Mechanisms and kinetics of recrystallization in ice cream

  • Richard W. Hartel


Recrystallization of ice crystals in ice cream during storage causes a significant problem for ice cream manufacturers. Abusive-storage conditions, particularly high and fluctuating temperatures, cause rapid recrystallization as evidenced by an increase in mean size and width of the crystal size distribution. The recrystallization process primarily involves small crystals melting, large crystals growing and many crystals fusing together, resulting in fewer and larger crystals for a given ice phase volume. A rounding process is also observed, where crystals with rougher surfaces become rounder through a thermodynamic ripening process. While these processes occur at constant temperature, rates of recrystallization are especially enhanced when temperature fluctuates.

Many factors influence recrystallization rates. Manufacturing conditions have an impact on the rate of crystallization in that the size, shape and distribution of ice crystals formed during initial freezing determine the rates of the above mentioned mechanisms. Manufacturing conditions that result in formation of many small ice crystals provide maximum stability against recrystallization. Rapid hardening processes maintain this number of ice crystals and promote stability against recrystallization. Storage conditions, such as temperature and extent of fluctuations, influence recrystallization rate. At very low temperature, approaching the glass transition temperature, recrystallization rates decrease to nearly zero. As the temperature increases, the amount of ice phase volume decreases, viscosity of the unfrozen phase decreases and recrystallization rates increase rapidly. Increasing temperature fluctuations enhance recrystallization.

Components such as sweetener, milk solids and water have an impact on recrystallization, although stabilizers are added specifically to control recrystallization. The former factors influence the equilibrium ice phase volume for a given storage temperature and, to a different extent, the glass transition temperature. Stabilizers may have an impact on recrystallization through several mechanisms, although there remains some questions as to their true capability. The ability of any stabilizer to control recrystallization may depend on type of ice cream, storage temperature, ice phase volume and concentration of stabilizer.


Corn Syrup Crystal Size Distribution High Fructose Corn Syrup Recrystallization Rate Migratory Recrystallization 
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© Thomson Science 1998

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  • Richard W. Hartel

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