Welcome to Taylor UK’s ultimate soft serve ice cream machine buying guide, designed to answer your questions and provide advice to help you choose the perfect Taylor Soft Serve machine for your business.
Lets start at the beginning…
What is Soft Ice Cream and where did it come from?
According to Wikipedia, ice cream was first created in Persia around 500BC but the product which they had way back then is a far cry from the one we know today… The true origins of soft ice cream are a little blurred but Dairy Queen in the U.S, a brand which is still in business today, makes claims of inventing soft ice cream as we know it back in 1938. The ingredients of soft serve are basically the same as most commercial ice cream products; milk, cream, sugar, stabilisers and emulsifiers but with the formula balanced so that it’s firm but soft at a temperature of -7ºC when it’s dispensed from a soft serve freezer.
Taylor Company, the world’s leader in the design and manufacture of soft ice cream making equipment, had it’s origins in Buffalo, New York, back in 1929 when Charles Taylor, a small ice cream retailer, weary of the slow messy salt ice cream making equipment of the era, developed an automatic counter top batch ice cream freezer for his own ice cream store. This successful innovation soon found Charles in the business of manufacturing modern batch ice cream freezers and lead to the development of soft serve ice cream freezers as we know them today. Working closely with both major international brands and independent customers alike, Taylor Company continues to lead the way when it comes to soft ice cream equipment.
What types of soft serve are there?
Dairy based soft ice cream is currently the most common form (there’s a clue in the name). But, like all successful products, soft serve has evolved to be accessible to fit in with the majority of dietary requirements and trends. You can get the following types of soft serve:
100% Dairy ice cream.
Ice cream, where a percentage of the fat is derived from a vegetable source.
Vegan soft serve, where the fats are usually nut, coconut or soy based.
Tart or sweet frozen yogurt, like our Yopiu product, is a ‘healthier’ alternative to regular soft serve.
Fruit based ‘sorbet’ style products.
Diabetic soft serve, formulated using specialist sugars and stabilisers.
Soft serve mixes come in three different forms, each has the oven positives and negatives:
Freshly prepared liquid that requires constant refrigeration until needed. It can be stored for 5 to 7 days before bacteria spoils it. Quality can be severely compromised by bacterial contamination and handlers must exercise caution to maintain quality. Fresh mixes sometimes come deep frozen to extend shelf life, this then requires completely defrosting in a refrigerator prior to being poured into the soft serve machine.
A powdered mix. This is a dried version of the liquid mix. It has the advantage of easy distribution and can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling. Water must be added prior to being churned and frozen. The disadvantage is that water quality cannot always be guaranteed and some operators can put too much water in to make it go further. Ideally it should be refrigerated prior to use, as airborne and waterborne bacteria can infect it immediately and can grow quickly if the product is warm. Residual bacteria in the refrigerated hopper could also be activated if a warm product is introduced.
Ultra Heat Treated (UHT) mix, is a liquid mix which has been sterilised and packed in sealed, sterile bags or cartons. It can usually last fro up to nine months without refrigeration and can be poured into the soft serve freezer immediately upon opening. At the time of opening, quality can be guaranteed and bacterial counts are zero. Health authorities usually consider it the safest form of soft serve mix on the market. For best results and hygiene reasons, UHT should also be pre-chilled before adding it to the soft serve freezer.
What’s the difference between commercial and homemade soft ice cream?
One of the unique selling points of soft ice cream, and a major reason it’s such a great seller, is the fact that you cannot recreate it a home (unless you invest in your own machine). Soft ice cream is served at approximately -7ºC which makes it frozen, but soft and easy to eat. It’s a product which is designed to be served and eaten straight away making it the definition of ‘fresh is best’.
On the other hand, making your own ‘homemade’ mix for your soft serve freezer will give you the potential to create a unique product which no other operator can sell. This allows you to source quality ingredients to generate a more premium product should you wish and you can avoid any ingredients which you class as ‘nasty’. The downside is that making your own will end up costing you more per portion but you may be able to charge more if it’s a visibly more premium product.
Things to think about when choosing your next soft serve freezer…
Not all soft serve machines are created equal and making sure that you have the right one for your business will make all of the difference. The initial purchase cost will always be a factor but it shouldn’t be the main driving force when you make a final decision. You need to weigh up all of the following points to make sure you have the correct machine for your business. Remember, the right machine in the right location could pay for itself within the first year!
How do soft serve ice cream makers work?
