The Ultimate Guide to Picking Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix
Posted by Shaun Haider on
There are all sorts of different soft serve ice cream mixes available on the market. You’ll need a good soft serve machine to make your mix well–and you’ll need a delicious mix to keep customers coming back for more.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about picking the right soft serve mix. It's important to understand that the “right” soft serve mix can look differently depending on the business. First, you should get an idea about all the different types of soft serve mixes available. And then you’ll need to consider what type of market you’re serving, before deciding on your soft serve mix.
The Different Kinds of Soft Serve Mixes
There are two main types of soft serve mix: liquid soft serve mix, and powder soft serve mix. Before getting into all the different brands of soft serve mix, you should first understand the main differences between these two–and the pros and cons of each. There is a third bonus type of soft serve mix which uses a “pod” or a “puck” based system, but I’ll save that for another day.
Liquid Based Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix
Liquid soft serve mix comes in a bag or bag-in-box and is usually ready-to-use. There are shelf stable liquid soft serve mixes, but most of the time that you find them, they’ll either be frozen or require refrigeration.
Liquid soft serve mix usually comes in a bag or a bag-in-box. Oftentimes liquid soft serve mix will come frozen or require refrigeration.
The advantages of liquid soft serve mix is that it’s easy to train staff–no prep work is required, simply grab your liquid mix (usually stored in the refrigerator) and pour into your soft serve machine.
Liquid soft serve mix is generally good for up to a week in the fridge. If your mix comes frozen, it’s best to thaw it out in the fridge for at least 24 hours. If you have a shelf-stable liquid mix, it would still be a good idea to put it in the fridge for 15-45 minutes or overnight, before pouring into your machine, as your soft serve machine will “work less hard” to freeze the product.
All in all, the main advantage of liquid soft serve mix lies in its convenience. The main disadvantage of liquid soft serve mix is that it takes up valuable fridge and freezer space. If your product contains dairy (most ice cream mix will) it will typically only be good for up to a week in the fridge. If your bag ever leaks it makes a big mess and is a pain to clean up. Since most liquid mix needs to be refrigerated, companies often charge a lot more for refrigerated shipping and handling--adding to product costs.
If you have the refrigeration space and you’re going through mix quickly, liquid soft serve mix would be ideal for you.
Powder Based Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix
Powder soft serve mix is our shelf-stable soft serve mix solution. Powder mix will require some prep work to make. Nothing crazy–just thoroughly mix your bag of powder mix in a mixing bucket with water (or milk) until fully dissolved.
For best results, it’s still best practice to refrigerate the mix for 15-45 mins (or overnight) after it’s been mixed. By refrigerating your mix, your soft serve machine “works less hard” to freeze the product. You can make your mix ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator to always make sure you have a batch ready to go. Similar to liquid soft serve mix, refrigerated powder soft serve mix will be good in the refrigerator for one week.
The advantage of powder based soft serve mix is that you have more control over batch sizes and the product is shelf-stable. The next big advantage is that powder soft serve mixes have a much longer shelf-life--generally they are good for 12-18 months depending on the mix, this gives you time to keep product on-hand without it going bad.
Butterfat: The Metric Used to Define Ice Cream Quality
What is Butterfat?
Butterfat is the fat content of milk, for that reason, it’s also referred to as milk fat. The FDA grades the quality of ice cream based on it's butterfat percentage.
If you’ve ever shopped for milk or cream at the market–the percentages you see on a carton of milk (0%. 1%, 2%, and 3% milk) is actually referring to the butterfat percentage!
Butterfat in Ice Cream
We mentioned earlier that the FDA grades the quality of ice cream and other frozen desserts based on its’ butterfat contents. Butterfat is measured in weight and not by volume, thus the amount of overrun in your soft serve mix will not affect the butterfat.
Typical hard scoop ice cream sits at around 10% butterfat. A 14% butterfat ice cream would be considered high quality and a 17% butterfat ice cream would be graded as: ultra-high quality.
To advertise your product as “ice cream” it must contain at least 10% butterfat and contain no more than 1.4% egg yolks according to the FDA’s guidelines.
Most soft serve mixes only sit at around 3-5% butterfat. Technically speaking, it’s not even “ice cream!” The FDA would actually classify most soft serve ice cream as “ice milk"--a lower fat option. A product that has a 0% butterfat would be classified as a “sorbet.” And frozen custard, sherbert, and gelato all have their own guidelines as well.
How to Increase Butterfat in Soft Serve Ice Cream
This is a great question we get a lot. For liquid soft serve mix, there isn’t too much you can do--as you don't want to mess with the sugar contents--and overall sweetness or "brix" of your mix. But, for powder mixes you can adjust the butterfat by making your recipes with milk and cream instead of water.
