Kristen Hicks on July 29, 2017 1 Comment Table of Contents Types of Ice Cream Makers Factors to Consider When Buying Popular Brands to Consider There’s nothing quite like homemade ice cream, especially on a hot summer day. Sure, you can find affordable options in lots of different brands and flavors in the frozen aisle of any grocery store, but homemade ice cream tends to taste better and gives you more power over exactly what goes in it. If you have allergies to any ingredients common in the dessert, or if you simply want to figure out a way to make it healthier, an ice cream maker makes that possible. And there’s something special about eating ice cream you made yourself, and being able to offer it to friends and loved ones when they come over. It feels like that much more of a treat. If you’re ready to make homemade ice cream a more regular part of your life, you’ve got a number of options to choose from. Our guide below will help you navigate the market and determine which ice cream maker is the best fit for you and your family. Types of Ice Cream Makers When you start your search for an ice cream maker, you’ll notice that the models available fall within a few main categories that vary considerably in both price and convenience. Ice & Salt Ice Cream Makers Ice and salt ice cream makers are an old-fashioned, but still reliable way to make the creamy dessert at home. Sometimes they resemble a bucket with a crank on top (this is the traditional look), but some of the models currently available are more colorful and modern looking. These are generally pretty affordable, frequently costing less than $60, but they do require a bit more work than the other types of ice cream makers available. You have to make sure to buy plenty of salt and ice in advance (hence the name), and if you buy a manual version, plan on turning the hand crank until the ice cream’s ready. Luckily, you can now find options that have a motor that turns the crank for you. With these, you still need to prepare and chill the ingredients, and keep a close eye on the machine while it’s working so you’ll know when its ready, but you don’t have to do much of the manual work yourself. A benefit of ice and salt ice cream makers is that you have more control over the process. You can experiment with the quantities of salt and ice you use to get the temperature just right and, with manual models, you can control the speed at which you crank the ice cream, which influences consistency. And for some consumers, the nostalgia factor of using an ice cream maker that resembles the one your parents or grandparents used makes the extra work required with these models worth it. Benefits: Affordable. More control. Traditional method – nice for those who appreciate the nostalgia of doing it the old-fashioned way. To keep in mind: Requires additional supplies (salt and ice). Slow – there’s a long time between when you start making the ice cream and get to eat it. Manual models require a lot of work. Electric Frozen Bowl Ice Cream Makers Electric frozen bowl ice cream makers are a step up in convenience from ice and salt models. Instead of dealing with salt and ice, you simply have to make a point to remember to put the machine’s bowl in the freezer a day or two before making ice cream. As long as the bowl’s already cold, your job is simply to add the ingredients, turn the machine on, and wait for your homemade ice cream to be ready. As with the ice and salt units, the electric frozen bowl option does require some patience. You have to think in advance to pre-freeze the bowl and wait until it’s ready before you start making ice cream. For many models, it’s possible to buy an extra frozen bowl (or it may even come with the ice cream maker), so you can just keep one in the freezer at all times. They also cost a comparable amount to ice and salt machines, often available for less than $60, but with some higher-end models going for over $100. As long as you can live with the wait, most customers find these machines to be easy to use and are happy with the ice cream they get from them. The added convenience of these, combined with their low price point makes them the most popular type of ice cream maker available today. For people that plan to make homemade ice cream frequently though, the pre-freezing time may make them an inconvenient choice. Benefits: Affordable. Easy to use. Great for kids. To Keep in Mind: Require patience. Don’t provide you as much control as with ice and salt models. Compressor Ice Cream Maker Compressor ice cream makers jump up in price quite a bit compared to others, but most customers who buy them love them. In exchange for the increased price – these are frequently over $200 and can get as high as $700 – they are extremely easy to use and produce creamy ice cream that most customers find to be just right. One of the big selling points with these for customers is that you don’t have to wait as with the others. You can have homemade ice cream the same day you start the process of making it, often within less than an hour. Many ice cream makers in this category come with an array of features, like digital displays with the ability to control the temperature, different speeds to choose from, and the option to keep your dessert cool once it’s done being made. If you’re willing to splurge for the sake of convenience and quality, a compressor ice cream maker may well be worth it for you. Benefits: Especially easy to use. Fast. Often include handy features. Makes great ice cream. To Keep in Mind: Expensive. Factors to Consider When Buying an Ice Cream Maker To help you hone in on the ice cream maker that will best match what you want from one, there are a few factors it’s important to consider before making a purchase. Ease of Use One of the biggest differentiating factors between different types and models of ice cream makers is how easy they make the process of making homemade ice cream. There’s a good reason some people