One of the unique selling points of soft ice cream is that it’s freshly frozen on demand, creating a smooth indulgent ice cream product which is impossible to reproduce without the proper machine. Liquid soft ice cream mix is stored in a refrigerated hopper located in the top of the machine. Depending on the type of machine, the liquid mix is either pumped or flows by gravity into the rear of the freezing cylinder. Once in the freezing cylinder, a spiral shaped beater frame rotates at a high rpm which whips the ice cream mix incorporating a percentage of air into the finished product which is called overrun. As the beater rotates, the liquid mix freezes on to the refrigerated surfaces of the cylinder which is then scrapped off and beaten back into the ice cream. After a few minutes, the soft serve freezer creates a frozen product which is thick in consistency and smooth in texture with an overrun percentage of anything from 30 to 85+ (depending on mix and machine type). This is then dispensed directly from the machine on to a cone, into a tub or on to sundae dish. As finished soft ice cream is dispensed from the draw handle, the spiral shape of the beater pushes the remaining frozen product towards the door allowing fresh liquid mix to flow into the rear of the barrel which starts to freeze automatically continuing the process. This automatic operation keeps ‘just enough’ perfectly frozen product ready to serve and then automatically replenishes itself ensuring that the finish product is always ‘freshly frozen’ and as good as it can possibly be.
When looking to buy a soft serve machine, firstly you need to ask yourself this question:
How many portions do you think you’ll sell a day and at what point during the day do you think you’ll sell them?
If your looking to add soft ice cream cones to your business and expect to sell cones steadily throughout the day, but not in any large numbers all at the same time, then the small, counter top Taylor C152 will probably be able to cope quite happily with the volume demands of your business as this can produce 3 to 4 3.5oz cones every minute without compromising the product quality. But, if you’re a convenience store which has a busy spikes where you’ll need to serve a high volume of portions in a short time period then a much larger, pump fed machine like the Taylor C706 would be better as this could serve 12 to 15 3.5oz cones every minute meaning even the fastest server will struggle to ‘beat the machine’.
For the best advice, and to find out what your potential annual profit and R.O.I. could be, contact the Taylor UK Sales Office to arrange free consultation with your local Sales Manager. Call 0800 838 896, email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete our Online Enquiry Form.
Once you have an idea how many ice creams you want to sell, there’s a few more decisions to make…
Counter Top or Floor Standing? – Taylor manufactures a wide range of soft serve machines, the majority of which are available either as a counter top units which can be converted to floor standing with the use of a custom designed cart which can provide additional useful storage. This decision is usually driven by the available space and whether the machine is going to be used all year round as floor standing options have castors allowing them to be wheeled into storage if required. Larger twin flavoured machines like the Taylor 712 are only available as floor standing units. A major consideration when it comes to the location of your soft serve machine is airflow for cooling. Most machines tend to be air cooled which require suitable ventilation around the machine for it to operate correctly.
How many flavours do you want to serve? – You choose a single machine like the Taylor 736 which serves one flavour of ice cream from one dispense handle. Alternatively you could choose a twin machine like the Taylor C723 which has two independent mix hoppers and freezing cylinders allowing you to serve either two different flavours like vanilla and chocolate or two different product types like dairy ice cream and frozen yogurt from the one unit. Twin flavour machines have a third handle which allows you to dispense both flavours or products at once in a spiral twist. If you want to serve more than two flavours, you will need multiple machines, alternatively a Flavor Burst syrup system which stripes your soft serve with up to eight flavours could be a great option for you.
Air or Water Cooled? – An air-cooled soft serve ice cream machine is beneficial as you can place it wherever you like because it does not need a cold water supply and waste water connection. A water-cooled machine must be plumbed in with suitable permanent connections, which could limit where you place your machine, however, water is far more efficient than air at cooling machines, which means your machine will freeze and recover faster. Air cooled machines are ideal in a room with good ventilation or air conditioning whereas a water cooled machine can be stored in a very warm room and will still perform well. This is an important decision to make as each configuration has its advantages and disadvantages depending on your circumstances. Only the larger Crown Series soft serve machines in the Taylor range can be specified water cooled.
Gravity vs. Pump-Fed? – Gravity soft serve machines use gravity to transfer soft serve mix through feed tubes into the freezing cylinder whereas pump-fed machines use a pump to transfer the mix from the hopper to the freezing cylinder. Generally, pump fed machines are used for high volume applications which need a large volume of product in a short period of time. They also have the advantage of being able to regulate and increase the overrun, the amount of air whipped in to the mix, which can increase the overall volume of the finished product and ultimately the profit you could make per portion. Gravity machines cannot adjust the product overrun and tend to be less expensive, easier to operate and clean making them more attractive to operators with limited skill staff. Only Taylor’s larger machines are available with pump options. Product quality should be a factor when choosing a pump or gravity machine. Not all products can take lots of overrun, frozen yogurt for example, tends to max out at about 45-50% whereas UHT soft serve can be pushed up to 75-85%. But remember, the higher the volume of air, the lower the quality of the product. Gravity machines tend to produce a product with 35-45% overrun.