A quick example using frostline soft serve mix: instead of mixing each bag with 7.5L of water, try mixing with: 7.5L milk, or 6.5L milk + 1L table cream. By mixing with milk and cream you can raise the overall butterfat percentage of your mix.
Making your soft serve mix with milk or cream will increase the butterfat content
The last suggestion seems obvious but if you want to increase butterfat, use a full fat soft serve mix. Some mixes you'll find are completely vegan or non-dairy and will naturally be lower in butterfat—which is completely fine, it just caters to a different crowd. But, a full-fat mix will have a higher butterfat contents than it's vegan or non-dairy counterpart. For the absolute most premium soft serve possible: pair a full-fat mix with table cream and whole milk.
Our Soft Serve Mix Options
We’re Canada’s #1 Fun Foods Supplier!
We make it easy for Canadians to buy soft serve mix and other Fun Food supplies! We only work with the best brands that we love--and know that you and your customers will love too!
In terms of soft serve mix, we carry a large variety of powder based mixes.
Frostline Soft Serve Mix
A branded product loved by consumers and operators alike--known for its profitability. A low fat, non-dairy product. Available in vanilla and chocolate. Shop Frostline Mix
Dole Soft Serve Mix
The taste of Hawaii and also served at Disneyland. 100% vegan and available in 9 delicious fruit flavours: pineapple, strawberry, orange, lemon, lime, mango, cherry, raspberry, and watermelon. Shop Dole Mix.
Alaska Cool Soft Serve Mix
Alaska Cool has specially curated a full-fat soft serve mix blend for Fun Foods made with real whole milk powder—Our Whole Milk Series contains an incredible 8% butterfat. Making it a soft serve mix comparable to the creaminess of hard scoop ice cream! Whole Milk Soft Serve is available in: whole milk vanilla and whole milk chocolate. We also carry a lower-fat, plain or neutral base (aka: a milk base or sweet cream), from Alaska Cool--perfect for making custom flavoured soft serve and frozen yogurt. The plain mix is not part of the whole milk series and is just known as Plain premium soft serve. Shop Alaska Cool Soft Serve Mix.
Temptation Soft Serve Mix
Since Dole soft serve is only available in fruit flavours, Temptation is our go-to options for vegan vanilla and vegan chocolate soft serve. Made from an oat base: Temptation soft serve offers a delicious and creamy texture. Shop Vegan Temptation Soft Serve Mix.
Speedy Soft Serve Mix
Speedy soft serve is perfect for the artisanal chef, as it is extremely versatile--it's available pre-flavoured or as a neutral or milk base. Speedy soft serve is mainly used for the production of soft gelato (gelato made through a soft serve machine). Speedy soft serve is available with mix inclusions in it (like dried fruit pieces) for use in a batch freezer as well. Available in many flavours and for many applications. Shop Speedy Soft Serve Mix.
Testing Soft Serve Ice Cream Mix
When you’re testing soft serve mixes, there are two main properties to consider: butterfat and overrun. You should experiment testing a few batches messing around with these variables and see what you like the best.
Overrun is the amount of air pumped into the finished soft serve product. A soft serve with high overrun (75%+ range) will have a texture and consistency like shaving cream—super fluffy soft serve–as a lot of air has been pumped into it. A soft serve with lower overrun (30% range) will be more dense and creamy–and have more of a "full" mouth feel.
An operator would choose to serve higher overrun because, well… higher profits! You’re essentially charging for air and getting more finished product (higher yield) from your mix.
Adjusting overrun settings depends on your soft serve machine—if you have a gravity-fed machine, you can’t really adjust the overrun too much (as a general rule of thumb—a gravity machine will have around 50% overrun). If you have a pressurized pump-fed machine, you’ll have more control over adjusting overrun settings and making a consistent product every time.
We discussed butterfat earlier in the article, and to test butterfat, you should try a few batches of your soft serve mix using different recipes and ratios of water, milk, and cream.
By adjusting variables like overrun and butterfat you can make the most out of your mix and serve the best tasting product possible. If you have a twin-twist machine it will be easier to do product testing–as you can test 2 batches at once–and directly compare and contrast recipes at the same time.
In conclusion, Picking the right soft serve mix comes down to knowing what’s available on the market and knowing what kind of crowd you’re catering to. Do your research and first decide if you want a liquid mix or a powder mix.
The two main characteristics of soft serve ice cream that you should be experimenting and testing for, once you’ve decided on a mix is the butterfat and overrun of your mix.
After you've decided on your mix, it's time to do some experimentation and product testing. Find out what the best recipe is for your mix--one that you're happy with and would be happy serving to customers. If you have a pump-fed machine, you can further experiment and begin to adjust the amount of air, or overrun, in your mix and see what you like the best.
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