Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
The latest trend in frozen desserts is nitrogen ice cream, where an ice cream base is flooded with liquid nitrogen for quick freezing. Because nitrogen freezes ice cream so quickly, it allows businesses to completely customize frozen treats exactly as customers request them, from the ice cream base and add-ins all the way to the toppings. We spoke with Kenny Cho, marketing director for nitro ice cream chain Creamistry, to get the scoop on this cool trend.
How Does Nitro Ice Cream Work?
Nitrogen is a visually striking way to make ice cream, with clouds of nitrogen gas billowing out over the top of the bowl as it boils at -320 degrees Fahrenheit. Most ice cream shops have a pre-made ice cream or frozen yogurt base to which they add any flavorings and other ingredients the customer desires.
Up to this point, there isn’t a significant difference between what these newfangled creameries are doing and what ice cream shops have been for generations. As you might guess, this is the point where those two diverge, though. These shops have to be designed with significant ventilation to capture the gases that come off the reaction and the employees who craft the treats must don protective, thermal-resistant gloves and, typically, safety glasses or a face shield.
Creamistry was founded by Jay Yim, who grew up in his family’s bakeries and first saw ice cream made by liquid nitrogen on a trip to South Korea. Years later, he and his wife Katie began experimenting with liquid nitrogen ice cream recipes, many of which later became part of Creamistry’s menu. Since the company was founded, it has experienced exponential growth.
“Just as the liquid nitrogen trend was beginning to explode, Creamistry had already established footing within the desserts space as the premier liquid nitrogen ice cream concept in SoCal,” explains Cho. “We are projected to have 100 stores in operation by the end of 2018, with new stores currently under development in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, New York, and Nevada.” The company also has international franchise agreements in China, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, and India.
Fans of liquid nitrogen ice cream think this method of making the frozen dessert is more than just a trend, due to the difference in flavor and texture.
“One of the most noticeable benefits of using liquid nitrogen is the texture and taste. Because we are rapidly freezing the cream mix on contact, we eliminate the formation of any large ice crystals, resulting in a smooth, creamy texture. If done correctly, using liquid nitrogen to produce ice cream is not just a fad or gimmick, but a means to a much tastier and fresher product,” explains Cho.
Because each customer’s ice cream is made to order, customization is also a big benefit of this style of ice cream.
“Our made-to-order process also allows for a high level of customization, so customers can enjoy their frozen treats exactly the way they want. Customers can choose from four different cream bases (Signature Premium, Organic, Sorbet, Coconut), and choose from over 60 flavor and topping options.”
However, not everyone was eager to try this unique style of ice cream. For those unfamiliar with liquid nitrogen, the billowing clouds of steam and special equipment needed to handle the chemical can be intimidating.
“We were initially met with a lot of questions regarding safety to consume the ice cream and oxygen levels at our stores,” says Cho. “Rest assured, our customers are completely safe throughout their visit. We make sure that all liquid nitrogen has completely evaporated by the time the scoop reaches the customers’ hands and ensure that any future product offerings follow the same guidelines for safety.”
While this method of making ice cream has its benefits, it also requires specialized equipment and training.
“We thoroughly train all staff on liquid nitrogen safety, handling, procedures, and treatment. Every team member is trained to read the PSI meters on our liquid nitrogen tanks to adjust pressure as needed for safety and efficiency,” explains Cho. “We also go over the natural properties of liquid nitrogen, its other uses, and fun facts in case a customer would like to learn more about it. Our liquid nitrogen is stored in special, upright tanks that get refilled periodically as needed by our local suppliers.”