Appliances

The Foodie’s Guide to the Best Homemade Ice Cream Makers + TOP 10 Reviews

Nostalgia ICMP400WD Vintage Collection 4-Quart Wood Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker

Who doesn’t love sitting on the patio on a warm summer afternoon devouring an ice cold bowl of rich, creamy chocolate ice cream?

While you could buy a pint of ice cream at the grocery store and save yourself the time and effort of making ice cream at home, those really aren’t factors when deciding to make ice cream from home.

How do you find the best ice cream maker for your family? Or better yet, what is the best ice cream maker? Let’s take a look.

PictureIce Cream MakerReview
Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart AutomaticCheck Price on Amazon.comCuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart AutomaticOur Review
Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato MakerCheck Price on Amazon.comCuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato MakerOur Review
Nostalgia ICMP400BLUE Vintage Collection 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream MakerCheck Price on Amazon.comNostalgia ICMP400BLUE Vintage Collection 6-QuartOur Review
Nostalgia ICMP400WD Vintage Collection 4-Quart Wood Bucket Electric Ice Cream MakerCheck Price on Amazon.comNostalgia ICMP400WD Vintage Collection 4-QuartOur Review
Hamilton Beach 68330N 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream MakerCheck Price on Amazon.comHamilton Beach 68330N 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream MakerOur Review

Why Should You Buy an Ice Cream Maker

Less Expensive

Technically yes, pint per pint the cost of ice cream purchased at the store, assuming you purchase a high quality brand, can be more than double the cost of buying the ingredients and making the ice cream yourself.

Sure, it takes more time, but saving time is not really what a true foodie is after, right?

The Fun Factor

This is one of the top reasons to make your ice cream from home. Fun, entertainment, amusement – these are great incentives to make ice cream from home.

The whole family can get involved. You can make it a tradition in your family. Imagine making candy cane ice cream for Christmas, when the family comes over each year.

You could make a delicate green tea ice cream to go with the hand made sushi you created for your special anniversary dinner.

Maybe your best friend’s birthday is coming up. Whip up a batch of Butterfinger Chocolate Ice cream featuring her favorite candy bar and watch her eyes light up.

Making Ice cream is also a great activity to do with the kids when they are off school for the summer. What a memorable experience that would be for them. You will spend time with them and enjoy a treat at the same time!

ice cream in hand

Variety, Creativity, Customization

This is another TOP reason to make ice cream at home. If there is a flavor that you just must have, you can make it yourself.

Maybe fresh strawberries are in season- this is your chance! Imagine, strawberry shortcake ice cream with fresh just picked strawberries and no funky additives. Oh My Goodness!

Speaking of additives…

The Health Factor

OK, So Ice cream is not the healthiest food on the planet, but in moderation it is a great treat. But making it at home can be healthier than eating the store bought ice cream.

For one thing, you have control of the sugar content when you make it yourself. Some store brands are overly sweet anyways.

If you like to use real fruit as a sweetener you can decide to use less sugar or even an alternative sweetener, it’s up to you.

Another benefit is you don’t add chemicals, preservatives; thickeners are other non ice-creamy ingredients to your homemade ice cream, so you won’t be consuming that junk when you eat your ice cream. Yum.

History of Homemade Ice Cream

What is the history of this beloved concoction we call Ice cream? There is a swirl of theories regarding the origin. In antiquity, only royals could afford frozen treats on a regular basis.

Alexander the great was said to have indulged in snow mixed with honey or nectar. According to legend King Solomon enjoyed and icy treat once in a while.

The Chinese emperor Shang Tang was reported to take pleasure in a frozen dessert made from milk and camphor, possibly using salt or saltpeter to make ice “colder” facilitating the freezing of the mix.

Ice cream became a more widespread treat by the 1600 and the colonists brought recipes for making ice cream from Europe.

In 1843, the first patent was awarded for an ice cream machine, called an “artificial freezer” which has a design similar to some machines seen today. By the 1880’s folks were enjoying ice cream floats at the soda fountain.

But because soda was banned on Sunday they were forced to invent the ice cream “Sunday” now called “Sundae”. The poor things!

different types of ice cream

DIY Methods

There are ways to make ice cream from home without a machine, but they are challenging and messy, and often unsuccessful, taking some of the joy out of making ice cream from home.

For the DIY Method you need:

  • A gallon size zip lock bag
  • Pint size zip lock bag
  • Ice
  • Rock salt
  • Half and half
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sugar

Place the half and half, vanilla extract and sugar in the pint bag. Place the ice and salt in the gallon size bag. Seal the pint bag and place inside the gallon bag. Seal the gallon bag and SHAKE for 5 Minutes.

This method works if you use enough ice and salt. But it can be messy and the ice cream is somewhat soft. It only makes a pint, and some people are not able to get the mixture to freeze.

