The Cuisinart ICE-30, available from amazon*, is a domestic ice cream maker with a large 1.89 litre (2 quart) freezer bowl that needs to be frozen for at least 12 hours before it can be used. After nearly 7 years of use (this was the first ice cream machine I ever bought), I’ve found that it makes good ice cream that is smooth and creamy, but does have just a few icy bits that are detectable in the mouth. It produces ice cream that isn’t quite as smooth and creamy as the upgraded Cuisinart ICE-70* or the Cuisinart ICE-100*, which has an in-built freezing system. My only complaints are the noise this machine makes and the poorly-designed dasher.
You can view the top selling ice cream machines on amazon by clicking here*.
My Review Method
I’ve used a slightly unconventional method of review. Let me explain. The best ice creams in the world have a smooth and creamy texture. This texture, primarily associated with a high milk fat content, is also determined by the average size of the ice crystals: smooth and creamy ice cream requires the majority of ice crystals to be small. If many crystals are large, the ice cream will be perceived as being coarse or icy.
Because ice crystal size is a critical factor in the development of smooth texture, I’ve discussed the key principles that underpin ice crystal formation and growth, and how these principles are affected by the features of the Cuisinart ICE-30. By having an understanding of these key principles, I hope that you’ll be in a better position to evaluate this machine. If you’re short on time, you can skip to the Summary of this review. If you fancy a nice long read, then sit back, grab yourself a hot cup of cocoa, and the enjoy this comprehensive review.
Table of Contents
- My Review Method
- 1. Ice Crystals in Ice Cream
- 2. Factors Affecting Nucleation, Growth, and Recrystallisation
- 2.1 The Scraper Blades
- 2.2 Air In Ice Cream
- 2.3 The Freezer Barrel Wall Temperature
- 2.4 Draw Temperature
- 2.5 Residence Time
- 3. General Questions
- 4. My complaints
- 5. Summary
- 6. What The * Means
1. Ice Crystals in Ice Cream
Ice crystals range in size from about 1 to over 150 μm in diameter, with an average size of about 25 μm in commercial ice cream (Donhowe & Hartel, 1996; Hagiwara & Hartel, 1996; Hartel, 1996; Koxholt et al., 2000; Marshall et al., 2003; Sofjan & Hartel, 2004). Small ice crystals, around 10 to 20 µm in size, give ice cream its smooth and creamy texture, whereas larger ice ice crystals, greater than 50 μm, impart a grainy texture (Marshall et al., 2003; Eisner et al, 2005; Drewett & Hartel, 2007). To produce ice cream with the smallest possible ice crystals, it’s important to develop an understanding of ice formation (known as crystallisation) during the freezing of ice cream.
Ice cream is frozen in two stages, the first being a dynamic process where the mix is frozen in a scraped-surface freezer (SSF) (an ice cream machine) whilst being agitated by the rotating dasher, a mixing device with sharp scraper blades attached, to incorporate air, destabilise the fat, and form ice crystals. Upon exiting the SSF, the ice cream, at about -5°C to -6°C (23°F to 21.2°F) and with a consistency similar to soft-serve ice cream, undergoes static freezing where it is hardened in a freezer without agitation until the core reaches a specified temperature, usually -18°C (-0.4°F). Cook & Hartel (2010) argue that the dynamic freezing stage is arguably the most important step in creating ice cream because this is the only stage in which ice crystals are formed.
During dynamic freezing, the ice cream mix is added to the SSF at between 0°C and 4°C (32°F and 39.2°F). As the refrigerant absorbs the heat in the mix, a layer of water freezes to the cold barrel wall causing rapid nucleation, that is the birth of small ice crystals (Hartel, 2001). For smooth and creamy ice cream, it’s important to have a high rate of nucleation so as to form as many small ice crystals as possible (Hartel, 1996). The more ice crystals that are formed during dynamic freezing, the more will be preserved during static freezing, resulting in a smaller average crystal size and smoother texture (Cook & Hartel, 2010).
