With the help of a lecturer and students from Le Cordon Bleu school, London, we tested five machines on a warm and sultry July day. Two of the ice-cream makers had their own freezing units. With this type you can rustle up ice-cream any time you like, but they are expensive, heavy and take up a lot of room. The other three have a bowl with a hollow wall containing a liquid refrigerant, which has to be put in the freezer several hours before you make ice-cream, so forethought is necessary. Before buying, check you've got room in your freezer for the bowl, which has to be re-frozen each time you want to make another batch.
All the machines tested produced ice-cream - which was made from raspberry and strawberry fruit puree, sugar and cream - to a standard that was more than acceptable. They all took more or less the same time, too. The Gaggia Gelatiera, however, at a cool pounds 275, produced an ice-cream so sumptuous it could not be surpassed. Haagen-Dazs, eat your heart out.
Matthew Hardy, chef lecturer, Monika Schuster, Ricardo Tan, Jeffrey Johnson, James Bates, Ruth Ward, students, at Le Cordon Bleu school.
The panel made an ice-cream to the same recipe in each machine and gave it a star rating based on the instructions, how easy it was to set up, operate and clean, the machine's looks and value for money. They also rated the ice-cream made by each machine for consistency, flavour, texture and colour.
*PHILIPS HR2300: 0.8 LITRE pounds 49.95
Although the ice-cream made by this machine would be more than a match for most shop-bought varieties, it was rated lowest in this test. The paddle was rather slow: generally speaking, the faster the paddle, the smaller the ice crystals and the better the consistency. 'Texture and colour uneven but the taste was still very good,' said Ruth Ward. Other manufacturers could learn something from Philips' instructions. 'Excellent notes, easy to understand, with clear diagrams,' Ruth Ward added. The panel didn't think it was as good value as its two competitors, the Magimix Le Glacier and the Moulinex, which both have a greater capacity. The bowl must be frozen for about 18 hours beforehand.
**GAGGIA GELATIERA: 1 LITRE pounds 275
No matter how many penalties Baggio botches, the Italians still trounce the world when it comes to ice-cream. The ice-cream produced by this machine with its in-built freezing unit, made by a company more usually associated with the hiss of the espresso machine, was awarded by far the best marks. 'The fast-moving paddles gave the finished product a better texture - light and delicious,' said James Bates. The machine was also easy to set up and operate. The only real drawback, apart from its size and weight, was the price. 'Excellent ice-cream, smooth, light and silky. The machine was quick and efficient. If you can afford it, a good buy,' said Matthew Hardy.
**** MOULINEX A85P1: 1.5 LITRES pounds 44.99
Unlike its rivals, Magimix Le Glacier and the Philips, the bowl of the Moulinex revolves rather than the paddle. Whether this accounts for the high quality or not, the panel thought the ice-cream was as good as that of the far more expensive and cumbersome Magimix Gelato Chef 2000. The bowl does have to go in the freezer beforehand, though: the manufacturers suggest 20-22 hours, the longest time of all the machines. The design made it easy to operate and to clean. 'Easy to assemble and to deal with when the ice-cream is made. A nice, compact machine, and good value for money,' said Monika Schuster.
**MAGIMIX GELATO CHEF 2000: 1.5 LITRES pounds 199.95
This too has a built-in freezer unit and is cheaper than the Gaggia, but the ice-cream didn't match the latter's very high standard. 'The motor speed is slow, making the ice-cream a bit heavier in texture than the Gaggia, though still good,' said Richard Tan. The instructions weren't the easiest to understand. The lid contains the motor so you can't immerse it in water, making it a bit difficult to clean.
**MAGIMIX LE GLACIER: 1.1 LITRES pounds 39.95
This was the cheapest and produced good ice-cream, even if the flavour and texture weren't quite as good as the best. It was also easy to use and scored top marks for its elegant looks. 'A very small, compact machine, easy to use and store. The ice-cream was not bad, but could have been smoother and the colour could have been lighter,' said Matthew Hardy. As with the other Magimix, the motor is in the lid, making it harder to clean. The bowl needs to be put in the freezer 10 hours before use - the shortest time.
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