Best commercial ice-cream makers: Buyer's guide 2021

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The market size of the ice cream production industry in Canada is expected to increase 1.3% in 2021.

The market size of the ice cream production industry in Canada is $942.3 million (measured by revenue). That means a lot of Canadians are scooping up these delicious frozen desserts. This is excellent news if you’re thinking about opening a specialty ice cream or gelato store, adding ice cream to the menu of your restaurant or cafe, or installing a commercial ice-cream machine in your entertainment venue.

But finding the best ice-cream maker for your needs can be a challenge. There are many different types of ice-cream makers and there's much to consider when looking for the right one for your venue.

With these things in mind, we’ve created an ice-cream maker buyer's guide to help you decide on the best ice-cream maker for your venue. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new or used commercial ice-cream machine this buyer’s guide will help you find the best ice-cream maker for your needs.

Here's what our commercial ice-cream maker buyer's guide covers:

  1. Main things to consider when buying a commercial ice-cream maker
  2. Types of commercial ice-cream makers
  3. Used commercial ice-cream machines versus new commercial ice-cream machines
  4. Some of the best commercial ice-cream makers
  5. Questions to ask when purchasing a commercial ice-cream machine
  6. Commercial ice-cream maker FAQs
  7. Commercial ice-cream machine terminology

1. Main things to consider when buying a commercial ice-cream maker

Styles of ice cream

The first thing you need to think about when buying a commercial ice-cream maker is the style of ice cream you want to serve. Obvious, right? Sure, but it’s still important to give this plenty of thought before you rush out and buy a potentially expensive ice-cream maker.

That’s because not all commercial ice-cream machines make all styles of ice cream. And the machine you decide on should be able to deliver the style of ice cream you want for your venue.

For example, are you opening a boutique ice cream store with a wide range of specialty flavours? Do you run a café selling take-out gelato? Or perhaps you want to add a soft-serve machine to your entertainment venue. Maybe you want to add frozen yogurt to your summer menu. Or you could have a high-end restaurant serving sorbet between courses.

You get the idea. The point is that the best ice-cream maker for the job will differ depending on the style of ice cream you want to make. Here are a few different types of frozen desserts you might want to consider.

Ice cream: This traditional favourite we all know and love is a solid product kept in containers in a freezer rather than being served out of a machine. It is made with 10 per cent or higher milk fat. Different types of cream are used depending on the fat content you’re looking for. This will determine the creamy mouthfeel of the final product. It should not increase by more than 100 per cent in volume during the churning process.

Gelato:  This Italian favourite is a little different from traditional ice cream. The milk fat percentage is lower than ice cream and there’s less air whipped in during the churning process. The result is a thicker, denser product. It's also made without eggs and contains more sugar than traditional ice cream.

Soft serve: Most of us grew up eating Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream. Despite its soft, creamy texture, soft serve tends to be made with the same ingredients as regular ice cream. The key difference comes in the churning process. More air is whipped in, which creates a softer, lighter texture.

Frozen yogurt: This has become more popular in recent years as a healthier alternative to ice cream. It tends to contain less milk fat than ice cream and the added yogurt gives it a slightly tart taste.

Sorbet: This light frozen dessert is usually made from sweetened water and frozen fruit. It generally doesn't contain dairy products and is often served in fine dining restaurants as a palate cleanser between courses.

Sherbet: Similar to sorbet, sherbet is made with sweetened water, sugar, and frozen fruit, but also contains two per cent of eggs, fats, and/or milk products. If any frozen mixture contains more than two per cent of those products it would be considered a gelato or ice cream.

Frozen custard: Like ice cream, frozen custard is made with a combination of milk and cream but includes egg yokes and incorporates less air when being frozen producing a product that’s significantly denser than traditional ice cream.

Capacity

Similar to size (see below), capacity refers to how much product your commercial ice-cream maker can hold. Commercial ice-cream machine capacity is referred to in both gallons and litres. Capacity is important when deciding between models as higher-capacity machines cost more money so you need to be aware of how much product you need, especially during peak service times.

Energy efficiency

Energy is important for two reasons. First, you need enough power to operate the motor, turn the augers and have the pumps running, and ultimately the product freezing and churning efficiently.

Secondly, electricity is expensive. Investing in an energy-efficient commercial ice-cream machine helps with utility costs because the efficient configuration of the components uses less power.

Here’s some quick information about the latest updates to energy requirements:

Many manufacturers have upgraded or changed designs and components in their units to further the green/sustainability effort. High-efficiency compressors, fan motors, and LED displays are all considered in the development and re-design of commercial ice-cream machines to continue elevating the ENERGY STAR® profile of the equipment and advance the overall energy efficiency.

