The Best Ice Cream Makers Buying Guide of 2015 & 2016

Different Types of Ice Cream Makers

Manual ice cream makers

The most traditional type of ice cream maker is the manual ice cream maker. They are typically made of a steel container in a wooden bucket where you pack in ice and rock salt. The ingredients go into the steel container, and you crank the container’s handle to churn. The advantage of a manual ice cream maker is that you don’t need electricity, so you can make ice cream maker pretty much anywhere. A disadvantage is that it can take 15-20 minutes of cranking before the ice cream is ready, so making ice cream is a lot of work. One way to save your arms is to have a group take turns cranking.

Freezer bowl ice cream maker

The freezer-bowl method of making ice cream consists of getting a machine with insulated, stainless-steel bowls that you keep in the freezer at least overnight. When the bowls are cold, you pour in the ingredients and set it up with the rest of the machine, where the churning is automatic. One reason these are appealing is because they are often very affordable and conveniently-sized, so they don’t dominate your kitchen counter space. A potential problem however is that you can’t be as spontaneous because the freezer bowls need to have 12-24 hours to get cold enough.

Compressor ice cream maker

A very popular, but more expensive type of ice cream maker is the compressor ice cream maker. These machines are totally automatic, electric, and use a refrigerant gas to freeze the ingredients. Some major advantages include the fact you can make ice cream anytime and that ice cream made from this type of machine is usually the best-quality you could make at home. However, you do pay a lot more for compressor ice cream makers and they are often large and heavy.

Gelato makers

Gelato makers are specifically designed to create the correct “gelato” texture, which means less oxygen during the churning process and a warmer freezing temperature. The benefit of getting a gelato maker is that you can make perfect gelato, as well as traditional ice cream and other frozen desserts. The main disadvantage is that many gelato makers are very expensive.

Ice Cream Maker Features To Look For

Types of desserts

Most ice cream makers will let you make a variety of frozen desserts. This includes ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato, and frozen drinks. Depending on the quality of your machine, some desserts will come out better than others. This mostly applies to gelato, since it is actually made differently than ice cream (gelato requires less oxygen), so if you want “true” gelato, getting a machine specifically designed for this dessert is a good idea.

Amount of ice cream

You can choose ice cream makers that make as little as two servings a batch, or 6 quarts, which is 24 cups. Almost all ice cream makers measure their capacities in quarts, so 1.5 quarts is 6 cups. That would be a good amount for a family of four to enjoy at least one serving, and there are ice cream makers that make a bit more with 2 and 4 quarts. Ice cream makers get more expensive the more dessert they make, and with freezer bowls, you cannot make continuous batches. To make more with a freezer bowl machine, many people buy two freezer bowls.


The speed at which your ice cream maker makes ice cream depends on the power of the motor and how cold the machine gets your ingredients. For a smaller, standard-power ice cream maker that uses a freezer bowl, you can get 1.5 quarts in about 20 minutes. Compressor machines are faster, so you can expect 2 quarts in 25 minutes, or even 4 quarts in 20-40 minutes.

Mixing paddle

With automatic ice cream makers, which make up the majority of what’s available on the market today, a durable mixing arm or mixing paddle is crucial. This replaces the old-fashioned hand crank and ensures that all the ingredients are properly combined. Not all paddles are the same. Some are designed to move very fast, so you get the ice cream in less time, while others have special motions so they mix from top to bottom or scrap the sides where ice cream tends to stick. A mixing paddle should be durable so it doesn’t warp. Stainless steel is a good material to watch for.


Most kitchen appliances are pretty heavy, and ice cream makers are no exception, though you can find some that are lightweight. Ice makers that produce smaller amounts of ice cream (1-2 quarts) can weigh as few as 6.5-10 pounds. Some compressor machines that make continuous batches are also pretty light, so you don’t sacrifice the amount of ice cream over the machine’s weight. Heavier ice cream makers can start at 15 and reach an intimidating 40 pounds. These are much harder to store in your kitchen, and do not necessarily make a large amount of ice cream.


