The Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker (in Europe aka the Sage Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker by Heston Blumenthal) is probably the worlds most feature packed ice cream maker!
The question is: are these features actually useful or are they a flashy gimmick designed to justify a higher price tag?!
Well, read on and find out. I've been using this machine for the past couple of months and in my Breville Smart Scoop review, I'll cover everything you'll need to know...
Including: the way it works, how to best use it, what the ice cream's like and whether those features are really worth the price! Finally I'll suggest some alternatives in case the Smart Scoop isn't the best ice cream maker for you.
How does the Breville Smart Scoop work?
The Smart Scoop is an ice cream maker with a compressor. Not sure what this means? Then I'll explain. There are 3 types of ice cream machine and what makes each one different from the other, is the way they freeze the ice cream...
- With ice and salt
- With a removable bowl that you pre-chill in your freezer
- With a built in freezer
The Smart Scoop uses it's own built in freezer, also know as a compressor to freeze the ice cream. This type of machine is the most convenient available. You don't have to plan ahead. You don't need to put a bowl in your freezer...
When you want to make ice cream, you just need to turn it on for a few minutes to pre-cool, then add the mixture and wait. And you'll have your ice cream in around half an hour or so usually.
These compressor ice cream makers are always bigger, heavier, more delicate and more expensive than the other types designed for kitchen use. But they're very similar in their component parts:
- a body that contains the motor, the compressor and the control panel
- a removable bowl where the ice cream is churned
- a "dasher" which is just the paddle that mixes the ice cream
- a transparent lid
- a spatula for removing the ice cream
- a cleaning brush
The body of the Breville Smart Scoop
The body of the Smart Scoop is big and heavy! It measures 16" wide, 10.5" deep and 10.5" high (41 x 27 x 27 cm). And it weighs about 32 lb (14.5 kg).
It has a very attractive brushed stainless steel housing, that features ventilation vents on the front, sides and back and an embossed Breville (or Sage) logo the front. The finish gives it a high quality, well made feel. It looks great!
At the bottom of the sides are small recess that act as a sorts of handles to make lifting and moving the machine easier.
But it's on top where the magic happens! On the left, is big hole with metal sides and a drive shaft protruding from the center. The compressor inside the body cools these metal sides, which in turn cool the bowl once it's placed in this hole. And of course, the drive shaft spins the dasher that mixes the ice cream!
On the right is the control paddle which features a big LCD screen and a whole load of buttons:
- MANUAL TIMMER arrows
(to adjust the time the machine will churn for from 5 to 180 minutes)
- PRE-COOL button
(to cool the machine down before you start to churn)
- KEEP COOL button
(to keep the ice cream cool and at the right consistency once it's finished)
- Temperature units button
(to toggle the display between Celsius and Fahrenheit)
- Sound button
(to adjust the sounds: loud, quiet or mute)
- POWER button
(to turn the machine on or off!)
- HARDNESS dial
(to adjust the desired hardness of the the final ice cream in auto mode)
- START / PAUSE button
(to start and stop the machine churning)
I'll explain in much more detail both how and how well these buttons and features work later in the review. But they are tactile, responsive and light up when you press them!
The LCD display is pretty big for an ice cream maker and shows you loads of information about what settings you've chosen and the progress of the freezing and churning process:
- MANUAL or AUTO mode
- Current temperature
- Sound settings
- PRE-COOL, PRESS START, READY, ADD MIX-INS, REMOVE BLADE or KEEP COOL
- The hardness level you set and the machines progress towards it
Again, I'll talk about how this display actually works in more detail later on in the review. For now it's enough to say that it's clear and both easy to read and understand.
The Breville Smart Scoop's removable bowl
The actual ice cream is churned in a removable bowl. This is a 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) anodized aluminium bowl with a hollow tube in the middle to accommodate the drive shaft of the motor.
