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Best Ice Cream Maker (plus Gelato, Sorbet and Frozen Yogurt!)

Best Ice Cream Maker (plus Gelato, Sorbet and Frozen Yogurt!)

Last Updated on January 30, 2024 66 Comments

So you want to buy an ice cream maker? That's a great idea! There are many good reasons to have your own machine.

Most importantly: you'll be able to make hundreds of different types of frozen desserts, exactly how you like them.

But which is the best ice cream maker for you? There are loads of different types, at lots of different prices. And that can be pretty confusing when you're just starting out.

This situation is complicated by online reviews. Most of the reviewers have never even used the machines they recommend!

Maybe a few have used them once or twice. But even then, they don't seem to know what they're doing or how to get the most out of the ice cream makers they're testing.

This is why you get such conflicting, confusing and downright wrong reports about the same machines.

Seven ice cream machines on a table

A selection of my ice cream machines!

Luckily, I have used lots of different ice cream makers. I've used every one over a long period of time. And I know exactly how to get the best out of the different machines.

So I can tell you: it's really not that complicated. And in most cases spending more money will not get you better homemade ice cream!

Once you understand a couple of important truths (that no-one else seems to talk about) and follow a couple of simple steps, it will soon become clear which machine is best for you.

More on those later. But first, here are the five best ice cream makers currently available...

1. Best Entry Level Ice Cream Maker: Cuisinart ICE-21

Cuisinart ICE-21 Best Entry Level Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-21 Pros and Cons

  • Makes best ice cream (apart from Lello)
  • Small and light
  • Easy to use
  • Super low-priced!
  • You must plan 16–24 hours in advance
  • Bowl takes up room in freezer
  • Small 1.5 quart capacity
  • Limited to one batch at a time

I've given the ICE-21 the best "entry level" ice cream maker award, but it's really so much more than that!

For sure, if you've never made ice cream before, and you don't want to spend too much money or give up too much counter space, then the ICE-21 is the perfect choice.

That's because it's one of the smallest and most affordable priced machines currently available. 

But more importantly: in my tests, it made some of the best quality ice cream. Better, in fact, than every other machine except the (far more expensive) Lello 4080.

Testing the Cuisinart ICE-21

Testing the Cuisinart ICE-21 with a simple base ice cream

This is because its small size and improved dasher design enable it to freeze the mixture incredibly quickly (around 15 minutes) which results in smooth, dry ice cream every time.

There are no frills with the ICE-21. Just an on/off switch. But that means there's less to go wrong!

So it's inexpensive, durable, takes up very little counter space, and makes better ice cream than almost any other domestic machine I've used. What's not to love?!

If you need more persuading, then how about the fact that Jeni Britton Bauer uses the Cuisinart ICE-21 for prototyping her recipes (here's 2 of the older models in her workshop)...

Cuisinart ICE-20 in Jeni's workshop

If they're good enough for Jeni: two ICE-20s (early versions of the ICE-21) in her lab

So I reckon the ICE-21 should definitely be your default choice if you're looking for a freezer bowl machine.

Unless you want to make bigger batches...

2. Best Featured "No-Freezer" Ice Cream Maker: Cuisinart ICE-70

Cuisinart ICE-70 2 quart ice cream maker

Cuisinart ICE-70 Pros and Cons

  • Makes really good ice cream!
  • Gelato & sorbet settings work well
  • Bigger 2 quart capacity
  • Robust and easy to use
  • More expensive than ICE-21
  • Have to plan 16–24 hours in advance
  • Bowl takes up room in freezer
  • Limited to one batch at a time

The ICE-21 only has a 1.5 quart capacity. If you're looking for something bigger, the ICE-70 ice cream maker has a 2 quart bowl. It also has a timer and different settings for ice cream, gelato and sorbet.

In my tests, the ice cream quality was no better than the ICE-21. But the different settings vary the amount of air that's whipped into the mixture, so the gelato is denser and the sorbet is less crumbly from the ICE-70.

If a timer (which beeps rather than turns the machine off), is not important, then the ICE-60 [Amazon] is exactly the same as the ICE-70, minus the timer and is often available at a lower price.

Testing the Cuisinart ICE-70 against the ICE-30

Testing the Cuisinart ICE-70 against the ICE-30

Both machines are essentially an upgrade of the famous old ICE-30 with a dasher re-design that speeds up freezing, resulting in slightly smoother ice creams.

However, there's no doubt the ICE-30 remains a fantastic ice cream maker and if you live outside the US and the other models aren't available, I think it should be your default choice [Amazon].

So, if you want to make bigger batches, or you simply want to experiment with different types of frozen dessert, then the ICE-70 (or ICE-60) is a worthy upgrade to the ICE-21.

3. Highest Quality Ice Cream Machine: Musso Lello 4080

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino: Highest Quality Ice Cream Maker

Musso Lello 4080 Pros and Cons

  • Makes the best ice cream I've ever had!
  • Can make back to back batches
  • Compressor and paddle work separately
  • Easy to use, easy to clean
  • It's incredibly expensive!
  • Timer keeps going when it's stopped
  • It's enormous but only 1.5 quart capacity
  • 1-year warranty only

The Lello 4080 is the most expensive domestic ice cream maker by a long way. It's also by far the best, in my tests making significantly better ice cream than any other machine (including the ICE-21).

It's essentially a commercial ice cream maker scaled down for domestic use. And it's capable of making the sorts of frozen desserts you get in extremely posh restaurants.

This is because the Lello (or it's bigger brother the Musso Pola 5030) is often the machine they use in those restaurants!

Transferring the ice cream to the freezer

Testing the Musso Lello 4080 with a simple base ice cream

The build quality is also much higher than any of the other compressor machines, which means you're very unlikely to experience any of the durability issues that some of those models suffer from.

It's head and shoulders above every other ice cream maker I've used, in every respect, and if you can afford it, this is the one to go for.

4. Best Value Compressor Ice Cream Maker: Cuisinart ICE-100

Cuisinart ICE-100 1.5 Quart Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-100 Pros and Cons

  • Makes good ice cream
  • 2 paddles (ice cream + gelato & sorbet) 
  • Can make back to back batches
  • 3 or 5 year warranty (US and UK)
  • Clunky hard to use controls
  • Keep-cool feature is useless
  • Lid is a bit tricky to lock and unlock

If the Lello 4080 is just too pricey, but you want the convenience of an ice cream maker with a compressor, then I think the next best choice is the Cuisinart ICE-100.

In my tests it didn't make better ice cream than the ICE-21, the ICE-70 or the other Cuisinart freezer bowl machines.

But it did make better ice cream than all the other compressor ice cream makers (except the Lello)...

For example, the Breville Smart Scoop is usually much more expensive but takes much longer to freeze the mixture, resulting in a more icy and wet final product.

And while white labeled machines, such as the Whynter ICM-15LS, can make ice cream that compares reasonably favorably with the ICE-100, their long term reliability is more questionable!

Cuisinart ICE-100 with gelato

Testing the Cuisinart ICE-100 with a simple base gelato

With the ICE-100, the build quality is good and there are 2 dashers (so you can vary the air in your frozen desserts to make better gelato and sorbet).

Plus, Cuisinart provide a 3 year (5 years in Europe) guarantee, which is extremely generous (and very useful) for this type of ice cream maker.

For sure, it's not perfect: the dasher doesn't churn the mixture as well as it could do. But if you want the convenience of a compressor ice cream maker but can't afford the Lello, the ICE-100 is the best alternative.

5. Best Choice for KitchenAid Owners: Ice Cream Bowl Attachment

KitchenAid Ice Cream Bowl Attachment

KitchenAid Bowl Pros and Cons

  • Power of KitchenAid = smooth ice cream
  • Sensible if you already have KitchenAid 
  • Big, 2 quart capacity
  • Have to plan 16–24 hours in advance
  • Difficult to add to bowl when churning
  • Limited to one batch at a time

If you already own a KitchenAid, then it's a bit of a no-brainer: you should get their ice cream bowl attachment [Amazon] too!

For starters, just like the Cuisinart machines, it makes really smooth and creamy ice cream. 

This is because (unlike most other ice cream makers) the motor is powerful enough to keep rotating the dasher as the mixture freezes and hardens.

And also, if you already own a KitchenAid mixer, the chances are it's permanently on your counter top and ready to go!

This is much more convenient than having to haul out a separate machine every time you want to make ice cream. Why bother with yet another kitchen appliance if you don't need to?!

It's true: the bowl attachment will need to be stored in your freezer for at least 16 hours (just like with any other no-compressor ice cream maker) before use.

But the fantastic quality of the final product and the fact that you already have the motor in your kitchen make this an obvious choice for KitchenAid owners!

What about the Ninja Creami?

