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I've seen several articles about using a centrifuge for clarifying solutions, making colorless sauces and other things. Where does this practice come from? What is your experience with it? Are there cheap options outside of lab-grade devices?

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The idea of using "science" equipment in the kitchen is a byproduct of the modernist cuisine movement, famously nurtured by Ferran Adria of the restaurant El Bulli in Spain. A centrifuge would be the optimal piece of equipment for separation and clarification, though there are other techniques that can be applied in home kitchens...admittedly slower, but which work fairly well. High quality, high capacity, bench top, refrigerated centrifuges can cost several thousand dollars. On the other hand, small, kitchen counter models can also be had for under $200 (see Amazon.com). What you get for that price is much less capacity, no refrigeration, and slower speeds...but you could play. Dave Arnold, inventor, author, cocktail expert, and owner of Booker & Dax bar in NYC has developed and is preparing to release a fairly powerful home centrifuge. If I remember correctly, word is forthcoming this fall/early winter. You could Google him...or follow him on twitter. A word of caution, some have recommissioned used lab centrifuges. You have to be super careful, as these may have been used to spin liquids that could be dangerous if consumed. Again, Arnold has discussed, and maybe even written about how to very carefully clean these reclaimed machines. This link would probably have some helpful info for you.

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