The Best Ice Cream Makers, According to Our Tests

The Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker is the winner

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The 10 Best Ice Cream Makers, Tested by Experts

The Spruce Eats / Chloe Jeong

Nothing beats a scoop or two of cold ice cream on a sweltering summer day, but it may taste even better if it's homemade. Making your own ice cream gives you complete control over flavorings and ingredients—especially important if you have food allergies or are looking to exclude certain items or additives.

Tested & Approved

The Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker is our best overall pick, earning the highest ratings for ease of use, design, and most importantly, ice cream texture. If you're looking to splurge on a countertop compressor machine, the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor will churn smooth ice cream with little-to-no prep.

An ice cream maker lets you churn whatever kind of ice cream strikes your fancy, all in the comfort of your own home—but how do you decide on a model? We rounded up some of the most popular ice cream makers, including fully automatic, electric, and soft-serve options, and tested them side-by-side in our Lab. Each ice cream maker was assessed on ease of use, design, the texture of the ice cream, the mix-in distribution, ease of cleaning, and overall value. We also sent a handful to our experienced home testers to gather even more testing insights.

After hours of testing in home kitchens and our Lab, here's our roundup of the best ice cream makers.

Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker

5
Cuisinart ice-70

Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.8/5
  • Design
    4.9/5
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    5/5
  • Cleanup
    5/5
What We Like
  • Built-in timer

  • Automatic and manual modes

  • Opening for adding ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • Heavy freezer bowl

  • Loud

Cuisinart was one of the first companies to popularize electric ice cream makers for home users, and the company continues to improve its product offerings. After both Lab and home testing, the ICE-70 earned our top spot for a variety of reasons. This one makes a whopping 2 quarts of ice cream per batch and has a simple control panel with an LCD screen that’s easy to read.

There are settings for ice cream, gelato, or sorbet, which control the speed of the mixing paddle. The time is automatically set for each option but can be adjusted manually as well. When time is up, the machine automatically shuts off. The unique gelato setting was a standout for our home product tester due to its slower churn, one of the hallmarks of genuine gelato.

When we tested this in our Lab, the Cuisinart outperformed similar freezer bowl models by a wide margin. It was incredibly easy to set up once the bowl is frozen, and it created velvety smooth ice cream. The lid has a removable cup for measuring up to 1/2 cup of add-ins, and when the cup is removed, there’s a handy hole for pouring those ingredients into the ice cream. Both our home tester and Lab testers liked being able to mix items in without removing the lid. Our Lab testers also noted that the upright compact design made this easy to store, and it is lightweight enough to move around the kitchen.

This machine's paddle was also a standout. When we mixed M&Ms into a batch of ice cream, they became evenly distributed through the mix. The paddle and freezer bowl were both simple to wash by hand with warm, soapy water.

One downside of this ice cream maker is that it can be loud during churning. Another is that the 2-quart freezer bowl should be refrigerated overnight for best results, so you can't make ice cream on a whim. We suggest storing it in your freezer, so it’s ready to go whenever you have that ice cream craving.

If you can't find the ICE-70 model, the ICE-60 model offers the same design and functionality without the built-in automatic timer.

Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker

The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost

Maximum Yield: 2 quarts | Processing Time: 15-40 minutes | Multiple Speeds: Yes | Dimensions: 9.74 x 8.62 x 13.22 inches | Weight: 14 pounds | Warranty: 3 years

Lab Test Takeaway

"It churned out a perfectly creamy soft serve texture at 25 minutes, and it turned to a true ice cream by 30 minutes. We kept coming back for more to taste!"Collier Sutter, Food & Drink Review Editor

Best Budget: Cuisinart ICE-21R Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, and Sorbet Maker

4.5
Cuisinart ICE-21P1

Amazon

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    4/5
  • Cleanup
    5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Easy to clean

  • Produces texture similar to soft serve

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller capacity than other similar models

  • Need to freeze bowl 24 hours before use

Cuisinart is a trusted brand when it comes to ice cream makers and has a model to meet every budget. The ICE-21 may not have all the bells and whistles of some of the brand's higher-end models, but it's fully automatic and promises to deliver quality homemade ice cream in 20 minutes. Our home tester found the catch, though, is that you need to have a pre-frozen bowl.

