Our informative buyer's guide will help you decide on the best ice cream maker for your business.
According to GlobalData, Australia is one of the largest per capita consumers of ice cream in the word. That’s 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 soft serve 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 maker in Australia, and there is much to consider to find the right one for you.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the important factors you need to think about before purchasing a commercial ice cream maker. We also set out the best ice cream machine brands in Australia, and answer some of your frequently asked questions.
Here’s what our commercial ice cream machine guide covers
- Commercial ice cream maker terminology
- What are the main things to consider when buying an ice cream maker machine?
- Industrial ice cream maker vs commercial soft serve ice cream machine
- Used commercial ice cream machine or new?
- How much are commercial ice cream makers?
- Some of the best ice cream makers
- Top questions to ask before you buy
- Commercial ice cream machine FAQs
Commercial ice cream maker 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:
Air-cooled: A type of ice cream maker machine that uses ambient air to cool the internal components and expels warm air.
Batch freezer: This is a hospitality industry term that is used to refer to commercial gelato machines and ice cream makers.
Condenser coil: Part of the condenser that converts liquid refrigerant into a gas during the refrigeration process.
Drainage point: The position of the drainage line that takes waste water out of the ice cream machine.
Footprint: The space a commercial ice cream machine takes up in your venue.
Gelato: A style of Italian ice cream that is denser than regular ice cream and uses less fat.
Pre-freeze: A type of ice cream machine that does not feature a built-in freezer.
Production capacity: The maximum amount of ice cream a machine can produce.
Refrigerant: A compound that changes from a liquid to a gas and back again during the refrigeration process.
Single-phase power: The standard power supply you’ll find in most domestic and commercial buildings.
Three-phase power: An industrial power supply that is often used to power large commercial machinery.
Water-cooled: A type of industrial ice cream maker that circulates water past the internal components of the machine to keep it cool.
What are the main things to consider when buying an ice cream maker machine?
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 machine on a whim.
That’s because not all ice cream machines are capable of making all styles of ice cream. And the machine you settle on should be able to deliver on your particular needs.
For example, are you opening a boutique ice cream store with a wide range of specialist flavours? Do you run a cafe and want to start selling take-home gelato? Or perhaps you want to add a soft serve machine to your entertainment venue. Then again, maybe you want to add frozen yoghurt to your summer menu. Or you could be a five-star chef that wants to serve 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...
This is the traditional favourite we all know and love. It is made with 10 per cent or higher milk fat (also known as butter fat), and should not increase by more than 100 per cent in volume during the churning process.
This Italian favourite is a little different to traditional ice cream. The milk fat percentage tends to be lower than ice cream, and there is less air whipped into it during the churning process to create a thicker, denser product. It is also made without eggs.
Most of us grew up eating ‘Mr Whippy’ 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 yoghurt 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 yoghurt gives it a slightly tart taste.
Sorbet is a very light frozen dessert usually made from sweetened water and frozen fruit. It tends not to contain dairy products and is often served in fine dining restaurants as a palate cleanser between courses.
Types of commercial ice cream maker
While fat and air content tends to differ between different styles of ice cream, most follow a similar production process. In most cases, an ice cream maker machine essentially mixes and freezes the ingredients to create the end product.
This slow, constant mix-and-freeze process causes the ice cream mixture to expand and achieve a creamy texture. Other ingredients can be added during the mixing process to create an enormous range of flavours.
If you’ve ever tried to make ice cream without an ice cream maker machine, you’ll know that 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 ice cream machines are created equal. Here are a few key differences…
Pre-freeze ice cream maker machine
These are most common for domestic use. They don’t have a built-in freezer, which means you need to freeze the ice cream mixture first in a freezer. You then add the frozen mixture to the ice cream machine for whipping. These machines are only capable of producing small batches and are best for domestic use. Stay away from them unless you intend to serve only a very small amount of ice cream.
Built-in freezer commercial ice cream maker
Every good industrial ice cream maker will feature a built-in freezer. The mixture is added straight into the machine, which mixes, freezes and whips the ice cream. These machines are capable of producing much larger batches and are ideal for commercial use.
