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Listen, we all stop at the store on the way home once in a while to purchase a nice pint of ice cream after a long day at work or a bad breakup. But even the best store-bought ice cream can’t compare to a delicious, creamy batch of a homemade frozen dessert made at home in the best ice cream maker.
Besides, vegan ice cream and frozen dessert options aren’t always available at the local grocery or convenience store. Even if it is sold there, there’s no guarantee they’re going to have your favorite flavor…we’ve all been through that disappointment, right?
That’s where a home ice cream machine comes in. If you have your own ice cream maker, you can craft delicious, creamy, indulgent batches of your favorite frozen desserts. You can even nix all of the nasty preservatives and extra sugar that many store-bought ice creams have.
But what’s the best ice cream maker on the market? What do you need to think about before you make the purchase? Luckily, I’ve done all of the research for you. So keep reading to learn which ice cream maker is going to be the best buy.
Wait a second… is ice cream even vegan?
You might be thinking, “Hold up Lisa. Ice cream has the word “cream” in it. How can that be vegan?”
And to that I say: you’re right. Traditional ice cream is a dairy based frozen dessert that isn’t suitable for vegans or those on a vegan diet. However, there are vegan ice creams out there.
Vegan ice cream can be made with milk alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, etc. As long as ice creams made with these dairy milk alternatives also contain animal-product free extras (like vegan chocolate chunks, vegan caramel swirls, vegan cookie dough, etc), then it’s a true vegan ice cream dessert!
There are also other types of frozen desserts that aren’t technically considered ice cream, like sorbet and gelato. Many people throw these words around interchangeably, but there are key differences to each frozen dessert, how they are made, and how that affects its vegan status. (1)
Ice cream vs gelato vs sorbet
Let’s look at the differences between these frozen desserts and what it does to their vegan status:
So, I already went over what vegan ice cream is: a frozen dessert with a dairy alternative as the base. Ice cream recipes also usually add in a sweetener of some kind (sugar, agave, maple syrup, etc), a flavor of come sort (fruit, chocolate, caramel, mint, etc), and added extras (cookie chunks, bits of fruit, chocolate chips, etc).
When making ice cream, air is churned into the mixture in order to make it fluffy and light.
Gelato is sometimes referred to as “Italian ice cream.” But this is actually a misnomer, since the way to make gelato is entirely different from ice cream.
While gelato contains most of the same ingredients that ice cream does (milk/milk alternative, a sweetener, and flavoring), typically gelato is made with a much lower fat content. It’s also frozen at a lower temperature compared to ice cream.
The third difference is crucial for making gelato vs ice cream: gelato has no air churned into the mixture like ice cream does. This gives gelato a denser and thicker texture.
Gelato and ice cream both use milk (or in our vegan case, milk alternatives) as the base of the dessert. Sorbet, on the other hand, is water based.
To make sorbet, you combine water with a sweetener (sugar, agave, maple syrup, etc) and usually with a type of fruit (mango, strawberry, etc). There are other sorbet flavors as well, like chocolate, but fruit is by far the most common.
Check out the details of their differences broken down in this video:
OK so now you know the difference between all of these frozen desserts. But why does it matter?
First of all, the type you decide to make will affect the recipe you use and the ingredients you need. Secondly, it also will affect how you choose an ice cream maker.
Not all ice cream machines are also a gelato machine or a sorbet maker. And not all gelato makers are also sorbet and ice cream makers. Because each needs different amounts of air and different freezing temperatures, not all machines will be able to make each type of frozen dessert.
Certain machines will have certain setting and options to make ice cream, gelato, and sorbet. Others will only be able to make one type.
Choosing the right machine is particularly important if you want to make gelato. Since making gelato requires no air to get into the mixture, you’ll need a machine with an airtight locking lid and a churning/paddling method that doesn’t add in any air. This requires either special settings or a specialized gelato machine.
So if you know you’re going to focus on one type of frozen dessert, you need to check that the machine you purchase is actually able to make that. If you want a machine that can make all three kinds, that’s something else you need to consider when deciding which is the best ice cream maker for you.