1.2 Growth and Recrystallisation
The crystals that form at the cold barrel wall are then scraped off by the rotating scraper blades and dispersed into the centre of the barrel, where warmer mix temperatures cause some crystals to melt and others to grow and undergo recrystallisation. Recrystallisation is defined as “any change in number, size, shape… of crystals” (Fennema, 1973) and basically involves small crystals disappearing, large crystals growing, and crystals fusing together. The greater the extent of growth and recrystallisation in the centre of the barrel, the larger the ice crystals will be. Russell et al. (1999) found that crystallisation during the freezing of ice cream is dominated by recrystallisation and growth and that these mechanisms appear to be more important than nucleation in determining the final crystal population.
2. Factors Affecting Nucleation, Growth, and Recrystallisation
2.1 The Scraper Blades
Nucleation is affected by the rate of heat transfer from the mix to the cold freezer barrel, with a high rate of heat transfer promoting a high rate of nucleation (Hartel, 1996; Goff & Hartel, 2013). Because heat travels more slowly through ice than stainless steel, ice build up on the freezer barrel wall acts as an insulator and lowers the rate of heat transfer.
Keeping the scraper blades sharp and close to the barrel wall helps promote a high rate of heat transfer by scraping off any ice that forms at the barrel wall (Goff & Hartel, 2013). Ben Lakhdar et al. (2005) found that a large gap between the scraper blades and the barrel wall slowed heat transfer. This was attributed to a permanent ice layer, which forms between the blades and the wall only when the gap is high enough (3mm). When the gap is 1mm, the ice layer is not strong enough and is periodically removed from the wall.
Does the Cuisinart ICE-30 leave a gap between the scraper blades and the bowl wall?
The Cuisinart ICE-30 comes with a plastic dasher that has both a vertical and a horizontal plastic scraper arm. These act similarly to detachable scraper blades in commercial machines by scraping off ice that forms on the bowl wall. When inserted into the bowl, the horizontal arm sits on the bottom of the bowl, and the vertical arm against the bowl wall, leaving a gap of between 2mm and 3mm. This results in a relatively thick layer of ice build up on the bowl wall as the ice cream freezes, which lowers the rate of heat transfer.
Cuisinart have improved the dasher design in the upgraded Cuisinart ICE-70*, which leaves a smaller gap of just 1mm between the vertical arm and the bowl wall, resulting in minimal ice build up on the bowl wall.
About half way up the dasher is a horizontal plastic arm that links the vertical scraper arm to a vertical arm directly opposite. I’ve noticed is that after about 8 minutes of dynamic freezing, ice cream starts to stick to this horizontal linking arm in the centre of the bowl. Because temperatures in the centre are warmer than at the bowl wall, the longer these static clumps of ice cream spend in the centre of the bowl, the more ice crystal growth and recrystallisation will occur, and the grainer the texture is likely to be. It’s therefore important to keep an eye on your ice cream during dynamic freezing and use a spoon to disperse any static clumps that form on the horizontal plastic arm in the centre of the bowl. The idea is to keep ice cream moving inside the bowl to ensure that it makes contact with the cold bowl wall.
The amount of air incorporated into a mix during dynamic freezing, referred to as the overrun, affects the size of the ice crystals, with slightly larger ice crystals observed at a lower overrun (Arbuckle, 1977; Flores & Goff, 1999b). Flores and Goff (1999a) suggested that overrun below 50% does not influence ice crystal size, but the amount of air cells at 70% overrun is just enough to prevent collisions among ice crystals, which can result in an increase in crystal size. Sofjan & Hartel (2004) found that increasing the overrun in ice cream (from 80% to 100% or 120%) led to the formation of smaller ice crystals, although the effect was relatively small.
How much air does it whip into ice cream?
Unlike most domestic ice cream machines, the powerful drive gear in the ICE-30 rotates the large 1.89 litre (2 quart) bowl around the dasher, instead of the other way around. The bowl rotates at 20 revolutions per minute (rpm), which I’ve found incorporates about 22% air into 900ml (0.95 quart) of ice cream mix, producing about 1100 ml (1.16 quart) of ice cream that is nice and dense, which I prefer over lighter ice creams with a higher air content.
I’ve found that as the batch size increases, so too does the air content: 1200 ml (1.27 quart) of mix produces about 1580 ml (1.67 quart) of ice cream with about 32% air.
Does it make gelato?