Self Pasteurising Machine or 3 day clean? – Self pasteurising machines like the Taylor C708, put the ice cream within the machine through a heat treatment cycle once every 24 hours which kills any bacteria which may form in the mix, this gives a cleaning interval of up to fourteen days or in special circumstances, up to twenty eight days. Non-heat treatment machines require full brush cleaning every three days. The decision on which version is better depends on two key factors; the product being used and how much product you sell. Regular UHT soft serve mixes are designed to work in a heat treatment machine without issue. Whereas bespoke or ‘more natural’ products like frozen yogurt sometimes lack the stability to endure the heat treatment process and will breakdown, spoiling the mix. Throughput is also important, soft serve mix will only like going through a heat cycle once or twice before it begins to breakdown and the product quality deteriorates. It’s important that operators sell a significant volume of soft serve on a daily basis to ensure that the mix in the machine is refreshed regularly to prevent any deterioration.
Confused? Contact the Taylor UK Sales Office to arrange free consultation with your local Sales Manager to make sure you understand all of the options and get the right machine for your business. Call 0800 838 896, email email@example.com or complete our Online Enquiry Form.
How to make money selling soft serve…
All food service equipment has inherent running costs associated with them; power, water, staff, product etc. and a soft serve machine is no different. The major difference is that a soft serve machine’s sole purpose is to create a unique product which customers cannot replicate at home. This means they have to buy it from you which in turn generates visible profit for your business. Not many pieces of catering equipment can boast that!
This is how profitable selling soft ice cream could be…
A typical profit example goes something like this:
R.R.P. 3.5oz soft ice cream cone – £1.75
Minus VAT at 20% – £0.29
Minus typical product costs (mix + cone) – £0.18
Average profit per cone – £1.28
Estimated cones per day – 50 (six cones an hour over an 8.5 hour day)
Potential profit per day – £64.00
Estimated selling days per year – 280 (9 months)
Potential Annual profit – £17,920.00!!
Remember, this example is only based on nine months of trading, if you’re open all year your potential profit could be over £23,000.00!
The example above is quite conservative and would only warrant a small soft serve machine like the Taylor C152, which is the perfect add-on to any existing business as its a compact, counter top, air cooled machine which only requires a 13 amp plug socket to operate. In this circumstance, you could see a return on your initial investment in as little as 6 months!
You can create your own profit projection, using your own selling price and the number of portions which you think you’ll sell, by using our Profit Calculator – Click HERE
The more imagination you have the more product lines you can add using profitable soft ice cream as a base. The more you sell, the more money you can make! These are some examples:
Ice cream cones & tubs
Ice cream sundaes
Blended milkshakes & ‘Freak shakes’
Ice cream sundaes
Dessert accompaniments – Apple Pie ‘a la mode’ for example
Ice cream sandwiches & filled shells
Maintenance & Cleaning
All soft serve machines require regular cleaning and routine maintenance.
Daily – all of the ‘touch points’ on the outside surfaces of the machine need to be cleaned and sanitised throughout the day to prevent any mix build up or bacterial growth. Heat treatment machines require the liquid mix in the hopper to be topped up regularly and require a few additional end of day procedures.
Every 3rd or 14th day – all soft serve machines will require a complete disassembly and brush clean either every third day or on the fourteenth day if its a self pasteurising machine. The fully cleaned machine is then visually inspected, reassembled, lubricated and sanitised for use once more. Failure to strip and fully clean your soft serve machine in the correct interval may lead to machine failure or serious hygiene issues.
Quarterly – it’s recommended that all of the consumable components of your soft serve freezer are replaced once every 3 to 4 months. This includes scraper blades, nylon bushes and o-rings. Replacing these components helps to ensure that your soft serve machine continues to run efficiently.
Annually – It’s not obligatory but we’d recommend scheduling an annual Preventative Maintenance visit by one of our trained engineers on an annual basis. This service will check any key components ensuring that your machine is running as it should.
The Taylor UK Customer Service & Support Centre is open seven days a week, 364 days of the year to provide technical advice, arrange spare parts and consumables, or to organise a reactive service engineer visit as required. Call 01473 350047 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
All Taylor soft serve machines come with a full on-site twelve months parts and labour warranty which, if it’s arranged within the first twelve month period, can be extended up to four additional years. Contact the Taylor UK Customer Service & Support Centre for more details.
Frequently asked questions
What is an ice cream churner? – This is a older term used to describe any ice cream machine. The original method for making ice cream was literally churning milk and cream in a pail over salted ice, hence ‘ice cream churner’.
What’s the difference between a domestic and commercial ice cream machine? – The obvious difference is always size, domestic machine usually can only cope with 500-1000ml of ice cream at a time whereas commercial batch freezers can freezer anything from 2 to 15 litres every cycle. More importantly, domestic ice cream churners usually rely on the freezing chamber being pre-frozen in the deep freeze for a number of hours, commercial machine will always have their own on board refrigeration systems which freezes the product. This is a much more powerful method which speeds up the whole process. Currently there isn’t any domestic version of a soft serve machine as the technology used is quite cost prohibitive for the domestic market.