Soft-serve ice cream refers to a frozen dessert made by freezing dairy or fruit products while introducing air into the mixture.
If you’ve ever bought an ice cream cone at the beach or from an ice cream van, you’ve probably tried soft serve ice cream before.
However, these ice cream cones are often overpriced and can sometimes be lacking in quality.
The solution? Make your very own soft-serve ice cream from the comfort of your home!
By putting down a single or installment payment on a soft-serve ice cream machine, you’ll be investing in the ability to whip up soft-serve frozen desserts whenever you want, using your favorite ingredients.
Whether you’re a fan of rich and creamy soft-serve or light, fruit-based blends, there’s an ice cream machine on the market to suit your tastes.
We’ve done our own research and compiled a list of what we believe are the 5 best soft-serve ice cream machines money can buy.
All you need to do is choose your favorite model with the help of our feature-focused buyer’s guide!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Our best overall pick from the available range of soft-serve ice cream machines is Cuisinart’s ICE-45P1 Soft Service Ice Cream Maker.
This ice cream maker comes with a 1.5-quart, double-insulated freezer bowl containing cooling liquid.
This cooling fluid is what enables the machine to turn ingredients into soft-serve ice cream.
A recipe book and instructions are included with the purchase of this machine, so all you need to do is collect the ingredients and get started!
Ingredients are added to the top of the machine through the easy-lock lid. Then, the mixing arm inside the top compartment churns the ingredients inside the bowl.
The churning action thickens and introduces air to the mixture.
While the freezing process takes place, you can monitor your ice cream’s progress through the ingredient window.
Best of all, the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 machine has 3 condiment containers, so you can add your favorite chocolates, candy, or sprinkles to the top of your ice cream.
The pull-down dispenser handle is easily accessible on the front panel of the machine and doesn’t require much force, so it’s ergonomic and intuitive to use.
Overall, this ice cream machine is highly functional, effective, and easy to operate.
However, the consistency produced by the machine can be overly soft at times, so it may be necessary to pre-freeze the freezer bowl before operation to ensure a more solid consistency.
- 1.5-quart capacity - 12 scoops
- Ergonomic dispenser bracket - Easy to access and operate
- Recipe book included - Learn as you go
- Ingredient window - Easy monitoring
- 3 condiment containers - Add sprinkles, chocolate, or candy
- Very soft consistency - Pre-freezing the bowl may be required
This budget-friendly ice cream maker also happens to be one of the most innovative models on our list.
Unlike traditional ice cream machines, the Yonanas Classic Fruit Soft Serve Maker is designed to turn frozen fruit into soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Using this machine, you can turn your favorite healthy snacks into indulgent desserts in a matter of minutes!
This soft-serve maker accepts all types of frozen fruit and comes with a recipe book of 36 delicious, fruit-based recipes.
The machine is also compatible with some additional topping ingredients, so you can add chocolate chips, nut pieces, or sprinkles to your ice cream.
The Yonanas Classic ice cream maker features a very simple design.
It works by adding the ingredients to the chute and activating the optimally-sized, lightweight plunger.
The plunger and internal blade action break up and aerate the mixture while the pre-frozen status of the fruit ensures that the final consistency isn’t too runny.
However, the opposite problem can sometimes occur where the ice cream comes out slightly chunky.
To avoid this, we recommend letting the frozen fruit thaw out for a little while beforehand just to avoid overly hard pieces.
The primary components of this ice-cream machine (the blade, plunger, and chute) are dishwasher-safe, so clean-up is simple! Just put the items in the top shelf and let your washer do the rest.
- Works with all frozen fruit - Widely compatible
- Accepts additional ingredients - Add chocolate chips or sprinkles
- 36 recipes included - Plenty of variety
- Ergonomic plunger - Easy to work with
- Dishwasher-safe components - Easy to clean
- May produce chunky consistency - Allow fruit to defrost slightly beforehand
If there’s a tasty treat worth splurging on, it’s definitely soft-serve ice cream!
If you’re willing to spend a little extra for a professional-tasting soft-serve, our premium recommendation is the Whynter ICM-201SB Upright Automatic Ice Cream Maker.
This is a large-capacity ice cream maker, with a 2.1-quart mixing bowl large enough to produce up to 16 scoops of ice cream at any one time.