The Ninja Creami is the newest ice cream maker on the block. And it’s getting a huge amount of attention online.

But it works in a totally different way to a regular ice cream maker. Rather than simultaneously freezing and churning air into a liquid ice cream mixture, the Creami uses a sharp blade to whiz through a solid block of ice cream mixture that has been pre frozen (in your home freezer).

How the Ninja Creami works

How the Ninja Creami works

As the blade works through the frozen block, it shaves the ice into smaller and smaller crystals while at the same time adding air, until it creates a perfectly smooth and aerated ice cream. In about 2 minutes!

Sound familiar? It’s essentially a consumer version of the $7,000 Pacojet which is often used is professional kitchens.

But it’s much, much cheaper.

I have only just got my hands on a Ninja Creami, and I’m still testing it and trying to get the best out of it. Full review coming soon…

How to choose the best ice cream maker

If you don't fancy any of my top five picks, or you're not convinced by my recommendations, don't worry!

I'm going to take you through the simple steps to find the best ice cream maker for your needs... 

Step 1: Which type of ice cream maker is best for me?

The first thing to do is decide which type of ice cream maker best suits your needs. This should be pretty easy, as there are only three types, and they're all very different.

The main difference between them is in the way they freeze the mixture:

  1. with ice and rock salt
  2. with a removable bowl that you pre-chill in your freezer
  3. with a built-in compressor (or freezer)

The three types of Ice Cream Maker

Hamilton Beach machine
Cuisinart ICE-21
Cuisinart ICE-100

Ice and Salt

Freezer Bowl

Compressor

Let's have a look at each of the three types of ice cream maker in more detail...

1. Ice and Salt Ice Cream Makers

This is how ice cream was made in the old days! With these machines, you pack a load of ice and salt around a churning canister full of mixture, in order to freeze the ice cream.

Filling an ice and salt machine

Filling an the bucket with salt and ice

Ice and salt machines can make great ice cream. Just as good as (and often better than) the other two types. But they're not really suitable for everyday domestic use in your kitchen.

You need to make sure you've got lots of ice and rock salt. And they can make a lot of mess.

If you want to make ice cream now and again for parties or BBQs, they're a great choice, and I've written in more detail about them here.

But since this guide is aimed specifically at ice cream makers for everyday kitchen use, I'm not going to include them any further in this article.

Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Makers

These machines have removable bowls that you need to pre-chill in your freezer for at least 16 hours.

Cuisinart ICE-30BC freezer bowl machine

Cuisinart ICE-30BC with the bowl that's pre-frozen in your freezer

The bowl contains a special gel that gets really cold in the freezer and which then transfers that coldness to the ice cream mixture as it's being churned later on in the machine.

The advantages of freezer bowl machines

Firstly, they're far more compact than other ice cream makers. So they're much more suitable for small kitchens and much easier to store away.

Cuisinart ICE-21 freezer bowl machine

Freezer bowl ice cream makers are compact and perfect for small kitchens

And secondly (and very importantly), since they use relatively basic technology, they're both inexpensive to buy and low maintenance...

You can pick them up for very little money and be confident they're going to last for many years.

The disadvantages of freezer bowl machines

Firstly, the bowls need at least 16 hours in the freezer before you can use them. So some pre-planning is required.

Freezer bowl with cling film

The bowls take up valuable space in your freezer

Secondly, you need to have room in your freezer for the bowl! And they're not small. Check the measurements of each model as the bowls vary in size according to the capacity of the particular machine.

Freezer bowl in freezer

Have you got room in your freezer?

And remember: because you need to pre-freeze the bowl before use, you can't make back to back batches of ice cream.

Unless of course you buy an extra bowl and have enough room to store two bowls in your freezer!

Compressor Ice Cream Makers

These machines have their own built-in compressors that constantly cool the ice cream mixture as it's being churned.

Breville Smart Scoop parts

Compressor machines use their own in-built freezer to freeze the mixture

All you do is pour the mixture into the ice cream maker, press a button and wait. It's that simple!

The advantages of compressor machines

These ice cream makers are the most convenient and flexible. You don't have to remember to put a bowl in the freezer the day before.

As soon as you decide you want to eat homemade gelato, sorbet or ice cream, you can start making it. And as soon as the first batch is finished, you can start making the next batch!

Breville Smart Scoop control panel

Compressor machines have more features!

They have more features and options than the other machines, too. Some can be optimized for ice cream, gelato or sorbet. Some are programmed to pre-chill the bowl.

Most will stop automatically when the ice cream is ready. And some will keep the final product at the right temperature and consistency for a while once they're finished. 

The disadvantages of compressor machines

They're big and heavy. So while they'll certainly look attractive on your counter top, make sure you've got enough room!

And despite their size, they don't have huge capacities. They don't make bigger batches than the freezer bowl ice cream makers (in fact, the max capacities are often smaller).

Compressor vs freezer bowl machine

Compressor machines are bigger, heavier and more expensive!

And of course with a built-in compressor and complicated electronics, more things can go wrong. So it's even more important to check the warranty and after sales service with these ice cream makers.

Compressor ice cream makers also the most expensive of all the domestic machines. But like most things in life, convenience comes at a price!

Which type of machine makes the best ice cream?

For most people, this is the most important question when deciding between a freezer bowl and compressor ice cream maker.

And the answer might surprise you. Because this is the first important truth that no-one else seems to talk about...

In my tests, the best freezer bowl machines make better ice cream than the vast majority of compressor machines!

We'd probably expect it to be the other way round. Perhaps because the compressor machines are more expensive. Or maybe because they're constantly cooling the mixture.

But this isn't the case...

Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Maker

Compressor Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-21 freezer bowl machine
Breville Smart Scoop compressor machine

Price

$

$$$$

Ice Cream Quality In My Tests

The ice cream that I get from the Cuisinart ICE-21 (which is one of the most inexpensive freezer bowl machines), is actually much better than the ice cream from the Breville Smart Scoop (one of the most expensive compressor machines)!

Why is this? Well, if we look very quickly at the most important factor that determines the quality of ice cream, it should become clear...

When we think about good ice cream, we're usually thinking about smooth ice cream. And the biggest factor that determines whether it's smooth and creamy is how fast the machine freezes the mixture.

Faster freezing times mean smaller ice crystals and a smoother end product.

But I've found that most domestic compressor machines don't have enough power in their compressors or their motors to freeze the mixture any faster than the freezer bowl machines (which actually stay colder better!).

In fact, often, they're slower! For example, in my tests the ICE-21 can be as quick as 15 minutes, while the Smart Scoop can be as slow as 40 minutes.

So the ice cream, gelato and sorbet from the slow freezing compressor machines is less smooth. The difference isn't always massive. But it is significant.

What does this mean for your buying decision? It means: don't spend more on a compressor machine expecting to get better ice cream! My tests suggest that unless you get a Lello that won't happen.

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino front

Only the top end compressor machines like the Lello 4080 make ice cream that's better than other machines

It's better to concentrate on other things, like convenience, price and durability. With that in mind, here's a reminder of the important features of each type of ice cream maker...

Freezer Bowl

Compressor

Cuisinart ICE-21
Cuisinart ICE-100

Maximum batch size

Up to 2 quarts

Up to 2 quarts

Multiple batches?

No

Yes

Ease of use

8 / 10

10 / 10

Price

$

$$ - $$$

Good for

• small spaces

• regular, pre-planned use

• no mess

• no waiting

• constant use

• automatic features

Bad for

• making lots of ice cream

• unorganized people

• small freezers

• small spaces

• small budgets

So hopefully you've now got some idea of which type of ice cream maker is best for you. Once that's clear, it's time to look at some individual machines...

Step 2: Which specific ice cream maker is best for me?

The Best Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Makers

The freezer bowl market is dominated by Cuisinart. And there's a very good reason for this: they make much better ice cream makers than everyone else!

3 Cuisinart freezer bowl machines

Cuisinart ice cream makers dominate the freezer bowl market

Why is this? Well, Cuisinart machines have a very high build quality and come with generous three year warranties (or five years in Europe!).

But the Cuisinart ice cream makers also work in a slightly different way to most other machines...

In other machines, the motor spins the dasher from above to churn the ice cream mixture in the bowl below. As the liquid thickens, the motor will often struggle to propel the thin, plastic dasher through the mixture.

So the gear can slip, causing horrible grinding noises. And the dasher will often stop altogether, forcing you to remove the ice cream before it's really ready.

Freezer bowl machine with paddle that rotates from above

In most freezer bowl machines the dasher is rotated from above

In Cuisinart machines, the motor revolves the bowl from below, (while the dasher is held in place by the machine lid).

This means that the gear has a much stronger connection and generates more torque.

