We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Ice cream is one of the world's most popular desserts, but consumers often find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place when shopping for it. The ice cream sold in grocery stores is affordable and convenient, but it can lack flavor and variety. Premium ice cream sold in specialty shops is delicious and innovative, but it can be expensive—and dangerous for dieters.
One popular solution is the home ice cream maker. Modern ice cream makers provide an outstanding product, often without the need for rock salt or an expensive freezer unit.
At BestReviews, we want to help you pick the perfect ice cream maker for your kitchen. We're dedicated to writing the most honest and unbiased reviews out there. We never accept free products from manufacturers. Instead, we buy products off of store shelves, test them in our labs, consult experts, and examine feedback from product owners. Our ultimate goal: to become your go-to source for trustworthy product recommendations whenever you’re faced with a buying decision.
We examined dozens of ice cream makers for this review. From our research, we compiled a shortlist of the five best products that could be a hit at your next ice cream social!
Homemade ice cream was once considered a labor of love, with an emphasis on the word "labor." Modern ice cream makers have taken most of the heavy lifting out of the process. However, some are still easier to operate than others. In this section, we take a close look at each top ice cream maker in terms of set-up, operation, clean-up, and motor speed.
Since our top five ice cream makers come from different schools of design, we evaluate each machine's versatility according to its own kind. Some contenders allow users to blend additional ingredients (chocolate chips, candy, etc.) into the mix; others only produce "unadorned" products. We also note the capacity of each machine and any other type of frozen product (yogurt, slush, and so on) each top contender is capable of creating.
Susan Sano Tuveson has been cooking for people for five decades. Educated in music, law, and languages, she left her legal practice to establish Cacao Chocolates in Kittery, Maine. A three-time Best of Seacoast New England winner, the shop was popular for its high-quality artisanal truffles flavored with unusual local ingredients.
Some of our top ice cream makers include recipe books, storage containers, and other neat features. In this section, we note the special features that make each contender stand out from the crowd.
All of the contenders on our shortlist make great homemade ice cream, but they certainly span a wide range of prices. Costly models often include extra features, but users don't recoup their initial investment until a number of batches have been made. Cheap ice cream machines are ideal for the occasional home ice cream social or special dessert, but product quality varies, and the process can be labor intensive and slow. Potential customers should consider their needs and intentions and shop accordingly.
At first glance, the Breville Smart Scoop might seem a bit overwhelming with its digital screen and dials. But the beauty of this clever machine is that it can be quick and easy if you’re in a hurry, and if you have more time, you can conduct endless experiments with it. There are lots of creative options here, but at its simplest, it's fully automatic: just add your chosen ingredients and let the Breville do the rest.
Having said that, owners point out that you really ought to read the instructions thoroughly if you want to get the best out of the Breville. There's little point buying a machine as complex as this one if you're just going to make basic ice cream.
If you miss the good old days of hand-cranking your own ice cream, the Aroma 4-Quart Traditional Ice Cream Maker is a product to consider. The manufacturer allows owners to alternate between a traditional, manually powered crank and an electric mixing motor. Many users prefer to start with the hand crank and then attach the motor to finish the job. We have some concerns about the durability of the crank's plastic gears, but we do appreciate the Aroma's nostalgic outer bucket and overall design.
Look for an ice cream maker that can churn out quick ice cream if you're in a hurry; but it you have time and want to play around with ingredients, you can do that, too.
The Yonanas Frozen Healthy Dessert Maker doesn't actually make ice cream at all—at least not in the traditional sense. This machine uses a powerful motor/blade combination to emulsify frozen fruits (overripe bananas, strawberries, melon chunks) into healthy desserts with a soft serve consistency.
Frozen ripe bananas or Greek yogurt can be used to create a creamy base; additional ingredients such as chia seeds or granola can be added after the blending process. The Yonanas Frozen Healthy Dessert Maker is a bit noisy, and some owners confess that it's a challenge to clean. However, it's capable of producing a healthy frozen dessert without added sugar or dairy products.
Like the Breville, the Whynter ICM-200LS has its own built-in generator. As such, there’s no need to pre-freeze the bowl. There's also a built-in timer, so you can fill the bowl with ingredients, leave the machine to produce the ice cream of your choice, and eat it when you want it. At least that’s true in theory. Custard reacts differently to cream, and adding fruits will change how fast your ice cream mixes and/or cools, so unless you're making a very basic recipe, getting the timing just right may require some practice. It's certainly easy to make ordinary frozen desserts with the Whynter, but like all machines of this type, mastering it takes a while.
If a simple ice cream making process appeals to you, few machines are more straightforward than the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence. Once the bowl has been frozen, you just insert the big mixer blade, turn the large button on the front to “on,” pour in your ingredients, and close the lid. Several owners have pointed out that it's fun and easy to involve your kids in this process.
The drawback is that while Cuisinart claims their machine will make desserts in “as little as 25 minutes,” they also say the bowl must be completely frozen beforehand. This needs to be done in your freezer and will take several hours at least, so you either need to plan in advance or store the bowl permanently in the freezer.