Commercial soft serve ice cream machine
Soft serve ice cream is often made with a premix powder or liquid, and is served straight into a cone or cup via a nozzle on the machine. While some traditional ice cream makers may be capable of making soft serve ice cream, it’s usually best to purchase a specialised commercial soft serve ice cream machine if you intend to sell higher volumes.
Commercial gelato machine
While you can make gelato in regular ice cream machines, if you’re opening a gelato-specific store, you’ll want to invest in a specialised commercial gelato machine. That’s because traditional gelato is usually made at a lower temperature than ice cream and tends to have less air whipped into it.
Another important factor to consider is how the 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 maker
Air-cooled machines use a vent system to pass hot air out and bring cooler air into the machine. They work best in air conditioned or naturally cooler environments, and 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 there is free space around the machine. They also tend to produce at lower capacity than water-cooled alternatives.
Water-cooled commercial ice cream maker
Water-cooled machines 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. However, they will likely need to be plumbed to a constant water source, and may also require a drainage point.
Placement and footprint
Commercial ice cream makers come in either counter-top or floor-standing configurations. The larger floor-standing units tend to offer a higher production capacity, but the counter-top machines can be a great option for smaller businesses with less kitchen space.
If you’ve opted for an air-cooled machine, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep open space around the vents. Vent placement differs between brands, so take this into consideration in your purchasing decision.
You also want to make sure that the placement of your commercial ice cream maker makes sense in your kitchen space. That is, make sure there is good flow between your machine and where your ice cream ingredients are stored and prepared.
You’ll also need to consider how you’ll transport the ice cream from the machine to your display area. For example, ensuring there is space for a trolley to pass through will limit the need to carry heavy trays of ice cream from one end of your store to the other.
While some smaller counter-top units may simply plug into a standard power out, don’t assume that this is the case. More powerful commercial ice cream makers — particularly larger, floor-standing machines — may require connection to three-phase power.
Not all commercial buildings are equipped with three-phase power, so it’s vital to check the power supply to your premises before you purchase an ice cream maker machine. Talk to a qualified electrician to get this right.
It can be expensive to convert from standard single-phase to three-phase power. However, it can be more energy efficient to run three-phase machinery over time — particularly for larger ice cream operations. Again, talk to a qualified electrician to get your cost assessment right.
And remember that three-phase ice cream machines will require professional installation by a licensed electrician. Doing electrical work yourself or hiring an unlicensed handy person is extremely dangerous, could damage your machinery, and attract a substantial fine.
Ingredient selection and storage
You’ll also need to think about how you’re going to make your ice cream before you settle on a commercial ice cream maker. That is, it’s possible to use powder-based mixes or fresh ingredients. Some machines are better designed to make powder-based ice cream, while others can handle a wide range of fresh ingredients and natural flavourings like frozen fruit.
If you’re running a specialist ice cream or gelato shop, there’s no doubt you’ll want to use only high-quality fresh ingredients in your ice cream. However, if you’re selling ice cream as an additional menu time, or installing a commercial soft serve ice cream machine in your entertainment venue or mobile food truck, then a powder-based option may be best for you.
Of course, 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 an industrial 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.
Time is money, and the daily cleaning of your commercial ice cream maker can take up considerable time. Some machines feature an automatic wash cycle, so you might want to consider the time that saves in your cost analysis.
Otherwise, ask the supplier to demonstrate how the particular machine you’re considering is cleaned. Is it easy to completely empty the machine? Do you have to dissemble parts to clean the machine? Do parts that require scrubbing or soaking fit into your kitchen sinks?
Also ask about any particular cleaning products the manufacturer recommends — such as a degreaser that may be required to clean the condenser coil. All speciality cleaning products should be affordable and readily available in your area.
Maintenance and servicing
In addition to regular cleaning, your ice cream maker machine will likely require maintenance and servicing. Beware that not all machine suppliers have a local network of expert technicians available for maintenance and servicing calls. Ask about this, and the maintenance scheduling and associated costs before you purchase a machine.
Expensive maintenance and servicing could increase the cost of a cheaper machine, while more affordable maintenance on a higher-end machine may reduce its longer-term operational costs.
Again, you’ll want to take this into consideration when doing a cost analysis. Just remember that the machine’s purchase price doesn’t tell the whole story.
