Ice cream is the ultimate indulgence; the food we turn to for fun, comfort, broken hearts, holidays on the beach and for any other excuse we can find.
But, better than any store bought product, which can contain additives and preservatives that we really don’t want or need, an at home ice cream maker can produce some of most delicious indulgence of all. The first place to start indulging is choosing the best at home ice cream maker to buy.
The basic concept of an ice cream maker is that it stirs the ingredients whilst the freezing occurs which stops ice crystals forming and thus results in a smooth and creamy dessert.
Note: Some ingredients such as alcohol can inhibit freezing so only add them in the last 2 minutes of churning.
What’s the Best At Home Ice Cream Maker?
There are many models on the market and they can usually be classified into three categories: budget friendly, medium priced and premium. If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to read the full list below, we select the best we think you should consider, based upon your budget.
Recommended Budget/Cheap Ice Cream Maker
The Sweet Alice Ice Cream Maker is our first consideration. It is a budget friendly at home ice cream maker that is quite light and, for its price, offers everything you could possibly need for the occasional ice cream indulgence.
It has a 30 minute timer to remind you when everything is ready, but usually takes about 25 minutes to finish the ice cream. It’s also easy to clean, and the clear acrylic lid will allow you to monitor the ice cream’s progress.
One of its main attractions is that it is small, light and easy to store in smaller kitchens as well as it having a quaint, slightly dumpy design which we liked.
Recommended Bargain Ice Cream Maker
Following is the Cuisinart Ice-21, which tops many of the favorite reviews. It’s still within reach for the lower price bracket of medium priced machines, but prepares 1 ½ quarts in 20 minutes. This is very quick. There are no extras here such as timers or alerts but its simplicity is part of its charm.
It is a sturdy, solid machine which feels like it will last through a lot of uses. All the Cuisinart ice cream machines also come with a 3 year domestic use warranty which is very reassuring for the consumer.
The reason we love it is that it is very simple to use and to clean and is relative light and small compared to other machines.
Recommended Premium Ice Cream Maker
If you want the best, and willing to pay for it, then we’re happy to suggest the Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker. We loved the Breville because it has every feature imaginable. Of course, as mentioned, there is a higher price tag attached, but we felt that it’s well worth it. It has 12 speeds so the user can control the making of frozen yogurt, sorbet, gelato and ice cream but can also be operated in a manual mode for those who need to-the-second precise control.
Depending on the temperature of the ingredients, it can take up to 60 minutes but, of course, there is no need to pre-freeze the bowl for 24 hours beforehand. Its pre-cool feature also speeds up the process if the ingredients are not as cool as possible.
It has a variety of timers, telling the user as when it is time to add the final ingredients as well as when the ice cream is finished or the Keep Cool feature is finished. Even better, instead of an annoying and irritating beep, it plays a choice of tunes to alert you.
One of the things we especially loved is the Keep Cool feature which means that, once the ice cream is ready, it can be kept in the machine for up to 3 hours before being served.
This really is a machine for people who love their ice cream and make copious amounts of it.
The Top 10 Best at Home Ice Cream Makers
If the three above do not suit your fancy, let’s take look at the following to see which suits your fancy.
Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker
The Cuisinart ICE-21 is a lower priced medium category ice cream maker with a separate freezer bowl which tops many popularity lists.
Features and Specifications
This slick white machine is both elegant and compact. It weighs 9lbs and is 16 inches tall, and the bowl makes 1 ½ quarts of ice cream in approximately 20 minutes. It has a new style of paddle to help ensure the ice cream is extra smooth and creamy as well as a pouring spout so ingredients can be added during the freezing process. (Ingredients like nuts and chocolate chips should be added in the last 5 minutes of the churning process.)
The machine sits on rubberized non-slip feet and the power cord winds easily into a space in the base for tidy storage.
Cuisinart offers a 3 year warranty, a long period for this type of appliance.
- Simplicity to use
- Sturdy enough for regular use
- Extremely easy to clean
- It’s small size is perfect for smaller kitchens
Freezer bowl is not dishwasher safe
Ice cream may stick to bowl if not emptied once ready
Those that buy the at home ice cream maker generally have very good things to say about it. Buyers seem to love the simplicity of this machine as well as how quickly it produces their delicious treat. One customer even asked how she could have lived without it! Many comment that it doesn’t even need the advertised 20 minutes but works in approximately 15 minutes.