are willing to pay more than twice as much for compressor ice cream makers than other types – they do most of the work for you. The main factor that determines ease of use for an ice cream maker is clearly whether or not it’s a compressor style machine, but there are a few things that can add to ease of use besides. For electric frozen bowl models, a machine that comes with an extra bowl or one that freezes more quickly than others makes it easier to be prepared when you want to start making ice cream. For ice and salt ice cream makers, a motor makes a big difference in how much work making ice cream is. Amongst the available compressor ice cream makers, there are a number of features that can contribute to ease of use. Intuitive digital displays make it easier to figure out how to work the machine and get the settings just where you want them. A bowl that’s light and easy to lift out of the machine makes transferring your ice cream to a bowl when it’s done easier. Cost There’s a sizeable gulf between the cost of simple ice cream makers and high-end compressor-style machines. On the low end, you can get an old-fashioned ice cream maker for as little as $30, but you should be prepared to do the extra work involved in making homemade ice cream with this type of device. On the high end, for the most committed of homemade ice cream connoisseurs, a machine like the Lello Musso Lussino costs over $700. Most homemade ice cream lovers will be happy with a device that falls somewhere in the middle. If you want to find something under $100, you have plenty of options in the ice/salt and frozen bowl categories. If you’re prepared to pay more for faster, easier ice cream preparation, you can find compressor ice cream makers for closer to $200 than the hefty price tag of the high-end machines. The main trade-offs for spending less are speed and convenience, but some people may find the consistency of the ice cream produced by compressor models superior as well. Capacity / Quarts If you’ll be making homemade ice cream for a big family or want to have the option of providing for a large party you host from time to time, then buying a machine with a large capacity is crucial – especially if you go with one of the types of ice cream makers that require a long process. If you have to freeze your bowl a whole day early, you won’t be able to quickly whip up a second batch if you don’t have enough ice cream for everyone at a party. Conveniently, some of the ice cream makers that are the slowest to use tend to offer a higher capacity. Ice and salt machines are more likely to come in sizes of 2, 3, or 4 quarts, while compressor models are often quite a bit smaller (but you can make a second batch same day). Have an idea of how much ice cream you’ll want to make at a time before selecting your model, so you can be sure to always have enough. Texture and Consistency For some consumers, this will be the most important consideration on the list (although the hardest to test for before buying). The flavor of the ice cream you make will largely depend on the ingredients you use, but the texture will have a lot to do with how the ice cream maker works. Some of the really high-end models sell for so much in part because they make especially smooth or creamy ice cream that simply can’t be beat. And compressor ice cream makers are known, in general, for producing smoother ice cream than the other types. Ice/salt and electric frozen bowl machines will sometimes allow you some extra control over the texture of your ice cream by offering different options for dasher speed. Slower speeds produce ice cream that’s thicker, while faster speeds make the ice cream lighter and thinner. Faster speeds also help keep ice crystals from building up, which can produce an improved texture. Speed In addition to considering the speed that the appliance will mix your ice cream at, you should also consider how long you’re typically willing to wait for something you’re working on to be ready. If you want to be able to have ice cream the same day you decide to make it, then you’ll need to go with a compressor ice cream maker. All other ice cream makers require some lead time between deciding to make it and being able to eat your tasty concoction. If you’re a planner and don’t mind having to think ahead, then the savings for these types of ice cream makers are probably worth it. For compressor ice cream machines, the speed at which they make the dessert is often listed as a selling point. If it’s important to you, check the product’s marketing and user reviews to see how long they say it will take to make a batch. Ease of Cleaning Every kitchen appliance you use to make food has to be cleaned after each use. And ice cream makers are, of course, no exception. If you know clean up is one of your least favorite chores, then you should consider what will be involved in the clean up for the model you’re thinking of buying. Compressor models that have a removable bowl will be easier to clean than those that have a permanently installed one, and smaller ice cream makers will often make the job easier than bigger ones (although then you’re trading off capacity). Reviews are probably the best resource you have for getting a head’s up on how difficult a particular ice cream maker will be to clean. Noise Any appliance with an electric motor should be expected to make noise. Some are definitely bigger offenders than others in this regard though. If you’re sensitive to loud appliances, then this is another factor where you’ll likely be best served checking the reviews before buying. Many customers are quick to mention how loud an ice cream maker is (or isn’t) in their reviews to help other buyers make a more informed decision. Appearance For some consumers, aesthetics matter far less than functionality. But if you’re someone who also wants your appliances to look good, then you should take some time to browse your options to consider which ones you