Budget ice cream makers are ideal for people who know they will only make ice cream occasionally or who don't want to make a large investment in another kitchen appliance. These units generally weigh less and take up less storage in the closet or on the kitchen counter. Surprisingly, experts and individual owners say these little machines can hold their own.
This is certainly true of the Hamilton Beach 1.5 Quart Capacity Ice Cream Maker (Est. $35) , which experts at Good Housekeeping say churns out super creamy ice cream and thick and smooth sorbets like those made with more expensive models. This Hamilton Beach unit comes with a freezer bowl that needs to be pre-frozen for about 22 hours. But owners say they can still make ice cream spontaneously by using simple milk and cream recipes and making sure they keep the canister in the freezer. Good Housekeeping's experts say the machine won't win any beauty contests, and some owners warn that it's a bit loud, but overall, they consider the unit a bargain.
Another canister-style model is the Hamilton Beach Half-Pint Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker (Est. $35) , which comes with two 12-ounce freezer bowls. Owners say its small size makes it perfect for one or two people. And the machine is quick: Ice cream or frozen yogurt is ready within 15 minutes or less. Most ice cream makers produce an ice cream that resembles firm soft-serve, which hardens further when put in the freezer. This is not the case with the Hamilton Beach Soft Serve, which lives up to its name and disappoints some owners because the ice cream doesn't really firm up. Owners at Amazon.com complain that there is always some ice cream that sticks to the side of the bowl, and About.com's Housewares and Appliances guide, Mariette Mifflin, consistently finds ice crystals in her ice cream. Many users gave up on their units after a period of trial-and-error experiments failed. Still, others say once they overcame the learning curve, they were pleased with the frosty treats.