Are there different types of ice cream makers?
Now you know that there are different types of machines that can make ice cream, gelato, sorbet, or any combination of those frozen desserts. But there is another difference between types of ice cream makers: the method of freezing.
The main job of an ice cream machine is to mix the ingredients properly depending on the type of dessert being made (remember, ice cream needs air to be churned into it, but gelato doesn’t), but it also needs to freeze the mixture while it mixes. (2)
Different machines use different freezing methods. Let’s go into the main differences:
Types Of Freezing Methods
Salt and ice
Rock salt and ice is the most traditional way to make ice cream. These machines use ice and salt to quickly lower the temperature of the frozen dessert mixture.
These can sometimes leave a salty taste to the ice cream, which should come as no shock since salt is a component of making these machines work.
The drawback, besides the salty flavor, is that these can take a lot longer to freeze the mixture, and many require hand churning/paddling for long periods of time, which can get quite tiring (and boring!). You’ll also need to have rock salt and large amounts of ice on hand, which not everyone will have.
The bonus to these machines is they create thick, delicious, and authentic batches of ice cream. However, most of these machines can’t make gelato because of how they operate (air will get into the mixture).
The frozen bowl method of freezing requires you to, well, freeze a bowl. You’ll need to pre-freeze the bowl part of the machine before starting your frozen dessert recipe.
This isn’t just any bowl: frozen bowl machines come with a bowl that must be frozen before starting the frozen dessert recipe and making process. These bowls have a layer of liquid inside of them that, once frozen, is able to promote quicker freezing of liquids that are inside the bowl.
This is, essentially, what makes the ice cream freeze. Pretty nifty, right?
The drawback to these machines is it does require forethought. You have to make sure to pre-freeze the bowl before you make your frozen dessert. It’s not very spontaneous.
You’ll also have to have ample freezer space to fit the bowl in there. This isn’t always feasible; keep your freezer space in mind when looking at frozen bowl style ice cream machines.
Compressor ice cream makers
Compressor ice cream makers are the most “high tech” and the quickest working ice cream makers you can get. These machines use a compressor in order to instantaneously bring the temperature of your ice cream, gelato, or sorbet mixture down so it can start freezing.
What does that mean? It means you don’t need any preparation like freezing a bowl or buying a ton of ice. You can wake up one morning, prepare an ice cream recipe, and instantly make ice cream thanks to the compressor in these machines.
For me, compressor ice cream makers are the only way to go if you intend to use your frozen dessert gadget regularly. Yes, they’re usually much more expensive, but the convenience they bring is well worth the extra investment.
Why make your own frozen desserts?
This is a fair question. Why make ice cream or gelato when you can buy one of the vegan options available at your store? There are a few reasons:
Choose your base
First off, you’ll be able to choose the dairy alternative you use as the base for your delicious dessert. Sometimes, all that’s available at your local grocery store is soy-based ice cream, for example.
But if you’re allergic to soy, or don’t like the taste, then you’re out of luck. When you make your own ice cream, you can choose whatever dairy alternative you prefer.
Even if you have a few options at your grocery store, usually there isn’t as wide of a selection as the non-vegan ice creams. You might not be able to find your favorite flavor, even if you can find a vegan-specific store.
Making your own ice cream lets you customize your dessert to your favorite tastes. If you want chocolate birthday cake cherry surprise vegan ice cream, then you can have that. If you want bran flake raisin swirl ice cream, you can have that, too.
Know what ingredients are going in there
While not all vegan ice creams contain unhealthy ingredients, some do. Some commercially available vegan ice creams will contain excess sugar, added preservatives, and artificial flavors. Yuck!
When you make your own ice cream desserts, you control exactly what goes into the mixture, which is one of the most important things about buying a top rated ice cream maker, in my opinion.
Buying ice cream at the store can get expensive, especially since many vegan options are more expensive than non-vegan options. While buying an ice cream machine can be a hefty initial investment, it will pay for itself with the money you’ll save when you make your own instead of buying it.
