Equipment and Terminology
Planning on opening a soft serve business or expanding your offerings to include Soft Serve – check this information out as a quick reference guide to understanding the world of soft serve machinery.
Gravity Fed Machines
In a Gravity Fed Machine, the product is pushed down through a tube from the upper reservoir (feeding tank). As the soft serve is extracted from the front, the liquid is sucked in to the rear of the barrel via the tube and the whisking and freezing process is applied to the mix. This is where the overrun occurs.
Pump Fed Machines
In a Pump Fed Machine, the product is sucked up in a vacuum and whisked first in a pump with rotating gears or with a cylinder valve pump. The product is then fed into the barrel via a pressure pipe. Because of the initial first whisking and beating, and then the subsequent re-whisking and beating in the barrel, the product volumizes more, creating more overrun.
Overrun is the term for the increased percentage product achieves from the amount of air incorporated during the freezing process. Gravity fed units typically yield an average about 35% overrun. Pressurized (Pump) units can yield 65% overrun or greater.
When running PreGel product blends in either type of machine, set the viscosity towards the higher-end so the machine can freeze the product at a higher power. Many of PreGel’s blends have solids within the mix which require a more vigorous setting.
Choosing a Soft Serve Machine
Make sure to take a minute to determine your needs. Talk to a PreGel Representative to help establish what machine is right for your business. PreGel has lots of partnerships with industry equipment providers and can always help put you in contact with them.
Think of such things as:
- Your location – how big will the demand be on your machine?
- At what capacity do you want/need to serve product?
- How many flavors do you want to offer?
- Do you want a table top machine or standing floor model?
- What can you afford?
Basic Components & Functions of a Soft Serve Machine:
Hopper/Upper Reservoir/Feed Tank:
This is where the fresh liquid soft serve mix is poured. It is refrigerated at between 2⁰C-4⁰C/35⁰F-40⁰F. The upper reservoir must be covered with its proper lid at all times. From the upper reservoir, soft serve drains down into the barrel where it is frozen via ‘gravity’ or a ‘pump.’
This panel has functions like on/off, stand-by and wash commands. Some bigger models have more intricate control panels which can be used to change different settings on the machine like cycle run times, viscosity, etc.
Adjustment Screw (Dispensing Handle):
The adjustment screw controls the speed at which the soft serve flows from the machine. When a machine operator is still learning it is recommended the flow be set to a slower speed until they get used to pouring the perfectly swirled soft serve cone. The normal rate should be set at 5 ounces to 7.5 ounces in 10 seconds (150ml-220ml).
Soft Serve Troubleshooting
Problem:Product frozen in the upper reservoir (feeding tank)
Possible Causes: This happens when not enough mix has been poured into the upper reservoir. When the liquid amount inside the upper reservoir is below the recommended amount, the mix touching the sides of the upper reservoir will actually become frozen within the upper reservoir itself.
Solution: Make sure you always fill the upper reservoir with at least the minimum amount of liquid recommended by the machine manufacturer. Each machine has a different minimum amount requirement. Never use less than the minimum amount of liquid stated in the machine’s manual.
Tip:If not having enough product in the upper reservoir is not the issue, then the problem most likely is that the temperature setting of the upper reservoir is too cold. To solve, have a technician reset the temperature on your machine.
Problem: Product doesn’t flow from the machine
Possible Causes: The viscosity setting may be too high. The entrance to the “Feeding Pipe” isn’t opened wide enough for the product to be released.
Solutions: Find the right viscosity setting for your establishment/equipment through trial and error once reviewing the machine manual.
Ask the manufacturer to help you adjust the opening of the “Feeding Pipe.”
Tip:If the entrance “Feeding Pipe” is your problem, sometimes simply straining the products can help the machine from blocking up. Try straining berry and coconut flavours, and never use nut flavours with a soft serve machine to prevent this from happening.
Problem: The product is extremely thick in the upper reservoir. The problem could also be a wrong temperature setting on the machine.
Possible Causes: The mixture doesn’t have enough air incorporated.
Solutions: The mixture should be stirred every two hours, which allows air to be incorporated. A thick product can result in inconsistencies with the final product, so be sure to continuously stir the product.
Check your temperature settings against the machine specifications stated in the manual.
Problem: Product is coming out “icy”
Possible Causes: The problem could be the result of product being left in the machine for too long resulting in over freezing of the product.
Solution: Drain the entire product from the machine into a large clean bucket. Stir product in the bucket for about 5 minutes, re-circulating the product and incorporating air. Pour refreshed product back into the machine and freeze again.
Problem: Product is coming out “runny”
Possible Causes: The dispensing handle controls the flow and extraction rate of finished product; the handle not being tightened properly could be the issue and creating a “runny” product.
Solution: Check the dispensing handle screw; if it’s not fully tightened it can cause the product to become runny. Change the set-screw on the dispensing handle in order for soft serve to come out a bit slower. Simply tightening the screw can allow for longer freezing time.
Tip: Regulate the dispensing handle based on the product that is being created, flavours with a lot of sugar need the dispensing handle to be tighter, where flavors with less sugar can have a looser dispensing handle. Simply put, set screw according to flavor.
When troubleshooting, always check the machine starting from the top to the bottom to determine what might be causing the problem. Always read the equipment manufacturer’s guide before using the soft serve machines.
Plus, scheduled maintenance is always recommended. Soft serve machines should get at least one complete service annually for normal use, but twice a year for machines that work very hard.