Best Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines

The word ice cream just brings a smile to your face. Memories of sun, warmth, giggling and lots of trying to beat the drip licking come flooding in. Ice cream is not just for summer though.

Ice cream is eaten year round. Most people don’t know though that this cold creamy treat is credited to the Chinese for invention around 3000 B.C.

It was flavored ice at first. It is believed that ice cream moved west when the Italians were introduced to this treat after Marco Polo returned from his travels.

While Italians like flavored ice, they evolved the recipe to make it creamier and what we know today as ice cream.

Ice cream has many varieties, especially if you include the original form of shaved ice (no cream involved). Soft serve ice cream appeared in the 1930’s.

There is a little debate over who actually created soft serve ice cream. Tom Carvel is one version of crediting him with bringing soft server ice cream to life. It all started with a flat tire.

He got a flat tire on his ice cream truck one day. He was going to lose his entire truck full of product if he didn’t get rid of it.

He decided to start selling the melting ice cream out of his truck to people vacationing in the area. It took him two days to sell it all.

Over that two days he realized that having a fixed location and selling soft instead of hard ice cream could be profitable.

His first store location was in the exact spot his truck broke down. The second version of the invention of soft serve ice cream credits Dairy Queen, a father and son company claims as the creator of the recipe for soft serve ice cream.

What makes soft serve ice cream different from hard packed is the fat content, the temperature it is stored at, and air content.

The air content can vary between 0% – 60% of the total volume. Air content is what changes the flavor.

The less air in the soft serve ice cream mixture the more ice flavor the ice cream has. Ice cream with more air tastes creamier and whiter in appearance.

The general consensus is that around 33% – 45% air to total volume is the ideal mixture.

People started making ice cream at home with hand cranked machines first and then electric machines were introduced. The hand crank machines tended to be messy, labor intensive and often have issues with the salt and ice mixture contaminating the ice cream container.

I have used this method as a child. Your arm gets tired. The ice and salt have to be replenished during mixing.

In the end, the final product is cold, creamy and rewarding for all your sweat-equity you put in. Then the electric ice cream machine came on to the market. No sweat and little mess.

Electric Ice Cream Machines

There are four different types of electric ice cream machines:

  • Counter-top machines
  • Small freezer machines
  • Larger counter-top machines
  • Old School Meets Electric Machine

Counter-top machines are really more like mixers that mix up the soft serve ice cream mixture in a double-walled bowl.

The bowl has a liquid mixture between the walls. It needs to be pre frozen in the freezer and that generally requires 24 hours.

After the bowl is frozen the ice cream soft serve ice cream mixture is put in the frozen bowl in the machine and the machine mixes.

As the machine is mixing the solution between the walls melts and the ice cream freezes. While this machine is less expensive, you are limited to one batch at a time.

In order to make multiple flavors you either have to have multiple bowls or wait to refreeze the one bowl.

Small freezer machines actually work in the freezer. You mix the recipe and place the container in the freezer.

Every few second that machine moves the paddles to prevent large ice clumps from forming. This version has so many issues with it.

You have to run the cord out the freezer door making it difficult to keep the door shut. There are some battery operated ones but batteries and cold don’t work well together.

The quality of ice cream that is produced is not very good either. It was a good start to better machines but not worth all the hassle.

Larger more expensive counter-top machines have an internal freezing mechanism. You put an empty bowl in first and let it pre freeze.

The pre-freezing only takes a few minutes and then you can put the soft serve ice cream mixture in. The paddle continually stirs and about 20 minutes to half an hour later the ice cream is ready.

While these machines are an improvement they take up a large amount of space and if you do move them they have to sit for a while before you can use it because the coolant mixture needs to set.

Finally the fourth ice cream machine, old school meets electric. The chemistry for freezing is the same as a hand crank machine but it takes the manual labor out.

The mechanism turns the canister containing the soft serve ice cream mixture and the inner paddle. The soft serve ice cream mixture freezes as the canister sitting in ice and salt rotates.

The paddle stirs the soft serve ice cream mixture and a scraper removes the frozen soft serve ice cream mixture from the inner wall so that it continually exposes warmer soft serve ice cream mixture to the frozen wall.

When comparing ice cream makers you should consider how much time you can commit to pre-freezing or preparing ice.

Many of the machines on the market are counter-top friendly but size should still be considered. Machines also differ in the amount of involvement during freezing they require.

If you are looking to make ice cream making a social event then machines that require more attention while freezing may be more for you.

If you are looking just to make your own ice cream and don’t care about the process, then a more automatic machine would be ideal.

