Oh man, I frapped it up : (
July 5, 2012 3:51 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my homemade frappes less watery? And more like Starbuck's frappes? What's their secret?!

I worked as barista once, and I still can't figure it out! I have a Mr. Coffee Cafe Frappe maker. I love it, but I want my frappes to be more blended and less icy/chunky/watery. I've been trying to get it nice and thick and not this icy, slightly watery consistency. The taste is fine, but somehow Starbucks magically gets it perfectly blended with no tiny, icy chunks. I've tried blending it longer, but is there some kind of powder or thickener they use?
posted by luciddream928 to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I assume it's because they're using commercial-grade equipment and not a small home blender, but I could be entirely wrong.

Otherwise they may be using the blood of the proletariat.
posted by elizardbits at 3:53 PM on July 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Have you tried to freeze your coffee into cubes and doing it that way instead of using plain ice? And yes, no matter how hard I try, I can never get all the cube chunks out using my stick or stand blender. Though... I haven't tried my new fancy pro food processor.

...wanders off to make a smoothie
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:59 PM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: Coincidentally yesterday I watched the Equipment review from season 10 (next season to air is 12) of America's Test Kitchen, and they noted that some blenders just can't do ice for crap, while others make beautiful snow. You should just ice through yours and see how it does. If it's not making snow, you're not getting a proper frappé.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Xanthan gum. Bob's Red Mill (probably in the health food aisle of your supermarket; might be in the baking aisle, otherwise) sells it. It ought to keep the ice from separating from the liquid and thicken it right up.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

What ingredients are you using? I'm almost certain Starbucks will be using some sort of high-fat milk, rather than skim. The ice chunks would be attributable to your blender.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2012


posted by Confess, Fletch at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Their blenders look like a Vitamix-type blender. Those things can powder a 2x4. I doubt that the Mr. Coffee machine comes close to that kind of power.
posted by quince at 4:01 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: LOL@ two lights. Love that idea... I'll try it with the cubes.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:02 PM on July 5, 2012

Yeah, if this post is correct, they're using xanthan gum as a thickener in the syrup, as well as carrageenan in the diet versions.

The other question would be what kind of ice are you using? I would guess that regular cubes will blend way differently than that lovely aerated commercial kind.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:03 PM on July 5, 2012

Best answer: Oh and also - not sure how the machine you have works, but when I make delightful frozen alcoholic beverages, the real difference between a uniform level of slushy goodness and a liquidy chunky poo blend is to do the preliminary ice crushing alone in the blender first without having added any liquid, and then a second crushing when the liquids have been added.
posted by elizardbits at 4:03 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: @Quince - haha, yes, my $80 blender doesn't' even come close to that. And the xanthan gum, that's a great idea. I have some already.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2012

I would like to recommend The Ninja. I use my Ninja nearly every morning to make a breakfast smoothie that would beat a Starbucks taste test every time.

(Pro tip: use store bought ice cubes . . . they're the bees knees.)
posted by WaspEnterprises at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Xanthan gum

Note that xanthan gum is a very potent thickener. Start with 1/8 tsp per 8 oz of frappe and go from there until you reach the desired consistency.
posted by jedicus at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Hmmmm. I'm using regular cubes. Perhaps the aerated kind are better?
posted by luciddream928 at 4:05 PM on July 5, 2012

Response by poster: Just ran cubes through it - it does make snow. Not chunky at all. So Elizardbits is probably on to something - run the ice through first, then add the ingredients.
posted by luciddream928 at 4:12 PM on July 5, 2012

For reference, a 16oz Starbucks Frappucino is

1 oz instant coffee (mixed beforehand with water)
3 oz whole milk
3 oz liquid "base" (This is the thickening agent that gives it the smooth texture you desire, and while I haven't looked at the ingredient list on the back of the bottle I'm guessing it's a solution of xanthan gum of some sort.)
2-3 oz sweetener/mocha mix/whatever flavor
1 cup ice

All blended together and served from the pitcher quickly (it'll set up a bit otherwise).
posted by carsonb at 4:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's a recipe that lifehacker linked to a while back. It does have xanthan gum in there.
posted by something something at 5:16 PM on July 5, 2012

I've used the same recipe that something something linked to -- the xanthan gum does indeed stabilize it and stop it from immediately separating back out into ice + watery coffee. It doesn't take much.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:07 PM on July 5, 2012

Maybe they've changed the mixture since I worked there, but we used to make our frap mix from scratch at the Starbucks owned cafe on campus at my university. There was a significant amount of condensed milk in the mixture.
posted by Kronur at 12:07 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you do go with Carrageenan, aka Irish Moss, be sure to get it powdered. It's also sold in a coarse grind as a clarifying agent for homebrew, but that can turn into big globs of jelly if in liquid too long. (Don't ask.)
posted by Sunburnt at 6:24 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The secret is that "liquid base" that carsonb mentioned. It's very thick and fatty, which gives you that great mouthfeel. It's like mixing espresso and crushing ice into a thin pudding. You can find some powder frappe base mixes on Amazon, but I don't know how good they are.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2012

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