Stainless steel is the most popular material of choice for ice cream makers. This is because stainless steel insulates cold temperatures well and is easy to wipe clean. Brushed chrome is also common, as is aluminum. For a more affordable option, some ice cream makers use plastic, though the downside is that plastic wears down faster and can warp when mixing thicker ingredients. If you plan on using your ice cream maker frequently, it’s best to go with a durable material like stainless steel.

Best Ice Cream Maker Brands


Breville burst unto the scene in the early 1980’s when they released their famous sandwich toaster. They also became well-known for their juicers. In addition to these two products, they sell coffee makers, kettles, and ice cream makers. Their main ice cream maker, the Breville SmartScoop, has automatic hardness settings so you can make a variety of desserts like soft serve, gelato, and yogurt, all with just the push of a button.


Cuisinart released a food processor in 1972, and quickly became a favorite among celebrity and home chefs alike. Their electric ice cream maker didn’t come out until 2014, but with decades of professional-grade kitchen appliances behind them, their ice cream makers are bound to be well-designed and durable. Their current line of ice cream makers include gelato makers, yogurt, and sorbet makers.

Hamilton Beach

Hamilton Beach originally came to be in 1910, when two engineers began building universal motors that could be used in home appliances. They soon began creating more than just the engine, and produced juicers, meat grinders, and more. Their ice cream makers are designed so anyone can use them, and recipes are included with every machine so you can get started right away.


In 2010, Yonanas and their parent company Healthy Foods LLC released their frozen-fruit based “ice cream” maker. Currently, there are only two products available on the market – the Yonanas Classic and Yonanas Elite – but Healthy Foods LLC plans on offering more creations that promote healthy eating.


DeLonghi started out in 1902 as an industrial parts workshop in Italy. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the DeLonghi family became fully incorporated and began putting out the kinds of home appliances that they are known for today. These products include the Artista Series espresso machines and DeLonghi gelato maker, both of which embody the high-quality and practical design that make the DeLonghi brand so popular.

Features of Professional & Commercial Ice Cream Makers


Most ice cream makers just stop once the ingredients are churned together, but more expensive and advanced machines have settings. This includes a timer where you choose a specific dessert, like gelato, and the ice cream maker will churn until the correct dessert is created. Some machines (like Breville’s SmartScoop) boasts an impressive 12 hardness settings where you can choose anything from sorbet to soft-serve ice cream, and the machine will only stop once the hardness setting you selected is reached. This is especially useful considering most ice cream makers cannot make that store-quality hardness that you’re used to.

Condiment dispensers

For a sundae bar in one machine, ice cream makers sometimes include built-in condiment dispensers where you can store candy and other goodies. You simply pull a tab and the ingredients fall into the ice cream as it fills a bowl. This way, you don’t have to bother mixing by hand. One thing to be aware of is that certain candy/chocolate won’t fit through the chute, so either chop everything up to ensure nothing gets stuck, or use smaller candies like chocolate chips or sprinkles.

High-powered motor

For ice cream enthusiasts, some ice cream makers are equipped with extremely powerful motors, as in 12,000 RPMs. These ice cream makers typically are meant to make huge batches of ice cream at one time, so they need that power to mix everything without burning out. A motor with that kind of power is also going to guarantee a fast delivery time, so making that ice cream doesn’t take forever.

Attractive design

Most ice cream makers are industrial-looking or “modern,” at best. However, some are designed for beauty as well as efficiency. There are several brands that make wooden-bucket ice cream makers that combine modern technology with the old-fashioned “steel container in a bucket” look. Using wood like solid fir and colorful stains, your ice cream maker is both durable and beautiful.

Combination crank and motor

One of the newer innovations in ice cream makers is the combination hand crank and motor. You can begin by using the hank crank to mix the ingredients, which is a great way to get everyone involved. When you get tired, you can switch to the electric motor, which quickly finishes mixing everything. The benefit of this type of machine is that you can get kids participating, but don’t need to rely entirely on your strength in order to get the job done.

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