Some even claim they can make one successive batch without re-freezing the bowl although the 2nd batch takes about 20 minutes to freeze. The recipes in the manual work very well and are truly delicious.
Any negative impressions? Sure. They seem to be with regards to the bowl being awkward to handle when full and that it can overflow. Some customers also request a timer alarm so that they do not forget the machine is churning. But, considering the low price of the machine, the fact that it has few bells and whistles does not seem to bother the vast majority of users.
Overall this is a star machine in the budget friendly bracket. It is simple and quick to use, easy to clean and store and represents real value for money for the regular ice cream eater.
Nostalgia ICMP400WD Electric Wood Bucket Ice Cream Maker
The Nostalgia ICMP400WD doesn’t get its name for no reason. It looks like the traditional ice cream making bucket that our great-grandmothers used. A budget friendly priced product, it is ideal for those who want some fun in their ice cream making process.
Features and Specifications
One of the lightest electric at home ice cream makers on the market, the Nostalgia weighs less than 7lbs and is 16 inches tall and is really an attractive machine. The outside is real solid wood with an easy to clean plastic lining and an aluminum canister which can hold 4 quarts of ice cream.
There is no need to pre-freeze the bowl but the manufacturer recommends that the bowl and the ingredients are cold before use to ensure freezing. 4 quarts of ice cream can be made in 30 minutes but only fill the canister 2/3 of the way as ice cream expands during freezing.
Approximately 2 medium bags of ice and 2lbs rock salt are required to make 4quarts of ice cream. Ice and salt is added in layers between the container and the canister until the drainage-hole level. Then the ice and salt mix needs to be topped up and stirred throughout the 30 minutes churning.
Salt is the key to success here, too much salt will result in freezing too quickly and ice crystals forming. Too little salt will result in the ice cream not freezing properly at all.
It is important to note that the ice/salt mix can stain the outside wood so this needs to be wiped clean urgently if contact is made.
The machine comes with a handy plastic lid which can be clipped onto the canister so it can be used as an ice cream storage container in your freezer. All components are hand washable only, no dishwasher.
(The manufacturer also sells ice cream pre-mixes in chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavors but the instructional leaflet has many delicious recipes to use.)
The Nostalgia model has a 1 year warranty.
- Attractive design
- Makes a lot of ice cream for its size
- Requires no pre-freezing
- Reasonable price
- Requires lots of ice and salt to freeze
Many of the customers seem to enjoy the more hands-on process involved with the Nostalgia machine, referring to having fun times making ice cream with their kids. The finished product is quite soft according to many reviews which some people love but it can also be placed in the freezer to harden up if that is what you prefer. For those used to making ice cream with ice and salt, this is one of the best at home ice cream makers.
There are very few legitimate complaints. The few of which are from users complaining about the smell when the shipping box was opened, but this soon dissipates and is probably a result of wood preservative.
This is a low pried machine for making large quantities of ice cream. The need for large quantities of ice and salt can be seen as either a great fun activity, especially for kids, or an irritating and unnecessary addition to your workload. You choose!
Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The Breville 600XL is the king of the ice cream makers in this buying guide. This by the fact that it is the highest priced and has all the bells and whistles any user could need. Let’s take a look at some of these features and see why.
Features and Specifications
At 30 lbs and just under one square foot, this brushed metal model is a substantial sized machine. It is fully automatic; no need for ice and salt; no need for pre-freezing the bowl as it has a self-refrigerating compressor (which explains the heavy weight). It can make up to 1 ½ quarts of ice cream at a time.
You’re not out of options, since it has 12 settings for ice cream, gelato, frozen yoghurt and sorbet. There’s also a very handy Keep Cool function of keeping the ice cream at the right temperature for up to 3 hours when it has finished churning without the need to put the canister in the freezer. The automatic facility can be switched to manual if the user prefers to maintain control for special recipes.