The process is simple and designed to be mess-free. As a "cold-scrape" model, the double-insulated freezer bowl easily fits into the base, the mixing paddle fits into that, and the plastic cover holds everything together. As the bowl spins, the paddle scrapes frozen batter from the interior walls and incorporates it back into the mixture. After about 20 minutes, our home tester had fully churned ice cream that resembled soft serve. At that point, you do need to get everything into the freezer quickly to avoid crystallization.

Even with the minimalistic design, this can help you whip up a delicious batch of ice cream. If you want to add mix-ins, just throw them directly into the freezer bowl when the batch is almost done spinning. This model has a smaller capacity (1.5 quarts) than some of Cuisinart's other models, so be mindful of batch size when you're following recipes. Our tester did experience overflow during testing when she used a recipe that wasn't fully scaled down. However, cleanup is easy. "Even the laziest dessert lovers won’t find much to complain about here," our tester reported.

cuisinart ice-21r ice cream maker spruce eats

The Spruce Eats / Madeline Muzzi

Maximum Yield: 1.5 quarts | Processing Time: 20 minutes | Multiple Speeds: No | Dimensions: 9.50 x 9.00 x 11.25 inches | Weight: 9.9 pounds | Warranty: 3 years

What Our Testers Say

"If you're just getting started making ice cream, this is a solid option at a reasonable price point. It does everything you need without fuss or drama." Madeline Muzzi, Product Tester

Best for Kids: Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker With Easy Carry Handle

4.5
Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker with Easy Carry Handle

Courtesy of Walmart

Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4/5
  • Design
    4/5
  • Texture
    4.5/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    4.5/5
  • Cleanup
    4/5
What We Like
  • Electric cranking mechanism

  • Large capacity

  • Churns fluffy ice cream

What We Don't Like
  • Motor is loud

  • Less precise than a formulated freezer bowl 

If you like the idea of an old-fashioned ice cream maker and you want to make large batches, this fun machine checks both of those boxes. Just like old-style ice cream makers, the Nostalgia maker uses ice and salt to freeze the ice cream, but the cranking mechanism is electric, so you don’t have to work so hard to get your treats.

Our home and Lab testers all found that you need to get the salt-and-ice layering just right and have the interior container flush with the bottom in order to come away with great ice cream. There aren't specific instructions for how much ice and salt to use, so be prepared with at least one 8-pound bag of ice and 3 cups of salt. Once assembled, you turn on the motor and set a timer for 30 minutes. When you're done, you'll have up to 4 quarts of fluffy, smooth ice cream that can be eaten as-is or quickly put in the freezer. It also handled mix-ins well in testing, but you will have to pause the machine and completely remove the motor and lid, so the process isn't as easy as models with openings in the canister.

Similar to other salt-and-ice machines, our testers found that this is very loud during churning. You can also end up with a bucket of slushy, salty water. For these reasons, it might be best to use it on the porch instead of in your kitchen.

The plastic ice bucket can double as a storage container when not in use. For easy transportation, the machine has a handle, and the motor locks when power is off, so all parts stay secure. However, the bucket filled with melted ice gets heavy, so while cleaning is easy you'll want to be careful when transporting the bucket to the sink—it's easy to spill! If you want easy ice cream, the company also makes mixes that can be used with this machine. You can also use one of the included ice cream recipes or one of your own.

nostalgia 4-quart ice cream maker spruce eats

The Spruce Eats / Madeline Muzzi

Maximum Yield: 4 quarts | Processing Time: 30-45 minutes | Multiple Speeds: No | Dimensions: 15.25 x 12.25 x 13 inches | Weight: 5.15 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

What Our Testers Say

"At the end of the instructed time, my ice cream was fluffy, creamy, and delicious. To create scoopable ice cream, you’ll need to transfer the mixture to the freezer to harden."Madeline Muzzi, Product Tester

