Best Cotton Candy Machines

Updated October 2021
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

33 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cotton candy machines

There’s nothing that brings out your inner child quite like cotton candy. The magical, fluffy confection infuses any gathering with a sense of joy and wonder. It can take a birthday party, fundraiser, or movie night to a whole new level.

But you can’t easily pick up fresh cotton candy in the grocery checkout line, or make it on your stovetop.  It takes some equipment, planning, and patience. Cotton candy machines aren’t hard to find, though, and may make a good investment for a group that regularly organizes public events, or for a family that entertains regularly.

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While cotton candy was invented in 1897, the first fully automated cotton candy machine didn’t hit the market until 1972.

Cotton candy machine considerations

When shopping for cotton candy machines, it’s important to decide whether you need a commercial machine or a simpler consumer gadget for use at home.

Commercial cotton candy machines are much more expensive than ones designed for home use. They’re the kind you see at fairs, festivals, and at sporting events. They are usually larger, may come mounted on a cart for easier portability, and can make significant amounts of cotton candy in a short time period.

Consumer cotton candy machines are fun for families and friends to use, but they don’t produce the same quantities that a commercial machine does. They’re not going to supply enough of the sweet treat for a crowd – at least not in a timely manner. They’re best used to pass a rainy afternoon, to brighten a smaller group event, or to make a bag or two of cotton candy ahead of time for a larger gathering.

Cotton candy machine features

Cotton candy machines don’t have a lot of variations or bells and whistles, but the quality of its components and ease of use is what sets different brands apart.

  • Heating: Melting your sugar or hard candy is one of the first steps in the process. Look for machines that heat up quickly, and can keep your sugar mixture at relatively consistent temperatures. A quality commercial machine may take five minutes or less to warm up. Lower-priced machines meant for casual use are more likely to take up to ten minutes.

  • Speed: No one likes to wait for cotton candy, especially kids, but some machines have a longer wait time than others. Machines meant to please crowds can produce two to three servings per minute, while consumer machines may take up to five minutes to deliver a single serving. Some commercial machines will probably list their wattage or motor speed; consumer machines will not.  

  • Lids: Cotton candy cones are made by collecting sprays of cotton candy threads in a wide bowl. But sugary strands often escape the bowl. Domed lids can keep loose candy strands in the bowl and off your counters and floors. If the model you order doesn’t come with a lid, consider buying one separately.  

  • Safety: Your machine is going to attract a crowd, so make sure that your cotton candy machine has appropriate safety features. Its bowl should lock into place so that you won’t risk spilling melted sugar everywhere. Guards should keep sugar, threads, and other debris out of the motor.

  • Removable bowl: When you’re making cotton candy, messes are inevitable. Look for models with bowls that are easy to remove and clean. Most machines recommend cleaning with warm, soapy water after each use to avoid sticky buildup.

  • Reservoir size: Commercial cotton candy makers have enough room in their reservoirs to melt candy for many servings at once. Machines intended for home use may have space for a few servings, but some only have room for one serving at a time.

  • Cart: Some, but not all, commercial cotton candy machines will come with a cart. Carts should be sturdy enough to hold the machine and include space to store supplies, as well as several slots to hold cones.

  • Materials: Some cotton candy machines come with floss sugar to get you started. Others don’t. Make sure you know what you’re getting to avoid disappointed and unplanned trips to the store.
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Did you know?
Sugar-free hard candies can be used in some cotton candy machines to make a sweet treat for diabetics.
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Cotton candy machine prices

As you might expect, there are significant price differences between home and commercial cotton candy makers.

Budget cotton candy makers intended for home use usually cost less than $50. At this price, machines will have many plastic components, take 10 to 20 minutes to heat up, and produce small amounts of cotton candy at a time.

Entry-level commercial machines will normally cost between $150 and $200. They will have metal components, heat up quickly, and deliver two or more servings per minute. In this price range, they will probably not include a cart.

High-end commercial machines will cost $200 or more. At this price, cotton candy machines should feature strong motors that can produce multiple servings per minute. They should heat up quickly and have plenty of safety features. Most should come with well-appointed carts that make them easily portable for festivals, parties, and other events.

Tips

  • If weather permits, consider using your machine outside to minimize the mess.

  • Check carefully to make sure you know what kind of sugar your machine can handle.

  • If you decide to use hard candy, only use types that are made with corn syrup.

  • Using hard candy rather than sugar lets you create a variety of fun, intense flavors.

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Cotton candy can be used as a creative decoration on all kinds of desserts. Try making stringy white spider webs to top cupcakes at Halloween or fluffy white snow on a gingerbread house.

FAQ

Q. What kind of sugar should I use in my cotton candy machine?
A. 
It depends upon your specific machine. Some cotton candy machines require floss sugar, while others can handle superfine or even granulated sugar. A handful of machines work with hard candy, as long as it’s made with corn syrup, and chopped or crushed. Peppermint cotton candy could make a delightful Christmas party treat, and Jolly Rancher, butterscotch, or cinnamon cotton candy raises some intriguing possibilities. Be sure to check your manufacturer’s instructions for its specific requirements, because sticky sugar of the wrong sort could wreak havoc on your machine.

Q. Can I make cotton candy in different colors?
A. 
Of course it’s easiest to buy candy floss in the color of your choice, but if your machine allows the use of granulated sugar, you can use food coloring to create a variety of hues. Put the sugar in a sturdy, sealable plastic bag, add food coloring gel to the bag, and mash it all together until you achieve the desired tint. If all you have is liquid food coloring, you can put the sugar in a bowl and mix in the liquid food coloring with a fork or spoon. This method will take a little longer, though, because it requires you to dry the sugar in a shallow dish for about an hour.

Q. Can I change the flavor of my cotton candy?
A.
Yes! Again, the easiest way to get fun flavors is to buy flavored floss sugar, but you can add your own flavorings if your machine can handle granulated or superfine sugar. Some users recommend submerging a vanilla bean or orange peel in your sugar for several days to add these flavors. You can also add liquid extracts or candy flavorings to your sugar in a similar way that you added food coloring. It’s not advisable to add essential oils to sugar, because large quantities can make some people sick. Adding powdered spices to your sugar can also damage your machine because ingredients like cocoa powder or cinnamon will not melt at the same temperature as sugar. Stick to liquid flavorings the sugar can absorb or items that will slowly infuse their flavor into the sugar over time.

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