Gelato vs ice cream vs sorbet: What's the difference?

Posted by Everest Ice Cream Guru on Aug 12, 2019 5:19:07 PM

Australian’s have always had a love affair for frozen scoops, but the misconception between ice cream, gelato and sorbet remains at an all-time high. So, are they really any different after all? 

They say life is better with ice cream and who are we to argue. Every spoonful delivers a sense of satisfaction, a feeling of instant happiness like no other. When it comes to pleasing crowds, big or small, ice cream is the obvious choice as it’s loved by all – no matter if your customers are little kids, big kids or just kids at heart.

While ice cream continues to steal the hearts of customers, gelato has recently made a comeback as people are seeking more premium options when they choose to indulge. And then you’ve got sorbets - the summer staple. Sorbets have become a menu must-have in the warmer months as they provide customers with an escape from the Aussie summer heat.


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You’d be forgiven if you thought that ice cream offers a creamier, thicker texture than gelato – because in short it does. “Gelato has less fat overall, where ice cream must contain 10% milk fat or more to call it ice cream in Australia,” Everest’s R&D Manager and resident ice cream guru, Alan Thomas explained.

“So, your super premium ice creams would have more dairy fats, while your gelato range tends to have a maximum of 6.5% to 7% fat,” he continued. “And when it comes to sorbet, it’s simple – there are no traces of dairy whatsoever, making it a perfect offering for vegan customers.”  

Sorbets are water-based and made with fruit, fruit juice, fruit flavours and sugar. This summer favourite contains no fat but has a higher sugar percentage compared to its freezer family members, ice cream and gelato. Sorbets also offload an acidic sweetness that is created by using fruits and sugar.

But to make things that little bit more confusing – there are water-based lemon gelato and water-based lemon sorbets available and on the surface the two appear very similar. Across the Australian market, gelatos tend to be more premium and include traditional Italian ingredients, real fruits and are commonly presented with beautiful overflowing peaks in the tub. Whereas sorbets tend to use cheaper ingredients like fruit flavourings, making them a more mainstream offer that are available at a cheaper price.



While the ingredients in ice cream and gelato are quite similar, so too is their production process. Both sweet treats are produced using a churning process, but it’s the speed and timing that sets them apart. When it comes to creating ice cream, the mixture is frozen in the churns and continually whisked together using paddles. The fast and continuous stirring motion lovingly whips in air to keep the ice crystals small, creating the smooth, creamy mixture that is loved and enjoyed by consumers. “Ice crystals are ice creams worst enemy as they create a gritty texture and make for a poor-quality scoop. We spend a lot of time ensuring our ice creams are whipped to perfection and blast frozen quickly to keep any ice at bay” Alan commented.

During this process the ice cream mixture typically increases in volume between 25% to 90%. For gelato, the steps are similar, but less air is churned throughout the freezing process. On average, gelato has 50% less air circulated throughout due to a slower churn rate, which helps create an intense flavour and smoother, silkier texture.

While it is common for smaller boutiques to create their ice cream and gelato offering with batch machines, larger manufacturers follow tighter production processes to ensure a consistent scoop in each tub. “We’ve spent 60 years perfecting the way we make our products. For us it’s all made in the same equipment, just with a different technique, which we’ve refined over time.” Alan said.

“What you find is that a lot of the little boutique gelatos are made in small batch machines where the mix is tipped in and then churned. They then need to be eaten pretty quickly, or the quality degrades over time” he said. “But on a larger scale, most places use a continuous churn which allows the product to be packaged, transported frozen and last longer.”

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There is nothing worse than heading to the freezer to grab a tub of ice cream only to find the mixture has suffered freezer burn. Name a more heart-breaking experience – we bet you can’t. So, to eliminate the tears and broken hearts of customers who have been craving their favourite flavour all day, you’ll need to store your tubs correctly from the moment they arrive at your venue.

“All ice cream is stored at -18 degrees, but when you put it into a serving freezer they need to be slightly warmer at around -16 degrees,” The Everest R&D manager explained the increase in temperature from freezer to front-of-shop allows the ice cream to become “a little bit softer”. This technique allows workers to scoop cleaner portions for customers.


So, while the ingredients and production methods between gelato and ice cream differ ever so slightly, both frozen desserts serve and conquer their sole purpose – to deliver mouth-watering, memorable experiences upon every inhaled spoonful. And if you’re looking for a refreshing or palate cleansing option for your customers, look no further than the trusted sorbet. At the end of the day, customers just love ice cream, gelato or sorbet – any frozen treat really, so give them options across all three formats to keep them coming back for more!

Topics: Sorbet, Gelato, Ice Cream

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