Best Splurge: Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor

4.6
Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
Courtesy of Amazon.com.
Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Texture
    5/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    4.7/5
  • Cleanup
    4.5/5
What We Like
  • Ready in a few minutes

  • 12 hardness settings

  • “Keep cool” feature

What We Don't Like
  • Large and heavy

  • Warms rapidly when the cover is open

If you’re ready to get serious about making ice cream, this Breville ice cream maker has quite a few benefits that justify its steep price tag. The 1.1-quart ice cream maker contains a compressor—just like a window air conditioner—and freezes the ice cream while it churns. This means you don’t have to worry about freezing and refreezing a bowl between batches. It also has 12 specifically calibrated settings for different levels of softness, so you won’t end up with rock-hard sherbet, gelato, or soft-serve when what you really want is a scoop of vanilla that will hold its own in a root beer float.

A pre-cool setting preps the machine to start churning immediately, and internal thermometers make sure the temperature stays just right. Our home tester particularly liked the "Softer to Harder" option, which lets you choose softer ice cream or harder sorbet instead of a one-size-fits-all setting. One downside is there isn’t a slower churn setting for gelato.

During our Lab tests, this produced fluffy ice cream every time. In addition to requiring little prep, the lid has a finger loop for easy opening and closing. This made adding any mix-ins super simple, and all were evenly distributed. Though this is a heavy compressor countertop machine, cleanup is easy. The bowl and paddle are removable, with no little crevices to wipe down.

Keep in mind that this investment piece takes up a lot of room, so it might not be ideal for those with small kitchens, and the compressor makes it the heaviest ice cream maker on the list at a whopping 30 pounds.

Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker

The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost

Maximum Yield: 1.1 quarts | Processing Time: 35-50 minutes | Multiple Speeds: Yes | Dimensions: 11.1 x 16 x 10.1 inches | Weight: 30 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

What Our Testers Say

"The machine knew what was best—the hardened ice cream had a light buttery taste—but in a good, creamy way and not an over-churned, frozen butter way." J. Fergus, Product Tester

Best for Vegan Ice Cream: Whynter ICM-200LS Automatic Ice Cream Maker

4.7
Whynter ICM 200LS ice cream maker
Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    4.7/5
  • Design
    4.5/5
  • Texture
    4.5/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    4.8/5
  • Cleanup
    4.8/5
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Extended cooling setting

  • Includes scooper

What We Don't Like
  • Loud

  • Expensive

This compressor-style ice cream maker is for those who are ready to splurge on a countertop machine, but it's less expensive than the Breville on our list. Because of the compressor, there's no need to pre-freeze the bowl, and it can make up to 2 quarts, so you're ready for a small ice cream party at any time. Where this machine stood out in our Lab tests was with the vegan ice cream we made. Some ice cream makers can't handle fat alternatives quite as well as cream, but this Whynter model churned out delicious vegan cookie dough ice cream with the perfect creamy texture.

It also makes regular dairy ice cream, of course, in addition to frozen yogurt and sorbet. Our Lab testers found it easy to use and set up, with excellent distribution of mix-ins. The Extended Cooling function ensures your creation won't melt right away, either. Additionally, our testers liked the included ice cream scoop, which made it incredibly easy to get the final product out of the machine and into a cone.

The bowl insert is easy to wash by hand when you are finished, and the corrosion-resistant stainless steel exterior looks sleek. It's definitely a bulky machine, but our testers had no trouble moving it around on the counter. The one downside is that it is loud. It was also tricky to get the latch on the top of the machine locked into place.

