Carbonating Fruit With Dry Ice and a Pressure Cooker





Introduction: Carbonating Fruit With Dry Ice and a Pressure Cooker

About: A kinetic sculptor known as Fish. He is currently making a slow, terrifying transition from computer professional to full-time artist.

A couple years ago, I wanted to try carbonated fruit. Unfortunately, the standard technique was to use a whipping siphon and CO2 cartridge, neither of which I had. Being unemployed at the time, I didn't want to buy new equipment just for an experiment. I decided to improvise.

The science is pretty simple: dissolve carbon dioxide into the water inside the fruit. This is done by putting the fruit into an atmosphere of pressurized CO2. This is the same process as in carbonated soda, and it has two main effects:

  • Adds fizz. This is the CO2 coming out of solution, forming bubbles.
  • Creates carbonic acid, which sharpens flavors and adds "bite".

Put those together and you get the distinctive pleasures of a carbonated beverage. Or, in this case, fruit.

Step 1: The Parts

You can get CO2 in pressurized cylinders from industrial gas suppliers, but that's not very convenient. Instead I decided to use dry ice -- frozen CO2. It's easily available at many grocery stores, though they might not sell it to you if you're young.

I also needed a pressure vessel in which to combine the fruit and the CO2. Pressure vessels aren't something you want to fake. I've seen guides that use plastic bottles for this purpose -- do not do this. It is an incredibly dumb thing to do. There is no way to reliably calibrate the amount of CO2 you're putting into the bottle, nor do you know how strong the bottle is. An exploding bottle can easily harm you or others, and you just might end up talking to the cops. (I know someone who very nearly went to prison for this. An exploding bottle is also known as a bomb, and law enforcement takes that kind of thing very seriously these days.) A proper vessel for something like this needs to be pressure rated, it needs a regulator to keep the pressure from getting too high, and it needs a relief valve in case the regulator fails. Unless you really know what you're doing, this simply isn't something you can make for yourself.

Luckily, there is a (fairly) common household tool which meets all of these requirements -- a pressure cooker! They are designed to do exactly what we need. They can hold high (up to 15 PSI, usually) pressure safely, they have a regulator for maintaining that pressure, and they have a relief valve just in case. I used a large canning pressure cooker that I happened to have (I bought it for use as an autoclave when I was investigating the possibility of home bio-engineering) but smaller ones would work as well.

Step 2: Doing the Carbonation

Setup is quite easy. You'll need to put the dry ice in some water to help it sublimate quickly. Don't just dump it directly into the pressure cooker, though, as that will lead to the metal getting very cold, which could compromise its strength. It can also result in a lot more violent splashing of the water as the CO2 sublimates, possibly icing over the regulator port. Instead, put the dry ice and water in a small plastic bowl, and put that in the bottom of the pressure cooker. I found that greatly reduces the splashing, and insulates the vessel bottom sufficiently. You don't need much, either. I didn't take exact measurements, but a few chunks that comfortably go into a small bowl will do it.

Next, place the fruit you want carbonated inside the vessel. I put it on a rack above the CO2, but in smaller cookers it might need to go on the sides. Just don't put it so close to the CO2 that it ends up freezing! You have a lot of choices of fruit to try, so have fun. It works best with fruit that is very juicy and has a lot of surface area. You'll have to experiment to see what you like the best.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker and set the regulator mechanism for its highest setting, which was 15 PSI in my case. The pressure should build fairly quickly. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour, then open up the regulator to drop the pressure quickly. Open the cooker up and remove the fruit. If all has gone well, it will be chilled and carbonated.

We had great luck with raspberries, which you could feel vibrating from the fizz as you ate them. The carbonic acid added a delightful bite to the taste, like the best berry soda you've ever had. Pineapple and watermelon also worked well. Oranges were a disappointment, possibly because the membrane prevented absorption. It might work better if you cut the wedges into supremes first. But the best, most surprisingly wonderful result was with green olives. I won't even begin to describe the taste, because I lack the words. Try it and find out!



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    27 Discussions




    Worked great, our kids loved pineapple the best.

    Found dry ice available at both Krogers and Meijer grocery stores, but not every store carried dry ice.

    1 reply

    Harris teeter has dry ice

    I've also done frozen carbonated grapes in a taped shut foam cooler. No water, so slower release of the gas, and since the CO2 is heavier than air, we put it on top of the grapes as they chilled. They went over very well at several years of very large gatherings, with many requests for directions or to be sure to bring more!

    I hope you weren't handling the dry ice with your bare hands in the picture!

    Could a person carbonate soda the same way?

    2 replies

    A few years ago model rocketry was big in 4-H they used 2 & 3 liter pop bottles and air pressure. I was surprised that a plastic bottle could be safely charged to about 100psi A 5 0r 20 lb liquid CO2 beverage cylinder and a regulator will keep it safe. Liquid CO2 keeps approx. 500 Psi

    We carbonated out soda by simply chucking some dry ice into cold water in a glass, but you would probably get more efficient results by keeping it under pressure.

    Amazing, I acn't wait to try this, Thank You

    Nice Kitchen Hack, I may have to try this out when the family comes over !

    Thanks for the share :)

    For another source for dry ice, the rental store up the road from me sells it. Also check for places that sell normal, water ice.

    Great idea - but I'm wondering how you regulated the pressure, as in the demo you use an All American pressure canner, which has no preset PSI settings and depends on regulating the heat source to maintain a constant pressure. As far as I can see the only way one could regulate the pressure with C02 in this type of pressure cooker would be to have a predetermined quantity of C02 for the size of the cooker, seal it up and let it build the pressure up - since there is no way of controlling it from outside like there is when using heat pressure.

    3 replies

    No, this pressure cooker had a regulator. It's a simple weight which sits over an outlet port. It has sockets calibrated for 5, 10 and 15 PSI. As the pressure builds inside, it is forced up to release some when it hits that point. Same basic concept as the regulator on a welding or scuba tank, just using gravity instead of a spring. It works just as well for CO2 as for steam, though I did have concerns about the port icing over during the first run where the dry ice and water bath was less contained.

    I've never even seen a pressure cooker without a regulator. That sounds terrifying! I would expect anyone selling those to be sued into oblivion within a couple of minutes. :)

    thanks for the reply - I've got two All American pressure canners like shown in your demo, neither has a weighted pressure regulator, but they have safety valves that will release if pressure gets too high as well as manual release valves.

    I am familiar with the Presto & smaller All American canners that use weighted regulators, but have never seen a regulator like that on the All American canner with the gauge like shown in your accompanying images. However I just checked their website and see that the new large models with the geared gauges also have weighted regulators - so I guess the new(er) ones do come with them :-)

    Dry ice is not commonly carried by stores where I live, but I'd like to try this. I guess with my canner I'd have to keep a close eye on the pressure and release some manually if it got over 15 psi - I think the safety valve releases at 20+ psi

    Both Walmart and Safeway have the Dry Ice in my area. Check Walmart in customer service area, that is where the container is located in my town. Ask for it, I have seen it locked up.

    This is something I definitely want to try. However, you don't say how much ice or water to use.

    How long does the carbonation last? Sounds like a great party idea.

    1 reply

    It lasted about the same as an open soda, maybe somewhat less. I've always done this as a party trick, so it doesn't tend to sit around long enough to time properly. :)

    Love this. Pity in the UK getting dry ice is not easy and when you do it's expensive.