Breville Ice Cream Maker Review: Smart Scoop or Dumb Flop?
The Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop [Amazon] Ice Cream Maker (in Europe aka the Sage Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker by Heston Blumenthal) is probably the world's 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 [Amazon]?!
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 right machine 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.
But these compressor ice cream makers are always bigger, heavier, more delicate and more expensive than the other domestic machines. If you're not sure if they're the right choice for you, check out my complete guide to choosing the best ice cream maker.
The Build Quality of the Breville Smart Scoop
The Breville Smart Scoop consists of 6 separate 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 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 recesses that act as 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 machine's 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 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 [easyazon_link identifier="B009OZ62IG" locale="US" tag="dreamscoops-20"]this machine isn't cheap[/easyazon_link] 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!
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 into the 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...
The dasher's impact on the quality of the ice cream
In terms of quality, we all want smooth ice cream. And the more frozen mixture the dasher scrapes from the sides 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, the un-frozen mixture that replaces it 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 un-frozen mixture will be insulated from the metal by this thin layer and will freeze slower.
Unfortunately, in every domestic ice cream machines that I've used, there's always 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.
The dasher's impact on the consistency of the ice cream
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 faster the dasher rotates, the more air that's added and the lighter the ice cream.
But 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 55 rpm. 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 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.
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 also 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.
Final thoughts on Build Quality
The Breville Smart Scoop has probably got the best build quality of any domestic ice cream maker I've used, apart from the Musso Lello 4080 (which is actually a very different type of machine).
It's really handsome. The buttons are well made, tactile and responsive. The LCD screen is bright and informative. The lid is well thought out. And with the spatula and cleaning brush, you get a couple of accessories you don't get with other ice cream makers.
A lot of thought and effort has clearly gone in to making the Smart Scoop a really well made, top end kitchen appliance. And it feels like it's paid off.
Using the Breville Smart Scoop to make ice cream
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
Step 1: Make the ice cream mixture
I cannot stress too much the importance of your recipe here. It has a far bigger impact on the quality of the final ice cream than the individual machine does...
Ice cream is a delicate balance of solid, liquid and gas. You can't just throw any combination of milk, cream and sugar into the machine and expect to get great results. Before you start to experiment, 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 some 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 quart of mixture, as they might over flow the top of the bowl.
Once the mixture is made, cool it to around 40°F / 4°C (which should more or less be the temperature of your fridge) before you add it to 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. This should get it down to the right temperature in around half an hour.
To make your ice cream smoother, get your ice cream mixture as cold as possible before you add it to the machine. Fridge temperature is good. But sometimes I also put it in the freezer for half an hour, giving it a quick blitz with a blender to break up any ice crystals before it goes in the machine.
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 moving 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.
Step 2: Pre-cool the Smart Scoop
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.
And 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! But you basically want it as cold as possible.
It should take between 10 and 15 minutes. When it reaches the lowest temperature, the machine will beep, READY will illuminate and PRESS START will flash on the display screen.
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.
Don't forget to press START once you add the mixture to the bowl. If you don't, once the pre-cooling cycle ends, the machine will stop. Even if you start it up again straight away, it will take the compressor a good few minutes to come on, during which time the bowl will warm up, undoing all the pre-cooling.
Once the machine has finished pre-cooling, even though the paddle will already be turning, it won't start the churning cycle until you press the START button. So don't forget to press START once you've added the mixture to the pre-cooled bowl!
Step 3: Churn and freeze the mixture in the Breville Smart Scoop
We have 2 options here: Manual or Auto mode. What's the difference? Well, in Manual mode, we set how long the machine will churn for. Whereas in Auto mode, we choose how hard we want our final dessert to be and the machine will then churn the mixture until it reaches that consistency.
In Auto mode, we use the Hardness dial to select the consistency of the frozen dessert we 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 we've selected the hardness we're aiming for, we 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. Our 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 we need to do is press one of the MANUAL TIMER arrows. This will set the amount of time the machine will run for. Then we just press START / PAUSE and it will start to churn.
We just need to keep an eye on the progress and once we're happy with the consistency, we press START / PAUSE again to stop the machine churning.
Once the Smart Scoop is churning, don't be tempted to pause it, for any reason. If you do, the compressor will turn off and when you restart, it will take a couple of minutes to come on again. During this time there will be a lot of melting and your ice cream will end up icier.
Keep Cool function
The Keep Cool function works in both Auto and Manual mode. Once our dessert is ready, this function (if selected), will keep our frozen treat at our desired consistency for up to 3 hours.
So if we're in Auto mode, the machine will stop automatically when our dessert is done. And if we're in Manual mode, we stop the machine manually when we 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.
Step 4: Transfer the ice cream 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 2 to 4 hours.
Transferring it from the machine to the freezer can involve some melting and we want to limit this as much as possible. This is because when the stuff that melts, re-freezes in the 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 2 hours and then at hourly intervals until it has the consistency you want.
Step 5: Clean 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!
Final thoughts on Usability
A lot of thought has gone in to making the Breville Smart Scoop as usable as possible. It's the most feature packed ice cream maker currently available and the Auto mode takes all the decision making out of ice cream making!
The buttons and the LCD screen are top quality. The machine gives you loads of information about whats going on. There's tons of options. And loads of useful features.