Why is the bowl removable? Well, presumably to make it easier to get the ice cream out and then clean up afterwards. All the lower and mid priced (I know this machine isn't cheap but there are much more expensive ones about!) ice cream makers have removable bowls.
The advantage is that it's easier to clean. The disadvantage is that since there is an extra layer of metal between the compressor and the ice cream, the cooling isn't as efficient.
Anyway, the bowl slots into the chamber in the top of the machine. There's a thin metal handle on the bowl to help you pull it out when the ice cream's finished. But when you're putting the bowl in, you must line up the hinges of the handle with 2 grooves at the top of the chamber...
If you don't, the bowl won't fully insert and you'll be unable to get the lid on properly. And as I found out, it might not be obvious why. Of course, if you read the manual first, you won't have this problem!
The Smart Scoop's dasher
This is just the plastic paddle that mixes the ice cream. But it actually has 2 very important jobs:
- Scraping the frozen mixture off the side of the bowl and moving it to middle
- Adding air to the mixture
Why are these jobs so important? Because they have have a huge effect on both the quality and the consistency of the final ice cream...
In terms of quality, we all want smooth ice cream. And the more frozen mixture the dasher scrapes from the side of the bowl, the faster the ice cream freezes and the smoother the ice cream.
Why? Well, if the dasher scrapes all the frozen ice cream off the sides of the bowl, then the mixture will come into direct contact with the metal sides and will freeze faster. However, if the dasher leaves a thin layer on the sides of the bowl, the mixture will be insulated from the metal by this thin layer and will freeze slower.
Unfortunately, in all the domestic ice cream machines that I've used, there's a small gap between the blades of the dasher and the side of the bowl. And this means that there's always a thin layer of insulating frozen mixture left on the sides of the bowl.
On the Smart Scoop it's about 3 mm and that certainly leaves enough frozen mixture to slow the freezing. Whether it's enough to effect the quality of the ice cream we'll see later.
In terms of consistency, the amount of air that the dasher adds to the mixture will effect how light or dense the final ice cream is. The more air that's added, the lighter the ice cream. In domestic ice cream makers, the dasher usually rotates very slowly, so home made ice cream tends to be very dense and thick.
The Smart Scoop dasher rotates at. Of course it also depends on the shape of the dasher so we'll be testing how much air the Smart Scoop actually incorporates into the ice cream a little later.
The Smart Scoop's lid
The Smart Scoop comes with a very simple, transparent lid. It screws on to lock. And it has a flap that you can lift up to add extras like candies, chocolates and pieces of fruit towards the end of the cycle, without having to completely remove the lid.
Smart Scoop Accessories
There's a couple of accessories that come with the Smart Scoop. A thin brush is perfect for cleaning both the tube that goes over the drive shaft in the bowl and the shaft of the dasher.
And a small plastic spatula is the just the right size for getting the ice cream out of the bowl once it's ready.
Making ice cream with the Breville Smart Scoop
As with most machines, there's 5 stages to making ice cream with the Breville Smart Scoop. I know it sounds a lot, but most of them are very simple and quick...
- Pre-cool the machine
- Make the ice cream mixture
- Churn and freeze the mixture in the Breville Smart Scoop
- Transfer the ice cream to the freezer to firm up
- Clean the Smart Scoop
Stage 1: Pre-cool the machine
Now you don't have to to do this! But it's highly recommended: if you add the mixture to a machine that's already cold, it will freeze faster and your ice cream should be smoother.
If you can't be bothered or don't have time, you can skip this step. But the great thing about the Smart Scoop is that it automates the whole process for you. All you have to do is turn the machine on and press the PRE-COOL button!
The compressor will then start up and begin to cool the machine. The current temperature will be displayed on the LCD screen and should start to drop. In the manual it says that the temperature will fall to between 14°F and -22°F (-10°C to -30°C). Why such a big variation I'm not sure! Because you basically want it as cold as possible.
