I got a bee in my bonnet recently to test the waters on making liquid nitrogen ice cream. I had read about it in some magazine a while back and since my collectible manufacturing business is slower during the summer and our building is right on a main thoroughfare, I thought it might be a novel way of supplementing our revenue this time of year.
My plan was to make ice cream right in front of people after they ordered. Kind of short order ice cream maker. The ambiance would be cool (no pun intended) because if you’ve ever seen liquid nitrogen being poured into a bowl, it looks like a mad scientist concocting some magic elixer. If you’ve ever been to a cold stone creamery, it could be like that… where people choose their ingredients but instead of mixing it into the already made ice cream, you could make the entire thing from scratch in about a minute. From the business stand point, you could do a lot of unique things with this idea. What about hiring out to parties and making ice cream for people at their parties. You can make smoothies too, by the way.
So, I did some searching. There are relatively few links to this topic. Most all of them are repeats of one another in some form or fashion. So, don’t bother looking around. I’ll give it all here.
One of the most difficult aspects of making liquid nitrogen ice cream is finding the liquid nitrogen. To clarify, liquid nitrogen is NOT dry ice. They are two different things.
Liquid nitrogen is used by doctor’s offices for freezing off your grandma’s ugly warts (or your own) and other such things like that. So, it is readily available, and pretty cheap. You’ll need to look under your local yellow pages for welding supply or cryogenic suppliers. Some places will try to tell you that they can’t sell you liquid nitrogen over the counter and that they have to deliver it to you. That’s bonk. Yes, there are very loose rules when it comes to transporting liquid nitrogen, but keep looking. Someone will help you.
Liquid nitrogen is contained and transported using a container called a “dewar” (pronounced doo-ar, emphasis on the “doo”). They size you’ll want to ask for is the 10 liter. It’s pretty much the smallest one that’s readily available (used by doctor’s offices) and will give you plenty of material to work with in your experiments. DO NOT think you can use a thermos. First, it must be able to handle such cold temps (which some thermos’ can) but liquid nitrogen can NOT be capped. It must be allowed to vent. The dewars have the ability to vent the gas continually being released. If it’s capped, it’ll explode.
Liquid nitrogen in it’s liquid state is 320F degrees below zero. You don’t want to get this stuff on your skin or clothes for that matter. You should ALWAYS wear gloves when handling and pouring from the dewar and you should also wear goggles that wrap around your eyes. If you get even the slightest drop on your eyeball, it’s toast. Also, the mist that’s given off when pouring can damage your eyes if there’s not enough oxygen to vent the area. Bottom line, don’t mess around with this stuff. Be careful. It’s not flammable or inherently explosive (except when capped) and it’s not acid, it’s just REALLY cold.
Cost should run around $25 to rent the dewar for a month and another $35 to $50 for 10 liters of liquid nitrogen. You should be able to make several gallons of ice cream with 10 liters of liquid nitrogen. It dissipates at a good clip, even when in the dewar, so be prepared to do all your experiments within at least a week of getting your batch of liquid nitrogen.
Outcome… it made some really good, creamy ice cream. I’m sure with a little more experimenting, it would be much better than your typical batch of store bought ice cream. You’d have to sell this on the experience as much as the taste. It makes good low carb ice cream as well.
As for the ice cream parlor plans… yikes! The health department wants you to have so many things in place that our shop just isn’t anywhere near providing. So it’s back to selling Santas in the summer.
Now go get bizzy!
Bizzy Man Dan
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