Part of the reason why this machine retails at a high-end price is that its construction is designed to enhance durability and ensure the health and safety of your food.
The body of the machine is made from BPA-free stainless steel that resists wear and tear and won’t transfer any harmful chemicals or compounds into your ice cream. Plus, stainless steel is easy to wipe clean.
Moreover, the compressor freezer built into the machine ensures that you’ll never have to pre-freeze your ingredients.
Just lift the lid, insert your ingredients as they are, and set the timer as needed. Once the freezing process is complete, the timer will notify you audibly.
This soft-serve ice cream maker is built to last, with automatic motor protection built into the mechanism. If your mixture freezes solid before the timer runs out, the machine will automatically shut off to prevent internal damage.
While there’s little to criticize about the machine itself, we should mention that the user manual included with the product is relatively vague.
This can turn getting to grips with the machine into a bit of a trial-and-error procedure.
- BPA-free stainless steel - Durable and non-toxic
- 2.1-quart capacity - 16 scoops
- Built-in compressor freezer - No pre-freezing required
- Audible timer - Reliable and easy to monitor
- Automated motor protection - Prevents damage from over-freezing
- Vague user manual - Unclear instructions
Cuisinart’s ICE-70 Electronic Ice Cream Maker is capable of producing both soft-serve and hard-serve ice cream.
If you’re a fan of soft-serve ice cream but are also interested in experimenting with other types of gelato, sorbet, and frozen desserts, this is definitely the ice cream machine for you!
This is a large machine capable of producing up to 16 scoops of ice cream thanks to its 2-quart capacity.
If you want to make less than this, the integrated measuring cup makes measuring out your perfect quantities effortless.
Because the Cuisinart ICE-70 ice cream maker has the ability to run at 3 different speeds, you can adjust the speed to achieve your desired ice cream consistency.
This is what makes the ICE-70 suitable for executing multiple ice cream types, including soft-serve.
Adjusting the speed and setting a timer according to the time specified by your recipe is easy with this model.
The LCD control panel features a clear numerical display and one-touch buttons with the ice cream types clearly labeled on each speed control.
The main issue we found with the Cuisinart ICE-70 is that it does run very loud during operation (think blender-level noise).
If you’re somebody who finds loud machinery to be stressful or unpleasant to work with, this may not be your ideal ice cream maker.
- 2-quart capacity - 16 scoops
- LCD control panel - Clear and intuitive display and controls
- Multiple speeds - Adjustable consistency
- Countdown timer - Accurate timing
- Automatic shut-off - Motor protection and energy-saving
- Loud operation - Not the best for noise-sensitive users
Similar to our budget pick, the Chefman Frozurt Frozen Dessert Maker is designed to turn frozen fruit into soft-serve ice cream or frozen yogurt.
This is a high-end ice cream machine that produces delicious results with only a couple of minor design flaws, so it takes the final spot on our list.
The simple, clutter-free design of this frozen dessert maker makes it easy and intuitive to use.
After letting your frozen fruit thaw slightly to whatever consistency you prefer, insert it into the chute at the top of the machine and use the accelerator tool to push the ingredients into the chamber.
The accelerator is smooth and optimally sized, so it’s comfortable and ergonomic.
In addition to fruit, the Chefman ice cream maker accepts other ingredients such as chocolate chips, crushed cookies, and sprinkles.
So, even though the machine is designed to help make ice cream healthier, you can make your dessert more exciting with toppings or even a spoonful of peanut butter!
Once you’ve finished making your ice cream, you can simply detach individual components for thorough cleaning.
However, bear in mind that the parts included with this ice cream maker are not dishwasher-safe, so all cleaning needs to be done by hand.
- Minimalist design - Easy to use
- Designed for frozen fruit - Perfect for making healthy desserts
- Accepts other ingredients - Add your favorite toppings
- Ergonomic accelerator - Comfortable grip
- Removable components - Easy cleaning
- Hand wash only - Not dishwasher-safe
Best Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine Buying Guide
If our selection of reviewed products demonstrates one thing, it’s that soft-serve ice cream machines come with a diverse variety of functions.
Therefore, it’s important to cross-compare the features of ice cream machines to find your perfect appliance.
Before you check out any other aspects of an ice cream machine, you should always ask yourself: what does it do?
