The Reason Grape Ice Cream Doesn't Really Exist

There was a point in time in which ice cream was only made in a few flavors,  and your options mostly consisted of the basics like vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. These days, however, the majority of ice cream shops offer a much greater variety than that, and sometimes you can even find flavors like everything bagel and ranch at the grocery store. But while you can generally expect to find fruit-flavored ice cream at any place that sells the classic dessert, grape ice cream is extremely hard to come by.

While grape ice cream does exist, most producers don't bother making it, and there are two reasons why, the main one being that grape ice cream is difficult to produce. It can be done on a small scale, but several problems arise when it's done on a commercial level. Given that grape-flavored foods aren't typically known to sell well either, ice cream makers find that making a grape flavor isn't worth all the effort.

What happens when you try to make grape ice cream

You might think that the creaminess of ice cream is determined by how much dairy and fat is in it, but while that does play a role, the consistency is also largely influenced by the size of the ice crystals in it. Small crystals make for creamier ice cream, which is why it can be difficult to make grape-flavored ice cream. Grapes are 81% to 84% water, so the more grapes you add to ice cream, the more water you introduce to it too. Water turns into ice during the ice cream process, creating big ice crystals and less creamy ice cream as a result.

But it isn't just the creaminess of the ice cream that's affected by the addition of grapes. Grapes are also high in acidity and anthocyanin, an antioxidant that's also responsible for making grapes purple. When both of these components are combined with dairy, it results in chemical reactions that can lead to changes in flavor and texture and a much shorter shelf life.

Why grape isn't a popular flavor

Despite the fact that cherries have about the same water content as grapes, ice cream makers still go the extra length to make it work in ice cream because cherry-flavored foods are actually popular. Grape ones aren't, and the explanation lies in the fact that they almost always taste slightly off. This is because grape-flavored foods are hardly ever made with the real fruit, but rather a chemical called methyl anthranilate, which can often be found in perfume and cologne.

Using actual grapes is perhaps the most obvious way to create better-tasting grape-flavored foods, but that still doesn't change the fact that grapes don't interact well with the ingredients in ice cream. Furthermore, it's hard to change people's perception of the flavor, because using methyl anthranilate instead of grapes has been a standard practice since the 1890s. 

All things considered, it's safe to say grape ice cream won't be appearing in grocery stores or ice cream shops anytime soon. If you're one of the few people who would enjoy grape-flavored ice cream, all you can really do is make it yourself at home.