Electrical requirements

Ice-cream makers are completely electric machines. The electricity is used not only for the motor that spins the auger in the freezing cylinder to produce the ice cream, but it’s also used in the cooling system for freezing the product but also in keeping the motor, drive system, and internal components cool (see air-cooled versus water-cooled below).

Larger high-capacity commercial ice-cream machines may have a refrigerated cabinet to keep large amounts of mixed ingredients cold. Some very high-end models have heat treatment combinations that provide daily heating and cooling cycles to safely maintain dairy products for several weeks before disassembling and cleaning is necessary.

Most commercial ice-cream machines in Canada require 208/240-volt single- or triple-phase connections. This power source is much higher than common residential 120 volts plug-and-play type outlets. For this reason, it’s important to ensure your venue has the correct power available. Make sure you consult with a licensed electrician to determine the capacity available for your commercial ice-cream machine in your venue.

Mobility

When you’re looking to buy the best ice-cream maker, consider if you'll need to move it around. Some models come with wheels/castors that can be locked in place when you require them to remain stationary.

Another thing to note is that an ice-cream maker on castors is easier to clean behind and underneath. This is an important factor in keeping your kitchen clean. Keeping the machine mobile also helps when cleaning it. Having it close to a sink or drain will save time and reduce the opportunity for messy spills.

Placement

Keep your ice-cream maker away from direct sunlight so the ambient temperature doesn't climb too high and forces the commercial ice-cream machine to work harder than it needs to.

Power outlets should also be considered. If the outlet is directly behind the commercial ice-cream maker, you’ll have to pull the machine out to get to it. Hopefully, you can place your commercial ice-cream machine with the electrical outlet to the side or above the unit for easier access.

When determining placement consider what time of day the commercial ice-cream machine will be in use (i.e., typically not used during breakfast). For this reason, both mobility and placement are key if you need to move the ice-cream maker to different areas throughout the day to accommodate whatever service time is required to produce the ice cream.

Output

This is the amount of product that an ice-cream maker produces per hour. The necessary output will vary depending on if you’re serving product directly from the machine or using the ice-cream maker to produce multiple flavours you’ll store for later use. McDonald’s is a great example of a restaurant that serves product (soft-serve ice cream) directly from the machine versus Baskin Robbins that has multiple flavours (of traditional ice cream and sherbet) produced in significantly-higher-output machines to have as much product on hand as they need.

Size

The size of an ice-cream maker is the capacity it can hold as well as product output it produces, but more importantly refers to the physical space that the machine takes up in your venue. Also referred to as footprint, the physical size of the machine will vary greatly depending on what the space can accommodate along with the amount of production needed to satisfy customer demand. For instance, a fine dining restaurant that only uses small amounts of ice cream or sorbet as an accompaniment to a multi-course meal would need a much smaller machine (much less capacity) than a traditional ice cream shop.

The other issue with size is the way your commercial ice-cream machine will fit into your kitchen. Before you order the largest commercial ice-cream machine for your operation, take some measurements to ensure the appliance won’t block thoroughfares, that it can be delivered and installed without too much difficulty, and that it isn’t too tall to fit in your kitchen.

Commercial ice-cream makers are available in both floor standing or countertop models. Floor-standing machines are much larger and usually have more options included (for example, a refrigerated cabinet, heating element, etc.) Countertop ice-cream makers may also have similar options to floor-standing models but are built to be more compact and less size restrictive. For commercial countertop ice-cream makers, double-check that they’re the right length and width to sit safely on your countertop or equipment stand.

Installation

Before you decide on the best ice-cream maker for your needs, ask about the installation process. The very first consideration should be whether it will fit through the doors of your venue. Are there steps to go up and down? Is there a door lintel you need to maneuver the machine over? Are there corners you’ll have to go around or narrow hallways to navigate?

Your commercial ice-cream machine should be installed professionally to ensure it operates at its best. Double-check the voltage with an electrician to make sure you can supply enough power for the appliance. Also, ensure you have the correct drainage underneath or nearby if required by the machine.

Usability and cleaning

Ensuring that your staff understands how to use the commercial ice-cream machine you purchase is key to keeping it working in top-notch condition on a long-term basis with fewer service challenges.

Time is money and the daily cleaning of your commercial ice-cream maker can take up considerable time because they have a lot of moving parts. The product inside needs to be melted before it can be thoroughly cleaned. This means that cleaning the machine requires a significant amount of downtime.