Plus, you must shake by hand, for a full 5 minutes.

The best ice cream maker is one that does the work for you!

What is a Homemade Ice Cream Maker Machine and How Do They Work

There are three types of modern homemade Ice cream makers included in our reviews:

Old Fashioned Rock Salt and Ice

This type of machine uses the same freezing technology that was used in the good old days. The unit will have a large bucket, and a smaller inner canister.

You fill the canister with the ice cream ingredients. Then you layer ice and rock salt around the canister. Turn the unit on and the churn stirs the ice cream, freezing it, aerating it and giving it a creamy consistency.

In this category, the Nostalgia brand got the best ice cream maker reviews.

Tips for Ice and Salt Ice Cream Machines:

  • Use plenty of salt. The salt melts the ice and makes the slurry colder than merely ice alone. The salt lowers the waters freezing point and allows the ice to melt.This super cold slurry can then completely come in contact with the canister, and is cold enough to freeze the mix.
  • Buy a large bag of rock salt or water softener salt at a home improvement store for the most economical price.
  • Layer the salt and ice. Don’t dump the salt on top, it needs to be integrated with the ice to work. The top layer should also be salt. Once it starts to melt add more ice and layer with more salt.
  • Before you start to freeze your ice cream mix, place it in the fridge for a while so it is really cold. You can also put the canister and paddle in the freezer to pre-chill them and get a better result.
  • Nearly all Ice cream machines make a soft ice cream. You will need to freeze the ice cream for a few hours to get it really hard.
  • Use heavy cream if you like hard ice cream, milk and half and half make softer ice cream.
  • DO NOT store the ice cream in the canister. Immediately transfer the ice cream to a plastic container with an airtight lid and put it in the freezer.

Freezer Bowl Type Machine

This machine uses an insulated bowl which must be placed in the freezer up to 24 hours in advance. The bowl has a special cooling fluid with a lower freezing point than water to make your ice cream mix freeze.

In this category Cuisinart got the best ice cream maker reviews.

Tips for the Freezer Bowl Type Machines:

  • Get a thermometer and make sure your freezer is getting to 0 degrees. The temperature of your freezer makes a difference in the quality of your ice cream.
  • Make sure the bowl is placed in the bottom of the freezer in the back. This is where the freezer is coldest.
  • Make sure the freezer bowl is flat and even, since the liquid will freeze in this position. If the bowl is lopsided or on its side the frozen coolant will not be even.
  • Try and look for a unit with a metal canister/bowl. Plastic canisters or bowls can develop leaks and coolant can get in your ice cream. Yuck!
  • Pre-chill your ice cream mix and paddle.
  • If you have the space, store the freeze bowl in the freezer so it is ready whenever the ice cream making mood hits you.
  • The tips advising to use heavy cream, freezing the ice cream when it is done, and storing in an airtight container all apply to freezer bowl models as well.

Self-contained Self-freezing Units

These are units that do the freezing themselves, no need to use ice or pre freeze the canister/bowl. This type of ice cream machine is the best ice cream machine for those who want homemade ice cream with minimum fuss, planning and ingredients.

It takes a bit more time, generally 60 min, vs. 25 min for other styles. The best home ice cream maker in this category is a Cuisinart.

Tips for Self-contained Self-freezing units:

  • The tips for using heavy cream, freezing the ice cream when it is done apply to self contained self freezing models as well.
  • If you find the ice cream sticking to the side, use a spatula to remove it and mix it. All the liquid needs to come in contact with the side of the bowl – that is how it gets frozen!
  • Use real vanilla extract, it has a far better taste and makes a difference. This goes for all types of ice cream makers.
  • Do not over fill the canister/bowl. The ice cream will expand as it freezes and needs space to do so.

What You Should Look for Before Buying a Homemade Ice Cream Maker

smurf ice cream

Motor

All of the best ice cream makers we reviewed use a motor. Be sure the motor is made from high quality material.

Avoid those that use plastic gears which can become stripped. As the ice cream thickens it puts more demand on the motor and this can wear the motor, as can chunky add-ins.

Materials

As far as the bowl/canister goes, if this is a freezer bowl model, avoid plastic bowls because they can crack and leak coolant. Plastic is OK for the salt and ice models, but they too can crack if abused.

The wood bucket on some of the salt and ice models is attractive, but the metal bands on the wood corrode easily on contact with salt water. Plastic does not do this.

Size

Consider the capacity. The 1.5 quart models can make about 4 servings. The larger capacity models would be appropriate for large families or folks who eat ice cream frequently.

Also consider the actual size of the unit, how much counter space it occupies, and if the freezer bowl will fit in your freezer.

Brand Reputation Today

Probably one of the most important considerations is the current brand reputation. Look for a brand that has an excellent reputation. Some brands had a good reputation but due to changes in manufacturing went down hill.

