Looking for the best soft-serve ice cream machine for your restaurant or food truck in 2018? We want to make the research process easier by organizing the top-rated machines based on feedback from our members. In our recent survey, we asked members to identify the most reliable and cost-effective machines on the market so we could bring this information straight to you. This post is a compilation of our findings.
One important item to note is that we are reviewing the best commercial-grade machines intended for use in restaurants, ice cream parlors, or food trucks. These machines are not for the “at home” use as the units require a four or five figure investment and power requirements beyond what you may be able to handle at home. With those disclaimers out of the way, let’s begin!
Countertop VS Floor Model Machines
Before diving into the reviews, it’s important to distinguish the two types of machines being reviewed in this post. Countertop and floor model machines are broken into distinct categories inside this review. Both can be used in restaurants or food trucks to serve high-quality soft-serve or custard. But your selection will be decided based on personal need and available space.
If you’re trying to conserve space and don’t anticipate a high-volume of ice cream sales, a countertop self-serve machine may be sufficient. These models can produce a high-quality product, but you will be limited in the amount of mix you can put into the machine at any one time. Many machines require 30-minutes to turn ice cream mix into quality ice cream, frozen yogurt, or custard for guests so this solution is not intended for high-volume stores.
You will be more limited in available flavor options with countertop model as well. There simply isn’t enough available space in the hoppers of countertop machines to add a lot of unique flavors. You’ll need to stick to the basics: vanilla and chocolate in most cases.
Floor models are larger machines perfect for high-volume restaurants or ice cream shops. These are the work horses of the self-serve industry with many machines weighing over 500 pounds and requiring over 20 inches in width and 30 inches in depth so make sure to check the dimensions of any machine before investing in a floor model self-serve machine to ensure you have enough space. You’ll also need to make sure you have an excess of electricity to operate as these machines routinely require over 208 – 230 volts of power.
Of course, you’ll be able to crank out a lot more ice cream with these machines compared to countertops as well. Many floor models can hold 20 quartz of mix of liquid ice cream mix and allow you to produce about 7 standard 4 oz. ice cream cones per minute. We begin our review of reccomended our review with floor model options below!
Floor Model Machines
Sweet Choice featuring Fuzionate by Electro Freeze: When it comes to soft-serve ice cream machines, Electro Freeze produces some of the most reliable and well-known equipment. They’ve been in businesses for over 30 years and can be credited with numerous innovations in ice cream, including the “swirl” that mixes chocolate and vanilla flavors. Electro Freeze also invented the refrigerated cabinet where you can store ice cream mix in a sealed environment and a unique mixer machine. If you want a creamy and consistent product that will keep customers coming back for seconds the Sweet Choice featuring Fuzionate AKA the 44RMTFB Fuzionate is a terrific option.
The Fuzionate has the flexibility to dispense ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato. The unique strength of this particular unit is that you can serve nine flavors from one machine.
Although there’s only one handle with this machine, you can simply press a button to switch your flavor from vanilla, to strawberry, to any other combination loaded into the machine. There’s also a push button rinse feature that allows you to easily flush out and clean the flavors at the end of the day.
The flavor is blends completely through the machine to ensure flavor integrity across each bite. In addition to flavor diversity what really makes this machine practical is the amount of space you need to store the self-serve ice cream machine in your restaurant.
Previously, you may have needed four – nine machines to serve nine total flavors. Now you can offer the same range of flavors with a single unit allowing your to save space, electricity, and time maintaining, cleaning /servicing multiple machines. You can learn more about the Sweet Choice at the official Electro Freeze website.
|Freezing Cylinder Size
SaniServ B-10 Floor Model: SaniServ is another longtime player to the ice cream machine business going back in 1929. The video below demonstrates the smaller B-5 countertop model, but how you operate a B-10 is almost exactly the same. The only differences are course the size of unit, production capacity, and how you input the liquid ice cream mix into the machine. Other than that everything else is exactly the same. For demonstration purposes the smaller unit was used in the video below.
The B-10 Model is made from stainless steel and weighs 520 pounds. The unit requires 208 – 230 volts of power. If you’re the owner or operator of a restaurant you can’t go wrong with this reliable and quality option. You can learn more about this unit here. This unit retails for around $20,000. The dimensions for this unit are 21 inches wide, 33 inches deep, and 51 inches in height.
Stoelting F231 Soft Serve Ice Cream Machine: Unlike the machine we just featured above, the Stoelting F231 is a lighter and more compact machine that won’t take as much space to operate. This machine *only* weighs 400 – 475 pounds, which may seem heavy but is a lot lighter than other machines that could be 500 – 600 pounds. This is the ideal machine if you are limited in space. So if you’re a food truck or kiosk this is one of the better options for your situation.
The Stoelting F231 is also very power efficient requiring a 12 amp / 220 plug. Again this is ideal for a food truck that will be pulling power to other appliances often with a single generator.