Whynter ICM 200

The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

Maximum Yield: 2.1 quarts | Processing Time: 30 minutes | Multiple Speeds: Yes | Dimensions: 16.75 x 11.25 x 10.25 inches | Weight: 24.25 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

Lab Test Takeaway

"The biggest thing to note was how successful this machine was at making great-tasting vegan ice cream. It had a creamy texture, not icy at all, and is definitely worth calling out." — Collier Sutter, Food & Drink Review Editor

Best Attachment: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment

4.2
KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment - Excludes 7, 8, and most 6 Quart Models
Courtesy of Amazon.com.
Our Ratings
  • Ease of Use
    5/5
  • Design
    5/5
  • Texture
    4/5
  • Mix-In Distribution
    4/5
  • Cleanup
    4.9/5
What We Like
  • Simple and straightforward attachment

  • Produces creamy results

  • Quiet

What We Don't Like
  • Inconsistent freezing

  • No automatic shutoff

If you already have a KitchenAid stand mixer and don’t want to add yet another appliance to your kitchen, this might be the ice cream maker for you. Compatible with both tilt-head and bowl-lift style mixers, this ice cream attachment consists of a freezer bowl similar to the Cuisinart model and a dasher that spins just like the paddle attachment for the mixer.

The 2-quart bowl should be fully frozen for 24 hours before use to ensure that your ice cream freezes properly. You can store it in there to make sure it’s always ready to go and keep it toward the back if possible where temperatures are coldest. Keep in mind that if your kitchen is warm, this bowl will warm up fairly quickly and start to sweat, so it’s not a bad idea to keep a kitchen towel underneath to catch the drips.

A batch of ice cream should take about 30 minutes to churn. If you prefer a harder scoop-able consistency, you'll want to freeze the ice cream before serving, but soft-serve fans can enjoy it directly from the freezer bowl. One drawback of this model is that there isn’t an automatic shutoff like some of the dedicated machines have, so you’ll have to keep an eye on it while churning.

The one inconsistency our product tester experienced while using this attachment is when freezing different flavors of ice cream. Her plain vanilla batch never progressed to fully frozen, so it had to be put in the freezer at that point; two other flavors ended up with a creamy, whipped soft-serve texture. Regardless, all batches were evenly mixed and ended up delicious. Even if you have trouble with freezing, the mix will eventually freeze and still taste good. Another bonus? It's quieter than many standalone ice cream makers.

The drive assembly and dasher are top-rack dishwasher safe, and the mixing bowl itself can be washed by hand easily.

KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

The Spruce Eats / Stacey L. Nash 

Maximum Yield: 2 quarts | Processing Time: 20-30 minutes | Multiple Speeds: Uses mixer speeds | Dimensions: 8.5 x 7 inches | Weight: 6 pounds | Warranty: 1 year

What Our Testers Say

"We made one batch of blackberry and one batch of banana ice cream. Both turned out creamy and delicious with the texture of soft serve." Stacey L. Nash, Product Tester

Compare

Overall Rating Ease of Use Design Texture Mix-In Distribution Cleanup
Cuisinart ice-70
Best Overall:
Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker
5
4.8 4.9 5 5 5
Cuisinart ICE-21P1
Best Budget:
Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream, and Sorbet Maker
4.5
5 4.5 5 4 5
Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker with Easy Carry Handle
Best for Kids:
Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
4.5
4 4 4.5 4.5 4
Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
Best Splurge:
Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Compressor
4.6
5 4.5 5 4.7 4.5
Whynter ICM 200LS ice cream maker
Best for Vegan Ice Cream:
Whynter ICM-200LS Ice Cream Maker
4.7
4.7 4.5 4.5 4.8 4.8
KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment - Excludes 7, 8, and most 6 Quart Models
Best Attachment:
KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Attachment
4.2
5 5 4 4 4.9
Final Verdict

The Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker is our top pick because of its useful features, especially the gelato setting and built-in timer. Plus, it has both manual and automatic modes. If you already have a KitchenAid mixer taking up counter space and you don't make ice cream that often, go for the KitchenAid Stand Mixer Ice Cream Maker Attachment. It's quiet and easy to use, and most importantly, it makes tasty ice cream.

KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment

 The Spruce Eats / Stacey L. Nash

How We Tested

We tested 10 of the top ice-cream makers in our Lab by seeing how well they churned vanilla ice cream and vegan coconut milk cookie dough ice cream. The testers cleaned each machine repeatedly and placed any dishwasher-safe parts through a few washing cycles. All of our reviewers evaluated the ice cream makers on ease of use, performance, versatility, ice cream texture, cleaning, and overall value.