The pre-churn feature cools down the canister in advance of you adding the ingredients. This is so that it will prepare the ice cream freeze faster. Depending on the temperature of the ingredients, it can take between 50 and 60 minutes to make the ice cream. The manufacturer recommends using fridge cooled ingredients wherever possible.
Even more, it has an easy to read LCD display to select the degrees of hardness as well as the Keep Cool facility as well as an alarm system, which plays a selection of tunes (including Camptown Races!) when the ice cream is ready or when it is time to add the final ingredients such as nuts through the easy to open flip-top lid.
It is also the only machine we reviewed that has a child lock to prevent little fingers getting too curious. And there’s a lift out handle for easy removal of the canister once complete.
The canister is not dish-washer safe, however, but the other removable components are dish-washable in the top rack for easy cleaning.
Although heavy duty, the instruction manual states it is for domestic use only otherwise the 1 year warranty will not be applicable.
- Ease and speed
- Canister gets cold quickly
- Lots of features and options
- A pretty tune tells you when it is done
- Higher price range
- Very heavy
Customers generally love this at home ice cream maker. A funny anecdote comes from one describes it as the reason she can no longer fit into her jeans. Most find it very aesthetically attractive and relatively easy to use. A few mention that they only use a few of the functions and ignore the others but those who have investigated all the speeds and functions are very happy with the results and the fact that Oprah Winfrey has it listed as the best at home ice cream maker doesn’t hurt either.
Criticisms are few and tend to refer to the fact that the paddles don’t reach the sides of the canister so ice builds up on the inside after a while. A few had problems with a noisy motor.
For regular ice cream eaters with plenty of counter-top space or excellent biceps for lifting, this is an excellent, solid and durable machine. It is very much “press and go” and is easy to use. However, its price makes it worth thinking twice before buying.
Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
The Cuisinart ICE100 is a fully automatic at home ice cream maker. If you want a premium ice cream maker, but still willing for a bargain, you’ll be happy to know that this ice cream machine sits at the lower price range of the premium category.
Features and Specifications
The Cuisinart brushed metal compressor ice cream maker weighs 24 lbs and takes up approximately 1 square foot of counter-top space so, although not exactly a light-weight machine, it is lighter than some of the more expensive models and makes up to 1 ½ quarts per batch.
Fully automatic means no ice, no salt and no pre-freezing of the bowl so it is a question of mixing your ingredients and switching on the machine.
There is a simple Power On/Power off display with a timer of up to 60 minutes. The machine defaults to 60 minutes which is the average time for making regular ice cream. When the timer is finished, it beeps to alert the user that the ice cream is ready
It has a brief 10 minute Keep Cool period after the end of the cycle but, after the 10 minutes, the machine will switch off making it important to place the ice cream in the freezer quickly.
The machine has a clear plastic lid (so users can stare in awe as their ice cream churns) as well as a flip top section to allow the addition of nuts and chocolate chips towards the end of the churn without interrupting the process. The canister has a lift out handle for easy removal once frozen.
Like most automatic ice cream makers, the bowl is not dishwasher safe and the only the top shelf of the dishwasher can be used for the accessories.
Cuisinart’s standard 3 year warranty applies but, although it claims a commercial standard compressor, the warranty only covers it for domestic use.
- Premium quality at a good price
- Fully Automatic
- Has a basic timer
- A 10 minute Keep Cool feature
- Only works on one speed
- Takes approximately 20 minutes to cool down between uses
Many customers were happy to discover that the ice cream tends to set quicker than the default 60 minutes. The machine has a default cutoff if the mixture gets too thick which is reassuring and prevents motor burn-out. They also seem very happy with their machines and offer all types of tricks and hacks to make the best tasting ice cream.
There are some negative opinions about the fact that the liquid ingredients need to be poured in very carefully otherwise they drip under the bowl. Another problem is that the bowl can freeze onto the base but, a few minutes of patience with the machine turned off, will soon release it.
There are also a few complaints that the ice cream is too soft but, in general, all of the best at home ice cream makers will produce a soft ice cream that can be placed in the freezer if a harder ice cream is needed.
Offering true value for money in the premium range, this Cuisinart really serves its purpose. It may not have all the bells and whistles of the more expensive premium models but the buyer should ask themselves if they really need 2 different functions or if they want to just “press and go”.
Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix It In Soft Serve
The Cuisinart ICE-45 is made from white BPA free plastic, this is a different type of ice cream machine than the others we tested. It looks more like a dispenser which can be seen in fast food outlets, and the soft serve ice cream is reminiscent of the Mr Whippy ice cream vans from childhood. It falls into the medium price range but is really in a category of its own.
Features and Specifications
The Cuisinart Soft Serve machine is only 14lbs in weight but taller than many other ice cream makers at 18 inches. It has a separate freezer bowl which the manufacturer recommends only needs 12 hours to be completely frozen and it can make 1 ½ quarts of soft serve in a batch.
Another variance from the traditional ice cream makers are the condiment dispensers, one for sprinkles and 2 for larger toppings such as mini chocolate chips. Simply pull on one of the levers and the condiments will drop onto the ice cream down the chute. There is also a handy slot to store ice cream cones.
Other than these clever gadgets, the machine works in the same way as the other separate freezer bowl machines. Pre-freeze the bowl, put it in the top of the machine, start the churning paddles and add the chilled ingredients. It takes approximately 20 minutes for soft serve ice cream to be ready but be aware that over churning will result in ice cream which will not pass through the dispenser and will have to be eaten separately as regular ice cream.
Once the ice cream is ready, place a bowl or cone under the ice cream dispenser nozzle and pull the lever, turning the bowl/cone to achieve the Mr Whippy look. When finished, push back the lever to stop dispensing.
Then, choose the condiments and enjoy.
Like all Cuisinart products, this has a 3 year domestic use only warranty
- A fun machine to use
- For soft serve ice cream lovers
- Great value for money
- It is relatively inexpensive and looks fun to display
- Clean-up can be a hassle
Customer reviews are generally very good, especially when following the recipes in the manufacturer’s leaflet. The ice cream comes out thick and soft after 20 minutes if the ingredients are chilled beforehand, 30 minutes if not. Plus, many rave about what fun it is for using with the kids.
A few users had a problem with the consistency and that it took several attempts to get it so it really did swirl. It seems very important that the freezer be set at 0˚ F or below as there were issues with the bowl temperatures. Cleaning all the fiddly bits involved also seemed to inconvenient for some.
This is really a fun kitchen appliance and very reasonably priced. The enjoyment may come after a few attempts but for those who master the machine, it is truly a great buy and very enjoyable to use, if not to clean afterwards.
Homia Ice Cream Maker Soft Serve Electric
The Homia Ice Cream Maker is a member of the separate freezer bowl group. This comes in at the budget friendly category and is a very basic white and clear plastic model… but that doesn’t mean it’s not an excellent buy. Let’s see why.
Features and Specifications
This is a small machine, weighing just under 6lbs and 8 inches tall. It makes only ½ quart at a time, but this is certainly ideal for 2 people. Due to the smaller size of the bowl, it only takes approximately 8 hours to pre-freeze and then another 30 minutes to make the ice cream.
As with other separate freezer bowl models, you’d need to have it running with the paddle circling before the chilled ingredients are added. Otherwise the ingredients will freeze together in to the bowl.
It has a digital timer function that can be set for between 20 and 40 minutes and will beep when the cycle is finished, as well as an automatic cut off if the ice cream becomes too thick for the paddles to turn. It also comes with a free ice cream scoop and a QR code on the side of the machine to scan for free recipes.
It has a 1 year warranty.
- Very much a value for money
- Compact size makes it ideal for small kitchens and storage space
- Thoughtful design
- Might seem flimsy
- ½ quart it is not practical for large servings
Customers observe that it is a good basic model for what they need. And many like the smaller size, those that have small kitchens with even smaller freezers are happy with it.
On the other hand, others struggled with the speed that the ingredients freeze in the bowl and complain about wasted ice cream at the base of the bowl where the paddles don’t quite reach.
This is a good machine for ice cream making beginners; especially for singles or couples who just need an occasional ice cream treat.
Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker
The Cuisinart ICE-70 is a brushed chrome ice cream maker. It’s in the higher range of the medium priced ice cream makers with a separate freezer bowl, so you can expect a little more value and quality.
