Whynter ICM-15LS Ice Cream Maker Review
The Whynter ICM-15LS [Amazon] is a compressor style ice cream maker that's been highly rated in other reviews and is a reasonably priced compared to other domestic machines.
So in my quest for the perfect ice cream maker, I thought I should check it out!
But before we start, I should just clarify one point. The Whynter ICM-15LS is another of those ice cream makers in what I call the "third tier" of domestic compressor machines.
All the ice cream makers in this group are manufactured by one company in China called Foshan Nordika, to be white labeled by various brands around the world.
So for example, in Europe the Whynter ICM-15LS is sold by Unold. And in the US many other Foshan Nordika ice cream makers are sold by various different brands (not just Whynter).
Now there's nothing wrong with this. Foshan Nordika know what they're doing and make good ice cream makers. But it's worth noting, because when you're trying to make a decision between two different machines, both might be made by the same manufacturer and there could actually be very little difference between them.
For more information on the various different ice cream maker that are made by Foshan Nordika, check out my complete guide to buying an ice cream maker.
Anyway, in this review I'll quickly explain how the Whynter ICM-15LS works. I'll look at the build quality, the usability and the quality of the ice cream it makes. And finally I'll suggest a couple of alternatives in case this isn't the right machine for you!
How doe the Whynter ICM-15LS work?
The Whynter ICM-15LS is a compressor ice cream maker. What does this mean? Well, there are three types of ice cream maker and what makes each one different is the way they freeze the mixture:
- with ice and salt
- with removable bowl that you pre-chill in the freezer
- with a built in freezer (or compressor)
So the Whynter ICM-15LS has it's own built in freezer that it uses to freeze the ice cream. These compressor ice cream makers are the most convenient you can buy...
There's no messy ice and salt. There's no bowl taking up space in your freezer. There's no pre-planning at all. When you want ice cream you just turn on the machine to pre-cool, throw in the mixture and in 30 minutes or so you've got ice cream!
On the other hand, compressor machines are big, heavy, somewhat delicate and pretty expensive. If you're not sure yet whether a compressor ice cream maker is the right choice for you, check out my complete guide to choosing the best ice cream maker.
What's the build quality like?
There are 6 separate parts to the Whynter ICM-15LS, which is more than you get with most ice cream makers:
- the main body which contains the motor, the compressor and the contols
- the bowl in which the ice cream is churned
- the paddle (or dasher) which mixes the ice cream
- a transparent plastic lid
- a spatula for scraping the ice cream out of the bowl
- a measuring cup
The body of the Whynter ICM-15LS is one of the lightest and most compact compressor ice cream makers that I've tested. In fact, it's the same size and weight as the Knox Gear, which is another Foshan Nordika machine.
So it measures 15.25" wide, 11" deep and 9.5" high (including the lid) (28 x 24 cm x 13.5 cm). And it weighs about 27 lbs (12 kg).
The top and sides of the casing are stainless steel, while the front and back are black plastic. The sides are embossed with decorative arrows that give it away as a Foshan Nordika machine.
The front and back panels contain extensive air vents. These are important for cooling the machine while it's churning and should not be obstructed. So I'd recommend leaving 4" (10 cm) of space between the back panel and any wall.
But the power cable is a generous 60" (152 cm) long so it shouldn't be too hard to find somewhere for it to sit comfortably in your kitchen.
On the top of the body, to the left hand side, is a chamber with a metal rod protruding from the middle. The chamber is cooled by the compressor and will in turn freeze the ice cream mixture. And the rod is rotated by the motor and will in turn spin the paddle that mixes the ice cream mixture.
To the right of this chamber is the control panel. It's extremely basic. In fact there's just three buttons:
There's a couple of lights above the buttons, one that indicates when the machine is cooling and one that indicates when the machine is mixing.
And to the left is a very basic LCD display that shows the time remaining on the churning cycle.
As I say this is a very basic control panel. The buttons are very similar to the ones on the Cuisinart ICE-100, and not be honest, just like those buttons, they feel a bit cheap and nasty!
The removable bowl
The ice cream is churned in a removable, anodized aluminium bowl. There's a hollow tube down the middle, through which the drive shaft slots, when the bowl's placed in the cooling chamber. And a thin wire handle to help you pull it out of the chamber when the ice cream's done.
