With summer temperatures and the best sunshine, cold desserts and drinks are a must. The range of practical kitchen gadgets is huge and the price differences between the devices enormous. But what are the differences and what should you consider before buying an ice cube maker and ice machine? TechStage has gotten an overview and shows what you should look out for with the various devices.
Eas & Sorbet
The classic kitchen gadget for the summer is of course the ice cream maker. Here you can implement your own recipes and afterwards you also know what’s actually in them. But what are the differences between ice cream machines and is it even worth the effort?
The easiest way to prepare ice cream yourself are simple plastic or silicone molds. the Ice molds for 10 to 30 euros are filled with juice or yoghurt and then put in the freezer. Whether the variants with a wooden handle, plastic handle or for pushing out are better is ultimately a matter of taste. From our point of view, a worthwhile and inexpensive classic, with which individual combinations such as banana-cherry can also be implemented.
There are two categories of ice cream machines for ice cream. The simple ice cream machines without their own cooling and the high-quality ice cream machines with a compressor. In both variants, the ingredients are added and then mixed in the ice-cold bowl by an electric mixer until the desired consistency is achieved. Usually, however, this ice cream has to be eaten up promptly and completely, since the homemade ice cream freezes through when stored in the freezer and loses its consistency and creaminess. Even slow thawing rarely brings a pleasant consistency again. The homemade ice cream should therefore always be freshly prepared.
Main difference between cheap and expensive: With machines without a compressor, the mixing bowl or the heat sink underneath has to be put in the freezer for 8 to 14 hours in advance and experience has shown that the cooling is usually only sufficient for a sorbet-like consistency. If this is desired, the solution is cheap and well suited. Such simple ice machines are available for around 20 to 50 euros. Disadvantages are the space required in the freezer and the fact that you cannot start spontaneously.
Compressor ice machines are available from less than 200 euros – the models from Medion and Unold are some of the cheapest machines in the price comparison with prices from 150 to 170 euros. These devices, which are already much bulkier, take up a lot of space in the kitchen cupboard or cellar, but they also work spontaneously without preparation and enable great ice cream creations. Since a compressor provides active cooling here, the cooling effect is possible over longer periods of time and is also more even and stronger than with the cheaper solution. As a result, everything is possible here, from sorbet to evenly frozen ice cream.
Basically, we have good experiences with homemade ice cream – but you should be aware of a few things. So it is not so easy to get the desired consistency and the hoped-for taste. If you expect perfect results without practice, you will be disappointed. Here you have to have fun and be able to live with setbacks. You should also plan enough space for the devices.
A special form of cool desserts that has become increasingly popular in recent years is what is known as rolled ice. Ultimately, the way it works is comparable to classic ice cream machines, but here the ice cream is not made in large quantities, but in portions. Instead of an agitator, a spatula and muscle power are used here, with which the ingredients such as fresh fruit, juices, yoghurt or similar are mixed, chopped up and then repeatedly distributed on the ice-cold stainless steel surface. Since only a thin layer needs to be cooled here, it quickly freezes to the surface. When you remove it with the scraper, the chilled ice cream rolls up – which is where the name of this specialty comes from.
Again, there is a cheap and an expensive solution. In the simple variant, the ice plate is used as a heat sink. Before use, it has to be in the freezer for several hours. The method works, but you have to be quick, since the cooling neither lasts long nor is particularly strong, only a few rolls are possible here from our experience. Simple variants with a plate-sized heat sink and plastic spatulas are between 25 and 40 euros. Larger variants of about Fikujap cost around 40 to 60 euros. This inexpensive solution is ideal for trying out (with the kids); the space requirement is also manageable. But don’t expect large amounts of ice here. If in doubt, buying one will help Sets with two heatsinks for 30 euros.
If the ice rolls should be enough for the whole family or for friends and acquaintances, a machine with strong, active cooling is much better suited. Similar to the normal ice cream machines, this drives up the price significantly. The cheapest models of about Ultratec is available from around 200 euros. Our assessment: a great gadget with a lot of potential. However, you should also plan some practice time here and actually use the device regularly so that the investment is worthwhile. For twice a year, the purchase would be too expensive for us and the space requirement too high.
