Smitten Founder, Robyn Sue Fisher, spent over a decade with a team of 14 engineers to invent a countertop machine that enables our Brrristas® to create the best ice cream in the world in <2 minutes with the touch of a button (or two). Backed by 6 patents and deep technology developed at Stanford University, our Brrr® machine automates and perfects real-time ice cream production.
How does the Brrr® machine work?
The Brrr® machine has over 200 components and is protected by 6 patents and a bunch more patents pending. The patented interlocking ‘double helical’ beaters and custom Brrr® bowls interact in such a way that the ice cream freezes consistently throughout and is pushed in a downward motion, resulting in the smoothest and richest ice cream there is.At the same time, the Brrr® machine’s software and control systems measure the viscosity (or thickness) of the ice cream and dose liquid nitrogen based on the thickness it ‘feels’ and by the size and flavor of the batch.Basically, we are super nerds who are obsessed with ice cream and figured out how to create the nerdiest and most precise, automated countertop ice cream machine there is.
How is the Brrr® machine different from other LN2 ice cream shops and their machines?
(FYI: prepare to get nerdy)
Back in 2007, Robyn Sue started exploring the process of freezing ice cream with liquid nitrogen. She read all of the books she could get her hands on and started building messy prototypes in her backyard with parts off Craigslist.
From physics books (and a physics professor at Stanford), Robyn Sue learned that the faster (i.e., the colder) you freeze ice cream, the smaller the ice crystals can be because ice crystals grow over time. The smaller the ice crystals are, the smoother the texture is. A smooth textured ice cream has a better mouthfeel and eating experience. (Compare this to fresh powder snow versus gritty snow pellets. Which one do you prefer to ski in?) Given liquid nitrogen is -321º Fahrenheit and an inert element*, it has a LOT of potential to freeze ice cream quickly and cleanly and to create the smallest ice crystals possible.
Robyn Sue started with off-the-shelf mixers, hoping she could modify one for the purpose of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen. (Quick fact: Robyn even tested very expensive commercial mixers and almost broke a few!) However, after several months, she was bummed to learn that no existing mixer made ice cream that was good enough to truly differentiate. Plus, all of the existing mixers created A LOT of user error and inconsistencies; ice cream could easily freeze to the surfaces, over-freeze into dip-n-dot grit, under-freeze, or all of the above.
Robyn Sue realized that, if she wanted her dream to become a reality, she would have to invent a machine from scratch that was designed for the sole purpose of creating the highest quality of ice cream automatically, consistently, and without user-error with deep-freezing liquid nitrogen. So, she started by honing in on all of the problem areas of the existing machines: first figuring out how to solve the issue of ice clusters and freezing to the surfaces — hence the double-helical beater design and the custom Brrr® bowls. Then, she and the team of engineers worked for years to automate the freezing process so that the Brrr® machine could actually ‘feel’ the thickness of the ice cream, dose liquid nitrogen at the right times and intervals based on what it was ‘feeling,’ and stop when it was done. Finally, Robyn Sue and the engineering team added some user-friendly bells and whistles to make the machine easy to operate with a savvy text display, batch feedback, engineering dashboard, error codes and safety precautions.We are proud to say that the Brrr® machine is now a regulatory approved commercial mixer, certified for safety, cleanliness and functionality.
The Brrr® machine truly enables Smitten® to stand apart. Our Brrristas® churn our ice cream seamlessly from scratch, fresh in-the-moment. Because we churn fresh, we don’t have to add any extra ingredients to preserve shelf life and we can focus on making ice cream that is all about the TASTE!
* 78% of the atmosphere is Nitrogen gas (N2). Liquid nitrogen is formed when the N2 from the air is extracted and reduced in temperature until it changes states of matter, from gas to liquid. This is similar to how water freezes from liquid to solid!
Can I buy one?
When you invent a new flavor – do you have to do something to the Brrr® machine?
We used to! Different flavors have different ideal ‘end viscosities’ (think of the thickness of a rich, caramelly chocolate versus that of a lower fat sherbert you (and our Brrr® machine) have to work harder to stir the chocolate than the sherbert, meaning that the force you apply to the chocolate at its ideal texture will be greater than the force you apply to the sherbert at its ideal texture). For many years, every single flavor had its own specific algorithm that was honed by our Head of Engineering . After several years, we found that the algorithms were clustering together into what we know call ‘viscosity levels’, based on the ingredients. (For instance, we found that Fresh Strawberry freezes similarly to Nectarines & Cream, and Earl Grey Tea freezes similarly to Coffee). So, now, when we introduce a new flavor, we just have to specify the Viscosity Number. Our amazing Brrristas® then just set the Brrr® machine to that level and then the Brrr® machine freezes each batch to perfection!
Do you have engineers working at Smitten now?
Robyn Sue worked with 14 engineers to develop the Brrr® machine, including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, software engineers, a control systems engineer and an industrial designer (gotta make sure it’s ergonomic!).Smitten continues to employ Brrr® technicians to perform maintenance and upgrades.
Has the Brrr® machine changed over time?
Because we have manufactured the Brrr® machines in small volumes locally in California, we have been able to implement a calculated process of continual improvement over the past decade. Our goal has always been to invent something that disrupts the category and makes ice cream better for the world and better for people in a robust and sustainable way, not just a one-off and certainly not a gimmick.