Anyway, it should take between 5 and 10 minutes. When it reaches the optimal temperature, the machine will beep and READY will illuminate and PRESS START will flash on the display screen.
It should be noted that you can set the Smart Scoop to pre-cool with the bowl in or out of the machine. If the bowl is in the machine you could also set it to pre-cool with the mixture already in the bowl.
However I definitely recommend that you pre-cool with the bowl in the machine but empty of mixture. Why? Again, it's all about getting the mixture to freeze as quickly as possible once the churning starts...
If the bowl is added to the machine later, it will take longer to cool down. And if the mixture is in the bowl (and in the machine) during PRE-COOL, it will start to freeze but very slowly. Whereas if you add the mixture to the bowl when it's already very cold from the PRE-COOL, it will start to freeze faster.
Once the machine has pre-cooled, it won't actually start churning until you press the START button (even though the paddle will start to turn after 15 minutes).
Stage 2: Making the mixture
Depending on the recipe, this stage can be done well before Stage 1, or it could be done while the machine is pre-cooling.
Recipes that need to be heated also need to be cooled before they can be added to the ice cream maker. Since cooling takes time, they need to be made well in advance.
However, there are some recipes that don't need to be heated (I'm thing of Philadelphia style ice creams) and as long as the milk and cream come from the fridge, they can be prepared during pre-cooling and then go straight in the machine.
I cannot stress too much the importance of your recipe. It has a far bigger impact on the quality of the final ice cream than the individual machine does...
Ice cream is a delicate combination of solid, liquid and gas. And you can't just throw any combination of milk, cream and sugar into the machine and expect to get great results. You need to understand a bit about the science of ice cream first.
So, while I understand the temptation to start inventing your own recipes straight away (this is of course one of the best things about having your own ice cream maker), I'd urge you to start off with tried and tested recipes.
The Smart Scoop manual contains 19 recipes including ice creams, gelatos, frozen yogurts and sorbets. These recipes have been specifically designed to work with the Smart Scoop so they're a great place to start!
Otherwise there's plenty of great ice cream recipe books. Just remember that the Smart Scoop has a 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) capacity, so don't make recipes that produce much more than 1 - 1.2 quarts of mixture, as they might over flow the top of the bowl.
Once the mixture is made, you should cool it to around 4°C (which should be the temperature of your fridge) before it goes in the machine. If you're in a rush, the quickest way to do this is to is to pour the mixture into a zip lock bag and then add it to an ice bath. Cooling the mixture quickly also reduces the chances of harmful bacteria forming. However, I often add it to a bowl, cover with cling film and then let it cool down a little before transferring it to the fridge.
Leaving it in the fridge overnight will mean the mixture benefits from "ageing" which should improve the quality of the final ice cream. However, if you're in a rush you can add it to the ice cream maker as soon as it reaches 4°C.
Stage 3: Churn and freeze the mixture in the Breville Smart Scoop
You have 2 options here: Manual or Auto mode. What's the difference? Well, in Manual mode, you set how long the machine will churn for. Whereas in Auto mode, you choose how hard you want your final dessert to be and the machine will churn the mixture until it reaches that consistency.
In Auto mode, you use the Hardness dial to select the consistency of the frozen dessert you want to make. This dial controls a "hardness bar" on the LCD screen. On the left are the softer desserts (starting with sorbet). And on the right are the harder desserts (ending with ice cream).
Once you've selected the hardness you're aiming for, you just press the START / PAUSE button and the machine will start to churn. As the mixture starts to harden, the segments of the bar start to fill up to show the progress towards your desired consistency.
When it gets close to the target hardness, there will be a beep and ADD MIX-INS will flash on the display screen. This is the time to add any cookie pieces, candies or fruit through the flap in the lid.
Then when the bar finally reaches your target consistency, the machine will beep, the compressor will turn off and it will stop churning. Your dessert is now ready!
