Americans love chocolate — the average American consumes about 14 ounces of it every month. And one of the most creative and entertaining ways to eat chocolate is a fountain.
Introduced 30 years ago, chocolate fountains — sometimes called fondue fountains — cycle melted chocolate over flat tiers to create a waterfall effect. People can dip fruit, pretzels, fudge, marshmallows and other solid food items into the waves of melted chocolate. Some fountains can also be used for cheese and barbecue sauce.
The best fountain is the Nostalgia Chocolate Fondue Fountain, which features four tiers and a large basin.
A common consumer complaint is that the pump or auger system used to pull chocolate to the top of the fountain is noisy. Look for fountains that advertise low volume or silent motors.
If the fountain base is off-center, the flow of chocolate is interrupted and the cascade can become uneven, making the fountain wobbly. Look for chocolate fountains with adjustable feet so you can make sure the base is sturdy even on tabletops or countertops that aren’t level. Keep an eye on the fountain over the course of a gathering in case it gets bumped unexpectedly. You may stop a spill before it starts if you can re-level the fountain.
Flowing chocolate is a wonderful thing, but it can also be messy for guests and their host. Provide guests with plates and cocktail napkins to ensure that drips of melted chocolate don’t get on clothes, shoes or furniture. When the party is over, clean the basin before the chocolate hardens. Look for fountains with dishwasher-safe components.
The two main materials used in chocolate fountains are stainless steel and plastic. Most commercial fountains are made entirely from stainless steel, while many for home use are manufactured from plastic with a stainless steel bowl. Plastic is easier to clean, but stainless steel lasts longer.
There are some things you may cycle through a fountain that don’t require heating, such as ketchup or frosting. Some fountains have a turn-off switch for the heating element to assist with this.
The two systems for lifting melted chocolate to the top tier are an electric pump and a motorized auger. Both work well with chocolate, but a pump can easily get clogged with cheese or barbecue sauce, so if you plan to use your fountain for other types of sauces, look for fountains with an auger.
Most home fountain basins can hold 1 to 4 pounds of melted chocolate. One pound typically serves 10 guests. Look for fountains that best fit your normal dinner party size.
Some fountains come with a built-in level that shows when the fountain is straight. This helps with adjusting the feet and ensures an even flow of chocolate. If you purchase a fountain without a built-in level, have a handheld level nearby.
Most chocolate fountains made for home entertainment cost $35-$70. Commercial-grade fountains used for large gatherings cost over $100.
A. You will need chocolate made for melting in the fountain. This chocolate has a higher level of vegetable oil than off-the-shelf chocolate — about a half-cup of oil per pound of chocolate. This type of chocolate is usually available where the fountains are sold.
A. Cooking experts recommend preheating the base of the fountain and melting your chocolate ahead of time in a microwave oven. Most fountains keep melted chocolate warm but are not hot enough to melt it from a solid state.
A. Anything that easily crumbles, such as cake or soft cookies, shouldn’t be used with a chocolate fountain. Over time the crumbs will begin to accumulate in the tiers, which will make the fountain look unattractive. For fountains that use a pump, the crumbs could also clog the system.
What you need to know: This stylish fountain has four tiers that provide an elegant cascade and also can be used for barbecue sauce and cheese.
What you’ll love: A stainless steel bowl retains heat to keep chocolate flowing. The fountain uses an auger instead of a pump. It has a 2-pound capacity perfect for parties and is easily disassembled for cleaning.
What you should consider: The auger can be noisy while operating.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
What you need to know: This compact fountain is perfect for table settings and highlighting any special occasion.
What you’ll love: The simple design requires pouring melted chocolate into the base and flipping a switch — the fountain does the rest. An auger carries the chocolate upward. The fountain can also be used for barbecue sauce and cheese.
What you should consider: The 24-ounce capacity is a bit smaller than some hosts want for their parties.
What you need to know: This fountain produces three tiers of flowing chocolate and fits in tight spaces around the house.
What you’ll love: Designed for counters or kitchen tables and standing just over 13 inches tall, this fountain can be placed anywhere. It features a 16-ounce capacity that warms to 140 degrees.
What you should consider: There were some reports of inconsistent temperature control for warming the chocolate.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Steve Ganger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.