So you have looked at the market for your business, decided on the products you would like to sell, and are now checking out soft serve ice cream machines that will suit your operations. As mentioned in How to Choose Part 2, space will be one of the deciding factors. Do you have the luxury of space to add a free standing machine, or will a counter top suffice so you can have additional cupboards or shelving underneath for storage. Next we look at the two different types of soft serve machines available when it comes to feeding the mix from the hopper into the freezing chamber.
2. Gravity Fed versus Pump (Pressure-Fed)
A gravity fed machine is exactly that - the mix goes into the hopper at the top and falls by force of gravity into the cooling chamber that produces the freezing effect. These types of machines are less complicated to set up and maintain as they have less working processes. As long as there is a clear passage from hopper down to the barrel where the soft serve ice cream mix is frozen, things should run relatively smoothly. You will need to keep your hopper mix topped up to provide some weight for this operation. You also need to check for blockages regularly and make sure the breathing tubes are correctly fitted (these allow air to be combined into the mix to create that fluffy effect). Because these machines rely on gravity the mix can take time to get to the barrel cooler and freeze to temperature. This can be a problem when you want to produce a larger number of soft serves quickly, as the machine may not be able to keep up using the force of gravity alone and you will have to wait for a short period for it to catch up.
Pressure-fed, or pump machines, employ a pump to bring the soft serve ice cream mix into the chamber at a regular rate. With extra working parts these are more complicated to work with and also more expensive to buy. They do, however, allow for greater overrun. This is the amount of air that can be combined with the mix to create a light, soft and fluffy soft serve ice cream. Good overrun percentages are around 40-45%. This means that less actual mix is used per serving which is more cost effective for the business. Overrun can be adjusted depending on the type of machine you have, and a good technician will be able to help with machine settings so you get the optimal efficiencies from your unit in terms of both air flow, temperature settings and general running. Pump machines also have greater production capacity so are often used in high volume settings where there are greater numbers of serves per hour. If your business is in the position where you do not have the luxury of waiting for the machine to catch up to your production requirements, then this is the type of unit for you.
As always it comes down to budget, so you may opt for a second hand soft serve machine rather than buying new if you require one of the more expensive types. This then gives you time to see if the unit suits your business model, and to check that you will actually get the sales you are hoping for.
see also: Soft Serve Machine: How to Choose - Part 1
Soft Serve Machine: How to Choose - Part 2
Soft Serve Machine: How to Choose - Part 4