Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Cuisinart Electronic Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
“Settings for ice cream, gelato, or sorbet.”
Best High End: Breville Smart Scoop at Amazon
“Contains a compressor..that freezes the ice cream while it churns.”
Best for Small Spaces: Hamilton Beach Automatic Ice-Cream Maker at Amazon
“Can make up to four quarts of ice cream per batch, in 20 to 40 minutes.”
Best Soft Serve: Cuisinart Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
“Turns your kitchen counter into an ice cream parlor.”
Best Manual: Donvier Manual Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
“Pour in your ice cream base and turn the crank for 15 to 20 minutes.”
Best Budget: Nostalgia Electric Ice Cream Maker at Amazon
“You don’t have to work so hard to get your treats.”
Best Attachment: KitchenAid Stand Mixer Attachment at Amazon
“Compatible with both tilt-head and bowl-lift style mixers.”
01 of 07
Best Overall: Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker
Cuisinart was one of the first companies to popularize electric ice cream makers for home users, and the company continues to improve the product offerings. This one makes a whopping two 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. When time is up, the machine automatically shuts off.
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 in.
The 2-quart freezer bowl should be refrigerated overnight for best results, or store it in your freezer so it’s ready to go whenever you have that ice cream craving.
02 of 07
Best High End: Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
If you’re ready to get serious about making ice cream, this might be the model for you. Yes, it does come with a steep price tag, but it also has quite a few benefits. The 1 ½ quart ice cream maker contains a compressor, just like a window air conditioner, that freezes the ice cream while it churns. That means you don’t have to worry about freezing and refreezing a bowl between batches. This model can churn them out one after the other.
The other benefit of this model is that it has 12 specifically calibrated settings for different levels of softness. You won’t end up with rock hard sorbet or 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. Reviewers note that you should follow the filling instructions and don’t over fill it unless you want to clean up a mess of melty ice cream.
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. But at least you’ll get a workout before you enjoy your dessert.
03 of 07
Best for Small Spaces: Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker
Want lots of ice cream? Hate the idea of hand-churning? Got no freezer space for a giant freezer bowl? This is the ice cream maker you need. It can make up to four quarts of ice cream per batch, in 20 to 40 minutes.
There are no settings or controls to worry about. Just plug the machine in to begin the churning. When the mixture is so thick that the machine turns off, the ice cream is ready to go into the freezer to finish firming up. All you need to do is stay nearby so you can see that it’s done or listen for the churning to stop, since it’s a little louder than the more expensive compressor style ice cream makers.
Since this has no freezer bowl, you’ll need to use ice and rock salt to create the chilling needed, so plan ahead to have a sufficient amount of ice available. When you’re done, the container and paddle should be hand washed.
04 of 07
Best Soft Serve: Cuisinart ICE-45 Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker
While most of our ice cream maker picks can dish up a decent soft-serve, this machine excels at it. Plus, it has a few bells and whistles that make hosting an ice cream social even more enjoyable. The soft-serve maker is fully automatic and can make 1 ½ quarts of ice cream, or about 10 to 12 servings at a time. Like the other Cuisinart model on our list, you will need to freeze the inner bowl before making your soft-serve, which means if you want to make two different flavors, you’ll have to have two different freezer bowls.
The best part of this model comes when it’s time to serve up your ice cream. It basically turns your kitchen counter into an ice cream parlor with a cone holder that fits both flat-bottomed wafer cones and pointy sugar cones. To serve simply press on the lever just like you would a commercial soft serve machine. You can also add-in your favorite toppings and mix-ins thanks to the three dispensers on the side.
Finally, once you’re done dishing up your soft-serve, this model is easy to clean with a removable drip tray. Just be warned that it is a bit on the heavy side at 15 pounds, so you’ll want to be careful when moving it around.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Best Manual: Donvier Manual Ice Cream Maker, 1-Quart
If it just doesn’t seem like homemade ice cream without spending time turning a crank, then you’ll want this manual ice cream maker from Doniver. Similar to the Cuisinart model, this one has a freezer bowl, but it only needs to be frozen for about seven hours before you make your first batch. Once the bowl has frozen completely, simply pour in your ice cream base and turn the crank for 15 to 20 minutes to get soft-serve style ice cream. Want your scoops to be a little harder? Simply transfer the dessert to a freezer-safe container and allow it to chill for a few hours.
While this model might reignite some of your nostalgia, you won’t have to stock up on ice or rock salt, which makes this a winner in our book. The maker comes in three colors—white, green, and pink—and makes one quart of ice cream at a time. The aluminum freezer bowl is easy to clean, but be gentle with the plastic paddle, as it has been noted to be on the fragile side.
