The Science of Ice Cream

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When tasting the smooth cream of this frozen treat do you ever wonder, “What makes ice cream so perfect?” The answer may not be “magic”. But, there is a science behind your best ice cream experience.

What is Ice Cream?

A unique combination of firm and soft mixed together to form this iconic treat. At its core ice cream is a successful emulsion of fat into water, sugar, and ice with air mixed into the batch. An emulsion is a mixture of two substances that typically separate (like oil and water). But, instead mix together to form the consistent creamy base used for ice cream. It’s Science!

What is Ice Cream Made From? And Why?

All ice cream have the same basic parts: ice crystals, air, fat, sweeteners, and other solids.

Ice Crystals

Size of the ice crystals determines how smooth the texture of the ice cream will be. Larger crystals make a grainy texture, while smaller ice crystals create a smooth texture.


Air makes up a varying sized chunk of ice cream and effects its texture, volume, and flavor. Anywhere between 30% to 50% of ice cream is air and called “overrun”. Lower quality ice creams contain high overrun and melt faster with more air. Air also prevents ice cream from tasting too sweet by slowing down flavor release in the mouth.


Fat provides the richness and taste that make ice cream so delicious. It is usually buttermilk fat and it also gives stability to the base mix and smooths the texture.


Sugars (such as sucrose or glucose) or other sweeteners (honey or syrups) are not just added for flavor. These sugars lower the freezing point of the ice cream which prevents it from turning into a block of ice.

Other Solids

There are several other ingredients that complete the formation of ice cream. These components are:

  • Emulsifiers: Milk products prevent fat in the base clumping together. Lecithin (found in egg yolk) replaces milk products to allows air to mix into the base.
  • Stabilizers: These prevent large crystals and absorb any liquid left in the ice cream. Usually, these are gelatin or egg whites but can be vegetable gums.
  • Flavorings: These are the extra chunks added such as cookie dough to add taste and change texture.

The Freeze

The final step in understanding about ice cream’s science is freezing it. The base mixture is being whipped to add in the air while freezing. After this process, the only thing left is eating! Here at Harmony Valley, we love the understanding the science that brings to life this delicious treat! To try out how yummy science is finding out where to pick up one of our amazing pints or find our Scoop Truck here.