Reading the back of commercial smoothie bases or ice cream is torturous, because half of the ingredients have names and origins unknown and unpronounceable. I'm trying to develop a smoothie base that would be easy enough to make in-house, but would still be easy to use. Shelf-life isn't an issue, since I could make batches just big enough (already do that with our baked goods, our roastery, and our chai), so no strange preservatives are needed. What do you all do to achieve good thick consistency and a (close-to) neutral flavor?

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Can you be more specific about your needs? For instance, are you interested in a dry or liquid base? What types of drinks will you make with it? Are you looking to accommodate any special dietary needs (e.g. low sugar, vegan ingredients)?

Most importantly, do you have a cost per serving in mind?
This is something I've played with a bit, but have had no success. I'll be watching this with great interest as well.

The other question I have is, are you concerned with stability over time?
Sure enough. Both liquid and dry are options--I'm not polemically committed either way. We would be making frappes, both coffee-based and "creme"-based, with it. The dietary options that I would be interested in knowing about are lactose-free and sugar-free (although I figure sugar free would just be a splenda substitution). I wouldn't need to have these, but the ways of getting them are of interest.

Cost per serving I would like to keep as low as possible (obviously), without compromising quality of ingredients. There is, of course, a trade-off there, but I am willing to work within it. Right now, using ice cream, our prices are around $3/12oz, 3.50/16, and 4/20. I wouldn't mind raising that, but our area is fairly economically depressed--I'd have to do the math once I got a few base ideas in mind.

Thanks for your reply. I think a homemade base is not only in my interest, but in the interest of the whole barista/cafe community.

Jonathan Hamilton said:
Can you be more specific about your needs? For instance, are you interested in a dry or liquid base? What types of drinks will you make with it? Are you looking to accommodate any special dietary needs (e.g. low sugar, vegan ingredients)?

Most importantly, do you have a cost per serving in mind?
A useful ingredient that helps some with consistency is sweetened condensed milk. Its one of the main ingredients in white chocolate sauce.

It is a pretty good frappe base, but portioning is tough since it must be refrigerated and gets super-thick when cold. It also does nothing to stabilize the drink over time, so the drink begins to separate immediately. Plus its not cheap when bought from regular grocery store, though I suspect there could be some sourcing improvements. Some brands also show considerable variance in sweetness and thickness, can to can.

We don't use it anymore. I'm looking for a powder base (prefferred) or easy-to-pour liquid.
My first thought, lately, along those lines has been heavy cream. I haven't tried it yet, though, and am trying my best to maintain the emulsion of commercial bases--egg white powder maybe (if even such a thing exists)?
I think the candidates are lecithin, carregeenan, pectin, and xanthan gum. I have no beef with any of these on their own, its some of the other stuff that troubles me. I have tried plain old pectin using some of the "make at home frappuccino" knockoff recipes as a reference point but was unhappy with the taste of the result. No trials with the others yet, it just always feel as though I am flailing around blindly... not exactly where you want to be when ordering weird stuff online. Where's a good food scientist when you need them?
Yeah, I did some research on good 'ol Wikipedia today about emulsifiers. Not egg white powder, but egg yolk powder, or lecithin, as you point out. The question of where to get it, of course, is of primary importance.
you could do a lot with heavy cream and some simple syrup. you could use non-dairy creamer for the lactose free ones? shelf life won't be a problem as long as you keep the simple syrup in the fridge. are you doing any fruit ones?
You know, we've played with half and half (that's what's on the condiment bar) and the result has been a little thin. Sweetened condensed milk was to thick to be useful. Heavy cream is right in the middle... brilliant! I'll play with it later. Thanks.
Stephanie and Brady,

Did some experiments with heavy cream today. The basic (12oz) recipe went as follows:

2oz espresso
2oz skim milk
2oz heavy cream
8oz (by weight) ice
1/2oz syrup

Blend

The cream certainly added a nice thickness and gave it that smoothie look and feel. However, the emulsion problem reared its ugly head: soon after the blend, the cream separated to the top with the ice and everything else fell to the bottom. It didn't taste bad, just like a hugh dollop of whipped cream had been put on top. Short of finding a source of lecithin or carrageenan, I don't think this will work. We're going to try powdered milk tomorrow--have to check the ingredient label to see if an emulsifiers show up.

Anything different in you alls experiments?
Brady said:
You know, we've played with half and half (that's what's on the condiment bar) and the result has been a little thin. Sweetened condensed milk was to thick to be useful. Heavy cream is right in the middle... brilliant! I'll play with it later. Thanks.
While making dinner for my family last night, I had a chance to read the back of an evaporated milk can: milk (obviously) and carrageenan (an Irish seaweed derivative). Carrageenan is a natural emulsifier!

We used the evaporated milk in a smoothie (the weather had just turned here, so smoothie orders were at a minimum last night) and, while we need to play with specifics, it made a nice think smoothie without the separation of the other forms of milk.

The question becomes cost, of course. I'm going to see what quantities the stuff comes in, but at least the shelf life is extraordinary. Once we get the recipe down, I'll post it here so that all and sundry may use it.
Hmmm... we've tried sweetened condensed, but not evaporated. The downsides there were variation in sweetness and difficulty in dispensing. That product must be refrigerated after opening and used within 5 days or so... so while it is nice to pour while room temp it is pretty thick at fridge temp. This was the main reason I was looking for a compact pump dispenser that would fit in a fridge (no luck, BTW).

We'll try the evap milk tomorrow. Sweetness variation would be a non-issue, and I seem to recall it being less viscous. Good idea Russ.

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