Some machines feature an automatic wash cycle so you might want to consider the time that would save in your cost analysis.

Otherwise, ask the supplier to demonstrate how the machine you’re considering is cleaned. Is it easy to empty the machine? Do you have to disassemble parts to clean the machine? Do parts that require scrubbing or soaking fit into your kitchen sinks?

Also, ask about any cleaning products the manufacturer recommends such as a degreaser that may be required to clean the condenser coil. All specialty cleaning products should be affordable and readily available in your area.

Before you buy your ice-cream maker, research a) how to and b) how often it should be cleaned. It should be easy to train staff on how to clean the machine thoroughly and identify the signs for when it should be cleaned.

Certain machines will have specific cleaning schedules depending on the type of product being used and the volume or size of the machine. For example, commercial ice-cream machines with the ability to go through a heating cycle may be able to pasteurize product or keep it at food-safe temperatures for longer periods. This means they don’t need to be cleaned or shut down as often as machines without a heating element.

Water, filtration, and drainage

Water-cooled commercial ice-cream machines (discussed below) require hookup to a cold-water line and a connection to a floor drain. The colder the incoming water, the faster ice cream will be produced.

If your water supply has a high mineral content it’s wise to install a water filtration system as calcium and mineral buildup from the water supply will eventually lead to machine degradation.

Although water-cooled machines require a floor drain connection, it’s a great idea to have adequate drainage close to your commercial ice-cream machine. The cleaning process for any ice-cream maker requires several cycles of hot soapy water and sanitizer. A drain close by makes it easier to dispose of the wastewater rather than filling up buckets and carrying them to a drain further away.

Ventilation

If you purchase an air-cooled commercial ice cream machine, you’ll need a good flow of air traveling around the machine and over the condenser coils. Keep at least six inches of open space around the vents on your ice-cream maker. Vent placement differs between brands, so keep this in mind when purchasing your ice-cream maker and when you decide where you plan to place it in your venue. You also want to ensure the vent is pointed in a direction where heat can travel away from the machine safely and that it won’t affect any nearby equipment or product.

Training

Ensure the commercial equipment dealer who sells you a commercial ice-cream machine is willing to provide training for you and your staff on how to operate and clean the machine. Make sure they provide you with a full parts and service manual and that they’ll make themselves available if you need refresher courses on assembly, disassembly, operation, cleaning, etc.

Insurance, warranty, maintenance, and repairs

Your ice-cream maker should be covered under your overall business insurance for incidents like theft or accidental damage. Make sure your ice-cream maker is itemized on your policy so you can make a claim based on its true value.

A warranty on a new machine is essential. If you buy new you will most likely have a 12-month warranty on parts but not on labour. Make sure you're clear on the warranty before you buy. If there isn't one, consider this a red flag.

When you buy a commercial ice-cream machine talk to your dealer about their recommended servicing and repair schedule. At high volume, your ice-cream maker is likely to need attention more often. When you buy your ice-cream maker speak to your dealer about service and a continuous maintenance program. Be sure to base it on the volume you intend to see coming through your venue.

Ideally, there will be a service and repair specialist nearby who you can call on in an emergency. If not, this could influence your decision about the commercial ice-cream maker you buy. After all, how much income would you lose if your ice-cream maker is out of action for a few days or more?

And remember, when you buy a commercial ice-cream machine the cost and availability of parts will factor into your ongoing expenses. Different machines may have parts that are more expensive to replace, repair, or even source.

Ice-cream storage and display

Your concept will help you decide what type of ice cream storage or display you need. The type of product you’re serving, your menu, and your storefront or venue should all be considered.

Is your concept more like Baskin Robbins or a Cold Stone Creamery? Do you need an open freezer display that shows all the flavours available to scoop or do you need a countertop space with fruit and sweet ingredients that can be hand-mixed into a simple ice cream base?

Frozen dessert-specific concepts will include both storage and display so, depending on the theme of your venue, there are many options available. Your store designer or commercial equipment dealer should be able to provide lots of products and configurations for you to consider.

If the ice cream is being scooped or prepared from the kitchen or waiter station, you’ll need basic freezer space or an ice cream dipping cabinet. If the product is being served directly from the machine (i.e., soft-serve ice cream in a fast-food or QSR) then storage isn’t necessary but the placement of the machine will decide if customers can see it and whether it’s a focal point.

2. Types of commercial ice-cream makers

While fat and air content tend to differ between different styles of ice cream, most follow a similar production process. A commercial ice-cream machine mixes and freezes the ingredients to create the end product.

