As mentioned in our post How to Choose Part 1, the type of soft serve ice cream machine you need will partly depend on the products you want to sell, and the customer base you have. It is important to understand the difference between soft serve ice cream and standard 'hard' ice cream before you make your choice. Soft serve ice cream is typically served at a higher temperature (generally around -4°C), whereas standard ice cream is held at -15°C during storage. This is why soft serve ice cream cannot usually be put back into a freezer once manufactured, unless it has been specially formulated to do so. The lower temperatures involved cause ice crystals to form in the mix which makes the soft serve taste icy and feel rough. A good quality soft serve should be creamy smooth yet firm, with no hint of iciness. It is worth noting that our Goldenfarm and Yomaxx soft serve formulas can be used to create hard ice-cream. These have been formulated to be frozen with just a small adjustment to the recipe, and no loss of quality, so they can greatly increase the utility of your soft serve machine.
There are a number of factors to decide when choosing the right machine for your operations, and these are explained in more detail over the course of the next few posts.
1. Counter Top versus Floor Standing
Counter tops generally take up less space, with some great compact models available. They are usually cheaper so are a good choice for start ups and smaller enterprises with limited space. That said, all soft serve machines need a compressor, hopper and barrel, so even a small machine is going to take up a bit of room, so check the dimensions carefully to be sure it will fit where you want it to go before you commit your dollars to a purchase. Many counter top models only have the one barrel, which means you can only do one flavour at a time. This is not necessarily a problem, as you can change the flavour profile of your product by adding syrups when serving, using a mixer to produce flurries with added flavouring, or offering floats and thickshakes in a similar manner. You could also do a 'flavour of the day' to create interest, but bear in mind that to fully utilise your machine you really want the best selling and most versatile product in there at all times. This will typically be a vanilla that you can add flavours to post serve, but this does depend on your customer base so it pays to do your research. These types of machine may also have a smaller capacity per hour (e.g. some may produce 5 serves then require a minute or two to cool the mix back down or the product will become a bit runny). This is a concern when you have customers queuing out the door continually, but maybe not so problematic when trade is more steady and balanced out with other product offerings. If you really need more than one barrel be prepared to pay quite a bit more for a counter top model.
The floor standing machines are generally larger, but can also offer more barrels and larger capacity, which not only gives you the option of running different flavours at the same time, but also gives a greater serving rate per hour, which may be more important to your business in a high volume setting. They are also generally easier to move around into place, unless you keep your counter top model on a moveable trolley.
Both model types require ventilation space to help with cooling (unless you have a water-cooled type of machine - more about this later). The manufacturer will tell you what the minimum gap should be but be sure to factor this into your space equations. If your area is well air-conditioned and/or ventilated this will help the machine's performance. A poorly ventilated, hot and humid space will limit the machine's efficiency and use more electricity in the long run.