There are many price points as well. Sometimes the more in-expensive machine may be all you need and it makes ice cream just as well if not better in some cases.

If you want variety, ability to add mix-ins, or pour ability you will have to pay extra for those features.

Top 5 Soft Serve Ice Cream Machines

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Cuisinart ICE-30BC Pure Indulgence 2-Quart Automatic Frozen Yogurt, Sorbet, and Ice Cream Maker

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This top selling soft serve ice cream machine by Cuisinart makes 2 quarts at one time. It is fully automatic.

Just put your favorite mix in and turn it on. You an even add your favorite mix-ins because it has a large spout.

It doesn’t take up a large amount of space measuring 8 ¼” x 11 ¼”. Great for home use or any birthday party or BBQ! Be the hit of the party pleasing everyone’s taste buds.

Pros:

  • Makes larger amounts per batch
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Large serving spout

Cons:

  • Bowl must be pre-frozen (6-24 hours depending on freezer)
  • For more than one batch in a row you must have multiple mixing bowls
  • Soft serve ice cream mixture should be chilled before freezing

We rate this soft serve ice cream maker 7 out of 10

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Cuisinart ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker, Brushed Chrome

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Cuisinart 2 quart soft serve ice cream machine produces ice cream in 20 minutes. Easy to use with a simple LCD display and push pad settings for different styles of frozen delights.

It has a count-down timer and will shut off automatically when finished. You no longer need to watch the clock. This machine is a little bigger than the one previously mentioned, 9.7” x 8.6” x 13.2”.

Pros:

  • Makes larger amounts per batch
  • Mid price range
  • Easy to use
  • Large serving spout
  • Multiple speeds for different ingredients (frozen yogurt, ice cream, etc)

Cons:

  • Bowl must be pre-frozen (6-24 hours depending on freezer)
  • For more than one batch in a row you must have multiple mixing bowls
  • Soft serve ice cream mixture should be chilled before freezing

We rate this soft serve ice cream maker 8 out of 10

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

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Hamilton Beach produces 4 quarts of ice cream in one batch with the 68330N soft serve ice cream machine. It embraces the traditional design and method but with the ease of electricity to do the work. The machine will stop automatically when the right consistency is reached.

Pros:

  • Makes enormous amounts per batch
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Self-stopping

Cons:

  • Takes a little pre planning to have enough ice on hand
  • When using mix-ins the machine may stop prematurely

We rate this soft serve ice cream maker 9.5 out of 10

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Ariete – DeLonghi Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker with Built-in Compressor, LCD Digital Display, 2.1 Quart
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Ariete- DeLonghi’s soft serve ice cream machine takes a commercial quality motor and puts it on your counter.

There is no pre-freezing of parts or soft serve ice cream mixture needed. It has a 60 minute count-down timer and an additional 10 minute keep cool feature after the timer has gone off.

The machine will shut off as well if the soft serve ice cream mixture freezes solid, protecting the motor. While it is not the largest capacity machine on the market, there is no turn-around time between batches.

There are three modes, ice cream, cooling and mixing. Multiple batches can be made with no additional bowls needed. The moderate size, 19.4” x 13.5” x 12.1”, is counter-top compatible.

Pros:

  • Makes moderate amounts per batch
  • Easy to use
  • Multiple settings
  • Self-stopping motor in case of over freezing
  • No pre-freezing needed

Cons:

  • Higher priced machine

We rate this soft serve ice cream maker 9.5 out of 10

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Whynter ICM-200LS Stainless Steel Ice Cream Maker, 2.1-Quart, Silver

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Whynter’s ICM-200LS soft serve ice cream maker allows you to start the machine and go on with your life.

If you happen to get distracted for a short while, the machine will keep the finished product from melting with an extended cooling function.

The motor has an auto-stop feature to prevent damage in cases of soft serve ice cream mixture freezing solid.

With the powerful compressor there is no need for pre-freezing anything. Great size for leaving on your counter, 18.5″ x 11″ x 10″

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • No pre-freezing needed
  • Easy clean-up

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Reports of motor breaking down in a few uses
  • Scraper does not remove enough of the soft serve ice cream mixture from the freezing bowl walls leaving crystals

We rate this soft serve ice cream maker 7 out of 10

Making ice cream at home can be an event for the whole family to enjoy or the star of a party. You can make healthier options that commercially made ice cream and keep out preservatives.

A home soft serve ice cream machine also allows you to make different varieties of frozen creamy mixtures like frozen yogurt and gelato.

Have fun and experiment with add ins, recipes and different levels of freezing.