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9 best ice cream makers

Whip up delicious deserts, including sorbets and frozen yoghurts, from your kitchen

Get creative with the cold stuff ( iStock )

Gourmet ice cream is on the up and now you can get a slice – or should we say scoop – of the action in your very own home. Ice cream makers are better than ever, enabling the average person to whip up anything from raspberry and mango sorbet, to salted caramel ice cream.

There are two types of ice cream makers – fully automatic (with inbuilt freezer) and manual ones (where you have to pre-freeze the bowl first). Automatic ones are a lot pricier and bigger, but they are significantly easier and quicker to use. With the manual ones, for example, you’ll need to plan ahead and freeze the bowl first, whereas a built-in freezer machine means you can make ice cream at a moment’s notice. 

Whichever type of machine you choose, make sure you have room in your freezer for the bowl and that you have ample storage space – the big ones can be the size of a food processor. Another top tip is not to make the mistake of assuming the size of the bowl is an indication of the amount of ice cream the machine is able to make – it doesn’t account for the paddle and ability to churn the ingredients. Generally speaking, manual machines make around 0.8 litres of ice cream, while fully automatic ones can make up to 1.5 litres, but there is some variation on that. Finally, if you’re a gelato fan, be sure to check whether the machine has the option to make this lighter form of Italian ice cream.

At Indybest, we love our sweet treats, so we’ve had great fun making a variety of ice creams and frozen desserts to bring you the best machines on the market.

Magimix Gelato Expert: £488.19, Amazon

This is the latest ice cream maker from Magimix and the most expensive in our roundup. But if you’re an ice cream obsessive, it doesn’t get better than this, enabling you to make all the more predictable flavours right through to the weird and wonderful such as roasted pineapple, mascarpone and black pepper ice cream and watermelon and tomato sorbet.

We also love the dense but creamy granita. It’s quick, with 'cooking time' taking as little as 20 minutes, and consistent in its results, while the three automated programmes make it a doddle to use (for more tailored results, you can override it with manual modes) and it has a generous two litre capacity. On the down side, we found it noisier than most, but not annoyingly so. You may have to scrape some ice cream off the sides and the gelato is softer than we might have liked, but this model still came heads and shoulders above the rest. 

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Cuisinart Iced Dessert Maker: £120, John Lewis & Partners

This machine ensures top notch consistency, with no irritating ice crystals forming on top and no grainy texture, and it’s easy to both set up and use. It enables you to add ingredients such as fruit, nuts and sauces as you go – and that includes alcohol, which some machines struggle with as it lowers the freezing point.

It’s fast – with some recipes ready in 25 minutes – and there are two paddles: one for normal ice cream and another for frozen fruits, which breaks it down without mushing it completely – ideal for rippled results. You’ll need to pre-freeze the bowl, although the manufacturer points out you can store the likes of peas inside the bowl if you’re stuck on space. A great all-rounder that doesn’t cost a bomb.

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Andrew James Ice Cream Maker: £27.98, Amazon

This is amazing value for a machine that churns soft-scoop ice cream quickly and quietly. Providing you pre-freeze the removable bowl in the freezer for eight hours, you’ll have a batch of smooth, creamy and light ice cream in as little as 20 minutes. The controls are simple to use and the recipe book has some good ideas. And while it might look the same size as the other budget machines, this one has a slightly bigger capacity of 1.45 litres.

Don’t be put off by the lightweight design, which makes it feel less robust than some other machines – we didn’t find it detrimentally impacted on the performance. But be warned that if you like more solid ice cream, you might need to pop it into the freezer for half an hour or so to firm it up.

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Shake N Make Ice Cream Maker: £15, Amazon

Ok, so you’re not going to whip up any culinary masterpieces with this one, but if you want to make some basic soft ice cream in no more than a few minutes, this is a fun little gadget that gets decent results. You add a little ice and salt to the base, then your ingredients and cream to the stainless-steel tub, pop the lid on and give it a good shake for at least three minutes. It doesn’t like it if you don’t get the quantities right or if you’re too erratic with your shaking, but provided you measure everything exactly and shake back and forth consistently, it’s surprisingly versatile, making quick work of the recipe ideas included.