On average, one scoop of vanilla ice cream contains 137 calories, while one scoop of chocolate ice cream contains 143.
Two particular features give the Breville Smart Scoop excellent versatility. The first is its powerful motor, which can cope with lots of different mixes. The second is the range of settings provided. You can make frozen yogurt, gelato, ice cream, and sorbet with up to a dozen hardness levels. At the soft end of the scale, you've pretty much got slush; at the hard end, you’ve got the solidly packed ice cream you find at the store—but with that unbeatable homemade taste. The Breville automatically senses the hardness you've chosen, adjusts itself accordingly, and keeps your dessert cool for up to three hours.
As a traditional ice cream maker with an four-quart aluminum canister, the Aroma is designed to produce ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. It would not be ideal for slushy beverages, adult or otherwise.
Because hand cranking is more art than science—and rock salt/ice blends have varying freezing points—it can take 45 minutes or more for an ice cream base to reach a soft-serve consistency and 24+ hours in a freezer to reach complete firmness. The Aroma Ice Cream Maker does not have a feed chute, so if you're going to add special ingredients (fruit, nuts, candy), it's best to do so at the beginning of the process. Potential buyers should also note that the fir wood bucket needs to soak in water for several hours before its first use to reduce the chance of leakage.
The longer your ice cream is in the maker, the more likely it will develop ice crystals. As soon as your ice cream is done mixing, remove it from the machine.
This machine's versatility lies in the sheer number of frozen ingredients available for processing. Any frozen fruit that can fit into the Yonanas feed chute could potentially become a soft-serve "ice cream" or fruit sorbet. Juices or liqueurs can also be added to create slushy beverages, although the machine is not designed to handle hard ice cubes. Many satisfied owners praise the Yonanas Frozen Healthy Dessert Maker for its speed and consistency.
A built-in freezer unit and timer (with audible alarm) give the Whynter ICM-200LS the kind of functional versatility you need for "set it and forget it" ice cream. As with other machines of this type, you can use automatic or manual functions as you prefer. It may not have quite the range of settings that you get with the Breville, but there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to turn out a huge variety of cold and frozen desserts to suit your personal taste.
Whynter also claims its ice cream maker is easy to clean, but not everyone agrees. If you spill some of the mixture inside, clean-up could be tricky.
The Cuisinart Pure Indulgence is as versatile as you are; it will attempt to mix and cool whatever you put in it. However, the end result all depends on what you do and how you do it. You get no assistance from the machine itself.
Cuisinart says that “frozen desserts and drinks” can be done in 25-35 minutes, but some owners say it takes a lot longer. They also remark that it’s absolutely vital to freeze the bowl properly. If you don’t, your ingredients will stay soft no matter how long you mix them.
Instead of using add-ons like chocolate chips straight from bag, make your own so that you can prep them for ice cream. For example, making chocolate with extra canola oil will help keep them from hardening.
Breville is keen to point out the fact that the Smart Scoop is made of BPA-free materials and also sports a child lock.
The timer comes with an audible alert, or you can choose from one of three different musical tones. There's a recipe book; several owners say that the recipes from the Breville book turn out the best. Quite a few also like how quiet the machine is. The only slight negative is that the Smart Scoop doesn't have the capacity of some. Two quarts is common among competitors, but the Breville yields a maximum of just one-and-a-half quarts at a time.
The inclusion of a hand crank is perhaps the Aroma 4-Quart's best feature. Some owners may want to hold a true ice cream social and pass the bucket from person to person. When the ice cream has become too firm for manual cranking, the electric motor can take over. An instruction book containing recipes for ice cream bases, frozen yogurts, and non-dairy sorbets is included with the package. We really appreciate this item's nostalgic, old-fashioned appearance!
In order to avoid freezer burn on your ice cream, add a layer of plastic wrap between the lid and the ice cream.
The Yonanas Frozen Healthy Dessert Maker differs from other top contenders in that it's more of a food processor/smoothie machine than a traditional ice cream maker. The unit does not arrive with its own freezing canister or storage container. However, it does have the advantage of portability on its side.
The model arrives with a plunger for feeding frozen items into the chute and a short, useful instruction booklet containing recipes for dairy-free and sugar-free "ice cream" and fruit sorbets.
One of the concerns with automatic ice cream makers is that the blade or motor could become damaged while working with solid or frozen desserts. The Whynter ICM-200LS overcomes this danger with a motor protection device that shuts the machine off if things freeze up. At the other end of the temperature range, it has an extended cooling function so your ice cream won't melt. We've already mentioned the electronic timer, and you also get a recipe book and a scoop. Like many of its rivals, the Whynter produces two quarts when full.
Not surprisingly, the low-cost Cuisinart Pure Indulgence isn't overloaded with extras. The ingredient spout is useful, and there's a recipe book that is popular with owners, but that's it. To be fair, it's clear from the outset that this is a simple package. The majority of buyers are delighted with both the machine and the ice cream it produces. Capacity is two quarts.