We also sent a handful of ice cream makers to the homes of our experienced food writers so they could spend weeks testing their capabilities. They used the machines to churn a variety of ice creams, tried out all the functions and features, cleaned them, stored them, and ultimately decided what their strengths and weaknesses were.

ice cream maker lab testing

The Spruce Eats / Claire Cohen

Other Options We Tested

  • Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Capacity Ice Cream Maker: This salt-and-ice ice cream maker was included in a previous version of this roundup. It's very similar to the Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker in design and is also very affordable. It also has some of the same downsides, namely, it's incredibly loud and best if used outside. Ultimately, the lack of a handle for easy transport and a bland design give the Nostalgia version the winning edge over this Hamilton Beach model.
  • Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix-it-In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker: This Cuisinart model promises soft-serve ice cream and features automatic mix-ins and a sugar cone holder. However, in home testing, we found that this soft-serve machine caused an ice cream mess, the mix-ins didn't mix in, and everything has to be just right for it to work smoothly.
  • Whynter ICM-128BPS Upright Automatic Ice Cream Maker: With high ratings, a built-in LCD timer, and a cute design, we brought the Whynter ice cream maker into our Lab for testing. It ranked well for ease of use and was very impressive when we added mix-ins to the ice cream base. But the 1.28-quart bowl was simply too small, and the final ice cream textures were too inconsistent to recommend it.
  • Cuisinart ICE-100 1.5-Quart Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker: Cuisinart takes our top spot for freezer-bowl machines, so we wanted to put its compressor model through our Lab tests. This countertop machine looks promising with its brightly lit screen and minimal need for pre-freezing (2 hours). It failed to evenly distribute our mix-ins, though. The paddle doesn't reach the bottom, causing ice cream base and mix-ins to collect there.
  • Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker: Our Lab testers brought in this Lello Musso to see if it was a good fit for our Best Splurge category. And it just might be if you're looking to professionally sell your ice cream or use it in à la minute desserts. The compressor-style machine is powerful enough to make scoopable ice cream, not soft ice cream that needs to be in the freezer ASAP. Although, for a machine this expensive, we thought that it'd be easier to clean (the bowl isn't removable). We're keeping it off our list due to that fact and the price. If you want to go high-end, we recommend the Breville.
Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost.

What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker

Machine Size

Let’s admit it: ice cream makers aren’t exactly essential kitchen items for most homes, so it might be tough to justify storing one. However, they are a lot of fun to experiment with, and most people enjoy a scoop or two of cold, extra smooth ice cream year-round. So if you can find a model that fits your storage space, an ice cream maker will likely be a welcome addition to your kitchen.

Ice cream makers range in size, from small, single-serve models that take up virtually no counter space to non-electric bowls designed for freezer use and large compressor models that are too heavy to move around. 

Cuisinart ICE-70 Ice Cream Maker
The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost.

Batch Size 

Ice cream makers range in how much ice cream they can make per batch. When shopping for an ice cream maker, you’ll want to keep in mind how much ice cream you need or want to make at once. 

The most popular ice cream makers typically produce between 1 and 2 quarts—that’s 4 to 8 cups—of ice cream at a time, but there are also models designed to make one single-serve cup of ice cream, as well as large-capacity models that can make up to 6 quarts or 24 cups at a time. 

A large-capacity machine is a good option for a big family or if you want to make big batches of ice cream for parties. Larger models tend to be less efficient at handling smaller batches of ice cream, though. If you’re eager to try new recipes as often as possible, a machine designed to make smaller batches is just what you need. 

Settings and Options

The most basic ice cream machines may just have an easy-to-use on/off switch. Other machines come equipped with timers, automatic shut-off or "keep cool" features, extra freezer bowls, settings for making gelato, special paddles, and more. In general, the compressor-style ice cream makers are designed with more controls and options for making different styles of ice cream from other models. While it’s great to have options and versatile appliances, sometimes a basic model that does its one job well is all you really need.

Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost.

Ability to Make Multiple Batches

The style of ice cream maker you choose will determine whether you can make multiple batches in a row. Freezer bowl models require the bowl to be frozen before using, and most can only make one batch of ice cream before the bowl needs to be frozen again. If an extra freezer bowl is included, it’ll be easier to make multiple batches back to back. Compressor models can produce a second or third batch more easily. The salt-and-ice models can also accommodate as many batches as you like, as long as you have enough ice and salt to keep the machine cold. 

While you can theoretically make endless batches of ice cream with some ice cream makers, churning hard ice cream can stress and overheat the motor of less-robust models. If you routinely want to make many batches of ice cream for large parties and events, a low-end commercial model may be a better buy than one that’s made for lighter-duty home use.

Power Source

Electric ice cream machines do all the churning for you, so making ice cream is as easy as adding the ingredients, pushing the start button, and waiting until the ice cream is done. The process is similar to using other hands-off kitchen appliances like slow cookers.

Manual machines require more work (and muscle) because churning ice cream can take 20 minutes or longer, and the job becomes more difficult as the ice cream hardens. Since they don’t need to be plugged in, manual ice cream makers are portable, so you can bring one along to backyard parties, camping, and beach trips and let everyone—children included—help churn. Some manual models are even more simple to use, only requiring you to stir the ingredients in a freezer bowl. 

Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost.

Freezing Style

Many ice cream makers use a freezer bowl or insert that needs to be frozen before the ice cream can be churned. If you’re short on freezer space, this might not be convenient—plus, if you want to make a second batch, you’ll have to wait for the bowl to freeze again. Compressor models let your churn one batch after another but tend to take up more space and are more expensive. There are also ice cream makers that use the old-fashioned ice and salt freezing method.

Price

On average, you can find plenty of decent electronic ice cream makers priced in the $50-$100 range. You'll find some of the more simple ice cream makers for under $30, while heavy-duty compressor models that work like miniature freezers can cost several hundred dollars. Although the supplies aren't expensive, the more old-fashioned salt and ice style ice cream makers will require you to buy salt and bags of ice whenever you want to make ice cream.

Warranty

The average warranty for manufacturing defects on most ice cream makers is one year, although you may find some with longer or shorter warranty periods. Manufacturing defects are likely to appear early in the lifecycle of the product, while later failures are more likely to be caused by everyday wear and tear, which would not be covered under a normal warranty. A quality ice cream maker that has not been misused should typically last well beyond its warranty date, but if you have bad luck with appliances or want coverage for accidental breakage, you can purchase extended warranties for most electronics. Read the fine print before purchasing, as the extended warranties typically start at the date of purchase but can’t be used until the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

Types of Ice Cream Makers

Salt and Ice

While hand-cranked salt and ice-style ice cream machines have been around since the mid-1800s, the method still works well. Some of these models require manual cranking to turn the paddle, while others are electric and will do the churning for you. If you want to make multiple batches, you simply need to clean the machine, add more ice, salt, and the ice cream ingredients and start churning again. 

If you opt for this style, you’ll need to have plenty of ice and salt on hand. Keep in mind that if these ice cream makers are overfilled with ice, the cold, salty water can seep into the ice cream mixture and ruin it. Many salt and ice-style ice cream makers are available with larger capacities than other styles designed for home use. 

Hamilton Beach 4 Quart Ice Cream Maker
The Spruce Eats / Jordan Provost.

Freezer Bowl

Freezer bowl ice cream machines are the most popular for home use. Most are electric, so they’re easy to use and take up little countertop space. The freezer bowls need to be placed in the freezer well ahead of churning, typically about eight hours. This means you should plan ahead or store the freezer bowl in the freezer, so it’s always ready to go. The ice cream mixture also needs to be chilled before churning; otherwise, it might not freeze as solidly as you’d like before the bowl begins to lose its chill. 

Churning a single batch of ice cream typically warms the bowl enough so the freezer bowl can’t be used for a second batch. Some ice cream makers include a second freezer bowl (or you can purchase one separately), so you can make two different batches of ice cream, one after the other. The only downside is that multiple freezer bowls take up even more freezer space.