Who will be using your new commercial ice cream maker? This is another important question to answer before you settle on a machine.
If you’re running a specialist ice cream store, you’ll likely want to carefully train your kitchen staff and develop highly-skilled ice cream makers over time. In this case, purchasing a manual or more complex ice cream maker machine may not be too daunting for you.
However, if you’re selling ice cream as an additional menu item, you may want to opt for an automatic or simplier machine. Also ask whether the machine supplier or manufacturer provides on-site training or online training resources.
Ice cream storage and display
Of course, once your ice cream comes out of your commercial ice cream maker, you need to store or display it.
Think about the trays you’ll use. These should easily fit into your kitchen refrigeration as well as any display fridges or counters you’re using in your retail space.
The same applies if you’re selling take-away tubs of store-made ice cream. Ensuring you containers will stack neatly into your kitchen and display refrigeration will maximise your use of space and help to keep your production volume as high as possible.
Industrial ice cream maker vs commercial soft serve ice cream machine
There are a few important differences between a standard industrial ice cream maker and a commercial soft serve ice cream 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. Ice cream needs around minus 15 degrees celsius, while soft serve ice cream only requires around minute 4 degrees celsius.
And if you want to build a self-serve element into your store, you’ll need to purchase a specialty commercial soft serve ice cream machine. Regular commercial ice cream makers tend not to have a self-serve function.
Used commercial ice cream machine or new?
While it is possible to find a used commercial ice cream machine on online platforms like eBay and Gumtree, there are a few warnings you should keep in mind before buying second hand.
Firstly, it’s difficult to assess whether the machine’s internal components have been damaged or prematurely worn due to improper cleaning or irregular maintenance and servicing.
Secondly, used machines will usually not come with a manufacturer's warranty, so you may have a considerable bill to pay if the machine breaks down. That’s particularly true if you need to order spare parts from an overseas manufacturer.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t save money on a used commercial ice cream machine. SilverChef's range of Certified Used commercial ice cream makers are less than 18 months old, fully refurbished, and come with a warranty for your peace of mind.
How much are commercial ice cream makers?
Like all substantial kitchen equipment, the cost of an ice cream maker in Australia varies widely depending on its production capacity, cooling method and brand.
As a rough guide, expect to pay as little as $500 for a small, entry-level counter-top machine; in the vicinity $5000 for a floor-standing ice cream machine; and from $15,000 to well over $30,000 for a large self-service soft serve machine.
However, if you prefer not to tie up your cash with a major equipment purchase, financing options are available.
For example, SilverChef offers flexible finance options including Rent-Try-Buy®. Simply choose your commercial ice cream machine, rent it for the first year, and get flexible options during and at the end of 12 months.
This includes being able to upgrade to a bigger and better model if your business grows; or purchase the machine if you know you want to keep it. At the end of 12 months you also have the option to return the ice cream machine to us if it no longer suits you.
Some of the best ice cream makers
There are a wide range of commercial ice cream machine brands on the market. From large high-end floor-standing machines to small entry-level counter-top options, there is a commercial ice cream maker available to suit your needs.
High-end commercial ice cream machine brands
Taylor by Frigomat
This high-end automatic horizontal batch freezer is manufactured in Italy for Taylor by Frigomat to European quality and technology standards. With 4kg to 15kg batch size per cycle and an hourly production capacity of up to 90kg in five to six batches, this is a heavy-duty machine ideal for use in ice cream parlours, dessert shops, restaurants and larger commercial kitchens.
It features four freezing cycles including an automatic cycle that can be set to the type and quantity of mix being frozen to achieve consistent and repeatable results. The machine also automatically switches into a consistency preservation cycle at the end of each freezing cycle, and the new consistency control system ensures high-precision operation.
Available in air-cooled or water-cooled models, the machine requires three-phase power and measures 1420mm (h) x 520mm (w) x 1390mm (d).
Taylor by Frigomat has been designing and manufacturing high-end commercial cooking equipment for more than 45 years.
Brullen by Brullen
Brullen is renowned as a globally industry leader in the design and manufacture of commercial soft serve ice cream machines. All Brullen machines are custom designed in Australia and engineered in Germany to exacting standards.
