How-To: Homemade Astronaut Ice Cream

Food & Beverage


Ever since I was a kid, I’ve adored the crunchy/creamy sweet treat of astronaut ice cream. Now that I live just five minutes from Johnson Space Center, the freeze-dried confection is the top request when we take visiting friends to the gift shop at Space Center Houston. There is just something idyllic and iconic about the space-age dessert. Ben Krasnow shows how you can build a freeze dryer to sublimate the water from regular ice cream to turn it in to the crunchy astronaut ice cream we all know and love. Bonus point for the mix of science and sugar! [via @proteinwrangler]

14 thoughts on “How-To: Homemade Astronaut Ice Cream

  1. I-) says:

    next? something tasty? coffee (so you make an instant version of your favorite)? a lemon? watermelon? meat? potatoes? tomato? too many things! :-)

  2. Wally says:

    How about jelly or Jell-o?

  3. Wally says:

    How about jelly or Jell-o?

  4. Jewels Vern says:

    I have heard that if you jellify sodium silicate and freeze dry it you get an insulator that will protect your hand from a torch flame even if it is only 1/8″ thick.

  5. Jim A. says:

    Freeze dried peaches are a favorite of mine. Strawberries end up too intense, flavor wise. Stew should work. ISTR reading that to some extant, freeze drying has replaced taxidermy, so you might try a whole mouse the next time your cat makes you a gift of one.

  6. Methanol says:

    I noticed you used Denatured Alcohol sourced most likely at Home Depot and you call it Ethanol. It isn’t. Well, it is but only a little. It is about 90% Methanol and only about 10% Ethanol. Check the extremely small print. The CAS number is listed but doesn’t tell you the actual breakdown. Apparently Ethanol costs quite a bit more than Methanol nowadays so instead of it being mostly Ethanol with just a bit of Methanol to keep people from drinking it, it is now mostly Methanol – only nobody bothered to tell anybody it seems.
    This is important if you are going to be using large quantities of it as Methanol is extremely toxic to certain body tissues and it evaporates (being a solvent) quite readily. Ethanol is only mildly toxic (we drink an awful lot of Ethanol, drink only a few mL of Methanol and you may go blind or worse). Methanol vapors are fairly toxic.
    Also – I would suggest avoiding PVC tubing and brass fittings for food use. PVC tube contains phthalates (which are potent endocrine disruptors) and brass fittings contain lead (which is also toxic). Use food grade tubing and stainless steel fittings, like brewers use. That is, if you intend to eat the ice cream afterwards. It doesn’t cost terribly more money although it does make the fittings harder to find at a local hardware store.

  7. Yakeshinu says:

    The denatured alcohol was used in the chiller (along with a bit of CO2(s))to bring the ice cream temp down, not in the trap. The trap contained the EtOH + CO2(s). Pay attention.
    Secondly, there is no reason to use “food-grade” parts in this build since the non-food-grade parts are all down-system from the food. The food is under vacuum at the top of the system, so all system flow (and therefore contaminants, such as the volatiles from the PVC) are moving AWAY from the food product.
    The only thing the food is in contact with is a borosilicate glass flask, and all of the volatiles at the top of the system are coming FROM the food (and therefore moving AWAY from it) and continuing down-system. This would actually carry any contaminants AWAY from the food and into the trap (or through it and out of the system entirely.)

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