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Owning your own gelato making machine is just about as close as it gets to bringing a taste of Italy into your home where you can make your own creamy and dense Italian ice-cream all year round!
Finding the best gelato maker involves knowing what to look for in a machine, what to avoid, and finding a price that fits your budget.
Important Tips When Searching for the Best Gelato Machine
I’ve written this gelato maker review to help you with your research so you can get the perfect gelato machine for your homemade Italian ice cream.
The two machines I mostly refer to in this post is the Cuisinart ICE 100 and the stainless steel Musso Lussino 4080. At the time of this writing, the Cuisinart ICE 100 was about $220 and the Musso 4080 was around $600. The 4080 is of better construction, (not to say the ICE 100 isn’t good) but we get into that later. Each home gelato machine has its own benefits, although very similar.
You’ll also discover that most machines produce more than gelato, and include a variety of other frozen desserts such as sorbets, regular ice-cream, and frozen yogurt.
Cuisinart ICE 100:
Musso Lussino 4080:
With the growth in popularity in gelato as evidenced by the stocking of freezer shelves with brand names marketing their version of gelato, a new market has opened up for the gelato enthusiast to bring gelato making into their own home.
Benefits of a Home Gelato Making Machine
Good news! There are a variety of benefits to making homemade gelato or other desserts. I’ll list a few here.
Control over Ingredients
In the previous paragraph I mentioned how you can get gelato at grocery stores. Take a look next time you are in the frozen dessert aisle and look at list of ingredients! It’s full of unknown and unrecognizable ingredients and whatever else.
Making your own batch of delicious gelato at home allows you to have full control of the number of ingredients and the quality of ingredients. No more junk ingredients!!
Another benefit is ultimate cost savings. Gelato is expensive. I recently saw a pint of grass-fed gelato at a store for $9! With a machine at home you can make your own 1.5 quarts for much less. The better the quality of your machine, the longer it will last and it to pay for itself.
A third benefit of using homemade gelato machines you may not be aware of is that many people will make batches of gelato as gifts to friends and family. Not everyone has a machine like these and that’s why it’s great when you provide them with a fresh and healthier-than-store-bought gelato or other frozen dessert!
Healthier Alternative to Regular Ice Cream
Another benefit for using a home gelato maker is that many consider gelato a healthier alternative as it typically has a lower calorie content because it is made with whole or 2% milk rather than cream which Ice cream normally uses. I’m not however saying gelato is the go-to choice when trying to lose weight!
Fun with the Kids
Family time! Kids love to be a part of the gelato-making process! Well, let’s face it, so do us adults! Regardless who loves it more, it’s great to turn it into a family affair. Let the kids pick their flavors and ingredients like chocolate chips, or raspberries. Be creative!
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The Difference Between a Gelato Machine and an Ice-cream Maker
Understanding this difference is important because they are not the same thing. A gelato machine will produce real gelato which is denser and creamier than regular ice-cream.
An ice cream maker will produce regular ice cream that is airy and has a different texture due to crystallization.
I have found that those who buy standard ice cream makers are often disappointed when they realize their attempts to make genuine gelato doesn’t turn out so well.
Sure you can make something that might resemble gelato, but for the gelato enthusiast, they will know the difference.
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Gelato vs. Ice cream – the Air Factor
Gelato in Italian means, “ice cream” or “frozen”, so gelato is simply Italian ice cream. This doesn’t mean it tastes the same as American ice cream however.
They are similar, but think of them more like cousins. One area where gelato is different is the fact that it does not mix in a lot of air during the blending process, unlike its American counterpart which can include up to 50% air. Gelato is between 20 and 30%.
By incorporating less air, the gelato texture is denser and creamier and also creates a more intense flavor. Alternatively, more air creates the more American airier and lighter consistency.
Due to this “air” factor, this is why using a gelato maker is different than an ice cream maker. In order to prevent as much air as possible from getting into the ice cream, the machine must control the air factor.
Gelato Makers Should Allow for Minimal Air Inclusion
Since you now know how important the air factor is, you need to make sure your gelato maker has the ability to exclude additional air from being incorporated into the ingredients.
So the question is how can a gelato maker reduce the amount of air being mixed in so that you get the creamy texture gelato is known for? It comes down to the following features you should look for in a machine:
Lid has an Air Tight Seal
Make sure it has a good air tight seal. Most will. But keep in mind cheaper models are often of inferior quality. This can compromise a good gelato because you want to make sure extra air does not enter the container/compartment during the mixing process.
Next it also involves the use of the style of paddle in the mixing process. Usually these paddles are designed to reduce air being mixed in.
The machine should have a refrigerating Compressor – this means everything happens within the machine, the mixing, the decreasing of temperature to below freezing… everything. I’ll go into more detail next.
A Gelato machine should have a Refrigerating Compressor
I’d like to talk a bit more about the refrigerating compressor, which sounds very technical but all it really means is that the machine not only mixes the ingredients, but without you even having to lift a finger it will bring the ice cream down to below freezing temperatures on its own. It’s like a self-contained freezer inside the machine.
Prior to machines having this feature, the user would mix the ingredients and then have to manually freeze the gelato in their own freezer (and prefreeze the bowls too).
Not only does this impact your gelato, but it saves you hours and hours of needless work and labor. With machines like the popular Cuisinart ICE 100 Compressor Ice Cream & Gelato Maker, you can create batch after batch of gelato without the pre-freezing step.
From the time you mix the ingredients and start the machine, you can have your first batch ready to eat in approximately 45 to 60 minutes. The only time you need your freezer is to store it when you are done!
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Keep in mind, whether ice cream or gelato, once you are finished and put it in the freezer, it will harden to your liking. So if you find after the mixing and freezing in the machine that the consistency is softer than you’d expect, it’s just a matter of putting it in the freezer. This is normal.