Always check and see how cold your ice cream maker is before putting in your mixture. If it’s not 100% frozen, your ice cream will suffer.
At $399, the Breville BCI600XL is certainly not an impulse buy. However, for the ice cream/cold dessert connoisseur, it offers almost every conceivable option and convenience.
Set the Breville to automatic and, thanks to its built-in compressor and timer, the entire process is extremely simple. Opt for manual (if you feel like experimenting), and it offers a range of settings to help you turn out deliciously different results every time. One or two people have said it doesn't make the hard ice cream they prefer. In truth, no machine can do this, because the churning blade would get frozen inside. The solution (as stated in the instructions) is simply to pop the resulting mixture in the freezer for a while.
The Aroma 4-Quart Traditional Ice Cream Maker's cost of $69 places it on the more expensive end of our pricing spectrum, but we believe that consumers buy with their eyes as much as they do with their pocketbooks. This model looks and operates like a traditional ice cream maker of yesteryear—but with today's technology built in! If you compare the cost of just a few gallons of commercial premium ice cream to the cost of a few gallons of Aroma-made ice cream, you'll quickly understand what a bargain homemade ice cream can be!
Don’t forget that water expands when frozen, and your ice cream will expand as well! Don’t load your machine up too full.
It's important for potential buyers to realize that the $49 Yonanas is not a traditional ice cream maker. Instead of purchasing rock salt, bagged ice, cream, sugar, eggs, flavoring, and add-on ingredients, the user's shopping list is shortened to overripe bananas and bags of frozen fruit. There is no special base to prepare and no downtime while the custard cools or the canister freezes. Users simply feed the frozen ingredients into the Yonanas chute. Seconds later, a delicious soft serve emerges. For many owners, the ability to have healthy frozen dessert on demand is definitely worth the initial investment.
The Whynter ICM-200LS is bound to draw comparisons with the Breville, and at $288, it's in the same ballpark in terms of price. It offers a wide range of benefits to those who want to try lots of different cold desserts, and for many, it's the perfect solution.
Owners who have upgraded from ice cream makers that require pre-frozen bowls are particularly enthused about this product. However, we’ve also seen more complaints about the Whynter’s reliability than we’d like, and the company's customer service may not always be the best.
The Cuisinart Pure Indulgence costs just $89. It's a basic machine, but owners love its simplicity. It is powerful, robust, and although there's no automation, its ability to turn out great desserts cannot be denied. It's backed by one of the best names in the industry, and it's extremely popular.
A few people have had issues with reliability, and there have been complaints about it not making firm enough ice cream. However, we would like to point out that performance relies on the bowl being properly frozen first, so those who are impatient are always likely to have problems.
There are good reasons to choose any of our finalists, but there's no doubt that the best ice cream maker is the Breville Smart Scoop.
The Breville comes with a premium price tag, but in return, you get everything you could want from a machine that makes cold desserts. In our opinion, it's a smart looking device, and while some people might be intimidated at first by all the dials and options, it soon becomes clear that the Breville delivers as much simplicity or complexity as you want, whenever you want it.
If you desire a simple sorbet, for example, just add the ingredients, set the timer, and wait for the Breville to make the sorbet. It will tell you when it’s ready. If you want a more complex vanilla/chocolate/nut/berry concoction, switch to manual mode and experiment to your heart's content. You can choose from 12 hardness settings, and the Breville will keep it that way for up to three hours after the mix is ready. There's even a pre-cooling option if you're starting with some ingredients that are warm.
No ice cream maker is perfect, but owners agree that most “problems” with the Breville result from people not reading the instructions properly. There is a learning curve to get the best from it, but those who take the time to discover what it's capable of are invariably delighted.
Those who take the time to discover all the Breville Smart Scoop can do are invariably delighted.
Our Best Bang for Your Buck winner is the Cuisinart Pure Indulgence Frozen Yogurt/Sorbet/Ice Cream Maker.
The Yonanas is an interesting option, particularly if you like healthy cold drinks. The Aroma produces big batches of traditional ice cream for those who like the completely hands-on approach. But for the family that wants a cheap ice cream maker that's reliable and easy to use, the Cuisinart is the clear winner.
The Cuisinart boasts a design that's been around for a while now, but this particular version is better and more powerful than many. In a nutshell, you get high build quality combined with low cost. It's a great example of simplicity working well.
Absolutely key to delicious desserts is the freezing of the bowl, and that must be done before you start. Get that right, and everything else is straightforward. Start before the bowl is completely frozen, however, and you could well be disappointed, because there's no cooling function within the Cuisinart itself. Owner feedback, both negative and positive, focuses mainly on this aspect of the machine.
A small portion of owners have had mechanical problems, and one or two thought it a bit noisy. It's not a Breville, but it costs far less than the Breville, and many owners agree that if you put in a bit of effort, the outcome will be very tasty!
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.