So it doesn't struggle as the mixture thickens. The gears don't slip, there's no horrible grinding noises and the the machine runs until the ice cream is ready!

Cuisinart machines rotate their bowls from below

Cuisinart machines rotate their bowls from below

The ability of the Cuisinart machines to continue churning the mixture more efficiently, for much longer as it hardens, produces a smoother final ice cream.

And the reduced stress on the motor means the Cuisinart ice cream makers also tend to last much longer.

So the bottom line is this: unless there are very specific special circumstances (more on that below), I don't think there's any reason to buy any other freezer bowl machine than a Cuisinart.

The question is: which Cuisinart model is best for you?

Cuisinart Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Makers

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart machine
Cuisinart ICE-21R 1.5 quart red machine
Cuisinart ICE-21PK 1.5 quart pink machine

ICE-21

ICE-21 Red

ICE-21 Pink

Cuisinart ICE-30BC 2 quart machine
Cuisinart ICE-60 2 quart machine
Cuisinart ICE-70 2 quart machine

ICE-30

ICE-60

ICE-70

How to choose a Cuisinart Freezer Bowl Ice Cream Maker

There are only 4 different Cuisinart models that use freezer bowls. So it shouldn't be too difficult to choose between them. The problem is that it's not immediately clear how they differ from one another!

Capacity

The first thing to think about is capacity. The ICE-21 (and it's colorful siblings the ICE-21R and ICE-21PK) are slightly smaller machines which have 1.5 quart capacities.

While the ICE-30, the ICE-60 and the ICE-70 are larger with bigger, 2 quart capacities.

Cuisinart ICE-21 bowl vs ICE-30 bowl

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 quart bowl vs ICE-30 2 quart bowl

So if you want to make bigger batches of homemade ice cream, you'll want to go with one of the bigger capacity machines (as long as you've got room for the bigger bowl in your freezer).

Features

The second thing to think about is features. The ICE-21 and ICE-30 are very basic machines. They've got an On/Off switch and that's it!

While the ICE-60 and the ICE-70 have three settings for different types of frozen dessert: ice cream, gelato and sorbet.

Cuisinart ICE-30BC controls

Just a simple on/off button on the Cuisinart ICE-30BC

Making different types of frozen dessert at the touch of a button sounds really exciting! But in reality it just means that the bowl spins at different speeds.

Since gelato and sorbet should contain less air than ice cream, if the bowl spins slower, the dasher will whip less air into the mixture.

But it does work really well! In my tests, the gelato has less air so it's thicker and creamier. And the sorbet is particularly good: smoother and less crumbly than you get from the ICE-30 and ICE-21.

Cuisinart ICE-70 controls

Ice cream, gelato and sorbet settings, plus timer on the Cuisinart ICE-70

But what's the difference between the ICE-60 and the ICE-70? Well, the ICE-70 has exactly the same features as the ICE-60, but also adds a timer!

When you choose one of the three settings, the timer will default to a specific time (25 minutes for ice cream, 30 for gelato and 40 for sorbet). These times are based on the idea that lower fat mixtures will take longer to freeze.

However, how long any mixture takes to freeze will depend on a whole load of factors, and these times can only be regarded as a guideline.

Luckily, the ICE-70 allows you to adjust the time upwards or downwards. And the ice cream maker doesn't actually stop when the timer reaches zero, it just starts beeping!

So in reality, there's almost no difference between the ICE-60 and ICE-70. Unless the advisory timer is really useful to you, I'd recommend that just go for the one with the lowest price!

Ice Cream Quality

As I've already mentioned, ice cream quality is mostly a result of how fast the mixture is frozen. So faster = smoother. And smoother = better.

And the fastest freezing Cuisinart machine in my tests is the ICE-21. This is because it has the smallest bowl, so a greater proportion of the mixture comes into contact with the freezing walls more often.

But it also has a re-designed dasher that now has two blades to scrape the frozen mixture from the bowl and leaves very little space between those blades and the sides of the bowl.

This means more frozen ice cream mixture is taken from the sides of the bowl into the middle faster.

Cuisinart ICE-30 dasher vs ICE-70 dasher

Cuisinart have upgraded the ICE-30 dasher (left) for the ICE-70 (right)

The ICE-70 and ICE-60 have a similarly re-designed dasher (but bigger bowls) so they were the next fastest in my tests.

And then finally the ICE-30 with the older dasher design and the 2 quart bowl, froze just slightly slower than the newer models in my testing.

These freezing times do translate directly into ice cream quality. The ICE-21 made the driest and smoothest ice cream. Followed by the ICE-70 and ICE-60. And then the ICE-30.

But just to be clear: the differences are quite small. They can all make fantastically smooth ice cream, sorbet and frozen yogurt.

So which Cuisinart model should you buy?

If you're still unsure, my advice would be to first think about what capacity you're likely to need, as that's the biggest difference between the machines.

So if you don't need to make more than 1.5 quarts of ice cream at a time, (and most recipes you'll find will fit in a 1.5 quart bowl), go for the ICE-21.

Cuisinart ICE-21 vs ICE-30BC

ICE-21 or ICE-30BC?

If you like to make bigger batches, the question is: do you need the extra features of the ICE-60 or ICE-70?

My tests suggest that the improved dasher design does make a difference to the freezing time and therefore the smoothness of the ice cream. And the gelato and sorbet was also noticeably different too. 

So if you can afford the generally higher price, I'd say go for the ICE-70 or the ICE-60.

But if you can't (or they're not available in your country), don't worry because in my tests, the ICE-30 makes ice cream that's almost as good, and it's usually available at a lower price too!

Are Cuisinart ice cream makers really the only option?

I think Cuisinart make the best freezer bowl machines. As far as I'm concerned, there's no doubt about this.

However, I can think of one situation where I wouldn't recommend a Cuisinart ice cream maker. And that's if you already own a KitchenAid mixer!

KitchenAid with freezer bowl attachment

KitchenAid with freezer bowl attachment

KitchenAid produce a freezer bowl that you can use with your stand mixer to make all sorts of ice creams.

It works in the same way as any other freezer bowl ice cream maker. So the bowl is lined with a special liquid gel that sets hard in the freezer. Once frozen, you attach the bowl to your mixer, which powers a dasher that churns the ice cream mixture.

My experience using the bowl with my Classic Series KitchenAid stand mixer has been very positive, and I've found it makes ice cream that is just as smooth as the Cuisinart machines.

This is because the motor on a KitchenAid is so powerful, it's able to keep churning the ice cream mixture for much longer than most other machines, 

However, I know that some people have had negative experiences with this attachment. These are generally related to the blue gel leaking from the bowl or the bowl not fitting to their particular mixer properly.

Update: KitchenAid has redesigned the bowl and this issue is now fixed!

KitchenAid freezer bowl in action

KitchenAid freezer bowl in action

Given that the bowl itself usually costs about the same amount as the Cuisinart machine, whether it's good value for money is debatable!

However, if you already have a KitchenAid, it makes such good ice cream that I think it would be crazy not to go with this attachment!

The Best Compressor Ice Cream Makers

Choosing a compressor ice cream maker might seem more complicated than choosing a freezer bowl machine: there are loads of different models and there isn't one brand that dominates.

But if we look a little more closely, it's actually a lot simpler than you'd think. I like to divide the compressor ice cream makers into three distinct tiers...

Compressor Ice Cream Makers

First Tier

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino
Lello Musso Pola 5030 Stella

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino

Lello Musso Pola 5030

Second Tier

Cuisinart ICE-100
Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop

Cuisinart ICE-100

Breville Smart Scoop

Third Tier

Whynter ICM-15LS
Whynter ICM-200LS
Whynter 2.1 quart upright machine
Knox Gear machine

Whynter ICM-15LS

Whynter ICM-200LS

Whynter ICM-201SB

Knox Gear

Gourmia GSI200
Ariete DeLonghi
Ariete DeLonghi Espressione
Mr Freeze EIM-700T Maximatic

Gourmia GSI200

Ariete DeLonghi

Ariete DeLonghi Espressione

Mr Freeze EIM-700

In the top tier are domestic machines from companies that also make commercial ice cream makers. These machines provide commercial level build quality and components, scaled down for domestic use.

In the second tier are domestic machines from long-established and well known consumer brands. These ice cream makers are designed and built specifically for those brands. And they're aimed squarely at the domestic market.

In the third tier are domestic machines that are made to be white labeled by other brands. Any brand can order these machines with slight cosmetic changes and then market them as their own.

And when we look at it this way, there are actually just three significant players in the compressor ice cream maker market:

  1. Musso
  2. Breville
  3. Cuisinart
Musso Ice Cream Makers

Musso are an Italian company that have been making ice cream makers since the 1960s. There are only two machines in my top tier, and they're both made by Musso!