Make sure to use these BPA free gelato and ice cream containers. You can find some here on Amazon.
The Keep Cool Feature
One feature that is really nice that machines like the Cuisinart 100 and the Musso Lussino Ice cream and Gelato maker (a strong contender) is a keep cool feature.
The feature keeps the container cool after the compressor shuts off so the ice cream doesn’t start warming right away.
The Musso Lussino repeats every 10 minutes for an hour. At the time of this writing the Cuisinart’s keep cool feature keeps it cool but only for 10 minutes which I find disappointing.
How sweet! (pun intended) 😊
How Much Gelato can a Homemade Gelato Maker Make?
This is one of the best things about gelato makers, or ice cream makers which offer gelato making functionality.
The best ice cream or gelato maker in my opinion are the ones that are the all-in-one.
When you buy a machine that is an all-in-one like I mentioned above, you are able to produce more gelato in a fraction of the amount of time as one that only does the churning, or the cheaper ones that require you to pre-freeze bowls for 8 hours at least before using!
How big is a batch?
Each manufacturer will say their machines can make batches of ice cream. Find out what a “batch” is. Is it 1.5 quarts? Or is it 1 quart or less?
This will also determine the size ice cream containers you purchase to store it in, as containers are offered in various sizes as well.
How quickly can a batch be made?
Most gelato makers will make a batch in 45-60 minutes.
In addition, some machines will be able to produce batch after batch simultaneously, while some may only recommend 1 or 2 batches at a time in order to allow the actual machine components to cool down and not overheat.
The Musso Lussino makes 1.5 quarts at a time.
I want to mention as well that the more industrial the machine, the more it will be able to handle higher production capacity. These machines will cost more, but for many it is worth it.
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Air Tight Ice Cream or Gelato Freezer Containers
Make sure to buy some ice cream containers that will accommodate your batches. You can buy sets of small portion size containers, or tubs that contain much more. Make sure to get a size that works for you and your freezer.
Sumo offers some cool 1.5 Quart size ice cream tubs which are stackable, reusable and dishwasher safe.
To help when shopping online for various other sizes:
- 5 Qts = 48 oz
- 1.5 Qts = 3 pints
The Various Machine Parts and Components
Gelato Mixing Bowl
The mixing bowl – these bowls are usually removable. If not that’s fine too. For the Musso Lussino, it is integrated. If you’re looking for a stainless steel bowl, make sure to confirm the material before you buy. Many of the low to mid-range machines will use anodized aluminum. Higher end ones like the Musso 4080 uses stainless steel.
Paddles – Most ice cream makers that make both American Ice cream and gelato, will include more than one paddle. One for gelato, one for ice cream. The Cuisinart ICE 100 does this, and while the appearance of both are similar the design allows for either more or less air to be incorporated into the mixture. For the 100 they are made of plastic.
As I mentioned earlier, the best gelato makers will have a sealed lid. You’ll pay more for these but for the gelato enthusiast, this is the price of sheer gelato enjoyment.
Some lids are clear plastic in order to observe the mixing process. They should include an opening that can open and close that enables you to add last minute ingredients such as nuts, chocolate chips, or fruit during the last 5 minutes or so of mixing. You always want to wait until the end to add these additional ingredients until the end.
Gelato Recipe Books
While this sounds a bit silly, I think it’s very important For the Cuisinart 100 their recipe book in on the reverse side of the manual, so don’t throw the manual away!
However, I would really recommend purchasing additional recipe books that have a wider variety of recipes. These books will likely go into more detail about ingredient variations and tips that you will find useful.
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For machines that include the ability to do multiple styles of ice cream, like the For the Cuisinart ICE 100, you’ll see a variety of recipes such as these:
- Fresh Mint w/ Chocolate Cookies
- Dairy Free Vanilla Ice Cream
- Custart Style Ice Cream
- Espresso Gelato
- Lemon Gelato
- Mascarpone and Fig Gelato (no, I’m not kidding!)
- and much more…
Don’t limit yourself just to this book however, check out other gelato and ice cream recipe books online.
Italian Gelato Machine Made in Italy not China
For those who are looking for an Italian-made Gelato machine, I would check out the The Musso Lussino frozen dessert maker is a good example, it is made by Lello. It’s 100% automatic, meaning no extra steps before or after mixing the ingredients.
It also uses stainless steel parts which is impressive and explains the higher price.
The manufacturer is an Italian gelato maker but also can be used for a variety of frozen desserts such as sorbet, frozen yogurt and gelato. You can view it here on Amazon.
But for those who are looking for a higher durable machine and one that is also made of stainless steel, the Musso Lussino 4080 might be for you.
Size and Design of a Gelato Ice Cream Machine
Size is an important factor when purchasing any kitchen appliance, because it is important to make sure that the item fits where you plan on using it, and that it can be easily stored when not in use.
They are usually around 30lbs or so depending on the parts and materials used. For example, a gelato ice cream maker that uses a refrigerant compressor will weigh more than those that are just for churning, and ones that are stainless steel will weigh more than those of hard plastic.
The Cuisinart ICE 100 Gelato maker is 16x12x9 inches. That means 16 inches in Depth, 12 inches in Width and 9 inches in Height.
This means it should fit on any countertop without hitting any cupboards that might be above it.
The machine is a stainless-steel finish which is cool looking and will match any kitchen decor.
It should be stated that each batch produces 1.5 quarts of gelato.
The Musso is 18” deep, 12” wide and 11” in height.
Where to Buy a Homemade Gelato Machine?
You can find a decent selection on Amazon, including the ones I mentioned above. Do your research and in the end I’m sure you’ll find the perfect gelato maker for your home!