The reason for this is that, as we’ve mentioned, not all soft-serve ice cream machines have the same functions or capabilities.
For instance, some soft-serve ice cream machines are exactly that - machines built specifically for making soft-serve ice cream.
However, other machines that are capable of producing soft-serve can also execute blends for other types of ice cream, including traditional gelato or sorbet.
If you want to experiment with different types of ice creams while being able to keep enjoying your favorite soft-serve, it’s important to check what kinds of ice cream the machine can deliver.
Flexibility in terms of ice cream consistency is linked to the adjustability of the machine’s speed. Therefore, the more speed options are available on the machine’s control panel, the more types of ice cream you’ll be able to try out.
You’ll also need to consider whether the machine works on a pre-freeze basis or whether it has the capacity to freeze the ingredients during the churning process.
The latter is clearly the more time-saving option, although ice cream machines with built-in freezer functions typically retail at higher prices.
An alternative to a built-in freezer chamber is an insulated mixing bowl with cooling fluid, such as the one included with the Cuisinart ICE-45P1 Soft Service Ice Cream Maker.
These bowls can be effective but often need pre-freezing to activate the cooling system.
The other alternative, which is what you’ll find with most budget-friendly soft-serve machines, is to pre-freeze your ingredients before introducing them to the machine.
This does involve some preparation time, but it’s an effective way to ensure a non-runny soft-serve consistency without paying extra for built-in cooling.
The next step is to determine whether a given soft-serve ice cream machine has enough capacity to make the quantities of ice cream that you need.
Ice cream machine capacities are usually stated in quarts and range between 1.5 and 2 quarts on average.
The ideal capacity for your needs will depend on how many servings you want to make at once. A 1.5-quart capacity should yield 12 scoops of ice cream if filled to the top. 2 quarts should produce roughly 16 scoops.
Ease of Use
Making ice cream for the first time can be exciting, but if your machine is too complex or difficult to use, you may find yourself struggling to execute the right consistency or flavors.
One thing that can’t be overestimated in terms of facilitating ice cream machine usage is an included recipe book and instruction manual.
Using recipes that have been written for your specific machine will not only help you out on your learning curve but also ensures that all the suggested ingredients are compatible with your machine.
Moreover, if your machine comes with a plunger or accelerator, it’s a good idea to check the size and shape.
The handle should be the right diameter to fit comfortably in your hand and should be smooth enough to ensure a comfortable grip and minimize hand fatigue.
In terms of settings and controls, we recommend prioritizing one-touch buttons with clear markings and a clearly visible LCD display.
We would also recommend looking for a machine with a built-in timer function since this will allow you to get on with other tasks while the churning and freezing are taking place.
Monitoring is also important if you want to make sure that your recipe is working out as planned.
In addition to automatic shutoff functions that help to protect the motor and save energy, an ingredient window through which you can watch the ice cream making process is ideal.
Making and eating ice cream is a lot of fun, but the cleaning process after the fact can be a real drag. Luckily, most of the ice cream machines in our selection are designed to facilitate cleaning in a stress-free way.
If you want to ensure the most hassle-free cleaning experience possible, look for soft-serve ice cream machines with detachable, dishwasher-safe components.
If machine components are advertised as dishwasher-safe, this usually means that they are safe for top-shelf washing.
In case your ideal ice cream machine isn’t safe for dishwasher cleaning, the process still shouldn’t be too difficult as long as the blade (if included), ingredient chute, and accelerator are detachable.
In general, we recommend prioritizing machines where the majority of the components are stainless steel or plastic. These materials are the easiest to wipe clean, so you’ll find that the cleaning process is quicker and less arduous.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does soft-serve ice cream last?
The shelf life of soft-serve ice cream can vary depending on the ingredients used in the formula.
For example, a dairy-based ice cream mixture is likely to have a shorter shelf life than a pure fruit ice cream.
However, on average, soft-serve ice cream should keep in your freezer for about 5 weeks.
Is it okay to refreeze soft-serve ice cream?
If your soft-serve ice cream has only slightly thawed and is still cold, it should be okay to refreeze it.
However, if your ice cream has completely melted, it’s best not to refreeze.
This rule is especially important for dairy-based ice cream but also applies to pure fruit soft-serve. The reason for this is that bacteria can easily start to form at temperatures higher than 40°F.