06 of 07
Best Budget: Nostalgia 4-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
If you like the idea of an old-fashioned ice cream maker and you want to make large batches, this fun machine is the one you’re looking for. Just like old-style ice cream makers, this uses ice to freeze the ice cream, but the cranking mechanism is electric, so you don’t have to work so hard to get your treats.
The ice bucket is made from plastic and doubles as a storage container when used with the included lid. For easy transportation, the machine has a handle and the motor locks when power is off, so all parts stay secure. The interior wipes clean easily when you’re done.
If you want easy ice cream, the company also makes mixes that can be used with this machine or use one of the included ice cream recipes or one of your own. This makes up to four quarts of ice cream, so you’ll have plenty for parties.
07 of 07
Best Attachment: KitchenAid KICA0WH Ice Cream Maker Stand Mixer Attachment
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 two-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 more stable.
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. Your ice cream should take about 30 minutes to churn, and will need to be frozen afterward if you prefer a harder, scoopable consistency. Soft-serve fans can enjoy it directly from the freezer bowl. One drawback with 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 it’s churning.
Products Tested by The Spruce
How We Tested
We bought three top-rated ice cream makers and our reviewers spent 25 hours testing them. We asked them to consider the most important features when using these ice cream makers, from their freezing style to their size. We've outlined the key points here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in an Ice Cream Maker
Freezing style Many ice cream makers use a freezer bowl or insert that needs to be frozen for a period of time before the ice cream is 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 you churn batch after batch but tend to be larger and more expensive. Cooling with ice and salt is the old-fashioned method, though it still works well.
Power source Churning ice cream can take 20 minutes or more, so electric machines make the job easier. On the other end of the spectrum, hand-churning with a manual machine can be tiring, and the job becomes more difficult as the ice cream hardens. (However, since manual models don’t need electricity, you can bring yours to the family picnic and let everyone try churning for a minute.)
Batch size How much ice cream do you want to make at once? If you have a big family or regularly make ice cream for parties, a larger-capacity unit makes sense. If you’re eager to try new recipes as often as possible, a machine that makes smaller batches is just what you need.
Test Results: Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker (Best Overall)
What We Like
Easy to add ingredients
Timer built into machine
What We Don't Like
Makes a lot of noise
Bowl must be frozen for 24 hours
Our testers raved about this product's ability to produce high quality ice cream at home. One testers used this ice cream maker to craft both ice cream and gelato, and she was extremely pleased with its performance: “The final result was delicious,” she said. “Really pure flavors, and so much better than store-bought ice cream. The ability to control the sweetness—and the fact that the final result is made with all fresh ingredients—made every batch so good.”
Some setbacks our reviewers noted were the machine’s large footprint and slightly inconvenient cleanup process: “The freezer container was so cold after taking out the ice cream that I had to leave it out and let it thaw before I could wash it,” noted one tester. Overall, our reviewers recommend this product despite it's higher price tag for its variety of ice cream-making features.
Test Results: Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker (Best High-End)
What We Like
Easy to use
Adjustable alarm feature
Keeps ice cream cool
What We Don't Like
Ice cream can melt quickly when cover is opened
Reviewers loved this product for its aesthetically pleasing design, LCD screen, and high quality build. “This product is worth splurging on because it's very easy to use and can be started up immediately when you get the craving for ice cream,” reported one of our testers. This product’s stainless steel finish was also a plus, and one reviewer loved its special keep cool feature: “The Keep Cool setting in particular helps the user avoid crystallization, which can ruin a batch of ice cream,” they explained. The main setbacks were that it was heavy and expensive. One tester also pointed out that “for all the bells and whistles it has, there's no speed setting to churn gelato more slowly.” While the price is higher than other ice cream makers on the market, reviewers loved how this machine greatly cuts down prep time.
Test Results: Hamilton Beach 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker (Best for Small Spaces)
What We Like
Makes large quantities
What We Don't Like
Requires rock salt and ice
Doesn’t churn small batches well
Reviewers enjoyed this product's lightweight design and portability. "This is the most affordable ice cream maker that consistently works,” declared one of our testers. In particular, one reviewer liked that they were able to make large quantities of ice cream despite the machine being “easy to tuck away and bring out when needed.” However, our testers didn’t like this machine's loud motor and time consuming prep, requiring rock salt and ice. One reviewer also pointed out that “the churning spatula can’t churn small batches well because it doesn't go deep enough into the canister.”