Churn2 Uses Science To Make Ice Cream

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Churn, an ice cream shop located in the Science Center Plaza, is a food truck without the wheels. The shop makes ice cream with the help of liquid nitrogen, which eliminates the need to store any frozen ice cream.

While any recipe for ice cream will usually call for milk and sugar, Ash Chan, owner of the ice cream purveyor Churn2, says that one extra ingredient will make for the best frozen dessert: liquid nitrogen.

Churn2, an ice cream shop housed in a shipping container, is the newest addition to the Science Center Plaza.

Prior to opening Churn2, Chan said he had no previous experience in the ice cream business. During the first test batches of his ice cream recipe, Chan said he accidentally froze his knuckles to the mixer.

Since then, Chan said he has come far in recognizing the added benefits of his particular ice cream method. According to Chan, liquid nitrogen is simple and effective.

“Liquid nitrogen just works,” he said. “It keeps the ice cream fresh and allows a lot of creativity without a lot of constraint. Housing the store in a box, with the smoke from the liquid nitrogen is also a show.”

Patrons of Churn2 said they agree with Chan’s assessment of his ice cream. Jake W. C. Silberg ’15 said he found Churn2’s product to have slightly more texture than regular ice cream.

“Without the mix-ins, it’s smoother than other ice cream,” he said.

Chan also emphasized the uniqueness of his ice cream’s texture.

“There’s less aeration and less overall texture,” Chan said. “It’s like butter...There’s very little water content.”

David A. Weitz, one of the professors of the popular course Science of the Physical Universe 27, “Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” elaborated on the science behind Churn2’s operation. The use of liquid nitrogen causes the ice cream to freeze faster and produces a unique texture, according to Weitz, which allows for a wider range of ingredients.

“Ice cream is a foam, and the bubbles of air are stabilized because fat globules go to the interface between the air and milk and stabilize the bubbles,” Weitz said. “Churning brings particulates to the interface, but that doesn’t happen with liquid nitrogen because it’s so fast and they don’t churn.”

Weitz said that he would expect the ice cream to be less creamy.

“It melts more slowly and retains its shape longer,” he said.

Liam Bradbury, who said he was a native of Australia on a visit to Harvard Yard, agreed. Bradbury said that the ice cream left no fatty layer of film on his mouth.

Whether it’s the chemistry or the novelty of Churn2’s ice cream, customers have been lining up at the shop. The flavors change daily, but Chun recommends his favorite: Caramel Apple.

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