Features and Specifications
Weighing 14 lbs and standing at 14 inches tall, it is not a small machine but it makes 2 whole quarts of ice cream per batch and only takes 25-30 minutes to do so.
It has three speeds operated by a digital display for sorbet, ice cream, frozen yogurt and gelato and turns off automatically when completed as well as beeping to alert that it’s finished. The ingredient spout allows the user to add final ingredients such as nuts towards the end of the cycle without interrupting the freezing process.
Like most of these separate bowl machines, the bowl cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher but its paddle can be cleaned on the top rack.
It also has the standard 3 year Cuisinart home use only warranty.
- Large separate bowl freezer
- Ideal for families or for parties
- The three speeds for different types of frozen desserts
- Will take up more freezer space
- Longer time to freeze is needed
There are excellent reviews for this product and most users are exceptionally happy with the ease of use and cleaning as well as a delicious ice cream as a result. Otherwise, there have been some problems with the lids not fitting properly but Cuisinart replaced them. The operating noise is louder than some people want, but these people seem to be in the minority.
This is an extremely popular machine which produces large amounts of delicious ice cream and is easy to use.
Klarstein Sweet Dreams Ice Cream Maker
The Klarstein Sweet Dreams Ice Cream Maker is a fully automatic, brushed metal ice cream maker with built-in compressor. But thought it is full automatici, it is at the lower price range of the premium models, making it great for those who prefer premium without the price tag.
Features and Specifications
At 22 lbs and 13 inches tall, this is not a light-weight model and is one of the heaviest in this guide. The in-built compressor is the cause of the extra weight, but it produces 1 ½ quarts of ice cream in between 40 and 60 minutes, depending on how cool the ingredients are when added. The convenient timer will beep to alert when the batch is ready.
It has a digital display timer which can be set in 10 minute increments from 10-60 minutes as well as a Keep Cool function which will keep the ice cream at the correct temperature for one hour after it has finished churning. The display also shows the temperature (in Celsius) of the churning mix.
The brushed metal ice cream machine comes with a free scoop and measuring cup and a 1 year warranty. It also has a child-friendly button so the kids can join in the fun.
- Non-pre-freeze the bowl
- Lower priced than many other in-built compressor models
- Lacks the automatic cut-off feature
- Doesn’t offer different stirring speeds
- (for US users) Temperature readings are in Celsius and measurements are metric
Customers love this machine for its efficiency and speed of ice cream making. The instructions say it takes up to 60 minutes but buyers found that, if the ingredients are chilled in advance, it can take as little as 25 minutes for 1 ½ quarts of delicious ice cream.
On the other hand, many wanted a recipe book to give them ideas. But also some seem to have received the item without an instruction manual which is available online.
This is an efficient and easy-to-use machine which is great value for money in the premium range if the user does not want to pre-freeze their bowl.
Sweet Alice Ice Cream Maker
The Sweet Alice Ice Cream Maker is a separate freezer bowl model, but from the budget friendly category. This has a different design from other models, however, which can be described as not as sleek, but a lot more quaint-looking.
Features and Specifications
Weighing just 6lbs and standing at 9 inches tall, it is a white and clear plastic, smaller-sized model but can still produce 1 ½ quarts of ice cream despite its light weight.
It has a timer for up to 30 minutes but is able to produce ice cream from chilled ingredients in approximately 25 minutes and the churning can be seen through the see-through lid of the unit.
The company offers a 1 year warranty.
This is a small, easy to use and clean model at a reasonable price. It works quickly and efficiently so is ideal for those with smaller kitchens and storage space.
Its size means it is not as sturdy as other machines but the price reflects this.
All customer reviews are very positive, with only a few comments about it being somewhat noisy when operating.
This is a relatively new model of ice cream makers but it really does offer big value for little money and is a cute looking machine too as an added bonus.
Aicok Ice Cream Maker, Frozen Yogurt and Sorbet Machine
Price-wise, Aicok Ice Cream Maker is very much part of the budget friendly range. However, it is electric, and comes with a separate freezer bowl which makes it very well suited for those that need the options but on a limited budget.
