discuss “chemicals” appropriately. Interesting work with PGMs- I work at the other end of the spectrum- development drilling of an Mo deposit with possible byproduct rhenium.
Rozelle: Thank you for your comment. See my post here and here about sourdough bread. I recommend the sourdough calculator that I’ve linked to.
So generous of you to share all you have learnt and write it up.
If I’m feeling brave – I’ll have ago…
Your bread looks delicious.
Kind regards from London
Here in argentina we´ve made some experiences sweetering nocino with grape juice concéntrate, and the result was interesting.
Hi Martin, the science of food has always fascinated me ever since I was in 7th grade and we made ice cream with just salt, cream, sugar, and a bag. Atleast I think that’s all we used… the details are a little fuzzy now. Maybe you are familiar with the process? It would be great if you made a post about that for nostalgia’s sake 🙂
Salt lowers the freezing point of water, so a heavily salted broth with ice cubes added will create a liquid below 0 deg C (all the way down to nearly the deep freezer temp of about -18. This then creates the perfect vessel to freeze cream, and therefore make ice cream.
What a fantastic blog you run here Martin. I take a keen interest in all things chemistry and agree wholeheartedly that people don’t usually grasp just how much chemistry is involved in our day-to-day lives when it comes to the food and drink we consume. Keep up the good work!
Oh my goodness, thank you, Martin. I am so happy to discover someone with such exceptional knowledge and so willing to share it with everyone. I am someone who believes we can never stop learning as long as we have an open mind. I just discovered your site today and look forward to some delightful delicious discoveries to try in my own kitchen. Thank you for sharing your creativity with all of us.
Hey Martin,congratulations on your great site! i was wondering if you can give me some tips on how to make a mojito sauce for a isi whipper ,,,i want to use it for chicken.any ideas?thanks!
Greetings, Martin, from Malaysia!
Came across your site while searching about just WHY lye gives pretzels and pretzel buns the best colour and texture. Not really much of a scientist or a chef, but I have been curious about the science of cooking for quite some time now. Also, unlike most of my countrymen, I enjoy bread a whole lot. 😀
The pretzel bun research started a few weeks back when I had a Wendy’s Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich. It tasted good, but the color and texture of their bread got me thinking, “How do you get that?”
Smitten Kitchen provided the answer (a lye / baked baking soda dip) but you provided a great explanation on the science behind it. I really hope I can learn a whole lot more from you.
Best site I ever came across in life. Just like the time one of my college lecturers showed me that chemistry was more than just boring formulae: there’s nothing more satisfactory than a visual (or explosive!) reaction when you get things right. 😉
Thank you for the kind feedback – glad to hear that you enjoy the site!
Found your site searching for mineral water cloning, replication. I am impressed by you mineral water í la carte piece. Also thanks for the mineral content calculation sheet. I should start testing soon.
I am a chemical engineer and work on industrial water desalination. Desalted drinking water is usually re-mineralized. Lime contact reactors are used and the number of minerals added are limited. I am also working on novel point of use water fountains that dispense hot, soda, chilled filtered water. We would like to improve end-user experience and provide tatsteful water. Should you be interested I should be happy to share my ideas with you. So please feel free to contact me by email. Best regards, Philippe
Interesting to notice that Coca Cola is at it again! Having been laughed out of the UK market with their filtered water sold at a premium price, they have now relaunched Glaceau in this country:
If I understand correctly what’s on the label, they distill tap water and then add back electrolytes. It’s one thing to do it on the back of desalinisation, it’s another to waste lots of energy distilling water for marketing purposes!
I’d be curious to know about the ecological ‘footprint’ of this method compared to others.
In addition Glaceau sells the liquid in bottles. Distillation of tap water can be achived at a low eco footprint by using waste heat from industrial processes. This source of heat may be available in bottling factories and industrial site.
Coca Cola is now entering the at-home beverage appliance market with the acquisition of Green Mountain-Keurig. Home users are shifting from bottle to purified tap water out of environmental and economic concern. But home users may have a poor perception of tap water quality. Tap water often has an unpleasant tatse and smell. The public media is reporting about emerging pollutants present in water such as drug related compounds.
This has encouraged home users to buy point of use filtered water fountains. The market offers a wide range of solutions from activated carbon filters, Brita filters to reverse osmosis. True reverse osmosis deeply filtrates water and removes pollutants. However this process also eliminates salts that are usefull for our body. RO changes the pH of the water. In addition, it alters the taste and the feel of water. I for instance don’t like the taste of osmosed water. Neither that of Brita filtered water. It doesn’t quenches my thirst and is not pleasurable to drink with a good meal.
In a world of deteriorating water quality and increased environmental and wellbeing awareness, I wondered how I would not compromise on the simple pleasure of drinking water at home.
I think that drinking filtered water at home shouldn’t come at the expense of less taste and a poor experience. I wish the taste and feel that will calm the uncomfort of thirst. I found that Fiji water does it for me. For somebody else it’s Vittel or Contrex. Imagine the ecological implication on a global scale…
It follows that I find Martin approach very interesting and promissing. Being an engineer I am now looking to transform his batch process into a continuous process. I would concentrate on minerals for taste and feel. I would leave aside the nutritional and anti-oxidant claims of certain suppliers. The claims are often based on assumptions and demonstrate weak science.
What is for sure and recommended by health professionals : we should drink 1 to 2 liters of pure drinking water a day and the water should be reasonably mineralized.
Why not make this a great experience: taste, low eco footprint, economic.
There are a few companies selling systems for carbonated tap water at home, but I agree – it would be really cool if these taps would also mineralize the water according to taste!
Martin, Thank you so much for this blog site on MG. Some people like me who needs or seeking for more detailed information to understand the concept and apply them in a small scale to larger, I also want to thank you for the free ebook which is the extra-bonanza for the new people like me. A big thank you for every thing.
Hi Martin, We are just about to start using your mineral water recipe with our soda stream. My sweetie loves NTC tap water and Apollinaris water. I put my foot down on the carbon footprint of shipping glass bottles of water to Northern California. That seems ridiculous to me. But then I think our local Sierra Mountain snow melt is delicious… Will let you know how it turns out.
Thanks, Martin, for all of the generous creativity you have given us,
How did the water turn out?
[…] less obvious combinations than milk and cookies. Companies like Foodpairing.com and blogs like Khymos have documented some pairings based on their molecular compounds. Some of the most interesting […]
[…] som bl. a. Adam Savage, Harold McGee, Nathan Myhrvold, Hervé This, David Lebovitz og vår egen Martin Lersch som har bloggen […]
I stumbled onto your website as I was doing research into carbonated water. I was wondering in your research with carbonated water, did you feel the effects of different bubble sizes on your tongue? I noticed that when I drink soda stream water, the bubbles tend to stay on my tongue for longer vs. drinking Polar seltzer water. Do you know why this might be the case? And do you know ways of reproducing such effects?
Hi Aaron! Yes – I’ve seen differences in bubble size. The paper The control of bubble size in carbonated beverages (DOI: 10.1016/S0009-2509(01)00391-8) hints that the glass surface will affect which size the bubble has when it breaks free from the surface. Once in the mouth, another paper hints that a lower temperature will give smaller bubbles (DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.1993.tb09386.x).