More environmentally friendly
Store bought ice cream comes in containers that people don’t always remember to recycle. Many ice cream containers aren’t even recyclable in the first place.
Buying prepackaged stuff like this frequently isn’t great for the environment. When you make your own ice cream, you can store it in sustainable and reusable packaging instead of purchasing prepackaged materials regularly. (3)
So, what are the best ice cream maker options available?
Now that I’ve (maybe) convinced you of the benefits of owning an ice cream maker and you know the differences that you need to be aware of, let’s go over 8 of the best machines on the market.
Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker
This is an excellent option for those looking to make all types of frozen desserts: this Cuisinart ICE-70 machine can make gelato, ice cream, and sorbet. It can make 2 quarts of the frozen dessert of your choice in just 20 minutes.
The LCD screen and buttons make this machine easy to use. You simply load in your mixture, choose a setting (ice cream, gelato, or sorbet), and press start. 20 minutes later, you’ll have your delicious dessert!
This machine also comes with a built-in timer, which will notify you when your dessert is ready.
This is a “frozen bowl” style ice cream maker, which means that you will need to pre-freeze the bowl before you can make your ice cream. Depending on your preference, this could be a downside since you’ll have to freeze the bowl at least 24 hours before you begin making your ice cream.
Some of the qualities many customers love about this machine is it’s fast, easy to clean, and easy to use. The simple button set-up, the built-in settings, and the design all make this machine easy to use, store, and clean.
It seems the biggest drawback to this machine is the “frozen bowl” method that requires pre-freezing (although, that isn’t a drawback for everyone). Other customers have expressed disappointment at the built-in sorbet setting that is almost indistinguishable from the “ice cream” setting.
- Fast operation
- Sleek design
- Timer included
- Easy to use and clean
- Need to plan ahead with this machine
- Requires a fair amount of freezer space
- Sorbet setting could be better
Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
Here we have another Cuisinart ice cream maker review. As you can tell from the title, the ICE-100 is different from the ICE-70 above, in that the ICE-100 is an ice cream machine with a compressor compared to the ICE-70 which is a frozen bowl ice cream maker.
While this model has a slightly smaller capacity at only around 1-1.5 quarts, there are a number of benefits that put this machine at a commercial/professional level maker.
It comes with two different paddles to make both ice cream and gelato. Users say that they’re also able to make sorbet in this machine as well, so you won’t be limited in which desserts you can make.
It also comes with a transparent lid so you can see exactly what’s happening during the mixing process, and whether your frozen dessert is at the proper consistency and the right amount of frozen. I also love the fact that this machine requires no pre-freezing before making ice cream: you simply load it up with your recipe, press start, and wait!
There’s even a cooling feature that will keep the frozen ice cream or gelato cold after the cycle is done. So if you can’t get back to the machine right when the timer goes off, you don’t have to worry about returning to ice cream soup.
This machine comes in a sleek stainless steel that will match most kitchens, so you don’t have to worry about this appliance being an eyesore.
Unlike the ICE-70, some customers have complaints about cleaning the ICE-100 model. This is made especially annoying when having to clean in between batches. Since the capacity is smaller than other options, cleaning the bowl in between batches isn’t uncommon, either.
The smaller capacity can be an issue if you’re trying to make larger batches of ice cream. However, many customers find that the smaller capacity is a positive aspect, since it means the appliance itself is smaller and takes up less space.
- Compressor means ice cream when you want it
- Good looks
- Can make all three types of frozen dessert, even though it only comes with two paddles
- Cooling feature keeps the contents cold after churning
- Transparent lid is handy for monitoring progress
- Capacity not as big as some other models
- Can be a pain to clean
Cuisinart ICE-60W Cool Creations Ice Cream Maker
Remember the Cuisinart ICE-70 that we went over earlier? The Cuisinart ICE-60W is essentially the exact same as that machine, except the ICE-60W doesn’t come with a countdown timer like the ICE-70 does.