Compressor

Compressor-style ice cream makers operate like small freezers. Instead of chilling before churning, these models begin chilling after the ice cream mixture is added, but some machines can be pre-chilled before adding ingredients. These machines typically have more features, with settings for making gelato, sorbets, and more. Some models have timers to remind you when to add mix-ins and/or keep-cold features that will keep the ice cream chilled if you can’t immediately transfer the ice cream to the freezer when it’s done churning.

This style of machine is the easiest for making multiple batches because you simply need to clean the bowl between batches. These machines tend to be the most expensive, and they’re also much larger and heavier than other ice cream makers. While a compressor-style ice cream maker might be overkill for most home kitchens, they produce excellent ice cream and are always ready to go.

Soft Serve

Soft serve ice cream machines are designed to churn and dispense soft-serve style ice cream and frozen yogurt. These models are usually fitted with a freezer bowl and operate just like the freezer bowl style ice cream makers. But they're designed to keep the ice cream chilled at a higher temperature, so the ice cream won't harden as much and will stay smooth and, well, soft. A lever lets you dispense the soft serve straight into a cup or cone, and some models even have topping dispensers so you can mix in sprinkles, nuts, or bits of candy as you fill your dish. Soft serve ice cream machines are a favorite among kids, who love to make their own sundaes.

Brands/Manufacturers

Cuisinart

Cuisinart has a reputation for quality kitchen products, and it has several ice cream makers that are top-rated for quality and are favorites among consumers. These models are also moderately priced, so if your budget is in the mid-range, this is a good brand to check out. Cuisinart makes several freezer bowl-style ice cream makers that are extremely popular, as well as a compressor-style and soft-serve ice cream maker and dispenser.

cuisinart ice-21r finished ice cream spruce eats

The Spruce Eats / Madeline Muzzi

Breville

Known for high-end kitchen electronics, Breville makes the highly-rated Smart Scoop compressor ice cream maker. While this machine is bulky, heavy, and will take up a significant amount of counter space, it’s versatile, with settings for different types of ice cream and other frozen treats. Breville currently makes just this one ice cream machine, which carries a splurge-worthy price tag. However, this model ranks consistently as a favorite compressor-style ice cream maker by both users and reviewers.

Nostalgia

The Nostalgia company makes a variety of retro-looking kitchen appliances, including several models of old-fashioned bucket-style ice cream makers that use the traditional salt-and-ice freezer method. Most models are electric, so you can enjoy the nostalgic design without having to hand-churn like in the olden days. These ice cream makers are affordably priced, but larger models and those with old-school wooden bucket designs cost more.

Hamilton Beach

Hamilton Beach has been around for generations and is known for mid-range kitchen appliances that are well-built without breaking the budget. The brand offers a number of ice cream makers in the budget to mid-priced range in a variety of styles, including both freezer bowl models and salt-and-ice machines. It also makes a battery-operated 1-cup single-serve ice cream maker.

KitchenAid

KitchenAid is known for its iconic stand mixers and the variety of attachments that are powered by the mixer’s motor. There are attachments for food processing, pasta making, juicing, and even making ice cream. If you already own a KitchenAid mixer and don’t want to sacrifice any more counter space for another appliance, the ice cream freezer bowl attachment may be a perfect choice. The freezer bowl attaches to the mixer in place of the standard mixing bowl, and an ice cream paddle replaces the mixer’s beater. Both can be stored in the freezer between uses, so they’ll always be ready when you want to make a batch of ice cream.

KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment
The Spruce Eats / Stacey L. Nash.

Accessories

Ice cream makers typically don’t include any major accessories, although some might include ice cream scoops, extra bowls, or additional paddles. You’ll need a spoon or spatula to remove the ice cream from the machine and a freezer-safe container to store the finished product.

If you want to take your ice cream making to the next level, you may want to consider investing in special molds for making ice cream bars and a quality ice cream scoopToppings like sprinkles and fudge sauce, sundae dishes, and milkshake glasses may be fun accessories to have as well. 