Surprisingly, the most expensive units are not always the best performing units when it comes to the best ice cream makers.

Top Brands

Cuisinart had one of the top rated ice cream makers reviewed in the Freezer bowl and self-contained self-freezing categories. They outperformed others in terms of durability and simplicity. Where they lacked was capacity.

This is where the Nostalgia brand shined. Nostalgia ice cream maker reviews showed us that this brand offers a large capacity ice cream maker and a high quality machine that lasts.

Other of the best home ice cream maker brands we reviewed include White Mountain, Hamilton Beach, Gourmia, Whytner and Kitchenaid.

TOP 10 Best Ice Cream Maker Reviews: Best Homemade Ice Cream Maker Found!

In order of preference:

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic

Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic

  • Best Ice Cream Machine in the Freezer Bowl Category
  • Capacity: 2 Quart
  • Time: 25 min
  • Needs Ice? No, reusable freezer bowl contains cooling liquid.

PROS

  • Makes 2 Quarts
  • Compact design
  • Cord saver
  • Reusable cooler bowl, no need for ice and salt

CONS

  • Bowl is aluminum coated with Xylan (a non-stick coating)

REVIEW

This is one of the best Cuisinart ice cream makers. It is also one of the best rated ice cream makers.

It has a great design. It is square, so it takes up less space than the bucket shaped makers.

The ‘cooling’ bowl is lined with cooling liquid. You simply place the cooling bowl in the freezer for 24 hrs and it is ready to use. It is reusable and you won’t ever need ice and salt.

The ice cream is ready in 25 min. If you want harder ice cream you will need to freeze for an additional 2 hours.

Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

 Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker

  • Best Ice Cream Machine in the Self-contained, Self-freezing Category
  • Capacity: 1.5 quarts
  • Time: 60 min
  • Needs Ice? No, and no need to freeze the container either.

PROS

  • The unit does the freezing
  • No need to use ice, no need to pre-freeze anything
  • LED control panel, start/stop button
  • Two separate mixing paddles, one for ice cream, and another for gelato
  • Timer and removable blades
  • Includes a recipe book

CONS

  • Somewhat small compared to the price
  • Paddles are plastic
  • If you use the unit very often you need to make sure it is clean and dry and that no ice cream mix gets into the motor housing and goes rancid

REVIEW

Since Cuisinart is such a good brand, we have more than one Cuisinart ice cream maker review.

This premium unit from our best home ice cream makers is beautifully crafted from stainless steel. It has a removable 1.5 quart bucket and an LCD control panel.

With this ice cream maker there is no need to pre-freeze or use ice, it’s the best of both worlds. You can make batch after batch of ice cream, because the unit does the freezing and does not rely on an outside source of cold.

This machine has one paddle for ice cream, which incorporates more air into the mix, and another for gelato, which has less air than ice cream.

This is the best ice cream maker machine for someone who wants homemade ice cream with minimal fuss and maximum quality.

Note, the ice cream, like most ice cream makers, comes as soft serve, you need to put it in the freezer for an hour or two for hard ice cream.

Nostalgia ICMP400BLUE Vintage Collection Ice Cream Maker

Nostalgia ICMP400BLUE Vintage Collection 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker

  • Best Ice Cream Machine in the Salt and Ice Category
  • Capacity: 6 Quart
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Needs Ice? Yes, needs a lot of ice and salt.

PROS

  • Durable long lasting motor
  • 6 Quart Capacity

CONS

  • The clips that hold the motor on could be stronger
  • If you do not layer the ice and salt the mix will freeze unevenly

REVIEW

This is one of the largest capacity and best electric ice cream makers we reviewed. It can make a whopping 6 quarts. It uses ice and salt, but some people prefer the spontaneity this offers.

The plastic housing is durable, and for its size, it has a budget price. This is a great ice cream maker for a large family.

Nostalgia ICMP400WD Vintage Collection 4-Quart Ice Cream Maker

Nostalgia ICMP400WD Vintage Collection 4-Quart Wood Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker

  • Capacity: 4 quart
  • Time: 30 to 40 min to soft serve.
  • Needs Ice? Yes, you use ice and salt to do the freezing.

PROS

  • 4 Quart
  • Huge capacity
  • Real wood bucket
  • See thru lid

CONS

  • You need ice and salt
  • The paddle does not completely scrape the ice cream off the sides, and leaves a layer, while the center remains soft serve

REVIEW

This is making ice cream the old fashioned way. This beautiful wood bucket is outfitted with a removable plastic liner. You fill the unit with ice and salt, and then add your ice cream mix into the aluminum container and the machine does the churning for you.

There is a window on top so you can see the action. You may have to freeze the ice cream afterward to get a harder ice cream.