Features and Specifications
With its white aluminum design, this is light weight model at only 7 lbs and 11 inches tall, making this Aicok a small machine which can make 1.4 quarts of ice cream in less than 20 minutes for soft. If you want firmer ice cream, as well as yogurt or sorbet, it will take you around 25-30 minutes.
It has a 6 setting timer, with increments of 5 minutes that give you a beeping alarm when the churning is complete.
Different from other separate freezer bowl machines, this one requires you to add the ingredients to the pre-frozen bowl and then turn on the paddles.
Unusually for a lower priced model, it has a 2 year warranty.
- Remarkable value value for money
- Makes ice cream quickly
- Not very sturdy
Customers are generally very happy with the Aicok at home ice cream maker, with most people being happy for a functioning machine for a low price.
As with many of the separate freezer bowl models, there are some comments about the liquid mix freezing to the bottom and sides of the bowl which is perhaps caused by their instructions to place the ingredients inside the bowl before turning on the paddles.
This definitely falls into the cheap and cheerful range of electric ice cream makers and, although not by a well known brand, it does what it says it will do, make great ice cream.
Buying Guide – How to Choose the Best at Home Ice Cream Maker
When deciding which ice cream maker to buy, undoubtedly you need to consider what sort features and specifications you need. If you’re not new to ice cream makers, their various properties will not be foreign to you. But if this is your first time buying one, here are a few general specifications to take notice of.
There are generally two types of at home ice cream makers.
A separate freezer bowl machine requires planning for preparing the ice cream. This is because the bowl, depending on its size, needs pre-freezing for between 8 and 24 hours.
A in-built freezer ice cream maker with a compressor needs no planning. However, these machines are larger, heavier and considerably more expensive.
As far as price is concerned, we know the saying, “You get what you pay for.”
However, one can make sacrifices on things that do not compromise on quality.
For instance, there are completely manual models which are extremely low priced. Mid-range priced ice cream makers usually have separate freezer bowl, and some are fully automatic. Whereas a fully automatic with multiple features such as firmness setting, speed options, auto shut off, etc. will come at a premium price tag.
Time it takes to Make Ice Cream
Just like with cooking with fire, making ice cream require time, this is due to the freezing process.
Once the bowl is frozen, a separate freezer bowl ice cream maker will take between 20-30 minutes to make 1 ½ quarts of ice cream.
As the in-built freezer models need to freeze the bowl whilst churning, the same amount of 1 ½ quarts of ice cream takes between 50-60 minutes.
Again, if you’re on a budget, some of the budget friendly models are aimed at singles or a couple, thus they can make only ½ quart machines. But for the majority, we would suggest working with 1 ½ quarts and up.
Ice Cream Maker Size
If you are in a small kitchen, this is certainly something to pay attention to. Separate freezer bowl machines tend to be smaller and lighter, making them ideal for storage, moving about, or for small apartment kitchens.
The in-built freezer models, due to the weight and size of the compressor, are a little more cumbersome, and therefore require more forethought. Therefore it is important to assess your counter-top and storage space when buying.
All models, except for the soft serve machines, default to making regular ice cream. Home-made ice cream tends to be slightly softer than supermarket bought ice cream, but they can be frozen after completion if a firmer ice cream is needed.
The quicker the ice cream is churned, the more air enters the mix so the lighter and fluffier the result.
Therefore, frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet are all best churned at a lower speed to achieve that thicker, denser taste.
Clearly all machines have an on/off function, but, after that, the options are numerous:
Extra Freezer Bowl
This is strongly recommended so that you don’t have to wait 24 hours to make the next batch of ice cream.
These are very useful if you tend to want to press “Go” and walk away. Some machines have timers that work in increments of 5 or 10 minutes whilst other more advanced models allow specific minute by minute timers.
There are also machines which alert when the machine is 5 minutes from the end of its cycle to allow the user to add final ingredients such as nuts, chocolate chips or alcohol.
Those machines with a Keep Cool feature will alert when that cycle is over to remind the user to either eat or freeze the ice cream.
These displays are associated with the timer function and allow you to pre-time the machines. Some also show the progress of the churning by giving content temperature read-outs.
This function means the machine recognizes when the ice cream is too thick and there is too much strain on the paddle and motor. This is an important feature to prevent complete failure of the machine.