It has a 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) capacity, which is pretty standard. However like the other Foshan Nordika machine I've tested, this is a particularly small 1.5 quart bowl! So you need to be particularly careful you don't add too much mixture, or when it expands it may overflow.
Why is the bowl removable? Well, to make cleaning the machine easier, I guess. In theory it's much more convenient to wash the bowl in the sink than to wash the bowl in the machine!
However, this also adds an extra layer of insulation between the compressor and the mixture, which means it won't freeze quite as fast and the ice cream won't be quite as smooth. The more expensive machines sacrifice the easy washing up for smoother ice cream by doing away with the removable bowl!
The dasher is just another name for the paddle that churns the ice cream mixture. All the Foshan Nordika paddles are made of plastic and feature more or less the same design.
However the dasher has two really important jobs:
- scraping frozen mixture from the sides of the bowl and moving it to middle
- adding air to the mixture
These jobs are really important because they have significant influence on the quality and the texture of the final ice cream.
The dasher's impact on the quality of the ice cream
Good quality ice cream means smooth ice cream. Ice cream is smooth when the ice crystals are small. And the faster we freeze the mixture, the smaller the ice crystals.
What's this got to do with the paddle? Well, on all domestic ice cream makers there's a small gap between the blades of the dasher and the sides of the bowl. This means that there's always a layer of frozen mixture left on the sides of the bowl that the blades can't scrape off.
This layer of frozen mixture insulates the rest of the mixture from the cooling power of the compressor. The bigger the gap between the blades and the bowl, the thicker that layer of frozen mixture. And the thicker that layer, the slower the mixture freezes.
The gap in the Whynter ICM-15LS is pretty small, around 1 mm, which means the layer of insulating ice is thinner, so the mixture should freeze faster and the final ice cream should be smoother!
The dashers impact on the texture of the ice cream
How much air the dasher adds to the ice cream has a significant effect on it's texture. Ice creams with lots of air are softer, lighter and fluffier. Ice creams with less air are denser, heavier and creamier.
The amount of air that's added by the dasher will depend on the design of the dasher and how fast it rotates. The faster it rotates, the more air is added.
The dasher on the Whynter ICM-15LS rotates at 56 rpm which is pretty fast for a domestic ice cream maker. But we'll see how much air it actually whips into the ice cream in the whats the ice cream like section.
The lid that comes with the Whynter ICM-15LS is exactly the same as the lid that comes with the Knox Gear.
It's made from transparent plastic, with a tiny hatch that allows us to add mix-ins without removing the lid.
However this hatch is so small, it's almost certainly easier to just remove the lid when you want to add stuff! Unlike the Cuisinart ICE-100 though, the lid is easy to lock on and off.
You also get a spatula and a measuring cup with the Whynter ICM-15LS. The spatula is just the right size for scraping ice cream out of the bowl when it's ready.
And the cup has ounces, cups and milliliter measurements on the side, so it's really useful for measuring out the ingredients in different recipes.
Using the Whynter ICM-15LS to make ice cream
There are 5 steps to making ice cream with the Whynter ICM-15LS, just like there are with most ice cream makers!
- make the mixture
- pre-cool the machine
- churn and freeze the mixture in the Whynter ICM-15LS
- transfer the mixture to the freezer to harden
- clean the Whynter ICM-15LS
Step 1: Make the mixture
If your recipe requires you to heat the mixture, then you'll need to do this step well in advance to give it enough time to completely cool down before you add it to the machine.
But if your recipe doesn't need to be heated, then as long as all the ingredients are already chilled, you can add the mixture to the ice cream maker as soon as you've made it!
What's important here is that you use a good recipe. One of the best things about having your own ice cream maker is that you can invent your own recipes. But they need to be properly balanced or they just wont work. You can't just throw any combination of milk, cream and sugar into the machine and expect to get good results.
The Whynter ICM-15LS manual has several recipes. But better still, there are the plenty of fantastic recipe books to try. Recently Iv'e been using Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream and Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream, with great success.
The most important thing to remember is that the Whynter ICM-15LS has a relatively small 1.5 quart (1.4 liter) bowl, so you shouldn't add more than 1 quart of mixture or it may overflow.
Also, remember to follow the recipes to the letter and make sure your ice cream mixture and the Whynter ICM-15LS are thoroughly pre-cooled before you one to the other...
