Soft-serve equipment holds product in a frozen state for long periods of time until portions are dispensed.

Ice cream machines freeze liquid mix under agitation, dispensing the product directly from the unit's freezer into serving containers.

Foodservice operators can choose from a variety of soft-serve ice cream machines, including single flavor, twin twist that provides two separate flavors dispensed separately or twisted together, shake and combination units that produce product for cones and shakes.

Machines offer either gravity or pressurized systems. With gravity units, foodservice staff pour the mix into a hopper on top of the machine. The mix then falls into a freezing barrel. Pressurized machines pump the mix either at the hopper on top or from a refrigerated cabinet below the unit. Some manufacturers have viscosity-controlled equipment, while others use temperature controls. The viscosity controls allow flexibility in serving different products without technical adjustments.

Ice cream machines come in a variety of sizes, with both countertop and floor models available. The units' production rates range from 3.5 to 50 gallons per hour.

Units generally produce between 40 percent and 60 percent overrun, which denotes the introduction of air into the product. The rule is the more overrun, the greater the profits. An ice cream machine that generates a 50 percent overrun with 1 gallon of ice cream will produce 1.5 gallons of product. Soft-serve ice cream is typically between 25 percent and 30 percent air. The overrun should not be less than 20 percent or greater than 60 percent.

Ice cream machine options include cup and cone dispensers, syrup topping rails, hopper agitators, carts and faucets.

Controls may offer product safety locks if the product in the equipment exceeds safe food temperatures. Some equipment offers remote monitoring capabilities. Force freeze timers provide added capacity.

Recently, there has been more interest in soft-serve machines that heat treat the product mix, which can be beneficial from a food safety perspective.

More on Ice Cream Machines:

How to Know When to Replace an Ice Cream Machine
Ice Cream Machine Applications
Maintaining an Ice Cream Machine
Spec Check: Ice Cream Machines
Energy Efficiency and Ice Cream Machines