This slow, constant mixing-and-freezing process causes the ice cream batter to expand and achieve a creamy texture. Other ingredients can be added during the production process to create an enormous range of flavours.

If you’ve ever tried to make ice cream without an automatic ice-cream maker or machine, you’ll know that you can’t just put ice cream mix in the freezer and expect it to turn into ice cream. Mixing is key. And hand mixing ice cream in between periods in a freezer is not only incredibly time-consuming but also tends to result in unpleasant ice crystals in the finished product.

However, not all commercial ice-cream machines are created equal. Here are a few key differences.

Batch freezers

Hard serve, also known as traditional scooped ice cream, is generally made in batch freezers. Batch freezers include a frozen cylinder with an auger and blades that take liquid ice cream base/mix and churn it while freezing to create the frozen product. Other types of commercial ice-cream machines are also capable of producing a hard-serve product but they require independent controls to adjust the ice cream churning speed so the correct amount of air is incorporated in the product to give it the right texture.

Batch freezers come in various sizes, capacities, and designs allowing users to make the style and quantity of frozen treat needed. What makes them different than other types of machines is that product isn’t served directly from the machine, it’s produced in the machine and transferred to a serving vessel (e.g., bucket, tray, or serving pan).

Because of their versatility, some batch freezers can also be used to make sorbet, gelato, frozen custard, and sherbet.

Commercial soft-serve machines

Soft-serve machines differ from batch freezers because they're made to serve product directly from the machine without over-churning it. Soft-serve ice-cream makers can even produce traditional scooped ice cream, making them very versatile.

These machines are also capable of creating other frozen treats depending on the options or controls on the machine. The difference in frozen products aren’t just the ingredients that go into it, it’s also the amount of air that is incorporated into the mix when it’s freezing. Commercial soft-serve machines are the most versatile of all ice-cream makers because they not only allow you to adjust the amount of air going into the mix when the product is being frozen, but you can also choose to serve the product directly from the machine or save the frozen product in containers to be served later.

Commercial soft-serve machines also have the option of making multiple flavours in one machine and the ability to mix these flavours as it’s being served, i.e., in a twist cone.

Commercial gelato machines

While you can make gelato in a batch or soft-serve machine, if you’re opening a gelato-specific store, you’ll want to invest in a specialized commercial gelato machine. Traditional gelato is made at a lower temperature than ice cream and is churned at a lower speed ensuring it has less air mixed into it during production.

Frozen yogurt makers

Many manufacturers and brands offer different frozen-yogurt machines separate from their soft-serve machines but the only difference between products is the base mixture. As the name implies frozen-yogurt recipes substitute yogurt for milk or cream.

With either soft-serve or frozen-yogurt machines, powder mixes or pre-mixed liquids can be used and, in some cases, this is the only type of base that the ice-cream maker will be able to churn and accommodate.

Speak with your commercial equipment dealer when deciding on a machine to find out if a specific product needs to be used in the machines you’re looking at.

Cooling systems

Another important factor to consider is how the commercial ice-cream machine is cooled. The type of cooling will have an impact on the machine’s performance and could potentially affect where you place the machine in your kitchen.

Air-cooled commercial ice-cream makers use a vent system to pass hot air out and bring cooler air into the machine so you’ll need to make sure you don’t cover the vents on the side, front, or top of the machine. That means you’ll need to think carefully about placement to ensure that there's free space around the machine. Air-cooled ice-cream makers work best in air-conditioned or naturally cooler environments. They also produce at a lower capacity than water-cooled alternatives (see below).

There are a few drawbacks to air-cooled ice-cream makers. Internal fans blow cool air onto the components but this also means that hot air is expelled into the room so you need to be aware of other equipment and any product being located near these machines. Also, the fan runs continuously when the machine is on so they’re much noisier than water-cooled machines.

Water-cooled commercial ice-cream makers circulate cool water around the internal components of the machine. These are the gold-standard for commercial or industrial use where high volume production is required. It is important to note that they need a constant water source and a drainage point. These machines don’t expel any heat so you can store equipment and product nearby without affecting performance. These machines are much quieter than air-cooled machines making them a better option if they’re placed in an area close to customers (e.g., buffets).

The drawback to water-cooled machines is that they use a large amount of water which can be become expensive over time and isn’t great for the environment.