Step 2: Pre-cool the Whynter ICM-15LS
You don't have to pre-cool your ice cream maker, but I highly recommend that you do. Because if you add a chilled mixture to a pre-cooled machine, it will freeze much faster and you'll get smoother ice cream.
There's no automatic pre-cool function on the Whynter ICM-15LS. So you just need to turn it on 15 minutes early. The paddle will start to turn in the empty bowl, but that's no problem. If you want to you can pre-cool with the paddle removed and then slip it over the drive shaft just before you add the mixture.
It's really important that you don't let the timer reach zero during pre-cool. If you do, the compressor will turn off and even if you start the machine up again immediately, even though the paddle will begin to turn, the compressor won't come on again for another 2 minutes. During that time, the bowl will warm up, undoing all the pre-cooling you've done!
So rather than set the timer for 15 minutes to time the pre-cooling, I'd recommend you leave it 60 minutes and then just add the mixture when it gets to 45 minutes. This should leave plenty of time to finish the ice cream. But if you do need more you can add time while the compressor is running.
The LCD display will flick between the time left and the current temperature of the bowl every couple of seconds which is really useful for keeping track of what's going on. On my Whynter ICM-15LS, the temperature tens to be around -15°F (-26°C) after 15 minutes pre-cooling, which is quite respectable.
Step 3: Churn and freeze the mixture in the Whynter ICM-15LS
Once your mixture is chilled to fridge temperature and your ice cream maker has been pre-cooling for 15 minutes, it's time to start making ice cream!
Just as it's super important that the timer never reaches zero during pre-cooling, it should never reach zero while churning the ice cream either. If it does, the compressor will turn off, and won't come on again for another 2 minutes even if you start the machine again immediately. During this time loads of ice cream will melt and when it re-freezes, the final ice cream will be coarser.
So, before you add the mixture, make sure you have at least 45 minutes on the timer. And always keep an eye on the machine. If the timer is getting low and it looks like the ice cream still has a way to go, add more time while the machine is running.
Once you've checked that there's enough time left on the timer, that the temperature is around -15°F (-26°C) and that the paddle is rotating in the bowl, simply pour in the mixture. And wait!
One things worth mentioning is that ice cream makers can be quite loud! Compressor machines tend to be a little quieter than freezer bowl machines. But the Foshan Nordika models do seem to be a bit louder than machines like the Breville and the Cusinart. The Whynter ICM-15LS varies between 77 and 79 Db, so yeah it's loud. But no more than a hairdryer. And it's certainly not unbearable.
How long it takes before your ice cream is ready will depend on a load of factors including the recipe, the temperature of the mixture when in went in the machine and the temperature of the machine itself. It can vary wildly, so you'll need to keep an eye on the consistency...
Domestic ice cream makers won't make ice cream to the same hard consistency that you get from the store. They're just not powerful enough. What we're looking for is a consistency like soft serve ice cream or whipped cream. When it get's like this, its ready to come out. You could also measure the temperature. When it reaches 21°F (-6°C), it's pretty much finished.
With my test batches using my no-cook base, the Whynter ICM-15LS had the ice cream ready in 30 minutes...
If you do let the timer reach zero, the machine will automatically turn off. The compressor will stop cooling and the paddle will stop turning. However the Whynter ICM-15LS does have a very basic keep-cool function, whereby after 10 minutes the compressor will start up again (without the paddle turning) and cool the ice cream for another 10 minutes. It will turn on and off in 10 minute cycles for up to an hour.
I don't recommend you use this feature though as there will be huge amount of melting in 10 minutes and when the ice cream is refrozen in the following 10 minutes, the ice crystals will only increase in size leading to much coarser final ice cream.
Step 4: Transfer the ice cream from the Whynter ICM-15LS to the freezer
Once you're happy the ice cream is ready, it's time to transfer it to the freezer to harden. Now you don't have to do this. You could just eat it straight from the machine. And it will taste great.
But the things is, it's still only partially frozen. So it will be very soft and it will melt incredibly quickly. If you can control yourself, it will really benefit from two or three hours in the freezer.
In this time, the rest of the water will freeze to ice, hardening the ice cream so that it produces much firmer and longer lasting scoops.
The thing you want avoid during this step is excessive melting. Any ice cream that melts now will re-freeze later in the freezer. But rather than form new ice crystals, it will join and grow existing crystals to make the ice cream less smooth.