In my experience, the bar will stay at the very left hand side flashing in the PRE-COOLING section for a long time. This is despite the fact that we've already pre-cooled the machine. Then once it starts to reach sorbet hardness, it progresses through the various consistencies pretty quickly.
The Smart Scoop defaults to Auto mode. But to enter Manual mode, all you need to do is press one of the MANUAL TIMER arrows. This will set the amount of time the machine will run for. Then just press START / PAUSE and it will start to churn.
You just need to keep an eye on the progress and once your happy with the consistency, you press START / PAUSE again to stop the machine churning.
Keep Cool function
The Keep Cool function works in both Auto and Manual mode. Once your dessert is ready, this function (if selected), will keep your frozen treat at your desired consistency for up to 3 hours.
So if you're in Auto mode the machine will stop automatically when your dessert is done. And if you're in Manual mode you stop the machine manually when you decide it's done. But the Keep Cool function continues to monitor the hardness of the dessert and when it starts to soften, the compressor will turn on and the machine will start churning again to maintain that final consistency.
And it will keep turning on and off automatically for up to 3 hours. The great thing about this function is that it gives you the flexibility to leave the ice cream unattended.
Stage 4: Transfer the dessert to the freezer to firm up
Even on the hardest ice cream setting, when the machine stops, the finished product will be more like soft serve ice cream or whipped cream than the stuff you buy in the store.
Now there's nothing wrong with eating it straight from the machine like this. And it will be perfectly delicious! But it will also be very soft and will melt very quickly.
So it will definitely benefit from some time in your freezer, where it will harden and become much more like store bought ice cream. How long it needs to be in there will depend on the temperature of your freezer and the recipe you've used. But it's usually 1 to 3 hours.
Transferring it from the machine to the freezer can involve some melting and you want to limit this as much as possible. This is because when the stuff that melts re-freezes in your freezer, the ice crystals will get larger, so the texture will be coarser and the mouth-feel colder.
To limit the amount of melting, it's a good idea to have the storage container pre-cooling in your freezer while you're making the ice cream. I find wide, shallow containers made from glass or metal are the best as they get much colder and since there's more of the ice cream in contact with the sides, they freeze the ice cream faster.
You should also try to get the ice cream out of the machine and into the container as fast as possible. With the Smart Scoop the whole mixing bowl can be removed from the machine which helps a lot. It also comes with a small, plastic spatula which is just the right shape for scarping around that central tube.
Once the ice cream's in the container, if you have clingfilm or grease proof paper, it's a good idea to place a sheet on the surface of the ice cream before you add the lid. This will help to prevent coarse ice crystals forming on top.
Then place the container in the coldest part of the freezer, which is usually at the back. Check the hardness after an hour and then at hourly intervals until it has the consistency you want.
Stage 5: Cleaning the Breville Smart Scoop
Cleaning the Smart Scoop is super easy. The body of the machine usually just needs a quick wipe. If there's any mixture in the chamber, wait until it's warmed to room temperature and then wipe out with a warm soapy cloth.
The lid, the bowl and the paddle can be washed in the sink with warm soapy water. The Smart Scoop comes with a small brush to help you clean the tubes in the paddle and the bowl.
The lid and the paddle can be washed on the top shelf of a dishwasher. However, the bowl is not dishwasher safe!
What's the ice cream from the Breville Smart Scoop like?
Well the good news is that the Smart Scoop can make great ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt.
As always, the recipe is the most important thing here. If you use a good recipe, you'll get good frozen desserts. But as with any other ice cream maker, if you use a poor, unbalanced recipe, then the Smart Scoop won't save you!
But the Smart Scoop is a pretty expensive ice cream maker. And the justification for this higher price is all the extra features that you get. The question is how do they effect the final ice cream? Are they worth it?
How well do the Hardness Settings work?
To be honest, I don't see the point of the hardness settings! It would be a good idea if the final hardness you get was actually the hardness you wanted from your dessert. But that's never the case.