Some water-cooled machines can have the water replaced with a glycol cooling system. This is a great option for a long-term solution as it eliminates the constant use of water as it recirculates glycol in the cooling lines. Glycol has the benefit of working efficiently when a very cold-water source isn’t available. If you use a refrigerated glycol system it will increase the efficiency and capacity of your water-cooled commercial ice-cream machine, allowing you to produce more product in the same amount of time.

Ingredient selection and storage

The type of frozen dessert you’re producing will determine the ingredients you use in the recipe. Cost is also a determining factor. For example, if you want strawberry flavour but the price of fresh strawberries is prohibitive you may opt for a strawberry flavouring at a more reasonable cost. These ingredients will help you choose which commercial ice-cream machine is right for your establishment. Some machines use powder or pre-mixed base, others use fresh ingredients. Some machines can handle fruit while others can’t. Once you’ve chosen the machine that’s right for the item you wish to sell, ingredient selection is limited to what that machine can process.

If you’re running a specialty ice cream or gelato shop, there’s no doubt you’ll want to use only high-quality fresh ingredients in your frozen treat. However, if you’re selling ice cream as an additional menu item or installing a commercial soft-serve machine in your entertainment venue or mobile food truck, then a powder or pre-mixed base option may be the best choice.

You’ll also need to consider how you store your ice cream ingredients. Fresh ingredients and flavourings will require commercial refrigeration, while powder-based mixes may be better off in dry storage.

Whichever way you go, do some research about the ingredient supply chain before you commit to purchasing the best ice-cream maker. Ensure that powder-based mixes are widely available in your area, or that you’ll be able to get reliable access to fresh ingredients that may be seasonal.

Industrial ice-cream makers versus commercial soft-serve machines

There are a few important differences between a standard industrial ice-cream maker (also referred to as a batch freezer) and a commercial soft-serve machine. For starters, ice-cream makers tend to be designed for the use of fresh ingredients while soft-serve machines more commonly use powder mixes.

Hard ice cream must also be churned at a considerably colder temperature than soft-serve ice cream. Hard ice cream needs temperatures around minus 15 degrees Celsius to make while soft-serve ice cream only requires around minus 4 degrees Celsius. Large-scale, industrial-sized batch freezers will have a temperature control available to help facilitate changing the temperature needed for freezing depending on the mixture and ingredients being used.

If you want to build a self-serve element into your store, you’ll need to purchase a specialty commercial soft-serve machine. Commercial hard ice-cream machines don’t have a self-serve function and the ice cream is served from a container from a stationary freezer or dipping cabinet.

3. Used commercial ice-cream machines versus new commercial ice-cream machines

The cost of commercial ice-cream machines varies widely depending on the type, size, and brand you choose. You can pay as little as $800 for a small, entry-level, countertop machine and up to $50,000 for large automatic machines, depending on the size and configuration.

It can make sense to save money, so a used commercial ice-cream maker is an option for your new venue's kitchen.

Browse SilverChef’s Certified Used range of equipment which is often less than 18 months old and comes with a warranty. Our Certified Used range can also be rented through our Louer-Essayer-Acheterᴹᴰ finance product program allowing you to see how the equipment fits with your business before deciding whether to purchase it.

4. Some of the best commercial ice-cream makers

If you’re looking to purchase the best ice-cream maker for your operation, you’ll need to go through a restaurant equipment dealer. Here are some of the top brands and companies with products available in Canada, along with the types of ice-cream makers they sell.

Note: Information on these brands and products come from the company’s website or published information. Lists of company products may change. Be sure to do your research on what to consider when purchasing a commercial ice-cream machine.

Stoelting (Vollrath)

Established in 1905, Stoelting (owned by Vollrath) is one of the top two commercial ice-cream machine companies in the world (the other being Taylor). The company has historic roots in Europe. They established themselves when they manufactured the first soft-serve ice-cream freezer machine for Dairy Queen more than 70 years ago.

Stoelting has a full line of machines for all frozen desserts, shakes and smoothies, soft-serve and frozen yogurt, frozen custard, Italian ice machines, and batch equipment for ice cream and gelato. They also have their Companion portable self-contained cleaning system for frozen treat equipment on carts so you can move it to the machine and clean the unit.

Their ice-cream makers come in gravity-fed and pressure-fed models. Their floor and countertop soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt makers are available in single flavour, twin twist, or double cylinder designs.

Stoelting's high-capacity output shake and smoothie freezers are compact and can be used to make milkshakes, frozen beverages and cocktails, and smoothies.

Their custard and Italian ice floor and countertop style machines feature their Quick-Freeze Technology™ that minimizes the size of the ice crystals resulting in a smooth and creamy product.