So, get the ice cream out of the machine, into a container and in wack it in the back of the freezer as fast as possible!
You want to use a container that encourages fast freezing. Shallow vessels made from glass or metal will expose a greater surface area to the freezing temperatures and transmit those temperatures faster.
Pre-cool the containers in your freezer so they're already really cold when you add the ice cream. Then, once the ice cream's in add a layer of cling film to discourage ice crystals forming on the surface, pop on the lid, and place the container in the back of the fridge where it's usually the coldest.
It will usually take between 2 and 4 hours to firm up. However tempting it is, don't check too often, as every time you open the freezer door you allow warm air in which encourages a melting/re-freezing cycle that will cause the ice crystals to grow and the ice cream to become coarser.
Step 5: Clean the Whynter ICM-15LS
So your ice creams in the freezer hardening. Now it's time for the really fun part: cleaning the machine! Luckily, cleaning the Whynter ICM-15LS is really easy.
Since the bowl is removable you can simply transfer it to the sink where a quick wash with warm soapy water will have it clean and shiny in no time at all.
One of the good things about compressor machines is that the bowl warms up really fast, so any ice cream left on the side quickly melts away and it's easy to clean. With the freezer bowl machines, because the bowls stay cold for ages, the ice cream stays frozen to the sides and have to wait a lot longer before you can clean them.
The lid and the paddle can also be quickly washed in warm soapy water. And the the casing an cooling chamber may need a quick wipe down if there's been any spillages. And you're done. All clean in less than 5 minutes.
How good is the ice cream from the Whynter ICM-15LS?
Well, the ice cream from the Whynter ICM-15LS is pretty good. As is the gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt!
As always, the quality of the ice cream is all to do with how long the machine takes to freeze the mixture. And the Whynter ICM-15LS usually freezes it enough to remove from the machine after about 30 minutes.
During pre-cooling the Whynter ICM-15LS is able to reduce the temperature of the bowl to around -15°F (-26°C). And then once the mixture is added the temperature rises and stays around 3°F (-16°C) for the duration of the churning.
This is actually neither as efficient as the Smart Scoop nor the other Foshan Nordika ice cream maker than I've tested, the Knox Gear. Both of these machines were able to cool the bowl further and then maintain slightly lower temperatures for the duration of the churning.
While the Smart Scoop throws away this advantage by implementing a poor paddle design, the Knox Gear uses an almost identical paddle to the Whynter ICM-15LS and it rotates at more or less the same speed, so it's able to turn these consistently lower temperatures into slightly smoother ice cream.
That's not to say the Whynter ICM-15LS doesn't make smooth ice cream. It's smoother than the Smart Scoop and is more or less the same smoothness as the Cuisinart ICE-100. It's just not quite as smooth as the Knox Gear.
The Whynter ICM-15LS tends to add slightly more air to the ice cream than other machines with an overrun of 47% in my test batches. Only the Smart Scoop and the KitchenAid add more air and this results in a light and fluffy ice cream.
The Whynter ICM-15LS is a great compressor ice cream maker. But it won't be the right choice for everyone. To help you decide, here's 3 things I like and 3 things I'm not so keen on.
3 things I love about the Whynter ICM-15LS
1. It's small
Along with the Knox Gear, the Whynter ICM-15LS is one of the most compact compressor ice cream makers currently available. So if you've got your heart set on on ice cream maker with a built in freezer but you don't have much room, this could be a good choice.
2. It's fast
The Whynter ICM-15LS turns out ice cream in 30 minutes or less. That's pretty fast for a compressor machine. And it means you have to wait less time before you'll be eating great ice cream.
3. It's got a great dasher
The dashers in the Foshan Nordika ice cream makers work really well. They scrape the frozen mixture from the sides of the bowl really efficiently. And they continue to thoroughly mix the ice cream even it hardens. So they're much better than both the Smart Scoop and Cuisinart dashers!
3 things I don't like about the Whynter ICM-15LS
1. It's a bit ugly!
The Whynter ICM-15LS has got to be the least attractive of all the compressor ice cream makers I've tested. From the cheap looking control panel to the ugly, black plastic side panels there's nothing premium looking about this ice cream maker!