Whether you choose the softest sorbet setting or the hardest ice cream setting they are never hard enough: you'll always need to transfer the mixture to your freezer to firm up to that final consistency that you'd expect.
This isn't a fault solely of the Smart Scoop. All domestic ice cream makers suffer from this problem. I think it's because they don't have a strong enough motor to keep mixing the ice cream if it becomes much harder than soft scoop consistency.
So if you want ice cream, why not remove it when it gets to gelato hardness and leave it to harden much more efficiently in your freezer? It shouldn't make any difference to the end product.
Unless of course the hardness settings are less about how hard the ice cream is frozen and more about how much air is whipped into it...
Sorbet and gelato should contain less air than ice cream. And if you select these softer desserts on the hardness settings, the program will end earlier, with the paddle having whipped less air into them. After hardening in the freezer, they will still have less air in them so will have the right consistency.
That sort of makes sense. But it still doesn't work! My first attempts at making a watermelon sorbet in Auto mode (with the sorbet hardness setting selected), resulted in the dessert being churned for over 40 min. And so much air was added that the sorbet was fluffy and crumbly. Not good.
And it doesn't matter whether you choose the gelato or the ice cream setting, the final product will never have more than 30% air which is gelato rather than ice cream levels.
No, for me, these settings are just confusing. Whether you're trying to make sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato or ice cream, the Smart Scoop is unable to to detect in a useful way when it's ready.
When exactly your dessert is ready to be removed from the ice cream maker, will vary widely according to the recipe. You need to use your eyes and your experience. And if your eyes are telling you one thing and the machine is telling you another, it can lead to mistakes.
That's not to say Auto mode is useless. I think it gives you a useful idea of how long things should take. But my advice is: take the hardness settings as a guideline only. If it looks like it's done, it probably is: override them.
What about the other features of the Smart Scoop?
So I'm not a big fan of the Hardness Settings. But that's not to say that all the extra features we get with the Smart Scoop are a bit rubbish: they're not.
How well does the Pre-Cool function work?
I like the Pre-cool function. Every compressor ice cream maker can be pre-cooled. You just turn it on without adding the ice cream mixture! But you'll never be sure when it's reached maximum coldness.
With the Smart Scoop, it will beep to let you know that it's as cold as it's going to get. It also shows the current temperature on the LCD display. So you know how well it's doing.
And since the paddle will start turning during the later stages of pre-cooling you could add warm ice cream mixture to pre-cool in the machine, (although I wouldn't advice this).
But I find it super useful to be told by the machine when it's at the optimal temperature to add my mixtures. So the pre-cool function gets a big thumbs up from me!
How well does the Keep-Cool function work?
In theory, we should be a little wary of the Keep Cool function. For the very best quality desserts, the finished product should be transferred to our freezers as quickly as possible to limit any melting. This is because when they melt and then re-freeze, the ice crystals in the dessert get bigger. And this leads to less smooth and more cold feeling ice creams.
Since the Keep Cool function works by detecting when the finished dessert has melted beyond a certain consistency before it turns the compressor (and the paddle) back on, you'd imagine that this melting and re-freezing would result in poorer quality desserts.
But in fact, in my experience there's not a great deal of difference. As long as your recipe's a good one, the Keep Cool function will maintain the consistency of your dessert for up to 3 hours without any noticeable reduction in smoothness or increase in coldness.
This is great as it allows you to leave the ice cream machine unattended for a considerable amount of time. You don't have to watch over it. So you can pop out to the shops. Or just get on with something else in the house. And be safe in the knowledge that the Smart Scoop is taking care of everything!
I like the Breville Smart Scoop. It's packed full of features. And it makes great quality ice cream and other frozen treats. But it won't be the best choice for everyone. To help you decide, here's 6 things I like and 4 things I'm not so keen on...