Hamilton Beach 68330N 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker

Hamilton Beach 68330N 4-Quart Automatic Ice-Cream Maker

  • One of the Best from the Hamilton Beach Ice Cream Maker Reviews.
  • Capacity: 4 Quart
  • Time: 20 to 40 Min
  • Needs Ice? Yes, quite a bit. This is a large machine.

PROS

  • User manual with recipes
  • Locking lid

CONS

  • Can’t use ice cream ingredients with large chunks, or you can mix them in after the machine has done its thing

REVIEW

This is one of the best home ice cream makers to make ice cream “the old fashioned” ice and salt way. It makes a lot of ice cream-4 quarts at a time.

The machine is well built and has an automatic shut off. You will need to freeze the ice cream for hard ice cream for up to 24 hours, but the results are worth it.

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker

Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker

  • Capacity: 1.5 quarts
  • Time: 20 min
  • Needs Ice? No need for ice or salt, uses a cooler bowl which you place in the freezer for 24 hours.

PROS

  • No need for ice or salt
  • Quiet compared to other machines

CONS

  • Can’t add ingredients with large chunks

REVIEW

Cuisinart has some of the best ice cream maker machines we reviewed and this one is no exception.

This unit makes 1.5 quarts of ice cream in as little as 20 min, with no ice necessary.  On this model it is the bowl which rotates, not the paddle. This unit is very easy to use, and if you follow homemade ice cream making protocol you should end up with a quality product.

As a bonus, this model comes in multiple colors.

Gourmia GSI280 Automatic Ice Cream Maker

Gourmia GSI280 Automatic Ice Cream Maker

  • Capacity: 1.5 pints
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Needs Ice? No, unit does all freezing.

PROS

  • Self-freezing unit
  • Soft serve and hard settings
  • Super small compact size

CONS

  • Only makes 1.5 pints
  • Inner canister is not removable

REVIEW

This is a machine for those who want a small unit and a small amount of ice cream. There is no need to have a freezer and the freezing is done by the ice cream maker. This unit makes 1.5 pints or about 3 cups of ice cream.

Technically a serving of ice cream is 1/2 cup, so it could serve 6 people, but realistically it’s more like 2-3 people. If you don’t have a freezer and are tight on space, this is the best ice cream maker for you.

Whynter ICM-200LS Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker

Whynter ICM-200LS Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker

  • Capacity: 2.1 quart
  • Time: 60 min
  • Needs Ice? No, and no need to freeze the container either.

PROS

  • The unit does the freezing
  • No need to use ice, no need to pre-freeze anything
  • LED control panel, start/stop button
  • Motor shuts off if ice cream hardens
  • Timer and removable blade

CONS

  • Blades are BPA plastic

REVIEW

This is a decent unit which is self contained, no need to use ice or freeze the bowl. It has a higher capacity than other self contained units we reviewed. It is capable of making batch after batch, has an LCD display, timer and on/off switch.

It is an attractive and seemingly well-built ice cream machine.

KitchenAid KICA0WH 2 Quart Ice Cream Maker

KitchenAid KICA0WH 2 Quart Ice Cream Maker

  • One of the Best from the Kitchenaid Ice Cream Maker Reviews.
  • Capacity: 2 quart
  • Time: 25 min
  • Needs Ice? No, uses a freezer bowl

PROS

  • All components except the freezer bowl are dishwasher safe

CONS

  • Must use with the Kitchenaid stand mixer (not included)
  • The bowl is plastic, so be careful not to develop a crack or hole where coolant can leak out

REVIEW

This unit is popular with fans of the Kitchenaid stand mixer. This Kitchenaid ice cream maker attachment works in tandem with the Kitchenaid stand mixer.

The paddle moves close to the bowl, preventing too much product from freezing to the side of the bowl. The paddle and its design also allow a good amount of air to incorporate into the ice cream so it is light, like store-bought ice cream. You still need to give it a good freeze for an hour or so to get hard ice cream.

White Mountain Ice Cream Maker with Wooden Bucket

White Mountain Ice Cream Maker with Appalachian Series Wooden Bucket

  • One of the Best from the White Mountain Ice Cream Maker Reviews.
  • Capacity: 6 quart
  • Time: 25min
  • Needs Ice? Yes, Ice and rock salt.

PROS

  • All metal parts, no plastic
  • Large capacity
  • Wood bucket
  • Includes recipe book
  • Makes relatively firm ice cream quickly, compared to other models reviewed

CONS

  • Is prone to leaking grease
  • The unit is loud

REVIEW

This old fashioned style ice cream maker has a wooden bucket and all metal parts. It has a churn that moves back and forth and the bucket also moves.

It creates a super creamy ice cream very quickly.

There are some quality control issues with defective motors and peeling paint due to the salt ice mix leaking. Still, the motor is strong and the unit lasts, making up to 6 quarts of ice cream at a time.

We hope you enjoyed reading our guide and hope you find the best ice cream maker for your family.