Sure, ice cubes are part of summer. Whether in a soft drink, cocktail or as an addition to iced coffee – ultimately you can’t have enough of it in stock on a hot day. The ready-made ice cubes in kilo bags from the gas station or supermarket are ideal for parties here – however, they are expensive in the medium term and need a lot of space in the freezer for storage. Making it yourself is the cheapest solution thanks to the cheap ice cube molds – even if some time has to be planned for the preparation of larger quantities.
However, this solution is unsuitable if there is limited space in the freezer and a high throughput of ice cubes. Our favorite gadget for the hot months is therefore the Ice cube maker or the ice cube machine. If you don’t have the pleasure of owning a modern XL refrigerator with an integrated ice cube dispenser, you can get a cheap and effective solution here from around 120 euros.
Although the sometimes given advertising promises “ice cubes in less than 10 minutes” sound too good to be true – when it comes to the preparation of small ice cubes, this statement is true! Larger cubes take about ten to thirteen minutes. The specified production quantities of twelve to fifteen kg of ice cubes in 24 hours are therefore quite realistic. At least if the ice cube tray is emptied regularly and the water tank is filled. Larger systems therefore have a water connection. In practice, this usually ensures that there is always sufficient replenishment. If you are planning a garden party, you can produce large quantities for stock within a very short time. If you need it spontaneously, enough ice cubes for the first round of drinks will be ready after about 30 minutes. Why only after half an hour when it should take less than 10 minutes? The first cubes after switching on are still very small, and the cubes also melt quickly in the machine at the beginning, so that it takes about three to four passes until there is enough ice. As soon as there are a few ice cubes in the collection container, the temperature in the machine drops and the ice cubes keep their shape for hours. The machine has been running regularly for us for weeks and even provided us with fresh ice cubes directly at the quarry pond – the consumption of almost 140 watts was not a problem for the tested solar generator.
But there are a few things to keep in mind here, too. So the ice cube makers (again) need a lot of space in the cupboard or shelf. On the other hand, the noise level of inexpensive devices should not be underestimated. The constant fan noise can get annoying in the long run, which is why you should think about a good installation location. In addition, we recommend switching to mineral water if the tap water is very calcareous, as cleaning is otherwise very time-consuming and the service life of the machines is shorter in case of doubt.
If you don’t feel like watering down your precious drink with ice cubes, you don’t have to do without cooling down. So-called Whisky-Steine or Frozen Stones give off cold, but do not dissolve and do not change the taste. These reusable cooling stones are available from approx Basalt, soapstone, Granit or off stainless steel for about eight to 20 euros. Noble sets with a chic wooden box can sometimes cost 50 euros and more. There are also water-filled ones for children’s hands and sensitive glasses plastic ice cubes suitable. There are from about 12 euros for 60 pieces.
slush ice cream
If you have children, you can’t avoid slushed ice (so-called slushies). The brightly colored and very sweet drinks are ultimately semi-frozen water with sweeteners. They usually consist of crushed ice cubes (crushed ice) and syrup. The preparation works either with the help of special Slush-Cups from 15 euros or in special slush machines from about 60 to 100 euros. Ultimately, both variants have to be cooled in advance. These machines only stir. Professional machines with their own cooling quickly cost over 1000 euros. The cheap version works, but only for one drink each. Multiple portions and regular enjoyment are only possible with the large machines.
A tip: It is much more space-saving and cheaper to make your own slushie with the simplest of means. Simply mix water with syrup and pour it into the ice cube mold. After a night in the refrigerator, the cubes are then crushed and filled into a glass. Finished. Crushing works with a kitchen towel and a hammer or a Ice Cube Crusher from about 15 euros.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to cool down with cold drinks or sweets in the summer. Ultimately, however, it is always a question of how much effort you want to put into it. The more convenient it should be, the more expensive the required gadgets usually are.
Ice cream machines are great, but from our point of view they are only worthwhile if you use them regularly and enjoy being creative. If it’s just a matter of getting a scoop of ice cream quickly and cheaply, you’re better off with cheap ice cream from the discounter. The situation is similar with ice cubes. If these are only needed for a party, it is better to use simple ice cube molds or ready-made ice cubes from the supermarket. If you like to keep your drinks cool with ice on a regular basis, the purchase is worthwhile. Our ice cube maker is running daily at the moment.