FAQs

How do you clean an ice cream maker?

Before using and cleaning your ice cream maker, always consult the instruction manual for recommendations and best practices on how to clean each part. Most ice cream makers are not dishwasher safe, so you'll have to wash freezer bowls, paddles, and lids by hand in warm, soapy water with a mild detergent. Freezer bowls can not be put in the dishwasher because the high temperatures can damage the insulated seal and result in the cooling liquid leaking out.

All ice cream maker parts need to be thoroughly dried before reassembling and using. Freezer bowls need to be totally dry before being placed in the freezer; otherwise, ice can accumulate on the walls of the bowl and can interfere with the ice cream making process.

Can you rent an ice cream maker?

Commercial soft serve style ice cream machines are available to rent for parties and special events, but we're not aware of rentals for countertop ice cream makers designed for home kitchen use. If you're concerned you won't use an ice cream maker enough to justify the cost, consider a budget model or manual model. Be sure to check out warranties and return policies in case there's a problem, or you change your mind.

Can ice cream makers be used to make gelato and frozen yogurt?

Yes! Ice cream makers can be used to make ice cream, gelato, and frozen yogurt. You'll get the best results with an ice cream maker that has settings to control churning speed and freezing time, though. You'll find these features on electric models only, but not all electric ice cream makers have this capability. Be sure to read about dessert settings to make sure the ice cream maker offers the versatility you're looking for.

Is ice cream expensive to make?

It depends on the quality of ingredients you buy. The basic ingredients needed to make your own ice cream, regardless of the ice cream maker you use, are cream, milk, eggs, and sugar. The dairy aisle can be pricey, especially if you buy organic or grass-fed cream and milk. Eggs are relatively affordable but increase in cost if they're sourced from pastured hens. Flavorings and mix-ins vary in price. And, although not expensive, salt-and-ice style ice cream makers will require you to have a box of salt and a bag of ice on hand.

How does homemade ice cream compare to store bought?

There's no way to sugarcoat this: homemade ice cream tastes better and fresher than store-bought. Homemade has none of the artificial or weird ingredients some grocery store varieties contain. Plus, making your own ice cream puts you in the driver's seat to create flavors that just don't exist in grocery store freezers.

What are some tips for making homemade ice cream?

"I always recommend mastering vanilla ice cream before moving on to more complicated flavors," says Ellen Coatney, creator and owner of Fifth Scoop. "This helps you get the technique down without worrying about your chocolate breaking or your fruit swirl getting icy. Once you're confident you can mix and churn a delicious vanilla ice cream, start adding some basic mix-ins—cookie pieces or chocolate chips are easy ones to start with—and then you can get more creative."

What are some tips for making vegan homemade ice cream?

"For vegan ice creams, adding a little vodka to the mix before churning helps produce smoother, more scoopable ice cream because the vodka prevents it from freezing so hard," explains Coatney.

What are popular mix-ins for homemade ice cream?

For inspiration when it comes to mix-ins, some of Coatney's favorite combos include almond extract and candied cherries, frozen passion fruit pulp and coconut, and coffee and brownie pieces.

Cuisinart Ice-45 Review

The Spruce Eats / Madeline Muzzi

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

The Spruce Eats Editor Siobhan Wallace wrote this roundup based on testing insights from our Lab and at-home testers' full product reviews. The accompanying buying guide was written by kitchen tools expert Donna Currie, who has tested over 100 products for The Spruce Eats and knows what makes a good kitchen gadget.

This roundup was updated by Katrina Munichiello, a writer and editor who specializes in the tea and food industries. She currently focuses on small kitchen appliances for The Spruce Eats.

Additional reporting by
Katrina Munichiello
Katrina Munichiello The Spruce Eats
Katrina Munichiello is a freelance writer and editor whose career began in the tea industry. Her work has appeared in Yankee Magazine, Connecticut Magazine, and the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. A highlight of her career was covering a Mother’s Day tea event at the White House.
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