The 8 Absolute Best Ice Cream Makers to Buy, According to the Experts
From low-cost hand crank ice cream makers to easy, speedy compressor machines, here are the 10 absolute best homemade ice cream makers to buy, according to the experts.
As temperatures start to rise, nothing hits the spot quite like a scoop (or three!) of refreshing ice cream. And we’re convinced the most delicious way to enjoy the treat is making it from scratch. Now, transforming cream and sugar into delicious, smooth-as-heck ice cream might seem like magic, but all you need is a simple ice cream machine.
“The benefits to owning your own ice cream maker is that you can experiment endlessly with flavor combinations,” says Brian Smith, co-owner of Ample Hills Creamery in New York City. “It's how we started Ample Hills. I made ice cream at home, invited friends over, and had them taste the crazy flavors. There are few things as communal as sitting around a hand-crank ice cream maker and taking turns churning ice cream!”
RELATED: The Best Ice Cream Scoop
For the smoothest, most flavorful frozen desserts, you need an ice cream maker that freezes fast to prevent crunchy crystals and excess air. There are three different types machines to do it: hand-crank, frozen-bowl, and compressor ice cream makers.
But when it comes to figuring out which one is right for you, don’t worry about freezing up. We’ve chatted with four expert ice cream makers, and pored through hundreds of reviews from real shoppers who purchased and tested out the machines themselves.
Here are the best hand-crank, frozen-bowl, and compressor ice cream makers we recommend, no matter how much you want to spend.
These are the best ice cream makers you can buy online:
- Best Overall Compressor Ice Cream Maker: Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker
- Best for Easy Cleanup: Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
- Best Entry-Level Compressor Machine: Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
- Best Overall Frozen-Bowl Ice Cream Maker: Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker
- Best for People with KitchenAid Mixers: KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Stand and Attachment
- Best Overall Hand-Crank Machine: White Mountain 4-Quart Hand-Crank Ice Cream Maker
- Best for the Fastest Ice Cream: White Mountain 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
- Best Portable Machine: Nostalgia Electrics 4-Quart Blue Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker
Scroll down to see why we chose each ice cream machine and learn more details about each one!
Best Compressor Ice Cream Makers
Built-in refrigeration means you can churn at the push of a button with no wait time between batches. If you make ice cream regularly, the ease of a quality compressor is worth the investment.
Best Overall Compressor Machine: Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker
For those serious about making high-quality ice cream, Lello’s 4080 Musso Lussino is the gold standard of machines. Tyler Malek, co-owner and ice cream mastermind at Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw, uses his Lello three to four times a day in the R&D kitchen. “I love my Lello,” he says. “It makes an even better quality ice cream than our big 5-gallon machines. We have to remember that when we’re doing a small batch test.”
Made of stainless steel, the machine is a workhorse. It holds 1.5 quarts, freezing 3 cups of ice cream or sorbet per hour, without the need for prechilling. Plus it’s fully automatic: Just pour all of your ingredients into the bowl, set the timer, press two buttons, and you’re on your way to creamy goodness.
The machine has nearly 200 perfect five-star reviews on Amazon, where customers love the consistency of the Lello’s ice cream quality and how quiet the machine is. “I've made about dozen ice cream and sorbet recipes so far and each one has come out perfectly,” writes one reviewer. “One benefit of having a unit with a built in freezer is that you don't have to chill the custard first; just pour it in, turn the machine on, and voila, delicious ice cream in 30 minutes or so. No worries about the container losing it's ‘chill’ before finishing making the ice cream.”
To buy: $610; amazon.com
For Easy Cleanup: Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
The Breville Smart Scoop is a great get for ice cream makers who want to experiment with tons of different flavors (or like to keep things clean).
Kris Hoogerhyde, partner and pastry chef, Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco loves the Breville for its versatility. “If you have the space and money, Breville is the way to go,” she says. “It has multiple settings and will last you a lifetime.”
The machine holds 1.5 quarts and automatically senses the hardness of the mixture based on 12 selections, like sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream. Plus its mix-in feature beeps to remind you when to add your favorite swirls and nuts.
Malek also uses a Breville Smart Scoop for testing in his R&D kitchen. “It has a prechill function, which is awesome because you can let it prechill for half an hour in advance and that way you don’t have to deal with the downside of waiting,” he says. “It has variable speeds for your blade, which is great for sorbets or a variety of different styles of ice cream. And the barrel comes out, so you can clean it in the dishwasher.”
On Amazon, dozens of customers echo how easy the machine is to clean. “Worth every penny,” one reviewer shares. “This ice cream maker sits on our bar downstairs, and we use it to make ice cream once a week. My daughter LOVES to put the mixin's in as it churns. Clean up is easy. Best part is: no rock salt needed. It takes me 5 minutes to combine the ice cream ingredients in my Vitamix (any blender will do), and then we go downstairs, pour the mix in, press: ‘Power’ then ‘start’ and walk off. 75 minute later, we have ice cream.”