Yes, the Cuisinart ICE-30 does make gelato. Italian-style ice cream is referred to as gelato, the Italian word for ice cream. There are, however, significant differences between traditional gelato and regular ice cream: gelato is typically lower in milk fat (4-8% in gelato, 10-18% in ice cream), total solids (36-43% in gelato, 36->40% in ice cream), and air (20-40% in gelato, 25-120% in ice cream) but higher in sugar (up to 25% in gelato, 14-22% in ice cream) (Goff & Hartel, 2013). Gelato also tends to be softer, more pliable and stickier than ice cream, and is served at warmer temperatures. Because the ICE-30 incorporates about 22% air, well within the typical 20-40% range for gelato, as long as you use a gelato recipe, it will happily produce gelato.
2.3 The Freezer Barrel Wall Temperature
The temperature at the freezer barrel wall, or the bowl wall in the case of the ICE-30, has also been found to affect the rate of nucleation and recrystallisation. Drewett & Hartel (2007) found that decreasing the coolant temperature at the freezer barrel wall caused higher ice crystal nucleation rates and reduced recrystallisation in the warmer bulk mix, which helped the ice crystals remain small. Similarly, Russell et al. (1999) found that as the freezer barrel temperature was lowered, the nucleation rate increased accordingly. Cook & Hartel (2011) simulated ice cream freezing in an ice cream machine by freezing ice cream mix in a thin layer on a microscope cold stage. The temperature at which ice cream mix was frozen on the cold stage varied from -7, -10, -15, and -20°C (19, 14, 5, and -4°F). They found that warmer freezing temperatures gave more elongated and slightly larger crystals with a wider size distribution.
To promote rapid nucleation and minimise recrystallisation, the temperature of the refrigerant should fall within the range of -23°C to -29°C (-10°F to -20°F) (Goff & Hartel, 2013), with the freezer barrel wall temperature estimated to be a few degrees warmer.
Do you have to freeze the bowl?
Unlike the Cuisinart ICE-100, which has an in-built freezing system, the 1.89 litre (2 quart) removable bowl in the ICE-30 has to be pre-frozen for at least 12 hours, 24 hours preferably, before it can be used. I’ve found that the ICE-30 produces ice cream that is significantly creamier when the bowl is frozen at -26°C (-14.8°F) than at -18°C (-0.4°F). This makes sense because, as stated in section 2.3 above, lower bowl temperatures promote the formation of smaller ice crystals. I’ve also found that it takes about 7 minutes longer to freeze a 900 ml (0.95 quart) batch of ice cream when the bowl is frozen at -18°C (-0.4°F), which, as we will see in section 2.5 below, results in larger ice crystals and grainier texture.
In a question posted on amazon, which you can read here, a user has asked why, after a week in the freezer, their bowl ins’t freezing the mixture. I’d bet my last litre of ice cream that this is because their freezer was somewhere around the -18°C (-0.4°F) mark, if not warmer, when they froze their bowl.
It’s important to get your freezer down to as cold a temperature as it will go when freezing your bowl. The colder you can get the bowl, the quicker it will freeze your ice cream, and the creamier the texture is likely to be. I’d recommend freezing your bowl at around -26°C (-14.8°F) for 24 hours. If your freezer is warmer than -18°C (-0.4°F), you may find that it takes longer to freeze your ice cream mix, or that your mix doesn’t actually freeze properly and remains in a sludgy state. A tip to check whether the bowl is ready to use after it’s been frozen is to shake it. If you hear a sloshing sound, the freezing gel inside the bowl needs longer to freeze. It’s also important that you start churning your ice cream as soon as the bowl is taken out of the freezer. The freezing gel will start to warm as soon as the bowl is taken out of the freezer, resulting in warmer bowl wall temperatures. It’s also a good idea to cover the top of the bowl with cling film when placing it in the freezer. This will prevent vapour from condensing and freezing to the bowl wall and then melting into your mix.
What is the bowl made from?
The 1.89 litre (2 quart) bowl is made from aluminium coated with xylan (polypropylene). It’s important not to use sharp objects when scooping out the ice cream to avoid scratching the xylan coating. A wooden spoon does the job nicely.