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino

The Lello 4080 Musso Lussino is a 1.5 quart, top tier domestic machine

The Lello 4080 Musso Lussino (also know as the Mini) is the smallest and has a 1.5 quart capacity. While the Lello 5030 Musso Pola (also known as the Stella) is a bit bigger with a 2 quart capacity.

Lello Musso Pola 5030 Stella

The Lello Musso Pola 5030 Stella is the bigger, 2 quart brother of the 4080

Other than their capacities, the two machines are pretty much the same. They both feature commercial level build quality and components.

This includes a stainless steel housing, powerful motor and compressor and a metal dasher.

You don't get any fancy control panels or programmable features. Just two buttons and a manual dial. The buttons turn the compressor and the motor on or off. And the dial sets the timer.

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino control panel

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino has a very simple, manual control panel

Unlike most ice cream makers, there's no removable bowl with the Mussos. The ice cream is churned in a depression in the body of the machine. This makes the freezing more efficient. And it also makes it easy to clean!

So they're pretty simple. But the ice cream I make with them is incredible. These Musso machines are the only domestic appliances that can make the sort of ice cream you'd eat in a top quality restaurant.

Probably because these are the machines they often use in top quality restaurants!

Seriously, I think the ice cream these machines make really is a level above what you'll get from any other domestic machine. 

The only drawback to the Musso ice cream makers is the price. They are usually eye wateringly expensive.

For example, the Lello 4080 is the cheapest, but it's often over 50% more expensive than the highest price, tier two ice cream maker! Check the price here [Amazon].

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino dasher in chamber

Lello 4080: the only domestic machine with an integrated bowl and a metal dasher

Some people have suggested that while the Musso machines do make fantastic ice creams, they're not that much better than those from other domestic ice cream makers. So they don't justify the extra cost.

I disagree entirely. For me, the Musso machines are on a totally different level in terms of quality. Every machine below them makes ice creams that are broadly the same. From the Smart Scoop to the ICE-21, there's not a huge amount of difference.

But when you taste the ice cream, sorbet, gelato or frozen yogurt from a Musso machine you know straight away that this is something else...

It's commercial quality from a commercial quality machine scaled down for domestic use!

Breville Ice Cream Makers

Breville only make one ice cream maker: the BCI600XL Smart Sccop, (which is also called the Sage Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker by Heston Blumenthal in Europe).

Breville Smart Scoop BCI600XL front

Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop: packed full of features

Apart from the Musso machines, the Smart Scoop is probably the most expensive domestic ice cream maker you can currently buy.

But unlike the Musso machines, the Smart Scoop is very much a domestic appliance and is in my second tier of compressor machines.

What sets it apart from other domestic ice cream makers and apparently justifies the extra cost is a huge array of automatic settings and fancy features...

The Smart Scoop is the only domestic machine with an automatic pre-cool feature, 12 distinct hardness settings for different types of dessert, and an intelligent keep-cool program that will keep your ice cream at the desired consistency for up to 3 hours after it finishes!

Breville Smart Scoop BCI600XL auto mode

12 automatic hardness settings on the Smart Scoop

While you certainly don't need all these automatic settings and extra features to make great ice cream, they can make things a little easier, especially when you're starting out.

As you get more experience, you may find you override the hardness settings and use the machine in manual mode. But many people will appreciate the fully automated experience the Smart Scoop can provide.

But the big question is: does it make ice cream that justifies such a high price?

No, I don't think it does at all. In my tests, it actually made coarser ice cream than both the other compressor machines and the Cuisinart freezer bowl machines.

I think this is due to an under powered compressor: it can take up to 40 minutes to freeze each batch. And as we already know: slower = less smooth.

You also need to be careful to not accidentally cause the compressor to turn off before it's finished (more information here). 

Smart Scoop finished!

Ice cream made with the Smart Scoop

The Smart Scoop has a better build quality than most other domestic machines, and it's made by a renowned company.

And while Breville only give you a one-year warranty, at least they'll pay for all transport costs if the Smart Scoop needs to be returned under that warranty.

But really, the only reason to choose the Smart Scoop over any other domestic ice cream maker is all the automatic settings and advanced features.

If they appeal to you, then it's a good choice. If you don't think you'll need them, then you're probably better off with a cheaper machine that will make smoother ice cream.

Cuisinart Ice Cream Makers

While Cuisinart make plenty of freezer bowl machines, they only make one compressor ice cream maker: the ICE-100.

Along with the Smart Scoop, the ICE-100 sits in my second tier of compressor ice cream makers.

Cuisinart ICE-100

Cuisinart ICE-100: basic functionality but great performance

However, the ICE-100 is a very different beast to the Smart Scoop. There are no automatic settings and no fancy features. In fact, the ICE-100 is not super user-friendly!

The LCD screen is basic and hard to read. The buttons are not very tactile. And the uni-directional time controls make it difficult to set the timer.

There's no automatic pre-cool, no hardness settings and the limited keep-cool feature is next to useless!

Cuisinart ICE-100 control panel

The crappy control panel on the ICE-100!

However, it does make good ice cream! Better than the other domestic compressor machines? In my tests, yes, but not by a massive amount.

In my tests, the ICE-100 definitely made smoother ice cream than the Smart Scoop. But only slightly smother than the white labeled machines. 

However, it's always much cheaper than the Smart Scoop and as we'll see, there are other reasons to be wary of the white labeled machines.

Cuisinart ICE-100 done

Gelato churning in the ICE-100

The ICE-100 is also made by Cuisinart, a very reputable company that provides a generous 3-year warranty (5 years in Europe!).

It's true: if you need to make use of the warranty, you'll have to pay for the postage to Cuisinart and also contribute to the return costs.

But Cuisinart are the only company that provide more than 1 year warranties on their ice cream makers.

And since compressor machines can be delicate, this is a significant plus point for me.

White Labeled Ice Cream Makers

White labeled ice cream makers are those that are manufactured by one company (usually Foshan Nordica), which then makes them available for other companies to market as their own.

That’s why you see so many similar looking machines. They’re the same machines, just with different logos! And this is the second important truth that no-one else seems to talk about.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. And as we’ll see, in my tests, a lot of these ice cream makers performed well. But it’s worth bearing in mind that we’re sometimes testing the same machine with different logos.

And because a lot of the companies that market these machines appear out of nowhere and then disappear again in a couple of years, getting reliable customer service can be pretty hit and miss.

So if you don’t recognize the brand, you should be wary.

However, in the US, Whynter has been around a long while and has a reasonable reputation. And in Europe, Unold is the same. If you buy an ice cream maker from either of these companies, you can be confident they’ll still be around if you need some after sales service.

White Labeled Ice Cream Machines

Whynter ICM-15LS
Unold Cortina machine

Whynter ICM-15LS in US

Unold Cortina in Europe

All the white labeled machines obviously look very similar and have very similar functionality...

There's a timer and a Start/Stop button. There's no automatic pre-cool and no automatic hardness settings. And most of them have the same 1-hour keep cool functionality, which (as always) is pretty useless.

Knox Gear control panel

All Foshan Nordika machines have the same basic functionality

However, they tend to do the basic things really well. The LCD screens are crisp, bright and informative, the control panels are easy to use and the compressors and motors are quietly effective.

Knox Gear: the finished product

Knox Gear: the finished product

So what's the ice cream like? Well, it's pretty good! In my tests, it was no better than the ice cream you get from the ICE-100. But it was not significantly worse either.

And it was definitely smoother than the ice cream from the Smart Scoop! 

I've tested both the Knox Gear and the Whynter ICM-15LS. Both of these machines are white labeled ice cream makers, and they performed really well.

The motors were efficient and reasonably quiet. The dashers left very little frozen mixture against the sides of the bowl. And they both produced smooth homemade ice cream in around 25 minutes!

Knox Gear machine

Foshan Nordika ice cream maker: Knox Gear in US, Domo in Europe

So why don't I wholeheartedly recommend them? Well, I have serious  doubts about their construction quality and their long term durability...

My Knox Gear started off great, but after a month or two of regular use it started to overheat which stopped the mixture freezing properly. Then it stopped working completely.

These white labeled machines are smaller and lighter and usually cheaper than the Breville Smart Scoop and the Cuisinart ICE-100 for a good reason: they're not made with such high quality components.

When you're buying from one of these brands, you only get a 1 year warranty, and you can't be sure what sort of after sales service you'll get.

So if you think they're worth the gamble (and you buy from Amazon), I'd recommend you take out extra protection for a little more money.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which machine makes the best ice cream?

This is easy. In my tests, the Lello 4080 Musso Lussino and it's bigger brother, the Lello 5030 Musso Pola made better ice cream than any other domestic ice cream maker.