The company offers a range of floor-standing machines, counter-top machines and speciality gelato machines.
The Brullen i36 2020 is a floor-standing soft serve machine that is capable of dispensing up to 450 serves per hour. Or go for the Brullen i95 Plus 2020 for an impressive capacity of up to 660 serves per hour.
Brullen also makes an attractive range of counter-top soft serve machines. The Baby Brullen can churn out a respectable 100 serves per hour, and the more powerful counter-top Brullen i26 2020 can produce more than four times that.
The company’s counter-top gelato batch freezers are a great option for cafes wanting to sell small batch gelato or take-home gelato tubs. The Brullen Eiscreme BT can produce 20 to 24L per hour, and the Brullen Eiscreme FS is capable of producing slightly more at 24 to 28L per hour.
BGI & Carpigiani (Majors Group)
Part of the Carpigiani Group, BGI is a premium Italian brand of continuous churning gelato machines. Each cylinder is completely independent, which means you can simply top up each cylinder with fresh liquid mix and add flavouring ingredients as required.
A web-based app enables you to monitor and program the machine from your smart phone, and your customers can see the churning process at all times.
A geared motor and inverter is used to drive the mixer speed for superior reliability, and you can vary the mixer speed to adjust the gelato consistency in each cylinder.
This is the ideal high-production machine for dedicated gelato bars or ice cream stores. BGI machines can be supplied with your company logo and colours displayed prominently.
Teknoice (Harbin Australia)
Teknoice is a major Italian manufacturer of semi-industrial and industrial ice cream systems. The company has been designing and manufacturing industrial-style ice cream systems for more than 35 years.
The Teknofreeze range is made entirely from stainless steel, and are capable of producing anywhere from 150L to a whopping 1,600L of ice cream per hour.
Removable side panels ensure easy maintenance and servicing, and the digital display shows production speed in litres per hour, dasher motor amperage, overrun percentage and ice cream output temperature.
Valmar & Iceteam by Italian Gelato Concepts
Italian Gelato Concepts distributes high-quality Iceteam frozen yoghurt and commercial soft serve ice cream machines, and Valmar ice cream makers.
The Iceteam G1 for example, is an entry-level single flavour, counter-top soft serve unit that is ideal for cafes and entertainment venues. The range extends right up to the advanced floor-standing BIB units that can produce 40kg to 60kg of soft serve ice cream per hour.
Or get started with the Valmar EAST TTI that is a multi-purpose counter-top batch freezer that produces high-quality artisan gelato in a compact system that fits right in at point of sale. Or upgrade to the larger floor-standing Snowy, Simply and Smarty ranges that can produce from 42L to a 144L per hour.
Mid- and entry-level commercial ice machine brands
Musso (International Catering Equipment)
Italian-brand Musso makes a range of quality mid-level ice cream machines. Starting with the small counter-top L1-Mini Ice Cream Maker that can produce up to 2L per hour, up to the larger floor-standing L4-Consul Ice Cream Maker that can churn out up to 10.5L per hour.
While the Musso range probably won’t keep a speciality ice cream shop in stock, they are a great option for cafes and restaurants, and any hospitality outlet keen to sell a moderate volume of take-home tubs of house-made ice cream.
All machines in the Musso range can make ice cream and gelato, and are made in Italy with a Gold Star Warranty.
You can pick up an Apuro Ice Cream Maker for just a few hundred dollars from Australian distributor Nisbets. While it can only produce around 3L of ice cream per hour in two 1.5L cycles, it could be a good option for small cafes keen to trial an ice cream-based dessert on the menu.
It is a small counter-top unit with an LED temperature display and easy-to-clean stainless steel construction. It plugs into a standard power outlet, and features a removable non-stick bowl.
Or go for the slightly larger Apuro Upright Ice Cream Maker 2Ltr. As the name suggests, it ups the ante with a 2L per cycle capacity.
Top questions to ask before you buy
You can’t beat real-world experience when it comes to buying a commercial ice cream machine. Seek out your industry peers who have experience using ice cream makers, and find out what they like and dislike about the machines they have used. They will often give you a perspective that a salesperson can’t, and may highlight some issues you haven’t considered.