They also sell batch freezers in vertical countertop and floor models for ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, gelato, and water ices.

Taylor (TFI Food Equipment Solutions)

Taylor is one of the top two commercial ice-cream machine companies in the world (the other being Stoelting). The company has machines for frozen desserts, beverages, and much more. Most of the large fast food and QSR chains in Canada and globally use Taylor for their reliable and versatile commercial ice-cream machine models.

The company started small in 1926 when ice cream shop owner Charles Taylor invented the first automatic batch ice cream freezer. Today they have over 160 distributors in 125 countries.

Their batch freezers come in a countertop one flavour model and larger models for two and three flavours, premium frozen custard, or sorbet in two separate flavours.

Soft-serve freezers come in floor and countertop single-serve models. They have a combination freezer for shakes and single flavour soft-serve ice cream. Other configurations offer a pump for variations on ice cream, custard, yogurt, and sorbet.

They also have a line of beverage freezers including a single flavour shake freezer and two flavour frozen beverage freezers in floor and countertop models.

Waring (Serve Canada)

Waring specializes in small, economical multi-purpose batch freezers, perfect for restaurants that don't specialize in ice cream but want to make their own specialty frozen dessert treats quickly.

For example, the Waring 2-quart and 2.5-quart ice-cream makers produce these quantities of ice cream, gelato, or frozen yogurt in 30 minutes. With a built-in compressor, there's no need for pre-freezing and their Keep Cool feature keeps the cold treat at the ideal temperature once the ice cream-making process is finished.

Nemox (Eurodib)

Known for its specialty imported European and American manufactured equipment, Eurodib brought batch freezers for gelato and frozen yogurt to the Canadian market.

Their i-Green is a new generation of environmentally friendly, professional gelato machines. These come in a variety of models and sizes including tabletop configurations. Their free-standing i-Green gelato machines are available in single or twin for two different flavours. They also have small, mobile machines on carts.

Sani Serve (Serve Canada)

Founded in 1929, Sani Serve started its business as a manufacturer of amusement park equipment in the U.S. They made their first frozen-custard machine two years later. Today, they specialize in batch freezers, gelato, and soft-serve ice-cream makers.

Sani Serve has several high-volume soft-serve ice-cream and yogurt machines in countertop and floor sizes for regular and twist soft-serve as well as yogurt making. They also have high- and medium-volume batch-freezer models for single-flavour frozen desserts.

Spaceman (Celco)

Spaceman has become popular in the Canadian market over the past five years since Celco took over its distribution for Canada.

Spaceman products are an economical choice for soft-serve and frozen-beverage machines with a wide variety of configurations to choose from in both countertop and floor models.

Carpigiani

Carpigiani high-end Italian-manufactured machines are available through multiple dealers across Canada. They specialize in batch freezers, gelato, and soft-serve ice-cream makers. They have several models of batch freezers for different needs. For example, their Ready Chef is a gelato and pastry maker in one countertop machine.

Carpigiani's Maestro HE line uses the company's Hot-Cold_Dynamic® Adaptive technology that "automatically recognizes the type and quantity of mixture, dynamically regulates cold and hot gas, optimizing heat exchange during freezing and regulates the hot gas to avoid burns during production." Their Labronic HE-H line uses Hard-o-Dynamic® Adaptive Technology does the same with gelato, and there are many more models to choose from.

Soft-serve machines come in floor models and many sizes of countertop configurations for single, twin-twist, and two-flavour soft-serve dispensing machines. They'll even personalize your machine with your logo and any colour you choose.

Advanced Gourmet

Advanced Gourmet offers Cattabriga, Coldlite, and many more high-end premium brands. These Italian-manufactured machines produce every type of ice cream and specialty frozen desserts.

Advanced Gourmet stands out from the competition with its focus on all aspects of the customer's needs from the store design to ongoing service and repair.

They have many batch freezers to choose from too. Their vertical Effe 6 Batch Freezer uses the company's unique preparation model to create ice cream and gelato. It even allows you to add interesting ingredients like almonds and chocolate, not normally possible with horizontal batch freezers.

Advanced Gourmet even has a 3-combination batch freezer for gelato, ice cream, sorbet, and other frozen desserts. They also have 3-horizontal batch freezer configurations and a Bain-Marie Mixer –Cattabriga PSK-KEL Mix Treatment for professional batch processing.

Crathco (Grind Master)

Crathco has one of the smaller offerings in the commercial ice-cream machine manufacturing business. They started their business in 1865 and began specializing in hot water, coffee, and tea urns. While other products are the mainstay of their business, they do have three compact soft ice-cream dispensers.

