The one thing everyone enjoys eating, from kids to older adults is ice cream. Who doesn’t like ice cream anyway? It comes in so many different flavors and so many different varieties. Some people like ice cream cones, some are into ice cream on sticks, some prefer sandwich ice cream, while others like any variety of ice cream as long as it’s a pleasure to their taste buds! Whether it’s a tiring hot summer day or the chill of winter (for some of us), ice creams have become the only favorite after-dinner dessert.
Ice creams come in a variety of flavors; and these flavors are not limited to chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla anymore but there are so many new flavors in the ice cream industry that one can satisfactorily fill their stomach just by having a single spoon of all the different flavors. There are plenty of ice cream companies in the market which provides a myriad of different kinds of ice creams.
But have you ever wondered about what is the industrial process of creating ice cream? If you’re a curious person like us, we’re sure you’ve thought about this question, if not out of curiosity, then at least out of a need to create your ice cream factory as a child! Well, we’ve all been to that place, but as adults, we can understand the detailed process of how industrial ice cream machines work.
How is Ice Cream Manufactured in an Ice Cream Industry?
While it can’t be negotiated that every ice cream factory works differently and that’s the reason why there are so many different companies that provide so many unique flavors of ice creams, there are some common procedures that are involved in its production. These procedures involve blending, pasteurization, homogenization, the addition of flavors, freezing, and of course, packaging. Let’s take a deep dive (or scoop) into the making of ice cream at an industrial level!
The Blending of the Ice Cream Mixture
Once all the ingredients needed to create ice cream are acquired, they need to be mixed in correct proportions (different for different companies) in an ice cream blender. When put in the right quantity, this machine mixes milk fat source, non-fat solids, emulsifiers, and stabilizers in a way that all the ingredients, whether they are in liquid or dry form are blended properly.
The Pasteurization of the Ice Cream Mixture
After the blended ice cream mix is formed by the blending machine, the mix needs to be pasteurized at about 68.3 degrees Celsius for half an hour or at 79.4 degree Celsius for twenty-five seconds. It should be noted that the mentioned temperature for ice cream pasteurization is far greater than the temperature required for fluid milk because of increased viscosity.
The Homogenization of the Ice Cream Mixture
The next step, in the ice cream-making procedure, is the homogenization of the pasteurized ice cream mix (at 2500 – 3000 psi) to reduce the milk fat globule size so that a better emulsion is formed, and the ice cream is smoother and creamier. Furthermore, homogenization is also involved in ensuring that the emulsifiers and stabilizers are well-blended and distributed in the right proportion before the ice cream enters the freezer.
The Aging of the Ice Cream Mixture
All good things take time to get created and therefore, ice cream too needs to get aged. In particular, the ice cream mix has to be aged at 5.0 degrees Celsius for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. Aging is necessary as it cools down the mixture before it gets sent to the freezer; this process allows the milk fat to get partially crystallized and the protein stabilizers to get hydrated, which in turn, improves the mix whipping properties.
The Addition of Liquid Flavors and Colors
Here comes the most interesting part of ice cream manufacturing, which determines its uniqueness. Liquid flavors and colors are added to the so-formed ice cream mixture. The ingredients need to be in liquid form so that there’s no issue as the mix flows through the freezing machine.
Freezing the Ice Cream Mix
The one process without which ice cream cannot be ice cream is freezing. The ice cream mix is frozen in batch or continuous freezers; the temperature and other conditions depend on the type of freezer used. Batch freezers consist of a rotating barrel through which air is incorporated into the ice cream mix. Continuous freezers use a fixed barrel with an inside blade in which air is incorporated using a pump. Moreover, the addition of air (called overrun) is necessary as it maintains the lightness of the ice cream. The overrun level can be adjusted based on the desired ice cream type.
The Addition of Fruits, Nuts, and Bulky Flavorings
Many varieties of toppings are used to create different kinds of ice cream flavors. In this step, nuts, candy pieces, and fruits are added to the ice cream. This addition must be done after the freezing process and before the hardening process to ensure a smooth flow. Since the ice cream is soft, the ingredients get evenly distributed throughout the mix without getting damaged.
Packaging and Hardening of Ice Cream
After the addition of add-ons, the ice cream is sent for packaging. Different companies have different packaging plans for their product, and therefore, their packaging procedures are different from one another too. After the packaging is done, the last step is hardening. In this step, the ice cream is cooled down to -25 degree Celsius (varies as per the freezer type) to stabilize the ice crystals.
The manufacturing of ice cream is not a one-machine job indeed. A huge ice cream factory has hundreds of machines to create ice creams on a large scale. To summarize, ice cream manufacturing is a lengthy process but the product is worth it in the end. From blending to hardening, an ice cream factory requires the use of multiple ice cream machines just to make your favorite ice cream reach your doorstep!