Traditional soft serve starts with just two ingredients: cold water and soft serve ice cream mix, while hard ice cream can be made with cream, mix, and flavoring, such as vanilla extract. For both soft serve and hard ice cream, air is either mixed with the liquid mix through constant stirring in a machine just before it’s frozen or it’s controllably forced into the liquid with a pressurized air pump. For soft serve, once the liquid mix freezes, the result is a lighter, smoother-textured form of ice cream that has been a favorite treat for decades.
Are you looking to provide your guests with a variety of flavor options? If so, consider selecting a machine with multiple hoppers. Many machines only include one hopper, which limits your offerings to just one flavor. Choosing a machine with multiple hoppers allows you to dispense multiple flavors from a single machine. Additionally, some machines include a flavor twist feature that combines two flavors by twisting them together as they are dispensed, opening up opportunities for unique and delicious flavor combinations.
Machines with multiple hoppers also provide increased output capabilities and a larger production capacity since you’re able to store more ice cream mix and dispense more total product without refilling. Since the number of hoppers directly correlates with your overall production capacity, any large operation would benefit from opting for a machine with 2-3 hoppers, even if multiple flavors aren’t being offered.
Many machines come equipped with a variety of additional features to improve the quality of your hard and soft serve ice cream and make the production process even easier. Understanding the function of each feature will help you decide which ones are best to include in your ideal machine.
Available as an option on some high-end models, a hopper agitator slowly stirs the product in the hopper to improve product consistency and prevent product separation. The product must still be mixed prior to pouring into the hopper, but the agitator eliminates the need to manually stir the product over the course of the day.
These functions denote how the liquid mix is fed from the hopper into the freezing cylinder of your machine. As their names indicate, gravity fed machines simply rely on the natural pull of gravity to transfer mix to the cylinder, while pressure fed machines utilize a pump to resupply the cylinder with more mix. While gravity-fed machines are easier on the wallet and simpler to clean and maintain, pressure-fed machines allow you to add a higher, controlled percentage of air for a higher-quality product, and also help maintain constant pressure in the freezing cylinder for consistency.
A pasteurizer works within a batch freezer to heat the liquid dairy mix before making hard ice cream. By pasteurizing the mix, it reaches a temperature that not only removes any harmful bacteria, but makes it safe to eat. Many batch freezers feature a 2-in-1, where the mix is heated and pasteurized in one cylinder and then frozen in another. This eliminates the need for two separate machines and allows for faster production of hard ice cream.
An air pump is essential to producing light, creamy soft serve treats. The air pump adds air to the ice cream mix prior to freezing, resulting in the smoother, lighter soft serve product that we all know and love. These pumps are typically adjustable, allowing you to alter the amount of overrun in the end product and resultantly, how light or dense you want it to be. This feature also carries the benefit of requiring less mix per serving, effectively reducing the cost per serving. These pumps aren't necessary, of course, if you're serving frozen yogurt or if you'd simply prefer offering a richer, denser product. Keep in mind machines with pumps will also require a little extra time to properly assemble, clean, and maintain.
Your machine will produce plenty of heat under heavy operation, so make sure you understand how your machine keeps itself cool. Air-cooled machines are the cheaper, simpler option, requiring just a power connection and ample wall clearance (approximately 6") around the machine for exhaust ventilation. While this opens up the flexibility to place the machine just about anywhere you want, air-cooled units perform best in cool, air conditioned environments and tend to be less effective than their water-cooled counterparts.
As the name implies, water-cooled machines cool the refrigeration components with water instead of air. Water-cooled machines operate quietly, are more effective in removing heat, operate efficiently in both warm and cool environments, and do not require clearance space around the exterior. However, they do require a water line connection in order to operate, limiting placement options to wherever this is available. Additionally, these machines and their installation requirements will impose higher upfront costs, but may save you a bit of money if your water utility costs are less than your electricity costs.
As with any piece of equipment in the foodservice industry, it is imperative that your soft serve machine or batch freezer receives regular maintenance and thorough cleaning to prevent contamination. Customer safety is a priority, and the best way to ensure your customers can enjoy delicious and safe frozen treats is by completely sanitizing your machine on a daily basis.
Your unit will come complete with a specific cleaning procedure, including how to fully drain existing mix, disassemble key components of your machine, properly wash and reassemble the parts, and finally perform a sanitizing flush of the machine. Most manufacturers recommend using dissolvable cleaning solutions that are specially formulated for sanitizing commercial ice cream machines. These packets offer an easy cleaning process, as they can be quickly mixed with a bucket of water to produce all the solution you'll need. Simply follow the instructions provided to maintain a clean, safe machine and to produce the highest quality ice cream product possible!
Soft serve, gelato, and frozen yogurt mix is generally sold in powder form and can be produced in many of the same machines. Soft serve only needs to be dissolved in water, while gelato mix, hard ice cream, and some frozen yogurt mixes require milk, sugar, and cream. Flavor options typically include classic vanilla, chocolate, and a variety of fruit flavors. Other unique tastes can be achieved with flavoring syrups and neutral-flavored mixes.
Thankfully, you can also provide delicious ice cream to your health-conscious and vegan customers with non-dairy and sugar free mixes. These mixes sacrifice little flavor while also catering to specific dietary restrictions, ensuring you can please all your guests! For delicious yet economical flavor options, check out our selection of ice cream and sorbet mixes.