That being said, this machine has all of the pros that the ICE-70 has: easy to use LCD screen and buttons, the ability to make various frozen desserts (ice cream, gelato, sorbet, etc), and the ability to make ice cream in just 20 minutes.
However, as I said earlier, the ICE-60W doesn’t come with the built-in timer that notifies when the ice cream is ready. That means you’ll either have to set your own timer, or simply be vigilant to make sure you get your ice cream before it melts.
Like the ICE-70, this is a “frozen bowl” style ice cream maker. That means you need to pre-freeze the bowl to prepare to make your ice cream. This seems to be the biggest drawback, although it might not be a drawback for you. That just depends on the customer’s preference.
But the ICE-60W is a reliable and easy-to-use machine. We love the ease of use, the 2 quart capacity, and the simple buttons.
- Affordable home ice cream maker
- Good capacity bowl
- Easy to clean
- Buttons are clear and straightforward
- Reliable and sturdy for the money
- No timer could be an inconvenience to some
- Frozen bowl method requires forethought (no good when you’re craving!)
- Freezer space required
Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence Ice Cream Maker
Let’s give you a fourth Cuisinart option, shall we? Cuisinart is one of the most well-known ice cream maker brands for a reason: they’re reliable, efficient, and make great ice cream.
The Cuisinart ICE-30BC model is another frozen bowl ice cream maker, just like the ICE-70 and the ICE-60W models I went over earlier (which, again, comes with the downside of having to pre-freeze the bowl). The ICE-30BC also has a 2 quart capacity, just like the ICE-70 and the ICE-60W models.
It’s also quick and automatic, making your delicious frozen dessert in just about 20 minutes. You can make ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet with this model. Gelato isn’t listed as an option with the ICE-30BC, though, so if you want to make that traditional Italian dessert, the ICE-30BC isn’t the model for you.
This sleek stainless steel model is compact and easy to use. It comes in a fully silver model or in a silver and red model for those who want a bit of color in their appliances (how many black and silver ones can you own, really?)
We love that it’s fully automatic and that it’s easy to clean. However, a drawback to cleaning this one: you must wash the bowl by hand.
Some report that when the bowl is washed in a dishwasher, the machine no longer works and the bowl doesn’t freeze the ice cream properly anymore. This could be an issue if you are staunchly opposed to washing things by hand, but it seems like an easy thing to work around.
Other owners of this model also say that it can be quite loud during the ice cream making process. They also describe the ice cream made in this machine as “soft serve” consistency. If you prefer harder ice cream textures, you’ll need to put the ice cream in the freezer to let it harden in there.
All that along with the “frozen bowl” method could all be considered downsides.
But there are significant pros to the Cuisinart ICE-30BC: it makes creamy, delicious ice cream in a short amount of time without the complexity and fuss of more intense machines.
- Great option for those who like soft serve ice cream
- Automatic operation is very convenient
- Designed to be left on the countertop; it looks good!
- Choice of colors
- Bowl must be washed by hand
- Can be noisy to operate
- Not suitable for those who like a more solid frozen dessert
- No gelato option
- Frozen bowl method isn’t the most immediate option
Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker
The Lello 4080 ice cream maker is as close to a professional machine as you can get at home. It’s fully automatic: all you need to do is load it up with your ice cream mixture, press a couple buttons, and you’re good to go.
While this machine can make ice cream, gelato, sorbet, and frozen yogurt, we really recommend it for the gelato function. The Lello is made in Italy, so you know that it’s going to be well-crafted to make authentic and traditional gelato.
Customers agree: this machine makes some of the creamiest, most dense and delicious gelato you can make at home. The capacity is comparable to other machines of this size, and the sleek stainless steel design means it will blend in well in any kitchen.
Another huge plus to the Lello is that it’s both quiet and efficient. Usually you get to pick only one of those things with ice cream makers: it will be fast, but super loud. Or, it will be quiet, but take forever to produce a single batch.