2.4 Draw Temperature
The draw temperature is the temperature at which ice cream is removed from the barrel once dynamic freezing is complete. In commercial machines, this is usually -5°C to -6°C (23°F to 21.2°F) (Goff & Hartel, 2013). Draw temperature significantly influences mean ice crystal size because it determines how much water is frozen during dynamic freezing and, consequently, how many ice crystals are formed. Caillet et al. (2003) found that decreasing the draw temperature resulted in more water being frozen and increased ice crystal content. The more ice crystals that are formed during dynamic freezing, the more will be preserved during static freezing, resulting in a smaller average crystal size and smoother texture (Cook & Hartel, 2010). Drewett & Hartel (2007) showed that ice crystals were larger at draw temperatures from -3°C to -6°C (26.6°F to 21.2°F). When the draw temperatures were colder than -6°C (21.2°F), the mean ice crystal size decreased.
Low Temperature Extrusion
Bolliger (1996) and Windhab et al. (2001) investigated the influence of Low Temperature Extrusion (LTE) freezing of ice cream, where ice cream exiting the SSF at -5°C to -6°C (23°F to 21.2°F) is frozen further to about -13°C to -15°C (8.6°F to 5°F) in an extruder with slowly rotating screws, on the ice crystal size in comparison to conventional draw temperatures. It was shown that the mean ice crystal size was reduced by a factor of 2 by means of the LTE process compared to conventional freezing. Sensorial properties like consistency, melting behaviour, coldness, and scoopability also showed clearly improved values (Windhab, 2001).
Besides the ice crystal size, the size and distribution of air cells and fat globules are of primary importance, especially on the sensorial aspect of creaminess. To obtain creamier ice cream, it is important to generate ice crystals, air cells, and fat globule aggregates as small as possible (Wildmoser et al., 2004). LTE helps to prevent air bubbles from coming together, thereby retaining the smallest size distribution (Eisner et al., 2005). Air Bubbles in the 10-15 μm range have been reported in LTE frozen ice cream, compared to conventionally frozen ice cream samples with bubbles in the 40-70 μm range (Bolliger et al., 2000b). LTE also helps to reduce the size of agglomerated fat globules compared to conventionally frozen ice cream (Windhab & Bolliger, 1998a, b). Furthermore, LTE generally promotes enhanced fat destabilisation, which is partially responsible for slow melting and good shape retention (Bolliger et al., 2000b). The percentage of the fat droplets destabilisation in the LTE treated ice cream can be twice that achieved during the conventional freezing process (Soukoulis & Fisk, 2016).
Because of smaller air bubble and fat globule aggregates sizes, as well as a higher degree of foam stability (fat globule destabilisation), LTE ice cream is evaluated creamier than conventionally produced ice cream (Wildmoser et al., 2004). What I’ve found during testing is that ice cream extracted at draw temperatures of between -11.4 and -12.9°C (11.48°F and 8.78°F) is indeed perceived as being slightly creamier than that extracted at conventional draw temperatures of around -6°C (21.2°F).
How do you know when the ice cream is ready?
The gear system and motor under the bowl is strong enough to continue rotating the bowl until the ice cream freezes to a low draw temperature of between -10°C and -12.8°C (14°F and 9.°F). This is a plus because on some machines I’ve tried, the drive mechanism isn’t strong enough to continue rotating the dasher until sufficient water has frozen, resulting in relatively warm draw temperatures. A cheap infra-red thermometer is a good way to check when your ice cream is ready.
During extraction, it’s important to balance trying to minimise wastage with minimising the extraction time. The longer it takes to extract ice cream from the bowl and get it into a freezer for static hardening, the longer it spends at relatively warm room temperatures where recrystallisation and growth occur very rapidly. The greater the extent of recrystallisation and growth, the larger the ice crystals are likely to be. It takes me about 1 minute to extract my ice cream from the ICE-30. I’ve found that removing the dasher before extracting the ice cream makes things easier.
2.5 Residence Time
Residence time, which refers to the length of time ice cream spends in the barrel and takes to reach its draw temperature, has a significant effect on the final ice crystal size distribution, with shorter residence times producing ice creams with smaller ice crystals due to a decline in recrystallisation (Russell et al., 1999; Koxholt et al., 2000; Goff & Hartel, 2013; Drewett & Hartel, 2007; Cook & Hartel, 2010). Longer residence times mean that ice cream spends more time in the bulk zone of the barrel where warmer temperatures cause rapid recrystallisation. Donhowe & Hartel (1996) measured a recrystallisation rate at -5°C (23°F) of 42 μm/day. At this rate, a size increase of around 8 μm would be expected over a 10 minute period. This matches almost exactly the increase in crystal size observed by Russell et al. (1999) at a slightly different temperature of -4°C (24.8°F). Clearly, the longer ice cream remains in the barrel at temperatures where recrystallisation occurs very rapidly, the greater the extent of recrystallisation and the larger the ice crystals.
