Ice cream makers are one of those little luxuries in life and very welcome during the heat of the summer or as a treat any time of the year! Most ice cream makers also make frozen yoghurt, sorbets and frozen drinks. If you are thinking of buying an ice cream maker it is not quite as simple as you might think as there are different types of ice cream maker spanning across different price brands, but if you understand the different types available, and what their advantages and disadvantages are, it will be a whole lot easier.
Manual Ice Cream Makers
These are the most inexpensive type of ice cream maker and there are two main types:
The first type comprises an inner and outer bowl. The ice cream is made in the outer bowl, and is churned by a manual paddle. The outer bowl is usually filled with a mixture of salt and ice which freezes the ice cream.
The second type is similar, with a coolant in the outer bowl, but needs to be placed in the freezer for several hours. It also needs to be hand churned on a regular basis.
Although inexpensive and smaller in size than electric models, manual ice cream makers are only advised if you do not make ice cream on a regular basis as they are harder to use and can be difficult to clean and dispose of the waste salt and ice mixture.
Electric Ice Cream Makers
There are two main types of electric ice cream maker:
The most inexpensive type of electric ice cream maker is one that uses a freezer bowl. This has a metal layer on the inside of the bowl and a plastic layer on the outside. There is a gel between the layers which needs to be pre-frozen before use. When the gel is frozen, the ice cream mixture is made up in the inner bowl and is churned with an electric paddle as it freezes. It usually takes in the region of twenty to forty minutes for the mixture to freeze into ice cream.
The advantage of this type of ice cream maker is that it is less expensive than those electric ice cream makers with a freezer built into the unit. The disadvantages are that you can usually only make one batch of ice cream a day as it takes between 12 and 24 hours to freeze the gel depending on the model, plus you need to plan ahead to make the ice cream - no spontaneous ice creams if the sun comes out! The other disadvantage is that it may be difficult to find space in the freezer for the freezer bowl. If your freezer is full on a regular basis this might not be the best type for you. Many manufacturers offer extra bowls as options or included in case you want to make additional batches but again, these do take up freezer space.
The second type of ice cream maker is the most expensive and has a built-in compressor and freezer so that you do not need to pre-freeze the bowl in your freezer. It is much more convenient than the other types of ice cream makers as you can make ice cream whenever you want but it is usually much larger and heavier in size.
The first decision you should make when looking for an ice cream maker is whether you want a manual or electric one. Manual ones are less expensive and often take up less space in the cupboard, but electric ones are easier and more convenient. If you do opt for an electric one, you should then decide on which type you prefer. If you are making ice cream on a regular basis you may wish to invest in one with a built-in freezer, but bear in mind that these are more expensive and take more storage space.
Other considerations may be:
Consider how much ice cream you will be making at one time, as the capacity of an electric ice cream maker ranges from 1 to 2 litres.
Consider also the physical size and weight of the machines and how easy it is to store. Most freezer bowl style electric ice cream makers range from 3 kg to 6 kg in weight while those with an inbuilt freezer unit can weigh as much as 13 kg.
Some models have a sturdy metal exterior which look better but are usually heavier while others have a plastic exterior which is lighter.
Additional features in some models may include:
- An open lid so that ingredients can be added while the machine is in use.
- Dual bowls which can be used independently.
The dosing hole is the hole in the lid through which you can add ingredients. Those with a smaller hole can be trickier to use so look out for a model with a larger hole.