Although the unit is small in comparison to other units, the machine can crank out a lot of ice cream. There are two 3-gallon hoppers where mix can be loaded.
The video below demonstrates the speed and capacity this machine by filling 16 oz cups. Judging from the video test, you could produce 6.5 cups of soft-serve comfortably before you need to wait. This machine can dispense two flavors and a twist option. A new unit will run you around $15,000.
Taylor Freezer 161 Soft Serve Machine: This is the first of the smaller, countertop machines that we will be reviewing. As the name suggests, you can position any of these soft-serve machines on a countertop or purchase an optional cart. Similar to larger floor machines, you can serve two flavors in addition to a twist with this model.
Although the Taylor Freezer 161 is smaller than floor machines, it still weighs 305 pounds so you will need a sturdy table operate safely. That’s a lot of weight for a small machine, but comes in a couple hundred pounds lighter than the alternative. There are two 8 quart hoppers and two 1.5 quart barrels in the Taylor Freezer 161. This is the ideal machine for coffee shops, cafes, and restaurants that expect lower volumes of ice cream sales.
The test below demonstrates how much soft-serve you can produce before recovery time is needed for the unit at the thickness level you want. The test below uses 5 oz. cups to demonstrate how long it takes for the product to become too thin to serve.
The result… The Taylor Freezer 161 can crank out a total of eight, 5 oz. sized cups of soft-serve easily back to back before you start to get a runny product. As pointed out in the video, you will be accepting transactions, taking orders, and completing other tasks in-between uses that will allow more time to cool the mix. Shout out to the folks over at Slices Concession for recording these awesome tutorial videos as well.
Electro Freeze CS4: Looking for a low-cost way to make an entry into the high-profit margin soft-serve business? The CS4 is a countertop single flavor machine you can purchase for under $4,000 to create a new profit source for your business. This is a 110 volt machine small enough to be used on a food truck or kiosk, while still delivering an exceptional product. This is the most portable machine on our list allowing you easily serve at events or birthday parties.
As demonstrated in the video below the top lid opens up to reveal a 2.5 gallon hopper. Then thanks to gravity the mix will flow down into the freezing cylinder. All you need to do from there is pull the handle and you’ve got soft-serve. The operation of this machine really is as simple as that!
As mix runs low a warning light will turn on to alert you when it’s time to refill. There’s also a day / night switch. When you leave for the night, just flip the switch and the machine will refrigerate the product without freezing it. Over the course of the year completing this step can save you hundreds of dollars due to lower waste.
How to Clean a Soft-Serve Machine in 3 Steps
Now that you know the top-rated soft-serve machines there’s just one more important step you need to understand… How to keep the machine clean! Consult your instruction manual for specific cleaning instructions for your specific machine.
Most machines require a proper cleaning every three days. This will allow you to stay inline with health code requirements in most cities / states and keep your customers safe too. The video below demonstrates how to clean a Taylor Freeze C723, but the overall process is similar for most other machines.
Step 1: Empty the product in your barrel. Just press the wash cycle buttons on your machine and begin emptying the machine by pulling the ice cream levers. You can empty the product into an inexpensive large plastic bucket. Try to avoid completing this step when you have a full hopper of ice cream to reduce waste.
Step 2: Multiple rinse cycles. At this point all the mix should be out of your machine. To get the barrel and machine completely clean, you need to complete multiple rinse cycles. First, rinse the machine with clean water. You want to be able to rinse everything out of the hopper and have the liquid flow down into your waste bucket. If you have a hose nearby it will make the process easier.
Second, you will run a soapy water rinse (about 3 gallons). During this cycle, get a clean rag to wipe down the inside of the hopper and ensure all that remaining milk fats are removed.
Third, you will run another clean water rinse. Just like before you will dump the rinse water into a plastic bucket.
A final a rinse with sanitizer is required. Stera-Sheen is a popular sanitizer that many parlors use to clean their machines. You can purchase this product in bulk to save money or individual packets for convenience.
Always consult your users manual to check if there is another product that’s recommended for this step. You should leave this sanitizer for at least 5 minutes to ensure that it has time to clean all the parts inside the machine.
Step 3: Although the rinsing portion is done, the overall cleaning process is not yet complete. You still need to take a part the different components of the ice cream machine for hand cleaning as demonstrated at the 4-minute mark of the video below. After cleaning by hand you can reinstall the parts and get ready to make some ice cream!
We hope this review saves you time and points you in the right direction to help you identify the right soft-serve ice cream machine. If you want to further educate yourself on ice cream machines, check out the resources below for more information.
Soft Serve 101 – A post that will give you the basics about ice cream machine terms, including energy efficiency, typical sizes, and more.
Ice Cream Profit Calculator – Easy to use tool to that helps you make weekly, monthly, and annual revenue estimates for an ice cream business.
Average Ice Cream Truck Per Day Profits – Read the survey results that show the average profitability of an ice cream truck. Good resource if you’re not sure what revenue expectations to have for this business.