A high rate of heat transfer and colder barrel wall temperatures contribute significantly to shorter residence times. Lower barrel wall temperatures lower the bulk temperature of the ice cream faster, reducing residence time and improving the ice crystal size distribution (Russell et al., 1999; Drewett & Hartel, 2007). Investigating the effect of draw temperature, dasher speed, and residence time on ice crystal size, Drewett & Hartel (2007) concluded that residence time had the greatest impact on final crystal size distribution, followed by drawing temperature and dasher speed.
How long does it take to freeze a batch of ice cream?
I’ve found that it takes 31 minutes and 30 seconds to freeze 900 ml (0.95 quart) of ice cream mix to a draw temperature of around -12°C (10.4°F). This is slightly longer than the 28 minutes and 30 seconds to freeze 900 ml (0.95 quart) of ice cream mix to a draw temperature of between -11.4°C and -12.9°C (12.02°F and 8.78°F) in the upgraded Cuisinart ICE-70. I’ve also found that increasing the batch size results in an increase in freezing time: it takes 39 minutes to freeze 1200 ml (1.27 quart) of mix to a draw temperature of around -10°C (14°F).
How much ice cream does it make?
Although the instruction manual, which you can read here, states ‘do not fill the bowl higher than 1/2 inch from the top’, I’ve found the optimum quantity to be far less at 900 ml (0.95 quart) of ice cream mix. Although it can freeze more than 900 ml (0.95 quart) of mix, doing so increases the freezing time and, more importantly, pushes ice cream up against the lid and into the rim of the bowl where warmer temperatures cause rapid ice crystal growth and recrystallisation. I’ve tested it with 1200 ml (1.27 quart) of mix and found that although it produced smooth and creamy ice cream, there were far more icy and grainy bits.
Can the Cuisinart ICE-30 make 1/2 quart?
Yes it is able to freeze 500ml (0.53 quart) batches, producing about 570 ml (0.6 quart) of ice cream with about 14% air in 25 minutes, which has the same smooth and creamy consistency as the larger 900 ml (0.95 quart) batches.
Can it freeze batches back-to-back?
Unlike the Cuisinart ICE-100, the ICE-30 can’t freeze 2 or more batches consecutively. Once you finish churning a batch, the bowl has to be cleaned, dried, and frozen again for a minimum of 12 hours, ideally 24 hours, before the next batch can be churned.
Can I buy more bowls?
If you’re looking to make more than 1 batch at a time, you can order spare 1.89 litre (2 quart) bowls from amazon*. Just make sure that you have enough space in your freezer for the extra bowls.
3. General Questions
What are the dimensions, Weight, and Voltage?
The Cuisinart ICE-30 measures 29.7 cm (11.7″) in height with the bowl and top on, 22.5 cm (8.9″) in length, and 20.8 cm (8.2″) in width, and weighs 4.7 kg (10.4 lbs) with the bowl, dasher, and the lid on. The bowl by itself weighs 2.1 kg (4.6 lbs) and measures 19.7 cm (7.8″) in diameter, and 16.4 cm (6.5″) in height. Here in the U.K, it runs on 230v 50Hz and draws 25 watts. In the U.S it’s 120v 60Hz and draws 50 watts.
In the U.K, the ICE-30 comes with an impressive 5 year warranty; in the U.S, it’s a 3 year warranty. In the 7 years that I’ve had this work horse, I haven’t had any problems with it, nor have I needed to have it repaired. The only slight hiccup I’ve had is a crack in one of the corners of the plastic lid after dropping it on the floor. Oops.
Is it easy to clean?
Yes I’ve found it very easy to clean. The dasher and lid are dishwasher safe but the bowl isn’t. The brushed chrome finish does attract a lot of finger marks and so needs to be regularly wiped with a damp cloth.
Does it make good ice cream?