Not with the Lello, though. This ice cream maker can churn out a perfect batch in as little as 15 minutes while staying nice and quiet throughout the process.
One of the only downsides customers have with this machine is the lack of repair services available. This machine only comes with a 1 year warranty, and the service centers aren’t commonplace around the world. You might have to send your machine across the country, or even overseas, in order to get something fixed during a short warranty period.
- Superb quality, professional ice cream at home
- Quiet and quick
- Fully automatic
- Makes all sort of frozen desserts
- Prohibitively expensive for many home cooks
- Short warranty
- Repair services not easy to come by should your machine have a problem
Gourmia GSI480 Automatic Ice Cream Maker
The Gourmia GSI480 ice cream maker makes ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, and sorbet.
This is a fully automatic machine with a built-in compressor that requires no frozen bowl or pre-freezing whatsoever. The entire ice cream making process only takes about an hour: from preparing the mixture, to loading the machine, to scooping it out into a bowl!
The control panel on the GSI480 gives you multiple options without complex dials or confusing buttons. You can choose between “hard serve” and “soft serve” and press start. The machine will automatically slow the churning as it gets to the proper consistency, so you’ll get the texture you want every time.
The hard serve will take a bit longer to make compared to the soft serve.
Owners of the Gourmia love that this machine is small and can be easily stored anywhere. They also love how easy it is to use. Without having to pre-freeze a bowl, you simply turn it on, use the simple buttons on the top of the machine, and eat yummy ice cream.
That same pro of compactness is also a con with this ice cream machine option. The compact size of the machine means that it has a smaller capacity of around 2 pints (which is just about 1 quart).
The other downside to an ice cream maker with a compressor like this is that it can’t be taken apart to wash it as you can with a frozen bowl machine. Some customers expressed that cleaning this model is somewhat difficult because of this.
This machine does come with some bonus goodies, though: a recipe book, measuring cups, and spoons.
- Affordable compressor ice cream maker
- Nice, space-age design
- Makes the full range of frozen desserts
- Really simple to use
- Takes longer than many other models
- Its compact nature means smaller batches
- Can be difficult to clean
Whynter ICM-201SB 2.1 Quart Upright Ice Cream Maker
If you’re looking for a large ice cream maker that also has the added bonus of being a compressor model (vs the large Cuisinart frozen bowl options), then the Whynter ICM-201SB could be perfect for you.
As the name suggests, it has a 2.1 quart capacity to make large batches of frozen desserts. Thankfully, the large size doesn’t equate to a bulky machine. It’s compact and square, which allows it to fit well in any kitchen and countertop. It’s made of stainless steel, which also let’s it blend into any kitchen design.
This is a compressor ice cream machine, so there’s no pre-freezing required. Fire it up, add in your favorite mixture, and get going. The buttons and controls are easy to use, say many customers, and there’s a built-in timer to help you out.
One of the best features on this machine is the presence of a “pause” button. This allows you to pause the machine mid-cycle if you need to add in more toppings, extra milk, some chocolate sauce, fruit chunks, or whatever your heart desires.
Another unique feature on this model is that the bowl is removable. Recall that some compressor machines can be difficult to wash because they can’t be taken apart. This Whynter model can remove the bowl to make it easier to clean after you’re done making the batch.
This machine can make ice cream, gelato, sorbet, frozen yogurt, and more. Customers do say that it mostly makes it into a soft serve consistency. If you want a harder texture, you may have to transfer the ice cream it into the freezer to let it harden up.
Some owners of this machine say that the texture isn’t always even throughout the ice cream at the end of the cycle. A few customers get around this by taking advantage of the “pause” button to manually mix the mixture and spread the texture evenly.
While not without minor niggles, the Whynter ICM-201SB is a fantastic machine for anyone who likes creating their own frozen desserts at home.
- Ice cream when YOU want it!
