Self-cooling ice cream makers (also referred to as high-end or commercial-quality models) have their own compressors. This equipment works just like a freezer with coils and a gas, ultimately cooling the canister and providing the temperatures needed to create ice cream, so users don't have to pre-freeze anything. Another bonus is that you can use these machines to make frozen drinks. And since there's nothing to pre-freeze, consumers can make a second batch of ice cream immediately. But there are some pretty big drawbacks. First, self-cooling models are very expensive. And secondly, these ice cream makers have a long cycle time; users typically wait up to 50 minutes.
Additionally, like most other ice cream makers, self-cooling models can be noisy. Plus, most are large and heavy, weighing up to 40 pounds, which can make transport between a cabinet and countertop cumbersome. Some models also have non-removable bowls, making cleanup tricky. Self-cooling ice cream makers are the most expensive option, but many ice cream enthusiasts are happy to pay the extra price for what they feel is the most convenient -- being able to make ice cream at any time, batch after batch, without pre-freezing any canisters or using messy ice and rock salt.
The Whynter SNO Ice Cream Maker IC-2L (*Est. $235) tops the competition in a test by one professional cooking magazine, producing denser, smoother ice cream in less time than most gel-canister models and edging out the more expensive self-cooling Cuisinart ICE-50BC (*Est. $300) with quieter operation and faster delivery. Editors say the Cuisinart ICE-50BC, which has a smaller 1.5-quart capacity, is one of the "loudest and bulkiest" ice cream makers tested and note the presence of ice crystals in the finished product.
More than 30 owners posting reviews of the Cuisinart ICE-50BC to Cooking.com and nearly 150 posting to Amazon.com contribute to an average rating of 4 stars (out of a possible 5), with most noting that it's easy to use -- pour the mix in and turn it on. Most agree that it's loud, and nearly a third of reviewers complain that ice cream freezes to the sides of the bowl, which prevents the paddle from rotating and leaves the inner portion of ice cream soupy; even when this problem isn't present, many owners say the finished product must be frozen for a few hours after preparation to achieve the desired consistency.
The Whynter SNO Ice Cream Maker, on the other hand, produces a creamy product that's firm enough to eat immediately. Editors of one foodie magazine say the Whynter SNO is easy to clean with a removable canister and blade. In addition, it features a digital timer which can be set for up to 60 minutes. This ice cream maker can make up to 2 quarts of ice cream in 20 to 40 minutes.
The Whynter SNO Ice Cream Maker IC-2L is also sold as the Lello Gelato Pro 4090 (*Est. $400) at nearly twice the price. Both have a plastic outer casing; the Whynter SNO is silver, while the Gelato Pro is white. Otherwise, the two are identical in design and function. The Lello-branded version receives more attention on consumer review sites, with an average rating of 4 stars out of 5 based on reviews from more than 30 owners posting to Amazon.com. The Whynter SNO maintains an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5, based on less than 20 owner-written reviews. Consumers rave about the Whynter ice cream maker's quiet operation and automatic shutoff feature, which stops the blade from rotating about 30 seconds after the ice cream becomes too thick for the motor to handle. Some say the chute for the mix-ins is too small, and we found one complaint of a bad customer service experience. Owners reviewing the Lello Gelato Pro are equally as positive and offer similar feedback; several say prep time is reduced and ice cream quality improved by chilling the ingredients before mixing.
One consumer posting to Amazon.com says the Lello Gelato Pro is "quieter, has a washable bowl, weighs much less and makes a larger amount of ice cream" than the self-cooling Lello Musso Lussino Ice Cream Maker 4080 (*Est. $700), although the Musso Lussino is nearly twice the price of the Lello Gelato Pro and about three times as much as its Whynter SNO-branded counterpart. The Lello Musso Lussino receives Slate.com's top rating for the "sublime" ice cream it produces. This ice cream machine has a stainless-steel housing, bowl and dasher. It can produce 1.5 quarts of ice cream in about 30 to 40 minutes. A transparent plastic dome also allows users to check their ice cream's progress.
Over 100 owners posting feedback on the Lello Musso Lussino contribute to an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com, where about two-thirds say it's worth the extra money for its ease of use and superior ice cream. Many owners also note that two buttons operate the machine. One will churn the ice cream mix and the other will chill it. A 60-minute timer acts as a master on/off switch and allows consumers to set it to the appropriate time based on what type of dessert is being made (slushy drinks, ice cream, gelato or sorbet). Unlike the Whynter SNO Ice Cream Maker, the Lello Musso Lussino doesn't have an automatic shutoff function, so it must be monitored during use to avoid burning out the motor if the mixture becomes too thick.
Owners love the sturdy construction of the Lello ice cream maker; it's made entirely of stainless steel. The bowl is non-removable, so most owners recommend removing the dasher and cleaning the bowl with hot, soapy water and a sponge. However, some owners say the 38-pound Lussino cannot be moved easily from countertop to cupboard; most make room for it on the counter. We also found some comments from owners saying that while the Musso Lussino has a 1.5-quart capacity, a more realistic estimate is about 1 quart to avoid overflows.