like the look of. If an ice cream maker is beautiful and fits in with the style of your kitchen, you’ll never have to worry about considering it an eyesore on the kitchen counter. Features and Extras: Extra Frozen Bowl — Some frozen bowl ice cream makers come with an extra frozen bowl or sell additional ones. This can make a big difference in how easy it is to start making ice cream each time you’re ready for a new batch. Ready Bell — A ready bell lets you know the moment your ice cream is done. Stay Cool Function — To save you the trouble of having to eat or transfer your ice cream right away when it’s done, a stay cool function gives you the leeway to take your time. Hardness Options — Different settings make it possible for you to choose your preferred thickness for the ice cream. Cool Down Function — Compressor models that have a cool down function allow you to get started making ice cream faster. Digital Display — A digital display makes choosing your settings and checking on the temperature easier. Popular Ice Cream Maker Brands Most of the popular ice cream makers on the market are made by a few key brands. One final consideration you should make in your search is the reputation of the brand you choose to go with. To help you get an idea of how different brands selling ice cream makers are regarded, we looked at the customer reviews of the ice cream machines sold by each. Here’s a summary of what customers are saying about them. Breville Breville sells a high-end ice cream compressor that reviewers say is worth the price. Customers rave about how beautiful the ice cream maker is, how delicious the ice cream it produces is, and how fast it works. They say you can produce ice cream consistently within less than an hour and with minimal work. If you’re prepared to spend money on a high-quality product that offers ease of use, Breville appears to be a smart choice. Cuisinart Cuisinart offers a variety of ice cream makers, including frozen bowl automatic and the more expensive compressor machines. All of the units from Cuisinart tend to get generally positive reviews. For both, customers say they’re easy to use and they’re happy with the ice cream it produces. For the frozen bowl units, you do have to plan ahead, as it requires waiting a few hours between making the ice cream and eating it, but most reviewers didn’t seem to mind. A few mention having their machine for years and a number of them make a point of suggesting that anyone who buys the machine take time to read and follow the instructions in order to get successful ice cream from it. Their compressor has similarly positive reviews, but without the caveats about instructions. They say the machine is extremely easy to use and makes great ice cream. For an ease of use upgrade on the frozen bowl ice cream maker, Cuisinart’s compressor is a safe bet as well. Hamilton Beach The affordable frozen bowl ice cream makers available from Hamilton Beach earn mixed but mostly positive reviews from customers. Most reviewers praise the machines for working quietly and making great ice cream, if you prepare it correctly (making sure you freeze it for long enough in advance is key). Some detractors complain about the quality of the ice cream though. Some say it’s runny and didn’t freeze enough; others complain that it freezes too much and gets stuck to the bowl. More customers are happy than not, so if you want to give a low-cost ice cream maker a try, Hamilton Beach is worth checking out. KitchenAid If you already own a KitchenAid mixer, then one option you have for making homemade ice cream is getting an attachment for it. The KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment gets mixed reviews from customers. Many are thrilled with the quality of the ice cream they get, although they warn you have to follow instructions carefully and have patience since it takes a couple of days from start to finish. Others complain of blue goo leaking from the machine, the loss of which caused the ice cream to have a gooey consistency, or complained of different parts of the attachment not working as they should. While the KitchenAid brand is usually reliable, with reviews as hit or miss as the ice cream maker attachment has, you might be better off buying a dedicated ice cream maker. Lello Lello sells a high-end compressor ice cream maker that gets rave reviews from customers. They say it works fast, is easy to use, runs quietly, and produces some of the best ice cream customers have ever had. Reviewers say that although it’s pricy, the quality of the ice cream and how well constructed the machine is make the cost worth it. Nostalgia Electrics Nostalgia Electrics makes a range of affordable ice cream makers including old-fashioned ice and salt ice cream makers and an electric frozen bowl ice cream maker. Across models, the brand gets generally positive reviews. About all of them, customers say they’re easy to use, easy to clean, come at a great price, and make good ice cream. Sunpentown The compressor ice cream maker from Sunpentown produces largely satisfied customers. They say the machine is easy to use, looks good, and is a great value for the price. The one complaint that comes up in several reviews is that people wished it had a larger capacity. If the main problem is wanting more ice cream from the machine, that’s probably a good sign. Whynter Whynter’s compressor style ice cream maker is another one that gets positive reviews for being intuitive, easy to clean, and working quietly. Reviewers mention how fast it is – typically producing ice cream in less than an hour from your start time, and say that the resulting dessert is delicious. They’re a brand you’re likely to be satisfied with. Final Thoughts The heat of summer can be a lot to deal with sometimes, but it provides a good excuse to eat ice cream (not that you really needed one). Ice cream makers put homemade ice cream made just the way you like it within easy, delicious reach.