They are commercial machines scaled down for domestic use. With powerful compressors and motors, and steel dashers, they're able to make the smoothest, creamiest ice cream you can imagine.

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino side

The Lello 4080: A commercial level ice cream maker scaled down for domestic use

With all the other ice cream makers, there's not a huge amount of difference in the quality of the ice cream they produce.

Having said that, there are differences. And the very inexpensive Cuisinart ICE-21 made the next best ice cream in my tests. And it's the small size and improved dasher design that's the secret to its success here. 

Next comes the other Cuisinart freezer bowl machines with re-designed dashers, (the ICE-60 and ICE-70), which are tied in third place with the KitchenAid attachment.

After them (but very close), is the Cuisinart ICE-100 and all the white labeled compressor ice cream makers, which are probably tied with the Cuisinart ICE-30 in fourth place.

Finally, at the bottom is the Breville Smart Scoop which made the poorest quality ice cream of all the machines I've tested.

Which ice cream makers add the most and least air?

This is another important question, as the amount of air that's whipped into the ice cream as it freezes has a significant impact on the final texture.

Ice creams that contain lots of air are light and fluffy. Whereas those with less air tend to be more dense and creamy.

The amount of air in an ice cream is referred to as the "overrun" and is measured as the increase in volume from the air as a percentage of the original mix volume.

The speed of the dasher determines how much air is whipped into the mixture. And most domestic ice cream makers don't spin fast enough to add very much air.

Consequently, homemade ice cream tends to have between 30 and 40% overrun and is very dense and creamy, more like gelato.

Breville Smart Scoop BCI600XL dasher in bowl

The Smart Scoop dasher whips less air into the mixture

Almost all domestic machines produce low overrun ice cream, but the Cuisinart ICE-100 (used with the gelato dasher) made the lowest in my tests, with just 19% overrun!

However the KitchenAid attachment spins super fast and is therefore able to whip much more air into the mixture. Ice cream made with the KitchenAid have up to 70% overrun in my tests and is very light and fluffy.

KitchenAid freezer bowl

The KitchenAid whips more air into the mixture

One thing worth mentioning is that the amount of overrun will also vary according to the ice cream recipe and the amount of mixture that you add to the machine. That's why you'll see such huge variations across different reviews!

Which machine is best for gelato?

Gelato is just what Italians call ice cream. But Italian ice cream does tend to be different to other ice creams in three ways:

  1. it contains less air (< 40%)
  2. it contains less fat (< 10%)
  3. it's served slightly warmer (12°F / -11°C)

The machine is only responsible for one of these qualities: the amount of air that's whipped into the mixture.

The amount of fat is down to the recipe. And the serving temperature is up to you!

And since all domestic ice cream makers (except the KitchenAid), add less than 40% air (to low fat recipes), they can all make gelato!

What's the quietest ice cream maker?

None of them are quiet! Unfortunately, every machine is noisy, and we just have to deal with it. Surely a little bit of noise is a small price to pay for amazing homemade ice cream?

Cuisinart ICE-100 side

Cuisinart ICE-100: One of the quietest machines

In my tests, while running, they do tend to generate between 70 and 85 decibels. Which is quite loud I suppose. But no louder than a hair dryer!

For some reason, freezer bowl machines are usually louder than compressor machines. I'm not sure why.

But the quietest machine I've tested so far was the Cuisinart ICE-100 which made a relatively quiet 70 db from start to finish!

What's the best value ice cream maker?

The most inexpensive ice cream maker that I'd recommend is the Cuisinart ICE-21. Yes, there are slightly cheaper freezer bowl machines, but the quality isn't a patch on the Cuisinart models...

The Aicok and Gourmia machines spin the dasher from above, which is very inefficient and tends to wear out the motor or break the dasher.

And the Hamilton Beach machines which spin the bowl from below (like the Cuisinart), suffer from all sorts of issues including noisy, under powered motors and leaky bowls. I think they're best avoided!

Cheap Ice Cream Makers to Avoid!

Aicok machine
Gourmia GSI170
Hamilton Beach 68881

Aicok

(spins dasher from above)

Gourmia

(spins dasher from above)

Hamilton Beach

(poor build quality)

And not only is the ICE-21 really inexpensive, it also makes some of the best ice cream, really quickly! What more could you want?

Well, I suppose you might not want to pre-chill the bowl in your freezer! If you're looking for the best value compressor ice cream maker, then one of the white labeled machine is your best bet.

Some of them are incredibly cheap. However, I have serious doubts about their construction quality and long term durability, so be careful.

Final Thoughts on the Best Ice Cream Makers

The best ice cream maker for you, will depend on what level of convenience you're looking for, how much money you've got to spend and how you personally rate the pros and cons of each machine.

If you just want to know which domestic ice cream maker produces the best quality ice creams, gelato, sorbets and frozen yogurt then there's no doubt...

The 1.5 quart Lello 4080 and it's bigger brother, the 2 quart Lello 5080, made ice cream that's so smooth, it's on a completely different level to every other machine I've used.

Lello 4080 Musso Lussino

The Lello 4080 is easily the best domestic machine

However, they're also very expensive.

If you just can't afford a Musso ice cream maker, then the truth is: there isn't a massive amount of difference in the quality of the ice cream from every other domestic machine.

For sure, there are slight differences. And these are directly proportional to the length of time the ice cream maker takes to freeze the mixture.

The Cuisinart ICE-21 makes ice cream slightly faster than every other machine I've used except the Musso machines. So the frozen desserts are slightly smoother as well.

Cuisinart ICE-21

The Cuisinart ICE-21 is probably the next best choice!

The white labeled machines and the Cuisinart ICE-100 make ice cream faster than the Breville Smart Scoop. So again it's just a little smoother.

But the differences are small. And you'd be wise to prioritize the other differences between the machines...

If the size, weight, expense and fragility of a compressor machine worries you, get a freezer bowl machine from Cuisinart.

If the hassle of pre-freezing the bowl for 16 hours before you can make your frozen desserts is annoying, get an ice cream maker with a compressor.

But ultimately, I think that if you're serious about the quality of the ice cream you want to make, you should buy a Lello 4080.

If you can't afford a Lello 4080, get a Cuisinart ICE-21 and save up for the Musso machine! I promise you won't regret it.

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About the author 

Carl

Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I'm always looking for the perfect ice cream. The "dream scoop". I document my findings, my successes and failures here...

    • I agree. I ha ve been researching and researching the different machines and the pros and cons of compressor versos freezer bowl machines – not really interesting in the old fashioned ice and salt machines, as they are just too much trouble. This is the first one to pull the veil on the true manufacturer of a variety of machines that I thought all looked eerily similar. And then the question fo what makes good ice cream. I have an old version of the cuisinart frozen bowl and am enjoying the ice cream. I have decided I will stand pat until I can afford the Cadillac – namely the Lello 4080.

  • What a nice review you got here. Unfortunately, in my country, not all of the models are available to purchase. (Currently, I’m using a machine from Foshan Nordika.) This is quite helpful for anyone who wants to start making their own ice cream. However, I’m switching to commercial one very soon as I’m start my own ice cream shop. (Mostly French custard base ice cream)

    • Yes, I’m not sure a Foshan Nordika machine will be up to the job in a proper ice cream shop. Which commercial machine are you thinking about?

  • This was a great write-up. Someone wrote an Amazon review for one of the Whynter machines that explained how most of the machines are white label from Foshan Nordika (I think they referred to them as another name though). For some reason the Della line of FN machines is at a much lower price right now (139 for the 1.6 Qt that looks a lot like the Knox, and 169 for the 2 Qt. that looks a lot like all the other 2 Qt.) At that price, given that they machines are so similar, I went for the Della. It should arrive Friday, so I’ll prep a couple of bases tomorrow.

    • Yay! Success (and some relief). The Della arrived, I let it sit for about 8 hours to let everything settle, and tried a simple Philadelphia-style vanilla (adding crushed biscotti at the end). I pre-chilled the unit and the mix froze in about 30 minutes—as mentioned the dasher in these mixes very well. It’s much less noisy the the notoriously loud Cuisinart ICE-50 I’m replacing (I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is quiet, it’s perhaps similar to my KA mixer at low speed, so it’s not too bed).
      The biggest risk: while Della has a US website, the ice cream machines aren’t on it. Nothing in the instructions or the packaging has any warranty or post-sale support information, and thus far I haven’t received a response to a question I submitted about it on the site—it was submitted on Thursday, though, so I’ll update here if they get back to me. Similar concerns applied to the Knox machine.
      But at $140? I sold the ICE-50 locally for $65 and will hold onto the Della. The Whynter site has accessories (e.g. they have two 1.6 qt. Bowls, one has a 2 embossed on the base. Hey! My Della bowl has a 2 on the base so that’s probably the right one.)