To buy: $395; amazon.com
Best Entry-Level Compressor Machine: Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker
If you want a compressor ice cream maker, but are also on a budget, check out the Cuisinart ICE-100 Compressor Ice Cream and Gelato Maker, which costs hundreds of dollars less than the Lello and Breville. Cuisinart makes great frozen-bowl machines, explains Malek, and its compressor model is no different. Similar to other compressor machines, there’s no wait time to freeze your ice cream mixing bowl. And its two distinct mixing paddles and 60-minute countdown timer ensure the perfect consistency in your homemade gelato, ice cream, or sorbet.
Many Walmart reviewers shared that the Cuisinart ICE-100 was their first foray into compressor machines. “I have had several types of ice cream makers from attachments to free standing separate appliances. I found that I never used them as they all needed to have the required bowl frozen in advance and, as I did not have room to keep the bowl in my freezer, the required hours then needed to freeze the bowl made me drop the idea of making ice cream,” one wrote. “With the inclusion of the compressor feature in the Cuisinart unit, no pre-freeze is needed, and making ice cream and other frozen treats is now something I can do whenever I want. The machine is relatively quiet and simple to use and it makes fantastic frozen desserts. What I like best is that I can determine exactly what is put into the mix and avoid either preservatives or artificial additives as well as choose to make a non-dairy or non-egg type of frozen dessert. All of the recipes I have come out quite well in this machine. Overall, a real winner!”
To buy: $218 (originally $300); walmart.com
Best Frozen-Bowl Ice Cream Makers
These ice cream makers involve freezing liquid-filled canisters at least 24 hours in advance. Once frozen, you put the bowl into a machine with a paddle, add the mixture, and the paddles stir. As the paddles churn the mixture against the sides of the bowl, it gradually freezes into ice cream. Because they require such a long pre-freeze time, you can only make one bowl at a time and they're not ideal for spontaneous spinning. But for occasional ice cream making, they're great.
Best Frozen-Bowl Machine: Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream Maker
Whether you’re a novice or dedicated churner, the Cuisinart ICE-21 has you covered. Universally recommended by our experts, some professionals even said they started out their businesses with the reliable Cuisinart.
“We started off Salt & Straw by going to a thrift store and getting five or so Cuisinarts,” Malek says. “You can go to Goodwill and find them for $5, and you can get really great quality ice cream from them. The trick is you need to find space to freeze them in your freezer for 24 to 48 hours, and I recommend on the colder side.”
With its powerful motor, unique mixing paddle, and double-insulated freezer bowl, the Cuisinart makes ice cream or frozen yogurt in as little as 20 minutes.
“Although more expensive, self-contained freezing models exist, I discovered that I actually prefer the less-expensive canister type,” says Jeni Britton Bauer from Columbus, Ohio’s Jeni Splendid Ice Cream. “It freezes the ice cream faster. I still like the Cuisinart ICE-21 model. It’s inexpensive and if you use my recipe you’ll get great results each time.”
Both Walmart and Amazon shoppers rave about the machine, with just over 4,000 five-star ratings on both sites.
“There is nothing that I don't love about this ice cream maker,” says one reviewer on Amazon. “It's so completely easy and simple, and very easy to clean. So glad I opted for this simple version rather than the more expensive ones. One button and in twenty minutes, we have fabulous ice cream. I don't think it's too noisy—not any louder than my dishwasher, but it is only on for 20 minutes. I bought this as a gift for my husband and it's one of the best things I've ever given him. If I could give this thing 10 stars, I would!”
For People with KitchenAid Mixers: KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Stand and Attachment
Okay, maybe you’re still on the fence about making room for an ice cream machine. Understandable. But it’s a lot easier to convince yourself you need a stand mixer—it’s one of the most versatile pieces of kitchen equipment we know of: a game changer for big batches of cookies and homemade pizza dough, or whipping up cake batter and frosting. And once you make the stand mixer leap, it’s only a matter of time before you explore the attachments. And one of our favorites is the ice cream maker.
Both Malek and Hoogerhyde are fans of the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment’s efficiency. “It’s great because it doesn’t take up much space and makes a darn good ice cream,” Hoogerhyde says.
Using the ice cream attachment is incredibly easy. Just freeze the insulated bowl beforehand, attach the dasher to the stand mixer, turn it on and pour in the ice cream batter in. After 25 to 30 minutes, you’re rewarded with 2 quarts of ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet.
On Amazon, the attachment has racked up more than 2,500 customer reviews:
“Seriously my favorite KitchenAid attachment,” one reviewer says. “We have a huge chest freezer so keeping it frozen all the time isn’t an issue for me. I find I don’t even buy ice cream anymore. Make sure you have all your ingredients mixed before you even take it out of the freezer. If it thaws at all it won’t work well.”
