Keeping food service equipment safe and sanitary is important. This is especially true with machines that handle very perishable products like dairy products. By making sure that your equipment is clean, you’re reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
For frozen dessert businesses, the biggest challenge is to keep the machine regularly cleaned. The machine’s operation manual will have guidelines as to how often the machine should be cleaned. Ideally, soft serve ice cream machines should be cleaned at least three times a week. Investigate your local and state food safety laws to see if there are stricter measures in place (some jurisdictions require daily cleaning).
Not only is the practice of cleaning the machine important to the health of customers, it can extend the life of the machine. Cleaning the machine gives workers the chance to inspect things like scraper blade wear, o-ring wear, ice buildup, and other problems that could cause damage to the machine in the long run. Also, regular cleaning gives workers the chance to lubricate moving parts to keep the machine running at optimum efficiency.
Most commercial soft serve or froyo machines will come with a series of brushes and cleaning tools to ensure proper and sanitary cleaning. They also come with a manual, which has a detailed breakdown on how to clean every part of the machine that comes into contact with the product. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Here are the basic procedures for cleaning any soft serve machine.
- Turn the machine off and allow the existing product to soften.
- Remove the output tubes and drain the remaining product into a bucket. If the product is still fresh, you may be able to refrigerate it before putting it back in. See manual for instructions on whether or not it is safe to do so. If in doubt, throw it out and start with fresh mix.
- Once the product is emptied from the machine, pour warm water into the hopper(s) and rinse this through. This is usually done 2 or 3 times to clean the hopper and the hoses of all the product.
- Depending on the model, you may need to turn on the power again to pump water through the system or have the beaters swish it around. Make sure to use the machine’s clean button to prevent the machine’s condensers from freezing the water. Stop the machine after the water is drained to prevent damage to the machine.
- After the cleaning cycle is complete, use a brush to wipe out the residue from the hoppers. Be sure to reach all of the nooks and crannies you can with your brush set. You may choose to do another rinse cycle after this before moving on.
- Mix up a manufacturer-recommended sanitizing agent. These agents can either come pre-mixed or can be diluted, usually at a 2:1 ratio. Use of a proper sanitizing agent will keep the machine in good repair and eliminate bacteria that can cause illness. Sanitation is always necessary! Using an unauthorized sanitizing agent can quite possibly cause damage to machine. Check manual for approved types.
- Use a brush and the sanitizer mix to wipe the insides of the hopper for basic santitaion, then pour the mix into the hoppers and run the machine another 5 to 10 minutes in the cleaning cycle to finish the job.
- Drain the sanitizer from machine. Once emptied, flush the sanitizer out with water. Repeat the flushing 2 to 3 times to wash out all the sanitizer.
- The next step is to further sanitize small parts that can still hold bacteria such as the star caps and cylinders. Disassemble and wash them. Use brushes to get into the nooks and crannies. Once cleaned, rinse these in a solution of water and sanitizer. Let them sit about 10 minutes. Rinse with cool water and allow to air dry.
- When reassembling soft serve or froyo machine, you will also need to properly lubricate machine. Make certain to use a food grade sanitary lubricant on any parts that require lubrication. Usually this will include any moving parts that are inside the machine as well as the handles and pins that keep them in place. Once again, the owner’s manual is your friend. It will inform on the proper lubricants and where it needs to be applied.
Never be tempted to use petroleum jelly instead of the proper type of lubricant. Petroleum jelly can break down, cause your product to be contaminated, and damage the machine. Costly repairs or even replacement can take a big bite out of your soft serve or froyo business.