2. The controls are very basic
The control panel only has three buttons. They're not very tactile. And you can only adjust the timer in one direction, in 10 minute intervals. You get used to this pretty quickly. And to be honest you don't need to use the controls a lot. But they could be much better.
3. It's not that cheap
The Whynter ICM-15LS is not a premium appliance from a well established and respected brand. But it's priced [Amazon] at the same level as the other ice cream makers which are. And since it doesn't make ice cream that's any better than these other machines I don't feel it's great value for money.
Alternatives to the Whynter ICM-15LS
If the Whynter ICM-15LS isn't quite right for you then don't worry, because there are plenty of alternatives. And I recommend two of them for you below...
Looking for something cheaper (and better)
The Knox Gear is made by Foshan Nordika, just like the Whynter ICM-15LS. But I think the Knox Gear is the better ice cream maker.
Why? Well, I think the full stainless steel casing is more attractive than the 2 tone steel and plastic affair that covers the Whynter ICM-15LS. The control panel has proper, tactile buttons that allow you to adjust the time in both directions. The gap between the blades of the dasher and the sides of the bowl is just slightly smaller. And the compressor is able to get the bowl a good few degrees colder.
And all this means it looks better, it's easier to use and it actually makes slightly smoother ice cream!
What's more the Knox Gear is significantly cheaper [Amazon] than the Whynter ICM-15LS!
There's two things that strike me if we look carefully at these pages.
The first is that the cost price of the units is almost identical with the Knox Gear just slightly more expensive (at $97) than the Whynter ICM-15LS at ($96). How is Knox Gear able to sell this unit so cheaply and still turn a profit?!
The second thing is that since the technical specs of the two machines are identical, why is it that the Knox Gear compressor performs slightly better? Is it just pot luck? This makes me question the quality control of Foshan Nordika slightly.
But the facts are that in my experience the Knox Gear machine looks better, is easier to use and performs better than the Whynter ICM-15LS. And considering it's also much cheaper, it's easy to make a choice between the two!
Looking for a more established brand?
If you're slightly concerned about the quality of a Foshan Nordika ice cream maker or you simply want to buy from a more well established brand than Whynter, then how about the Cuisinart ICE-100?
The Cuisinart ICE-100 actually has a lot in common with the Whynter ICM-15LS. It has a similarly crappy, lo-fi and difficult to use control panel. And it makes similarly (good) quality ice cream.
However, the ICE-100 is significantly heavier than the Whynter ICM-15LS, suggesting better build quality and components. And to my eye the sloping design and sculpted side vents make it a much more attractive appliance.
More importantly Cuisinart is a well established brand with long standing expertise in manufacturing ice cream makers. And we get a nice 3 year warranty (5 years in the UK!) with Cuisinart appliances!
Now I don't think the ICE-100 makes better ice cream than the Whynter ICM-15LS. The Whynter ICM-15LS generally adds quite a lot of air to the mixture (47%). And while the ICE-100 comes with two dashers allowing you to vary the overrun, both add less air than the Whynter ICM-15LS (36 and 19%).
So if you like lighter, fluffier ice creams consider the Whynter ICM-15LS. And if you like denser, thicker ice creams consider the ICE-100. But both will have more or less the same degree of smoothness.
The Cuisinart ICE-100 is more or less the same price [Amazon] as the Whynter ICM-15LS, so I would say it comes down to what type of ice cream you prefer and your confidence in the Whynter brand and the Foshan Nordika manufacturing quality.
The Whynter ICM-15LS [Amazon] has a lot of positive online reviews. And it is a good ice cream maker.
However, the reality is: it's just another Foshan Nordika manufactured ice cream maker. And all the Foshan Nordika ice cream makers seem to have the same technical specifications and build quality.
This is reflected in the cost prices from Foshan Nordika: they all cost more or less the same, varying between $94 and $120. And the price variations seem to have more to do with the differences in the control panels than anything else.
So, bearing in mind that there are other Foshan Nordika ice cream makers like the Knox Gear, that are usually significantly cheaper [Amazon] than the Whynter ICM-15LS and in my tests at least, performed better than the Whynter ICM-15LS, it's difficult to recommend the Whynter ICM-15LS without reservation.
But unless you specifically prefer the high levels of overrun you get from the Whynter ICM-15LS, I'd recommend that you go for a cheaper Foshan Nordika machine like the Knox Gear [Amazon].