“After watching an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats, we decided to try one of those counter-top stand alone freezers,” adds another customer. “But then I spotted the KitchenAid attachment and convinced my husband we should try it first since the motor was what he was concerned about the most, and I knew my trusty stand mixer wouldn't let us down. I was so right! We love this ice cream maker—we only do the no-cooking, no eggs recipes passed on by our parents and grandparents, and they works just fine with this attachment. We made strawberry tonight; it's banana tomorrow night, and then who knows what whim will take us next time?”
To buy: $45 (originally $100); amazon.com
Best Hand-Crank Ice Cream Makers
Old fashioned hand-crank ice cream makers (which use ice and salt) might be a bit messier, but there’s a reason the pros love them.
“The key to making the smoothest, creamiest ice cream is to freeze your liquid mix into ice cream as quickly as possible,” says Ample Hill’s Smith. “The longer it takes for the product to turn from a liquid to a solid, the more time that ice crystals have to grow. Surprisingly, the old-fashioned hand-crank machines that use ice and salt are much faster because of the chemical reaction of salt and ice. A one-quart hand crank machine can turn liquid ice cream mix into a solid in just 10 to 12 minutes, which means smoother and creamier ice cream!”
Best Overall Hand-Crank Machine: White Mountain® 4-Quart Hand-Crank Ice Cream Maker
Made with an attractive handcrafted New England pine wood bucket, the White Mountain hand-crank machine uses ice and salt and a triple-motion action dasher system to make ice cream.
“I’ve always been a bit partial to the old-fashioned ice-and-rock salt machines because that nostalgia factor makes for an incredible ice cream,” Bi-Rite’s Hoogerhyde says. “This was the first machine that I learned how to make ice cream on at the restaurant that Anne and I worked at, it has some wonderful memories attached to it. White Mountain has two options for their ice and salt machines, hand churn and electric. One thing I love about these machines is that you can make up to 4 quarts at a time, most other machines only make about 1 quart.”
To buy: $111; walmart.com
Best for the Fastest Ice Cream: White Mountain® 6-Quart Electric Ice Cream Maker
For the deliciousness of rock-salt ice cream without the sweat, consider White Mountain’s electric version. It uses a 12,000 RPM commercial-grade motor strong enough to churn that homemade ice cream in 20 to 40 minutes.
On Amazon, it has the coveted “Amazon’s Choice” designation and more than 200 five-star reviews.
“The biggest benefit I've noticed from this high-quality ice cream maker is the time it takes to freeze the ice cream,” says one reviewer. “With my cheaper makers, it will often take over an hour to freeze the ice cream and I'm constantly adding more ice and salt. The instructions with this unit say it should take about 25 minutes from the time you have added the ice and salt. (You are not supposed to actually let the motor stall, probably because that's not good for the motor.) I have now made three batches, and they have all been ready after 25 minutes (including one that was completely full when it was done). Once when I waited about 30 minutes, it actually froze to the point where the motor stalled (whoops). Fortunately, the motor still works fine.”
Another raves about how well-designed the machines are. “I wanted a White Mountain for a long time. After my Brand X bit the dust I decided to go for it. Yes, I could have bought a couple of new Brand X for the price but I would also endure the same shortcomings. After using the new White Mountain, I was convinced that it was worth every penny. Over the years, using an assortment of the cheapo freezers, I never made a batch that was not frozen near the tub wall and mush in the center. The powerful drive, the dasher design, the stainless steel tub, the tub geometry, and the considerable ice cavity solves all of those problems. These machines are well designed and well executed in construction. With a 5 year warranty and every part replaceable, I wish I had bought one many years ago.”
To buy: $209 (originally $270); amazon.com
Best Portable Machine: Nostalgia Electrics 4-Quart Blue Bucket Electric Ice Cream Maker
Whether you’ve planned a family trip to the beach or the family cabin, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on homemade ice cream. This 4-quart ice cream machine from Nostalgia has a convenient carrying handle to bring your ice cream wherever you need to go.
Amazon reviewers love how easy and convenient the machine is to use.
“Fine value for the dollar,” writes one Amazon customer. “The heavy plastic used in the construction appears to be capable of good longevity. One of the weak links in previously owned ice cream makers has been the motor housing. With the use of ice cream salt, the motor housings rust prolifically. This unit has the motor well shielded in the non rusting housing. The aluminum tub is a little light weight, but certainly gets the job done. Ice cream comes out beautifully, and the motor turns the tub effortlessly. The tub is a good weight, with a stout handle. Balance is correct, and even with the unit unloaded and the motor in place, it carries without any indication of tipping over from the weight of the motor on the top. Thinking about getting another one to take to the next family reunion.”
In fact, it works so nice some customers (apparently) bought it twice: “I am so glad I bought two. I had three of a different brand and just wore them out. The handle really is a very good idea I can take the product wherever I have electricity or an inverter.”