- Really easy to use with clear LCD display
- Large capacity makes it perfect for families
- Removable bowl makes it simple to clean
- “Pause” button is handier than you think
- Can handle all types of frozen dessert
- Built in Motor Protection Function ensures burn out won’t occur, even if your dessert goes solid
- Lovers of ice cream at the harder end of the scale may have to do a bit of manual freezing
- Texture can be inconsistent (although that can be resolved fairly simply)
Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
And lastly, we have the Breville SCI600XL. This is another compressor ice cream maker, which means there’s no pre-freezing required. It has a respectable 1.5 quart capacity to create nice batches of ice cream without needing a huge machine.
This machine is a bit fancier than the others when it comes to settings: there are 12 different hardness settings to create the perfect gelato, ice cream, frozen yogurt, and sorbet. The machine can sense when the mixture is at the proper hardness and will automatically stop when it reaches that.
Not only can is sense the hardness of the frozen dessert you’re making, but it will also automatically turn on the “keep cool” setting that will, well, keep the ice cream cool.
You don’t have to worry about not hearing the timer and returning to melted ice cream. The Breville Smart Scoop will keep your ice cream at the perfect frozen texture until you’re ready to scoop it out and serve.
This machine does take a bit longer to deliver: around 40 minutes minimum. It also isn’t rock hard, even if you pick the “hardest” setting. For that, you’ll need to freeze the dessert for longer in the freezer.
This machine is not dishwasher safe, so it’s somewhat hard to clean. Some users also complained that this machine is very sensitive and delicate; they say it can break somewhat easily and stop working if dinged or banged the wrong way.
- Lots of settings for greater control
- Will keep your frozen dessert at the right temperature after churning
- Compact unit makes it ideal for smaller abodes
- Compressor ice cream machine means dessert can be made without too much prior planning
- Not dishwasher safe
- Not the quickest machine on the list
- Some have found the unit to be overly sensitive and prone to breakages
So which is the best ice cream maker?
From all of these options, we think that the Whynter ICM-201SB takes the (ice cream) cake. This is not only a high-quality machine, but it’s also efficient, fast, sleek-looking, and customer-approved to make delicious creamy ice cream.
It’s a compressor model, so you won’t have to worry about having enough room in your freezer for a freezer bowl or remembering a day in advance to pre-freeze. It also gets around the cleaning issue that other compressor models have: the bowl is removable for a headache free clean-up.
The only headache you’ll have is from the ice cream-induced brain freeze!
This model can also make all the types of desserts we went over earlier: sorbet, ice cream, and gelato. The capacity is large enough to make decently sized batches as well, so you’ll be set on vegan ice cream for at least a few nights.
You get all of this along with easy to use controls, simple instructions, and high-tech additions like the pause button to make sure you make the perfect frozen treat.
But, regardless of which model you choose from our list you’ll get delicious vegan desserts. Each of these ice cream makers can create anything you set your mind to whether that’s a super healthy, all-natural peach sorbet, or a not-so-healthy birthday cake chocolate chunk caramel swirl gelato (providing the have the appropriate settings, of course).
Once you’ve tried the convenience and variety that comes with making your own ice cream, even Ben and Jerry’s isn’t going to taste as good!
About The Author:
Lisa Williams is a committed vegan, passionate animal welfare advocate, and keen follower of too many v-friendly food blogs to mention. She started happyhappyvegan.com back in 2016 because she felt there was a need for more straightforward information on plant-based living.
Back then, too many sites seem to either concentrate solely on recipes or be too intimidating or inaccessible for the v-curious, and she wanted to change that. The landscape is certainly a whole lot different now!
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- TasteAtlas Editors | Top 50 MOST POPULAR FROZEN DESSERTS in the world | https://www.tasteatlas.com/50-most-popular-frozen-desserts-in-the-world
- WayFair | How to Choose the Best Ice Cream Maker for You | https://www.wayfair.com/sca/ideas-and-advice/guides/how-to-choose-the-best-ice-cream-maker-for-you-T6419
- Kristina Todini, RDN | Is Cooking At Home Better For The Environment? | https://www.forkintheroad.co/home-cooking-environment-benefits/