I’ve found that the Cuisinart ICE-30 produces good ice cream that is smooth and creamy but does have a few coarse or icy bits that are detectable in the mouth. This shouldn’t put you off this machine as the texture of the ice cream is, in my opinion, smoother and creamier than the Haagen Dazs I bought last night from the supermarket.
How does the Cuisinart ICE-30 compare to the upgraded Cuisinart ICE-70?
The Cuisinart ICE-70*, sadly not yet available for sale here in the U.K, is the update to the ICE-30 released in August 2014. When I tested both machines, I really wanted to be able to write that the cheaper ICE-30 makes exactly the same ice cream as the updated ICE-70. After all, both use the same 1.89 litre (2 quart) aluminium bowl. Alas it was not to be. After churning two identical 900 ml (0.95 quart) batches of ice cream after having frozen both bowls in the same freezer at -25°C (-13°F) for 24 hours, I found that the batch made in the ICE-70 was slightly creamier, with that made in the ICE-30 having more pronounced sandy bits.
The ICE-30 took slightly longer to freeze the mix to a draw temperature of between -12°C and -12.8°C (10.4°F and 8.96°F) (36 minutes for the ICE-30, compared to 31 minutes for the ICE-70). Interestingly, I found that although both bowls were frozen in the same freezer, the ICE-30 bowl was just very slightly warmer (-25°C (-13°F), compared to -26.8°C (-16.24°F) for the ICE-70 bowl). My guess is that this may have been because I have had my ICE-30 bowl for 7 years and perhaps the freezing gel isn’t as efficient at freezing as it used to be.
If you can afford it, I think the updated ICE-70 is worth the extra pennies.
4. My complaints
The first of two complaints I have about this machine is the amount of noise it makes. It produces a whopping 91db of noise, measured at 15cm (5.9″) from the machine, after 25 minutes of use, the loudest of any domestic machine I’ve tried. I’ve found that sitting in the same room with this machine on isn’t the most comfortable way to spend an afternoon. The noise this machine makes seems to be one of the most common complaints from users in their amazon reviews.
My second complaint is that the dasher could be better designed so that 1. it sits much closer to the bowl wall, and 2. so ice cream doesn’t clump in the centre of the bowl during freezing, where warmer temperatures cause rapid ice crystal growth and recrystallisation.
After 7 years of use, I’ve found that the Cuisinart ICE-30* produces good ice cream that is dense, smooth, and creamy, but does have a few icy or coarse bits that are detectable in the mouth. It doesn’t quite match the quality of the ice cream produced in the updated Cuisinart ICE-70* or the Cuisinart ICE-100*, which has an in-built freezing system. It has an optimum capacity of 900ml (0.95 quart) of ice cream mix, producing about about 1100 ml (1.16 quart) of ice cream with about 22% air in 31 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ve tested batch sizes up to 1200ml (1.27 quart) of ice cream mix and have found that although it’s able to freeze these larger batch sizes, texture deteriorates.
To get the best out of this machine, it’s important to get your freezer’s temperature down to as low a temperature as it will go. Lower bowl temperatures promote the formation of smaller ice crystals and creamier texture. I’d recommend freezing the large 1.89 litre (2 quart) removable bowl for 24 hours at around -26°C (-14.8°F). Freezing the bowl at -18°C (-0.4°F) produces ice cream with larger ice crystals and coarser texture. My only complaints are the noise this machine makes (it’s the noisiest domestic machine I’ve tried), and the design of the dasher, which leaves a relatively large gap of between 2mm and 3mm between the scraper arm and the bowl wall and allows ice cream to clump to the horizontal arm in the centre of the bowl, both of which contribute to greater ice crystal growth and sandier texture.
Overall, I’ve found the ICE-30 to be a reliable machine that makes good ice cream, albeit with icey or coarse bits that are detectable in the mouth. If you can stretch your budget, I’d recommend going with the updated ICE-70 because of the smoother and creamier ice cream it makes.
6. What The * Means
Transparency is key. On that note, I haven’t been paid to write this review, nor was I given this machine for free. I paid for this bad boy with my own money and have written this review in my own time. If there is a * after a link, it means that I will earn a payment if you go through it and make a purchase on amazon. This doesn’t increase the cost of what you purchase, nor do these links influence what I write, ever.
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