Fetco

Fetco specializes in a sleek, portable countertop soft-serve gelato machine with an automatic defrost timer turning the machine on and off at pre-set times. The benefit of this feature is that no operator is required to turn the machine on and off, so gelato can be served quickly by itself or in shakes and smoothies.

5. Questions to ask when purchasing a commercial ice-cream machine

It’s important to find the best ice-cream maker for your needs. For example, you don’t want to overspend on a high-end machine that produces more ice cream than your venue needs. On the other hand, you don’t want to underspend on a smaller unit that can’t keep up with demand.

Like all things, it’s often best to ask people with real-world experience using commercial ice-cream machines for advice. Before you purchase a used or new commercial ice-cream machine talk to people who run similar venues and ask them some of the following questions:

  • Which commercial ice-cream machine brand do you use and why?
  • Is it easy to clean?
  • How long is the machine down when being cleaned?
  • How often does your commercial ice-cream maker break down or need repairs?
  • Is the dealer or manufacturer reliable when you need their help?
  • Do your employees find the machine easy to use?
  • If you purchased a new or used ice-cream maker, why would you recommend going this route and what was the experience like?
  • What do you feel is a good price to pay for the type of commercial ice-cream machine you purchased and why?
  • Would you recommend the commercial ice-cream machine you have to others?

Here are questions to ask your equipment dealer or supplier:

  • What type of commercial ice-cream maker would you recommend for my needs?
  • Is the machine air-cooled or water-cooled?
  • Does the machine need to be plumbed into a water supply?
  • Does the machine require a drainage point?
  • Does the machine require 208 or 240 volt single-phase or three-phase power?
  • How do I clean the machine?
  • Do you recommend specific cleaning products?
  • Do you provide training for my team?
  • What warranty is included?
  • Why do you recommend this commercial ice-cream machine over others you or what your competitors offer?
  • What are the benefits of this ice-cream maker?
  • How easy is it to get parts from the factory if they’re needed?
  • What happens if I need an urgent repair?
  • How much are hourly callout fees? What about on weekends?

6. Commercial ice-cream maker FAQs

How do commercial ice-cream machines work?

While there are some differences in how various types and brands of commercial ice-cream machines function, they generally follow the same process. A liquid mixture is prepared from either fresh ingredients or a powdered pre-mix. The mix is poured into the hopper and works its way into the freezing cylinder.

A mixing arm is used to continuously churn the ice cream and as the mixture slowly freezes it expands. Depending on your machine, flavourings may need to be added at the beginning or during the churning process.

Some machines enable you to adjust the speed of the mixing arm. This allows you to control the amount of air whipped into the ice cream. Gelato contains the least amount of air. Hard ice cream contains slightly more air. Soft-serve ice cream contains the most air.

How much water does a commercial ice-cream machine use?

This depends on whether your commercial ice-cream maker is air-cooled or water-cooled. Air-cooled machines don’t need to be plumbed into a water source. In that case, the only water it will use is the water you need to clean it.

On the other hand, water-cooled machines generally need to be plumbed into a cold-water line. They circulate cold water past the internal components of the machine to keep them cool. As the water heats up it’s drained out of the machine. The amount of water your machine uses depends on its size, production capacity, and use time.

How do I clean a commercial ice-cream machine?

Some higher-end commercial ice-cream machines have a self-cleaning function that will save you significant time and effort.

If your machine doesn’t have a self-cleaning function, you’ll need to clean out the internal ice cream bowl or cylinder and churning arm between batches. Hot, soapy water is usually enough to get the job done but check with the manufacturer to see if specialty cleaning products are required. Each machine is slightly different so it’s important to ensure your equipment dealer can provide training on how to clean the machine properly and its assembly and disassembly.

You may also need to use a degreaser to clean the condenser coil on occasion. This might be included in your maintenance and servicing contract, so check with your local technician or service agent before you try to clean it yourself.

Does a commercial ice-cream maker need a continual maintenance program?

A continuous maintenance program is a specified date or intervals (for example, once a month or every quarter) when a professional comes in and inspects and maintains the machine. Smaller counter-top models may or may not require a continual maintenance program. Most floor models will require this service.

Ask your supplier about their maintenance and servicing policy before you purchase a machine. Make sure there are technicians available in your area and check on the frequency and cost of scheduled maintenance calls.

How do I install a commercial ice-cream machine?