      • Congratulations! It looks like the Knox Gear isn’t available anymore anyway. It’s weird how there’s always one of the Foshan Nordika machines at a bargain price. I hope it works out well for you but please let us know if you have problems. If you bought it from Amazon you could have taken out their extra protection. I haven’t used this myself though so I can’t comment on how good it is.

        • Surprise #2: the extra bowl I ordered from Whynter came and it’s stainless steel. They don’t show a steel one on their site, and in the Q&A sections say “we plan to have those in the future”. It almost makes it worth their pricing.

  • This was so incredibly helpful; thank you! We’d like to go for a freezer bowl model but are having a hard time choosing between the ICE-21 and ICE-70. Basically, we have one person with a dairy allergy in our family, so will need to go between making ice cream and sorbet fairly regularly. We’re grappling with whether the ICE-70’s sorbet setting is really worth the extra money. Out of curiosity, did you see a noticeable difference between sorbet made in the ICE-21 and ICE-70?

    • I think if you’re going to make a lot of sorbet, then it’s definitely worth investing in the ICE-70. With sorbet it’s easy to whip too much air into the mixture and end up with a crumbly final product. The slower paddle speed on the ICE-70 will make this less likely. I definitely noticed the difference. Hope that helps!

  • Thank you for all the helpful information! Would your evaluations change if an ice cream maker is going to be used almost exclusively for vegan ice cream recipes? I assume that vegan ice cream recipes have very little fat. Thanks!

    • So sorry for the late reply Joe!

      I don’t think the evaluations would change for vegan ice creams, no. But going for one of the machines make the best quality ice cream is even more important.

      This is because a lot of the dairy ice cream quality issues can be mitigated by really strong recipes.

      With vegan ice creams you’re more handicapped by the recipes (as you mention), so a machine that performs well is even more important.

      I worry that using one of the lesser machines will just become frustrating and discouraging. So, I would recommend the Lello even more strongly for vegan ice creams.

      And if you can’t afford that then the ICE-21 (even if you’re drawn to the practical advantages of the compressor machines).

      I hope that helps!

  • What great information. I feel like an ice cream professional now! Let me comment on ice cream makers. Although I’ve only used one, the Kitchenaid freezer bowl and so far it’s been fantastic, and quick. I will keep an eye open for any leakage of the blue gel, but so far I’ve had no negative experiences so far. And it’s easy to use and clean up. As far as taking up space, I just fill the bowl as much as possible while it’s in my freezer. I’ll stuff my frozen veggies in the bowl.

  • Carl, thanks for the detailed review! I appreciated hearing specifics about why you like your Lello 4080 as well as that you compared it to less expensive machines. It often seems that people are swayed by the brand name (the “it’s a Lello, it has to be the best” attitude), and then never take the time to truly question whether its extremely high price is actually worth it. I also have several questions for you:
    1. I note in the comments to your Knox Gear review that your machine quit working properly and had to be sent off for repairs. What was wrong with it? Has it worked properly since it was repaired? I know the Knox Gear machines are no longer sold, but if all of the third tier machines are being produced by the same manufacturer, it stands to reason that whatever happened with your Knox Gear is likely indicative of what might happen with the brands currently sold too.
    2. How has your Lello 4080 been holding up? Is it still working ok? I’ve read several other reviews talking about the risk of stripping the plastic gear teeth if you let it run too long and the ice cream gets too hard. Since it seems as though you let your machine go quite a while in order to get such a well frozen final product, have you run into gear teeth issues like that with your machine?
    3. Have your Cuisinart Ice-100, Breville Smart Scoop, or Whynter ICM-15LS machines had any issues since you wrote your reviews, or are they still working properly (provided that you still own them)?
    Thanks!
    Thanks!

    • Hi Jane,

      The Knox Gear stopped cooling and started warming instead!

      And the problem with these third tier machines is that they can’t be repaired. Or at least you won’t be able to get them repaired.

      Knox Gear (or whichever other company has put their name on the machine) won’t do it. If you’re lucky you might get a replacement if it’s under guarantee.

      But the broken machine will end up in landfill I imagine. Which isn’t very environmentally friendly!

      And as you say: this is the case with all of these third tier machines. So I would advise to steer clear!

      The Lello still works great. I certainly don’t run it until it starts to struggle so I can’t see the plastic gear teeth becoming a problem. And it still produces firmer ice cream than all the other machines.

      I haven’t been using the Cuisinart ICE-100, the Smart Scoop or the Whynter (which don’t forget is another third tier machine) recently. Simply because they don’t make ice cream as well as the Lello.

      However I have been thinking about trying to design an new dasher for the ICE-100 which might improve it’s performance!

      I can only double down on my previous advice really:

      If you can afford it, buy the Lello. If you can’t, buy the ICE-21 (or ICE-30 if it’s not available where you live) and save up for the Lello. Or if for some reason a freezable bowl machine won’t work for you, get the ICE-100.

      I hope that helps!

      Carl

      • Carl,

        Thanks for the prompt response! Your info definitely does help. I have an over 15 year old Cuisinart Ice-20 that still works, but I’ve been eying one of the compressor models as an upgrade. I can’t justify the price of a new compressor model, though, for something that either isn’t going to be any better than what I already have or is going to quit working quickly. It sounds from your experience that the third tier ones don’t last long, so I’m going to be crossing those off of my list unless a used one lands in my lap at an insanely good price.

        Several follow-up questions – 1. Do you happen to know how the Cuisinart Ice-20 compares to its slightly newer sibling, the Cuisinart Ice-21? I was under the impression that they were basically the same machine, just with some cosmetic changes. Any chance you know if this is correct?

        2. It sounds like your Lello is still going strong so this isn’t currently a worry, but have you done any research into how long they are expected to last assuming that they are treated well? I’ve been told anything from 10 years to multiple decades, 10 years coming from a tech who works on appliances with compressors like refrigerators and freezers and decades coming from word of mouth from folks who know folks who own Lellos. I’m curious which answer is closer to being the correct one! I know parts are available for them if they break down, but, in line with the initial price of the machine, the parts are not what I would consider inexpensive.

        Designing a new dasher for the Cuisinart Ice-100 sounds like a fun undertaking – good luck with it!

        Thanks!

        • They may have updated the dasher in the ICE-21, but I’m not entirely sure. And it I don’t think it would make a significant difference anyway. If it’s still working well for you, I would stick with the ICE-20.

          I would hope that the Lello lasts much longer than 10 years to be honest! Decades certainly seems more likely to me. If I do have any problems with it I will write them up here. But I agree getting one repaired is likely to be quite expensive!

          I will let you know how the custom dasher for the ICE-100 goes…

          Thanks!

          • Thanks for the additional info! I hope you’re right that the Lello should last longer than 10 years, because then I can better justify saving up the money to buy one. Do keep us posted on the custom dasher if you decide to make one!

  • I think I have read all of your reviews and really appreciate your thoroughness and objectivity in judging each model. For myself, since I tend to make more non-traditional recipes (Paleo-ish, with coconut milk and almond milk, and non-traditional sweeteners), I think the best model would be the Lello Mini. I am a bit of an ice cream fanatic anyway and have been discouraged from making ice cream by the models with the frozen canister. I’m just not one of those people who pre-plan I guess.

    • Yep the Lello is by far the best domestic machine available.

      If you can afford it and you have the space for it, then I recommend it without reservation!

      • Hello Carl! I purchased the Lello 4080 and I’ve been very happy with it. So glad I spent the extra $$, it was worth it. And it fits nicely in a corner on my counter top and is easily accessible. I use it almost every other day or so and it is wonderful. I purchased it because it was the only model that had a stainless steel dasher. Also, I don’t mind the timer at all continuing after I’ve finished churning, and I also don’t mind that I cannot remove the freezer bowl for cleaning.

        Since you are the expert on making ice cream, I have a question. Is it possible to churn a mixture too long? I can tell with traditional recipes with French custard base when it is ready because it does resemble soft serve ice cream, but it is more difficult to tell with the non-dairy recipes I’ve tried. Sometimes it seems they are ready in as soon as 15 minutes, while the French custard mixtures take 20-25 minutes. If the mixture starts getting “chunky”, have I gone too far? :L

        • Hi Victoria,

          You made a great choice with the Lello and I’m really happy that you think it’s worth the extra money!

          I use mine several times a week too (especially now it’s getting warmer). And I actually find it easier to clean than the other machines.

          But yes it is possible to churn a mixture too long.

          What will happen with the Lello (and most other machines) is that the mixture will become too solid and the dasher will get stuck and stop spinning.

          I made this mistake just a couple of weeks ago when I went to do something else and didn’t realize how quickly the Lello would freeze a low volume batch.