6 things I like about the Breville Smart Scoop
1. It looks great!
I think the Smart Scoop is probably the best looking domestic ice cream available at the moment. It has nice lines, a pleasing symmetry and a top quality brushed steel finish. It's going to look great on any counter top!
2. The Pre-Cool function is really helpful
I find the automatic Pre-Cool function really useful. It's good to see the temperature falling on the LCD display. And I like the way it alerts me when the temperature's as low as it's going to get and it's the right time to add my ice cream mixture.
3. The Keep Cool function works surprisingly well
Despite my misgivings, the Keep Cool function works well. Being able to add my mixture to the machine and then walk away for over 3 hours is incredibly liberating. I can make my desserts well in advance. I can get on with a whole load of other things. I know the Smart Scoop will take of business!
4. The temperature display is re-assuring
The temperature that the Smart Scoop is running at is constantly displayed on the LCD display. (And you switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit). This display is really useful. If the temperature is low it re-assures you that everything is going well. And if it's not low it's an indication that somethings not quite right.
5. Adding mix-ins is super easy!
If you want to add pieces of candy, nuts, chocolate, fruit (basically anything you can think of), the Smart Scoop makes it really easy. Not only does it have a flap in the lid to so you don't have to actually remove the id (and believe me, getting the lid off ice cream makers is always a bit fiddly). It will also beep to let you know the best time to add those mix-ins! This is really useful.
6. It makes great ice cream!
This of course is this most important job of any ice cream maker. And the Breville Smart Scoop can make fantastic ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. Plus slush drinks and other frozen treats.
4 things I don't like about the Breville Smart Scoop
1. The Hardness Settings are confusing
It doesn't matter which hardness setting you chose, when the machine reaches that consistency and stops, the dessert will always be softer than you'd expect and will need firming up in your freezer. So what's the point of the hardness settings?!
2. There's no way to vary the amount of air in your dessert
Unlike the Cuisinart ICE-100, which comes with two different paddles, the Smart Scoop uses just one paddle so it always adds the same amount of air to your dessert. This is a shame as when your making sorbet or gelato, you want less air and the shorter program time caused by the hardness settings doesn't work as well as a different paddle would.
3. There's a big gap between the paddle and the bowl side
The gap between the paddle blade and the side of the bowl is between 3 and 4 mm. This is quite large compared to other domestic compressor ice cream makers and results in a thick layer of insulating ice cream mixture developing on the side of the bowl. There's no doubt that if this gap was smaller the ice cream would freeze much faster and likely be even smoother.
4. The 1 year warranty!
A one year warranty on a machine like this seems very tight to me. Compressor machines can be quite delicate. They're also an expensive investment. A decent length warranty provides peace of mind. And if Cuisinart can provide a 3 year warranty, why can't Breville?
Alternatives to the Breville Smart Scoop
If after reading this review, you're thinking that the Smart Scoop is not the right ice cream maker for you, then fear not! There are plenty of alternatives. And I've got 2 of the best for you below...
Looking for something cheaper?
The Smart Scoop is probably the most expensive of the exclusively domestic compressor ice cream makers available at the moment. And that's more about the amount of extra features you get than the speed at which it works or the quality of the final dessert.
But if you're not so bothered about all those extra features, then you can save quite a lot of money by getting a more basic machine!
The Cuisinart ICE-100 doesn't have an automatic pre-cool function or a 3 hour keep cool option. It doesn't have any hardness settings. It won't show you the current temperature of the compressor. Neither will it beep to tell you it's time to add your min-ins. And when you do you add them, you have to take the whole lid off.
In fact the Cuisinart ICE-100 is a pretty basic ice cream maker. It's only got 3 buttons and a very small LCD display. However you can pre-cool, simply by turning it on without adding any mixture. And it will keep your dessert cool in 10 minute cycles once it's finished.
In fact, it works more like the manual mode on the Smart Scoop. Set the time and start it up: when the timer runs down and beeps, either remove the dessert or add more time.
