It’s that time of year when you may be considering buying an ice cream maker, whether for yourself to whip up a treat or as a gift for someone else.
We bought five ice cream makers that cost less than $100 and gave them a go this week. Three of them were the traditional type with a bowl you chill in the freezer, a paddle and a motor unit.
For all models, it pays to store the freezer bowl in the freezer so it’s ready to use whenever you want to make ice cream. All needed at least 24 hours in a very cold freezer before using. It’s also important that your ice cream mixture is well chilled before pouring into the freezer bowl. If not, you’ll end up with disappointing results.
All three produced good quality ice cream but we found things we liked and didn’t like about each machine.
Sunbeam Snack Heroes Ice Cream Maker
($59.99, but we got it on special for $49.97 at Smiths City)
- Made the fluffiest icecream, so filled up more of the punnet
- The lid easily locked into place. You could lock the lid by turning it clockwise or anti-clockwise so you didn’t have to fiddle around with it.
- We thought it had the clearest instructions and it also came with the most recipes, including ones for gelato, sorbet and frozen yoghurts.
- It was the cheapest of the products we tried when they are at their regular price.
- It was difficult to remove the motor unit from the transparent lid for cleaning
- We put the ice cream from each machine into the freezer for an extra hour after making it. When the hour was up, the Sunbeam’s ice cream was still quite soft so it would need to be in the freezer for longer.
Zip Ice Cream Maker
($89.99, but we got it on special for $29.99 at Briscoes)
- It was the only machine to not have an outer bowl for the freezer bowl to go into, so one less part to fit together and clean.
- Its instruction manual only had 3 recipes.
- It is the most expensive machine we tried, when it’s not on sale.
Jiffi Ice Cream Maker
($79.99, but we got it on special for $59.99 at Noel Leeming)
- It churned the ice cream the fastest – it was ready in 15 minutes whereas the others both took 19 minutes. After an hour in the fridge it was firm like shop-bought ice cream.
- The mixture was pushed up into the lip of the freezer bowl where it couldn’t be churned by the paddle. So there was less ice cream at the end.
- The freezer bowl was difficult to remove from the outer bowl once the ice cream was made. We found we had to carefully flip them upside down so the freezer bowl would slide out, which was quite messy.
- It didn’t come with many recipes – only 6.
- The lid didn’t lock into place properly and moved slightly while churning.
We also tried two novelty products. The Zoku Ice Cream Maker cost us $36.95 and the Chill Factor Ice Cream Maker, sold at Toyworld, was $34.99.
Zoku Ice Cream Maker
The Zoku is made up of a bowl that needs to chill in the freezer for 12 hours, a plastic bowl that the chilled bowl sits in when making the ice cream, a rubber ring that sits on top of the bowls and a plastic stirrer.
We gave it a go using the vanilla ice cream recipe in the instruction booklet.
The instructions tripped us up a bit as they tell you to mix together 1½ cups of milk, 1½ cups of cream, 2/3 cup sugar, a tablespoon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and some salt. This makes about three cups of liquid but only a fraction of that fits in the bowl. Unless you have a few other Zokus in your house, the mixture has to be refrigerated until next time you use it.
The instructions say to put 5oz of the mixture in the bowl, which was a challenge for us metric-minded people. Google helped and told us the equivalent was 148mls (or about two thirds of a cup).
The mixture must be stirred frequently for 10 minutes to create soft serve ice cream. We stirred it every 20 seconds and after a couple of minutes could see ice cream was starting to form on the sides of the bowl. This is the stage that toppings like fruit and chocolate can be added.
After 10 minutes the mixture was still quite liquidy so we put it in the freezer for 20 minutes to harden up, as the instructions said to do. It still looked liquidy when we took it out after 20 minutes but it thickened up when we gave it a stir. Its texture was like soft ice cream but it didn’t look as perfect as the picture on the box.
The Zoku box claims gourmet ice cream in 10 minutes, but we found it really needed that extra 20 minutes in the freezer to harden it up.
We think it could be a fun family activity if everybody had their own Zoku. But with each one costing $36.95, it’s an expensive way to make ice cream. Younger family members may also tire of having to stir for 10 minutes and then wait 20 minutes for their treat.
Chill Factor ice cream maker
The Chill Factor ice cream maker is made up of seven parts. It’s shaped like an icecream and is aimed squarely at kids. The white sleeve part goes in the freezer.
To try the product we used the vanilla ice cream recipe in the guide that comes in the box. It calls for 2 tablespoons of vanilla essence, 1 teaspoon of caster sugar and 100ml of thickened cream. The final product was brown because of the amount of essence and those who had a taste said it tasted highly alcoholic. The vanilla ice cream recipe on the Chill Factor website said to add half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. We contacted the company behind Chill Factor and they confirmed the recipe was wrong and it should have read half a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
To make ice cream, you take the sleeve out of the freezer and construct the cone, which we found to be quite fiddly. It took a few rereads of the instructions to understand how all the pieces fit together. Help from mum or dad would definitely be needed for younger kids.
We tried the recipe again using the correct amount of vanilla. The ingredients are mixed in the white lid and poured into the cone. You shake with the pink or brown top of the ice cream cone on, but take it off to squeeze. A few splashes came out during squeezing.
We only had to squeeze the cone for about 30 seconds before we could see icy parts in the mixture and after about two minutes it had the texture of soft ice cream. The resulting product tasted like a very creamy ice cream but there wasn’t much of it.
We think the squeezing and eating could be fun for kids but there’s a bit of work involved for a parent. Younger children would likely struggle with putting the pieces together and there are a lot of pieces to wash at the end.