          You want to avoid this as much as possible as it could overheat the motor and wear out the gears.

          You can also over churn high fat mixtures which can result in “buttering” where the fat globules become too big. See the Troubleshooting page for more details.

          But I’m not sure about the “chunkyness” you mention in non-dairy mixtures. Do you mean solidness?

          As long as the motor isn’t struggling to spin the dasher there shouldn’t be a problem in letting it continue.

          Generally if it’s coming away from the sides of the bowl and it’s feeling quite solid, it’s probably a good time to take it out.

          But the Lello is powerful enough to keep spinning for much longer than other machines and doing so will result in smoother ice creams.

          I would recommend experimenting. But for sure, if you start to see or hear the machine struggling to churn the ice cream it’s time to stop!

          I hope that help!

          Carl

          • Hi Carl,

            Thank you for getting back so quickly. I really appreciate the tips that you have to impart.

            The Lello has never struggled churning any mixture I made. I have made some non-dairy mixtures and when I checked one particular mixture at about 20 minutes, it was moving up the side of the freezer bowl and then was falling back onto itself in the freezer bowl. So it was “stiffer” than a French custard version. I thought it was strange because the French custard recipes never did that. It seems more difficult for me to determine when a nondairy mixture is ready and therefore I feared that I was over-churning it. Some of the nondairy recipes I’ve made get very hard after freezing overnight and I was wondering if it had anything to do with churning too much. But I think it is just the recipe.

            I have had very good results with French vanilla (using a recipe from The Perfect Scoop), milk chocolate (my friend’s favorite — he can demolish a quart in one sitting!), date, rum and pecan ice cream (which I made with heavy cream and malk – unsweetened almond milk) and prune armagnac ice cream (again with heavy cream and malk). The milk chocolate, date/run and prune mixtures (I’ll call them the Three Musketeers for short) were smooth as the dasher went around for about 18-20 minutes but when I was scooping them into a container, they seemed softer than soft serve (and softer than the French vanilla mixture which was the first one I made). I never saw how the French vanilla hardened because my friend took it after it had been churned but he said it was amazing. Now, when the Three Musketeers hardened in the freezer the consistency became much like commercial ice cream. Some “frozen desserts” (not made from dairy) I have made needed to be defrosted in the microwave (sorry if this is blasphemous but I guess I can’t wait the 5-10 minutes for it to soften at room temperature) for 1-2 minutes and it’s still hard but starting to melt and can be scooped out. The Three Musketeers could be scooped out straight from the freezer.

            I have been doing a lot of experiments (almost 30 so far) and keeping track of the results. I have had good results with the recipes (even non-dairy) from The Perfect Scoop. Other recipes I have picked up from the web have been hit or miss. Do you have a favorite ice cream “cook” book?

          • Hi Victoria,

            Regarding the non-dairy, hard freezing issue, I think you’re right: it’s probably the recipe.

            Non dairy recipes often have less fat and less stabilization. So they tend to freeze harder.

            I haven’t used the Perfect Scoop, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and it sounds like you’re getting good results too!

            I like Ices by Liddell and Weir because it has so many different recipes in so many different styles.

            Some of them are hit and miss in terms of success but there’s loads of good ideas.

            I really like the flavor combinations in Jenis Splendid Ice Creams, but I can’t be bothered faffing around with cream cheese etc so I usually adapt the recipes to use regular stabilizers.

            Hello, My Name is Ice Cream by Dana Cree is also pretty good. It’s got some good stuff on Ice Cream Science. I’ll be writing a review soon!

            Hopefully I’ll also get some time to explore some vegan ice creams (which I don’t have much experience with) soon. But I’m experimenting with sugar free recipes at the moment!

            But I’m glad you’re enjoying the Lello, it’s a great machine and hopefully it will keep you happy for many years to come!

            Cheers
            Carl

          • Hi Carl,

            I checked out two books by Liddell and Weir. One is called Ices: The Definitive Guide from 1995. The second is called Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights from 1996. The 1995 book costs $150 on Amazon and the 1996 book costs around $10-20. Are you familiar with both? Are they different? Similar? One better than the other?

            Also, what is the sugar substitute you are experimenting with? I’ve tried Just Like Sugar, monkfruit, allulose, and a allulose/monkfruit/stevia blend. I like Just Like Sugar (less sweet than sugar but sweet enough) because its bulk is good. I sometimes also add a couple TBSP. of maple syrup or honey to these other sweeteners.

            Best,

            Vicki

          • Hi Viki,

            I think they’re the same book! I’ve only got the first one but I’ve just checked and they have the same number of pages and the recipes seems to be the same. Go with the cheap one!

            At the moment I’m experimenting with reduced sugar mixes. So some cane sugar, mixed with Erythritol and Stevia.

            How did you find the monkfruit?

            Thanks
            Carl

  • Hello,

    Amazing review! Can you comment on the Lelo Musso and compare it with the Waring countertop commercial unit. The price is similar. Waring WCIC20 may be easier to service in North America? Quality difference in construction and ice cream/gelato between the two?

    Ryan

    • H Ryan,

      I haven’t used the Waring WCIC20 (or any other Waring machine), but it doesn’t look great.

      I think the build quality will be much poorer than the Lello Musso.

      And the ice cream may be OK, but again, I doubt it would compare well to the Lello Musso.

      It’s around the same size as the ICE-100, so I can’t imagine it’s going to contain enough power to rival the Lello which is what’s important.

      But the only way to know for sure is to test it I suppose!

      I didn’t know that Waring made an ice cream machine, so thanks for the heads up.

      I will let you know if I do get my hands on one…

      Thanks

      Carl

  • This review was fantastic; thank you! I recently moved to Switzerland from the US and I had to leave behind all of my small kitchen appliances (what a pain, that different electricity!) but I’m using this as an opportunity to upgrade from my Cuisinart ICE-30. Unfortunately I can’t find all of the models here in Switzerland that I’ve seen reviewed on lots of foreign-based sites and blogs, but this has pushed me towards the Lello, which luckily I have found on an Italian site that ships here, and I’ve all but convinced myself to spend the big bucks.

    My main question about the Musso Mini is about its capacity. I saw on the Musso site that it says its max liquid capacity before freezing is supposed to be 0.75 liters, which is ~3.2 cups. Paging through my ice cream cookbooks it looks like most recipes make somewhere between 3 and about 3.75 cups of liquid base before freezing, so I’m wondering if I would constantly have to be slightly scaling down recipes in order to fit into the Mini. Have you had any issues with this? Can you exceed the 0.75 L capacity slightly without it running over? Or do you think it would be worth going up to the Pola?

    • Hi Emily,

      Yes I think they’re being a bit conservative in their capacity.

      I’ve put up to 1 liter of liquid mixture in my Musso without it overflowing as it freezes.

      Obviously more mixture takes a little longer to freeze, so I try to stick to smaller batches.

      But I’d say you’ll be fine with the Musso Mini.

      If you send me one of the recipes I’ll test it out for you if you like!

      Thanks

      Carl

  • Can the kitchenaid ice cream bowl make a good gelato, or does it add to much air? I prefer gelato over ice cream and was debating whether to get the cuisinart 70 or the kitchenaid. What would you advise?

    Thanks for all your research!

    • Hi Dolly,

      The KitchenAid ice cream bowl does whip a lot of air into the mixture. So if you prfer gelato definitely go for the Cuisinart ICE-70.

      I hope that helps!

      Carl

  • This site (and this review) is wonderful! Thank you so much! We’ve been making I’ve cream somewhat regularly for a couple years now and recently upgraded from bucket and ice (which made fabulous ice cream but was a pain) to a Cuisinart ICE-100 because we have a tiny top freezer and can’t fit a freezer bowl. I landed here because the ice cream in our new machine has been fluffier than we’re used to. Now that I understand overrun, I’m going to try the gelato paddle! And a couple of new recipes that I recently tried involved making the base in a blender and were way too fluffy for our tastes. Now I think I understand why. We whipped a ton of air into the base before we even started! So helpful. 🙂

  • Do you have any insights regarding Nemox ice cream machines, specifically the professional tabletop models such as the 4k Touch and 5K CREA? I am not a professional but a real ice-cream freak – even obsessed. I have a Lello Mini but it’s now too small to meet the demands of family, friends and neighbors. II want to get a higher end machine that can produce a large batch in less time.

    If you have any suggestions other than the Nemox machines, I would love to hear them.

    Many thanks

    Philip

    • Hi Philip,

      I’m afraid I haven’t used any of the Nemox machines.

      Have you considered simply up-sizing the 4080 to the 5030?