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Sage Smart Scoop: £269.99, Lakeland

This is a seriously smart piece of kit. Our favourite feature is the built-in sensor that works out whether the consistency of your ice cream, sorbet, gelato or frozen yoghurt is right (from the 12 hardness settings) so that it can stop mixing when it’s ready, alerting you with a fun ice cream van jingle. And if you don’t happen to be there for this exciting moment, there’s a keep cold function.

It works within just half an hour for some recipes and it’s easy to use and add ingredients such as raisins or chocolate chips. As you’d expect with the hefty price tag, there’s a built-in freezer so you don’t have to pre-freeze the bowl, and it feels sturdy and beautifully engineered. But the capacity isn’t as big as with some and you might find the sorbet needs extra freezing to harden it up a bit.

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Lakeland Digital Ice Cream Maker: £39.99, Lakeland

You’ll need to pre-freeze the bowl with this one, but that keeps the machine nice and compact and we also found it’s a cinch to use, bringing joy to pudding time. You simply pop on the lid and pour in the ingredients, then set the timer using the nice, clear digital display. It’s ready within half an hour for some recipes and you can add extra ingredients during the churning process, which we did to make rocky road ice cream. Some customers reportedly struggled to dismantle is for washing, but we didn’t have that problem. We’re also giving extra brownie points for the recipe book which has some really tasty ideas.

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Judge Ice Cream Maker: £26.90, Amazon

Once you’ve found room in your freezer to pre-freeze the bowl for eight hours, you’ll be ready to experiment with flavours such as salted caramel ice cream and mango sorbet, both of which worked a treat for us, and were ready in 20 to 40 minutes, depending on consistency; you might want to harden it up in the freezer before serving, however.

We had a few niggles, perhaps not surprisingly when you consider this is one of the cheapest models in our roundup – notably the small chute and the fact that the paddle isn’t as robust as other models’. We’d have liked more recipes, too (you get two). But, for a budget machine, this is a steal for under thirty quid.

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Magimix Le Glacier: £44.99, John Lewis & Partners

This machine produces a pint of superb ice cream, with our successful concoctions ranging from rum and raisin to banana, and it comes with an impressive recipe booklet. You can get results in 20 minutes in some cases, and it excels at healthier options such as sorbets and yoghurt-based desserts, which is good news for those attempting a healthier lifestyle.

It takes a bit of time to assemble, but it’s simple to operate and we like the recipes included. Some customers complain of it leaking the freezing agent after a dozen or so uses, but we didn’t have that problem and the great customer service means you’ll get a replacement if you get unlucky.

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KitchenAid Artisan Ice Cream Maker: £81.99, Wayfair

If you don’t already own a KitchenAid stand mixer, don’t bother reading on. But if you do, this attachment (one of 15 that fits this machine) is one way to add ice cream making to your culinary repertoire. You simply freeze the bowl (and paddle) for 15 hours before use (although be warned the bowl is quite large) and attach it to the motor head of the beater shaft (a quick and easy job) and pour in your favourite fresh ingredients to make soft scoop ice cream, sorbet or frozen desserts, with some recipes taking just 20 minutes. The double insulated walls work well to ensure the mixture freezes evenly.

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The Verdict: Ice cream makers

With the fully automated Magimix Gelato Expert, the sky’s the limit for scrumptious frozen puds. Our top choice for a manual machine is Cuisinart Iced Dessert Maker, but it is pricier than some, so if you want to go cheaper still, our vote goes to Lakeland Digital Ice Cream Maker, which is easy to set up and use and makes great soft ice cream ready to serve, or freeze for harder ice cream to enjoy later.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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