Of course, speaking to a few commercial ice cream machine suppliers, dealers or manufacturers is a great way to supplement independent industry advice with the technical specifications you need to know about individual machines.
Here are some things you can ask your industry peers:
- Which commercial ice cream machine brand do you use and why?
- How often does your ice cream maker break down or need repairs?
- Is the provider reliable when you need their help?
- Do your employees find the machine easy to use?
- What was your experience buying a used commercial cream ice machine?
- Would you recommend the ice cream machine you have to others?
Here are questions to ask your dealer or supplier:
- Will this machine suit the needs of my venue?
- 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 single-phase or three-phase power?
- How do I clean the machine?
- Are there any particular cleaning products recommended?
- What warranty is included?
- How easy is it to get parts from the factory if they are needed?
- What happens if I need an urgent repair?
- How much are hourly callout fees? What about on weekends?
- Do you provide training for my team?
- Why do you recommend this machine?
Commercial ice cream machine FAQs
How do commercial ice cream machines work?
While there are some differences in how different types and brands of ice cream machines function, they generally follow the same process. A liquid mixture is prepared from either fresh ingredients or a powdered pre-mix. This is poured into the refrigerated ice cream cylinder that keeps the ice cream mixture at the specified temperature throughout the process.
A mixing arm is used to continuously churn the ice cream as the mixture slowly freezes and expands. Depending on your machine, flavourings may be added 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 that is whipped into the ice cream. Gelato contains the least air; hard ice cream contains slightly more air; and 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 likely do not 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 your water mains. They circulate cool water past the internal components of the machine to keep them cool. As the cool water heats up it is drained out of the machine. The amount of water your machine will use depends entirely on its size, production capacity and use time.
How do I clean a commercial ice cream machine?
Some higher-end ice cream machines have a self cleaning function that will save you significant time and effort.
If your machine does not 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 speciality cleaning products are required.
You may also need to occasionally use a degreaser to clean the condenser coil. 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 professional maintenance?
Smaller counter-top models may not require professional maintenance. However, more powerful counter-top machines may require regular maintenance and servicing. And most larger floor-standing models will also need professional maintenance.
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?
The short answer is you should never install a commercial ice cream machine yourself.
Smaller single-phase counter-top machines may simply plug into a standard outlet and not require any installation.
However, larger three-phase machines need to be professionally installed by a licensed electrician. Do not carry out electrical work yourself. It is very dangerous and in some states unlicensed electrical work attracts a substantial fine.
Also keep in mind that if you settle on a water-cooled industrial ice cream maker, you may also need to engage a qualified plumber to help install it.
What is a commercial soft serve ice cream machine?
Commercial soft serve ice cream machines are purpose designed to make soft serve ice cream. Most have a self-service function you can use to enable your customers to fill and flavour their own cones or cups.
Thanks for reading our Commercial Ice Cream Maker Buyer’s Guide 2021
We hope this guide has provided some important insights into what to consider when purchasing a commercial ice cream maker machine.
Remember to decide on the style of ice cream you want to make first. Consider the production capacity you need, and where you’ll place the machine in your kitchen or store. It’s helpful to know the difference between single-phase and three-phase power, and think about whether you’re better off with an air-cooled or water-cooled machine.
Also keep in mind the production capacity you require. You’ll need the appropriate refrigeration facilities to store and display your ice cream or gelato, so don’t overspend on a high-volume machine if you can’t store enough of the finished product. On the other hand, you don’t want to underspend on a low-volume machine that can’t meet customer demand.
That’s why it pays to get professional advice and guidance before you commit to purchasing a commercial ice cream machine. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef. We have dedicated industry experts available to support you.
Prefer to dive straight in and start looking at the commercial ice cream machines available from our Certified Used team? Shop our range of commercial ice cream machines.
Want to know about finance options and what your rental payments could be? Find out more about Rent-Try-Buy® and Lease-to-Keep®.
This Buyer’s Guide was prepared with the help of Cathy Goodwin, an independent equipment consultant with over 35 years industry experience. Cathy provides advice to cafes, restaurants and QSRs on their equipment choices and the implementation of best practice (in house and professional) equipment maintenance and hygiene.