Smaller countertop machines may simply plug and play with a standard outlet and not require any special electrical installation, but most machines are 208/240-volt single- or triple-phase units and need to be professionally installed by a licensed electrician. In many cases, the machine needs to be hard-wired into your facility. Another consideration is that the warranty and/or your business insurance may be voided if it isn’t installed by a professional.

Also keep in mind that if you settle on a water-cooled industrial ice-cream maker, you will need to hire a plumber to install it (the cold-water inlet plumbing line and drainage).

7. Commercial ice-cream machine terminology

Understanding industry jargon is the vital first step in your search for the best ice-cream maker. Here are some definitions to help you along:

Auger: Sometimes referred to as the beater, the auger is the drive shaft of the commercial ice-cream machine. It turns the product to scrape the frozen mixture off the freezing cylinder.  

Batch freezer: This type of commercial ice-cream machine comes in four configurations – horizontal, all in one, open vertical, and multi-purpose. It allows the user to make different-sized batches of ice cream and is a good option for small business owners because the cost is lower than other types of ice-cream makers. This is used to make regular and soft-serve ice cream, gelato, sorbet, sherbet, and custard.

Blades: The blades on a commercial ice-cream machine are attached to the auger and physically touch the sides of the freezing cylinder scraping the product off to allow for more mix to make contact with the cooling surface.

Carburetor: The carburetor is the device that regulates the amount of air that goes into the product. Different types of frozen desserts require different amounts of air to be mixed with the liquid to create the correct consistency.

Condenser coil: This is the part of the condenser that converts liquid refrigerant from a gas back into liquid. As refrigerant heats by freezing the product it goes from liquid to gas. Over time, these coils get covered in dust and dirt, making it harder for them to function correctly as they can’t release heat, so it's important to keep them clean.

Cooling system: There are two types of cooling systems in commercial ice-cream makers. Air-cooled uses ambient air to cool the internal components and expels warm air. Water-cooled circulates water past the internal components of the machine to keep it cool. Higher-capacity machines tend to have a water-cooled system as it is more efficient for processing more product.

Drainage point: The position of the drainage line that takes wastewater out of the commercial ice-cream machine.

Freezing cylinder: This is one of the three main parts of a commercial ice-cream machine. The freezing cylinder houses the auger and blades (the two other main parts). The refrigerant runs around the freezing cylinder while the product passes through it with the aid of the auger and blades. As liquid touches the inside of the freezing cylinder it turns into ice cream.

Hopper: This is the large container where the liquid mix is poured and stored so that it can run through the commercial ice-cream machine and produce the frozen treat.

Motor: Electric motors inside the ice-cream makers turn the auger and blades inside the freezing cylinder to keep the product moving. This turning process adds air and eliminates ice crystals from forming in the finished product.

Production capacity: The maximum amount of frozen product a commercial ice-cream machine can produce.

Power: Single-phase power: The standard electric power supply you’ll find in most domestic and commercial buildings. Three-phase power: A commercial/industrial electric power supply used to power large commercial machinery.

Pump: A mechanical device used in the pressure-fed commercial ice-cream machine to deliver liquid mix from the hopper or storage area into the freezing cylinder.

Refrigerant: According to Wikipedia, a refrigerant is a substance or mixture used in a heat pump and refrigeration cycle. In all refrigerating cycles, it undergoes phase transitions from a liquid to a gas and back again.

In liquid form, the refrigerant travels around your freezing cylinder, cooling it down and absorbing the heat during the mechanical freezing process.

Refrigerated storage cabinet: Some floor model commercial ice-cream machines come with a refrigerated storage cabinet to safely hold product mix at a low temperature which helps provide enough product during peak times to reduce the need to frequently refill the hopper.

Spigot: The spigot controls the frozen product dispensing and ensures portion control. Spigots can be manual or automatic.

Thanks for reading this commercial ice-cream machine buyer's guide

This guide has hopefully helped you understand what to look for so you can narrow down your decision about the best ice-cream maker for your venue.

If you'd like the advice and guidance of a professional don't hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef. We have dedicated restaurant and cafe industry experts available to support you.

Prefer to dive straight in and start looking at Certified Used equipment? Shop the range available at SilverChef. If you want to find out more about finance options and rental payments on a commercial ice-cream maker, use our LouerTryBuy calculator.

This buyer’s guide was prepared using the expertise provided by Industry’s Best Consulting Canada, an independent consultant firm with over 25 years’ experience. Their team of professionals provides consulting services for every facet of the foodservice and hospitality industry, with a particular specialty in the choice and application of commercial restaurant equipment.