However, the compressor in the Smart Scoop is looking for any excuse to turn itself off! And that means it's easy to make mistakes that will ruin our ice cream. If we allow the pre-cool function to end without pressing the START button, the compressor will turn off. If we pause the machine at any point, the compressor will turn off. If the timer in Manual mode reaches zero, the compressor will turn off.
And even if we start the machine again immediately, although the paddle will start to rotate, the compressor will take a couple of minutes to come back on again. During this time there will be a lot of warming and if there's ice cream in the bowl, some melting. This extends the overall freezing time, and will result in icier ice cream.
For sure, these issues can be avoided by not allowing the machine stop until the ice cream is ready. But many people may not realize that this is an issue and will suffer poorer ice cream as a result. So for me this takes the shine off what is otherwise a very usable appliance.
How good is the ice cream from the Breville Smart Scoop?
This is of course the most important question. Because producing smooth ice cream is the most important job of any ice cream maker. But unfortunately, this is where things start to go wrong for the Breville Smart Scoop.
And that's because the Smart Scoop tends to make ice cream that's noticeably less smooth than other ice cream machines. Why? Well I'm pretty sure it's the long time it takes to freeze the mixture.
Longer periods in the machine mean larger ice crystals and coarser ice cream. It's really that simple. And the Smart Scoop takes up to 45 minutes to reach the hardest ice cream setting in Auto mode. This is a good 15 to 20 minutes longer than the competition! So obviously the ice cream will be icier.
Why does it take so long? The compressor seems to be just as powerful as other ice cream makers. I say this because the pre-cool temperature and the temperature it churns at once the mixture's added is around the same as other domestic machines.
So I can only assume it's the paddle. The Smart Scoop uses a very different paddle design to those used by the Cuisinart and Foshan Nordika manufactured machines. It only has one blade and there's a large gap between that blade and the sides of the bowl. So it may well be less efficient at moving ice from the sides to the center of the bowl. And this would mean longer freezing times.
As always, the recipe is really important here. If you use a high fat mixture that's been well thickened with egg yolks or other stabilizers, then the differences between the Smart Scoop and other machines will be less noticeable. But they're still there!
This is the bottom line for me. But the Smart Scoop comes with a load of other features that also effect the quality of final ice cream. So let's have a look at those too...
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 the hardness you actually 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 the 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...
What about the differences between the ice cream and the gelato? On the hardest ice cream setting, the mixture increased in volume by 51%. This is due to the amount of air added by the paddle (and is also called the overrun measurement). On the softest gelato setting, the overrun was 47%.
An overrun of 51% is actually quite high for a domestic ice cream maker and produces a lighter, softer, fluffy ice cream. But there's not much difference between 51% and 47%. And 47% is also far higher than a gelato would normally be.
Again, the overrun measurements will vary according to different recipes. But I wouldn't expect to see much variation in the differences between the ice cream and gelato settings whatever recipe is used.
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 best quality, 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!
There's lots to like about the Breville Smart Scoop [Amazon]. But it won't be the best choice for everyone. To help you decide, here's 5 things I like and 4 things I'm not so keen on...
5 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 very 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 very 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 of the bowl is constantly displayed on the LCD display. 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.
4 things I don't like about the Breville Smart Scoop
1. The ice cream can be icy
The Smart Scoop takes much longer to freeze and churn the mixture into ice cream than other machines. And because of this, the ice cream can be icier. This is probably due to the paddle design which only has one blade and leaves a large gap between that blade and the sides of the bowl.
2. The Hardness Settings are confusing
It doesn't matter which hardness setting you choose, when the machine reaches that consistency and stops, the dessert will always be softer than it should be and will need firming up in your freezer. So what's the point of the hardness settings?! Do they vary the amount of air in the ice cream? Well no, not really...
3. There's no way to vary the amount of air in your dessert
While the Cuisinart ICE-100 uses two paddles to vary the amount of air that's added to the ice cream, the Smart Scoop depends on shorter program times, controlled by the hardness settings. But they just don't work very well. So ice cream and gelato contain more or less the same amount of air.
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 (and better)?
The Smart Scoop is probably the most expensive [Amazon] 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 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 faster than the Smart Scoop. Which means they are also smoother than the Smart Scoop. Plus, it costs a fair bit less [Amazon]. 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 that also makes better ice cream!
Looking for something faster (and much, much better)?
All the exclusively domestic compressor ice cream machines take around 25 to 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 even 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 15 to 20 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 [Amazon]! 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 has more features than any other domestic ice cream maker on the market. It's also pretty expensive, second only in fact, to the professional level, Musso machines.
The question is: are those features worth the extra money [Amazon]?
I think for someone just starting out making ice cream, they're definitely worth considering. 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.
But the thing is, as we gain experience, we'll find these features less and less necessary. And without these features the Breville Smart Scoop [Amazon] is just a very expensive machine that makes very average ice cream.
And for me this is the bottom line: the Smart Scoop makes ice cream that is less smooth than many other machines.
Considering the high build quality, the easy to use features, and the vast array of ideas and sheer effort that has clearly gone in to making this ice cream maker a helpful kitchen appliance, it's incredibly disappointing that they've overlooked it's most important job: making smooth ice cream.
But for this reason it's difficult to recommend the Smart Scoop to anyone but those that value convenience over ice cream quality.