Ice cream makers are an easy way to whip up your favourite flavours of ice cream, gelato, sorbet, frozen yoghurt, and in some cases granita, so you never need to pick up another tub of Häagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s on your supermarket shop again.
If you’re tempted by the infinite frozen dessert possibilities, but still unsure as to whether to take the plunge, we explain the different types of ice cream maker and how much they typically cost.
Plus we compare the price difference between making ice cream or buying it ready made, and how you can actually make delicious ice cream at home without an ice cream maker.
Already know you want an ice cream machine? Then check out our guide to the best ice cream makers.
What is an ice cream maker?
Freeze-first are the cheaper type of ice cream makers, normally costing less than £100. However, you need to find the space in your freezer to freeze the bowl up to 24 hours in advance.
Self-freezing machines are more expensive, but can usually make ice cream within the hour and there’s no need to pre-freeze any equipment. We tested self-freezing ice cream makers from Cuisinart, Sage, Magimix, Lakeland and VonShef and the prices ranged from £110 up to £500.
Consider whether that time-saving sounds worth the extra cost to you and whether you’d have space in the freezer to store a bowl if you opted for a freeze-first ice cream maker.
Is it cheaper to buy or make ice cream?
It’s clear that it’s cheaper to purchase shop-bought ice cream instead of making it at home in most cases.
Only when you are comparing the cost of premium shop-bought ice cream with bargain basic ingredients (which isn’t really comparable) does homemade become cheaper.
We compared the price of vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate-chip ready-made ice cream from Aldi, Tesco and Ocado with the ingredients to make vanilla, chocolate and mint chocolate-chip ice cream from those same supermarkets.
|Average shop-bought vanilla price per 100ml||£0.21||£0.68||£0.60|
|Average homemade vanilla price per 100ml||£0.26||£0.69||£0.74|
|Average shop-bought chocolate price per 100ml||£0.25||£0.57||£0.90|
|Average homemade chocolate price per 100ml||£0.66||£0.60||£0.88|
|Average shop-bought mint chocolate-chip price per 100ml||£0.15||£0.31||£0.80|
|Average homemade mint chocolate-chip price per 100ml||£0.55||£1.04||£1.29|
But while it’s more cost-effective to buy ice cream ready-made, by making it yourself you get a much more indulgent and personalised premium-tasting treat and quality control for your ingredients.
Plus making ice cream yourself is very practical if you have specific dietary needs or allergies.
Tips for living well – get our free Food & Health newsletter: shop savvy, eat well, stay healthy
Do you need an ice cream maker to make ice cream?
If you don’t want to splash the cash for a self-freezing model or don’t have the space or time for a freeze-first maker, you can still make ice cream at home.
For those who want to try their hand at this, check out our recipes explaining how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.
Need a place to stash your hordes of ice cream? Check out our picks of the top five freezers for 2021.
What’s the best ice cream maker?
During our investigation and research into these kitchen appliances, we looked at the build quality, how easy they are to store, ease of use, how easy they were to clean, how noisy they are, and most importantly of all, how well they made ice cream.
Some ice cream makers take up a large amount of kitchen counter space and are so loud that you won’t be able to stay in the kitchen while they work, but we’ve found others that are much more compact and not too noisy.
Check out our full reviews in our best ice cream makers guide to find out which of the five ice cream makers we tested was the best.
We purchased all of the products we tested. No ice cream was wasted to bring you these results.