      Cheers

      Carl

  • Hi Carl,

    Thank you for the detail review! This is what I’ve been looking for the past few weeks. I’m more into gelato rather than ice cream. I was looking for 4080, but unfortunately I can’t find any Musso Lello product in my country. So I have two options right now, between the Cuisinart ICE-100 and Breville Smart Scoop. After read your review, now I know which one I’m going to buy.

    However, I also have the same questions with Phillip regarding the Nemox brand. They sell their complete product here, so I was curious, as they also stated that they are one of the “Italian gelato machine maker”. If you ever try the Nemox brand, please let us know.

    Thank you!

  • Great review!! Quick question. I just bought the ICE-70. Would it stand to reason that if I made 1.5 quarts of ice cream, instead of 2 quarts, that it would taste just as smooth as 1.5 quarts of ice cream from the ICE-21? I’m thinking that both batches would freeze at about the same time.

    • Hi Rick,

      Thant’s a good question!

      I think more of the mixture would come into contact with the sides in the ICE-21 than the ICE-70, because the bowl is smaller

      So theoretically it would freeze slightly faster.

      But I wouldn’t sweat it. The ICE-70 is a great machine!

      Cheers

      Carl

  • Hi Carl,

    Excellent article.

    We’ve tried the Cuisinart ICE 70, ICE 100, and Whynter 201SB. Price is not an issue for us, it’s more about quality and convenience.

    In our opinion ICE70 makes better ice cream for us than the two compressor models. Partly because we are able to pre freeze the bowls to around -15 degrees F and the mix freezes in no more than 20 minutes.

    That being said, we are interested in upgrading to the Lello 4080, but have concerns about 1. Its’ optimal capacity (the ICE 70 handles around 3.75 cups/900 mil) and 2. The time from start to finish, including pre chilling the bowl and cleaning.

    What do you consider to the be optimal capacity for the Lello 4080? We’ve read no more than 3 cups/720 ml, but could be wrong. Hoping it would handle around 3.5 cups/840 ml, but from what we gather it would take too long to freeze at that capacity and quality would suffer.

    How long does it typically take you to freeze an optimal batch size of ice cream in the Lello 4080 if the bowl is pre chilled for 15-20 minutes?

    Thanks,
    Rick

    • Hi Rick,

      Sorry for the late reply.

      I totally agree, if you can get the bowl nice and cold, the ICE-70 (or any of the other Cuisinart Frozen-Bowl machines) will make better than the ICE-100 or Whynter.

      As for the Lello 4080, Lello themselves recommend a maximum of 750 ml which will take around 20 min.

      But you can add up to 1L of mixture, but it will obviously take longer to freeze.

      I try to do a bit less than the recommended maximum (maybe 600 ml, although I don’t really keep track) and get around 15 minutes residence time.

      I hope that helps, let me know if you have any more questions…

      Thanks

      Carl

      • Thank you very much for the response! Very informative.

        I had a nice, long conversation with the U.S. Lello customer service rep. The one thing he was adamant about was to not pre-cool the bowl.

        If you don’t pre-cool the bowl, how much longer does it typically take for the ice cream to be ready?

        Do you think that not pre-cooling the bowl will alter the final quality to the point where it is not significantly better than the ice cream from a Cuisinart ICE70?

        Regards,
        Rick

        • That’s really interesting! Did he say why we shouldn’t pre-cool the bowl?

          I don’t know how much longer it would take and I wouldn’t like to guess in case I’m wrong!

          I can have a go next week and let you know though.

          I remember reading about someone who puts in warm (or maybe even hot) mixture and still claimed to get good results though!

          • One explanation he gave for not pre-cooling the bowl was that when you pour the ice cream mix in initially the mix that hits the super cold bowl will flash freeze. The dasher will scrape off the flash frozen bits and incorporate them into the rest of the mixture, leading to slightly icy bits throughout the final product.

            He also said if the bowl is too cold it could cause unnecessary strain on both the compressor and the gear, which could lead to longevity issues.

            We did decide to purchase the Lello 4080 and have been extremely happy with the results. We’ve found that it doesn’t take us any longer than 30 minutes to churn a batch, even with mix volumes around 900 ml. Our ideal mix has a 50:50 cream to milk ratio, and this is where the Lello really shines vs the competition, producing excellent ice cream at slightly lower fat percentages.

          • Mmm that’s really interesting. I will have to do some experiments!

            I’m glad you like the Lello.

            And agree …

            If the recipe you use is perfectly balanced with lots of stabilisation, the difference between the Lello and some of the other machines while significant, may not seem worth the extra money to some people.

            It’s when you try to push the envelope a bit and the Lello still makes great ice cream that you really appreciate how much better it is.

  • Very helpful article. My 40 Year old Simac Died recently and I’m looking to replace it. What do you think of the Costway machines? I’m not clear from their ads whether they come with a compressor. I emailed them but have not received a response so I’m wondering if you know? We have never had any luck with any Cuisinart appliance, so I want to avoid that. Thanks

    • Hi Bernie,

      Which Costway machine are you considering? They look like while labelled Forshan Nordika machines to me.

      Which means they make good ice cream but are usually unreliable.

      Cheers,

      Carl

  • Thank you for the fabulous, comprehensive review! Best information I think I have ever read on an appliance…. Still deciding…. I suppose there is no such thing as a DC operation compressor type ? Thanks , Grant

  • Hi Carl,
    Thank you for writing this article. It helped me zeroed in on what I should purchase after having a lot of fun making the ice cream of my dream with my daughter’s freeze&scrap cup size ice cream maker.
    Best Regards,
    Pauline

  • Great read on the comparison of ice cream makers! Been contemplating to get either Cuisinart ICE-100, Cuisinart ICE-30 or ICE-21, however can ICE-21 and ICE-30 make good gelato too? Since it is not specified as a gelato-maker persay.

    • Hi Diana,

      Yep for sure they can. I mean the difference between gelato and ice cream is really threefold:

      1. Gelato has less fat
      2. Gelato has less air whipped into it
      3. Gelato is served at a warmer temperature

      So the only thing that’s dependent on the machine you’re using is number 2. And all domestic ice cream machines (apart from the KitchenAid bowl), whip low amounts of air into the mixture.

      So really all of them can make gelato. The difference between the ice cream and gelato paddles on the ICE-100 is quite small.

      I would advise concentrating on the other differences between the machines when you’re making your choice.

      I hope that helps!

      Carl

  • Thank you so much for such a comprehensive review!
    I have a few questions please.
    1) Re the Kitchen Aid bowl, since it incorporates a lot of air, do you think it will work in making soft serve gelato?
    2) Also, is it the recipe or the machine?
    There are so many options! I like gelato, my husband likes ice cream, the grandkids like soft serve, at times we’re in the mood for sorbet. If I can only have 1 machine to do all that, which one would you recommend? Soft serve gelato having the highest priority.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Emily,

      I’m so sorry for the late reply!

      Since gelato is traditionally characterized by a low volume of air, and the Kitchen Aid tends to add more air than other machines, it’s not really the best choice for making gelato!

      However, as I think you’re alluding to in your second question, the recipe is important too (amount of fat being the most significant).

      If you’ve already got a Kitchen Aid, I’d be tempted to go with the ice cream bowl for that, to be honest.

      If not, then as I say in my round up, either the ICE-21 or the Lello 4080 are the best machines, and can make all types of ice cream, gelato and sorbets really well.

      Thanks!

      Carl

  • Hey Carl, the focus of your tests seems to be ice cream and for that the undisputed winners are ICE-21 and the Lello. Which machine(s), however, do you consider to be the absolute best for sorbets?

    • Hi Jazz

      I wouldn’t really make that distinction. If they’re good for ice cream, they will be good for sorbet.

      Having said that, I do like the sorbet setting on the ICE-70.

      Thanks!

      CArl

  • Hey there so I’ve used a Cuisinart machine in the past and it just does not scrape the walls if leaves frozen cream during the churning it stalls way too frequently for me its just a mess I’ve Recently Purchased the Bravo Gelmatic Startronic Premium from Vanrooy and honestly me and my family love it although its still not quite what we expected its still way better than any other ones we’ve had so far and its doing well for us 🙂

    Russell

  • In the article it mentions

    “Best Featured “No-Freezer” Ice Cream Maker: Cuisinart ICE-70″.

    Everything I’ve read says the freezer is essential for the 70 to work. What am I missing?

    • I just mean it doesn’t include an integrated freezer. As you allude to, you still need to pre freeze the bowl in your kitchen freezer.

  • A great source of info as I’m shopping for one, even tho it’s winter. I’m in need of ones that’ll do gelato and sorbet so found this helpful. Believe it or not I came close to owning a Musso that my sister had. By the time I realized what it was it was gone! I’m gonna settle for the Cuisinart 70 I guess.

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