And it makes ice cream and other frozen desserts just as quickly and smoothly as the Smart Scoop. It just costs a fair bit less. And what's more, it comes with a 5 year warranty rather than the 1 year you get with the smart scoop!
So if you're looking for something less expensive and don't need all the fancy features you get with the Breville Smart Scoop, take a good look at the Cuisinart ICE-100 as a simpler and cheaper alternative!
Looking for something faster (and dare I say better)?
All the exclusively domestic compressor ice cream machines take around 40 minutes to make your ice cream. If you're looking for something faster, then you're going to need to look at the sort of machines that could be used in a cafe or small restaurant.
I'm thinking specifically about the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino. The Lussino is a compressor ice cream maker with a 1.5 quart (1.5 liter) capacity, just like the Smart Scoop. However, while the Smart Scoop is aimed squarely at the domestic market, the Lussino has the sort of build quality and performance that might see it used in professional kitchen as well.
That's not to say it's unsuited to a domestic kitchen. It's only a couple of inches bigger than the Smart Scoop (18" x 12" x 11" compared to 16" x 10.5" x 10.5). And it will look super smart on your counter top (in fact, I think it's much more handsome than the Smart Scoop).
But it's definitely a professional level machine. The entire thing is made from stainless steel, it's extremely powerful and it can knock out back to back batches of ice cream in 8 to 10 minutes. As a result, the final desserts tend to be smoother than any of the solely domestic machines, including the Smart Scoop.
So if it's better looking, better built, and makes better quality ice cream more quickly than the Smart Scoop, what are you waiting for? Well, just like the Cuisinart ICE-100, there's no fancy features: this is a manual ice cream maker with just 2 buttons and a timer.
There's also no removable bowl. This is one of the things that makes it so quick: there's no extra layer of insulating metal. But it also means it's a bit more difficult to clean. Once you've scraped the majority of the ice cream out of the cavity, you'll need to wipe out whats remaining with a cloth rather than putting the bowl in the sink.
But theses are small issues. The real reason to think twice about buying the Lussino over the Smart Scoop is the price: it costs almost twice as much! Is it worth the extra money? Well, as I say it's more powerful, faster and it makes better ice cream.
But whether it's worth the extra money depends on your priorities and how often you'll use it. I make a lot of ice cream and I'm not very interested in lots of fancy features. So for me it's worth paying (significantly) more.
The Breville Smart Scoop is a really good ice cream maker. It makes great ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt. And it has more features than any other ice cream maker on the market.
The question is: are those features worth the extra money? I think for someone just starting out making ice cream: they are definitely worth it. And that's because if you are just starting out, they'll help to ease you into the process...
The Smart Scoop will pretty much hold your hand. It enables you to choose exactly which type of dessert you want to make. It will automatically pre-cool the bowl, showing you the current temperature and letting you know when it's the right time to add your mixture. It will also tell you when it's time to add any mix-ins. Finally, once the desired consistency is reached, it will automatically turn off and then keep your dessert at this consistency for up to 3 hours.
And it's those extra features that allows the Smart Scoop to give you this sort of in depth guidance. For sure, the hardness settings are a bit misleading. But if you're just starting out, it can be incredibly re-assuring and helpful to have machine tell you exactly what to do.
However, if you've already got some experience of making frozen desserts you'll unlikely to find this level of automation too useful. You'll almost certainly avoid the hardness settings for example.
The pre-cool and particularly the keep cool functions are nice to have. And I really like being able to monitor the temperature of the compressor on the LCD display. The hatch in the lid is also supper useful. And the perfectly sized spatula and cleaning brush are really helpful too.
Actually thinking about, even for someone with lots of experience, you get a lot of useful extras with the Smart Scoop!
So in conclusion although the Smart Scoop doesn't make better ice cream than any of the other domestic compressor ice cream machines, it does make it easier. And if these sort of extra features seem useful to you it could well be worth the extra money!