Long gone are the days of arduous hand-cranked ice cream machines, and the Breville Smart Scoop ice cream machine is proof positive of that. For most of frozen dessert history, if you wanted a pint of the good stuff, you either had to have a fair amount of forearm strength or know some neighborhood kids you could trick into cranking a device under the guise of it being “sort of like playing Pac-Man.” But even with electronic ice cream makers, you’re going to have discrepancies in power and product output. Smart Scoop is one of the most powerful ice cream machines on the market right now, and it’s got a premium price tag to match. But is the machine’s potential worth the investment or will it leave you cold—and not in a good way? Here’s a thorough review of the Breville Smart Scoop ice cream maker, its features, and its capabilities.
What is the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker?
— Dimensions: 7.2 inches L x 16.2 inches W x 10.7 inches H
— Weight: 30 pounds
— Bowl Capacity: 1 liter
— Materials: Stainless steel
— Power: 165 watts
— Voltage: 110-120 volts
— Settings: Sorbet, Frozen Yogurt, Gelato, Ice Cream
— Accessories: Removable bowl, Ice cream paddle, cleaning brush
Electronic ice cream makers aren’t terribly new, but super automatic models like Breville Smart Scoop have grown in popularity in recent years. But what separates the special Smart Scoop from its weaker competition? Before we address that, let’s take a quick look at the history of homemade ice cream makers.
Homemade Ice Cream Technology, a Quick Primer
There are more than enough ways to churn your cream. If you have some spare liquid nitrogen laying around, you can pour it slowly into a prepared ice cream base, and have a big bowl of some seriously smooth, slightly carbonated frozen dairy. I’m willing to bet most ice cream made at home — and in fact, in professional settings — is made utilizing the same science that was first developed by Nancy Johnson with her 1843 “Artificial Freezer” patent. Ice cream base (cream, milk, sugar, etc.) goes in a metal cylinder that is housed inside another cylinder that contains ice and rock salt, creating an incredible amount of cold. A crank moves a paddle inside the cylinder, freezing the base while incorporating air and scraping the mix from the side of the bowl until you’re left with a thick, delicious dessert. You can still buy a machine that essentially does just this, but it’s a bit too Mayberry for my taste.
Once you toss electricity into the mix, many of these devices no longer needed physical labor, but they still required regular changes of ice and rock salt. Then came the innovative freezer bowl, an insulated number filled with a saline solution. The contraption mimicked the science of ice and rock salt, which you freeze overnight before using. If you have the freezer space, you can simply park it there perpetually, so it’s ready for you anytime you want to churn a pint or two. Of course, once the mixture inside the bowl melts, you’ve got to refreeze it, so it’s not efficient.
What is efficient are machines like the Breville Smart Scoop. They too churn ice cream, but instead of a freezer bowl to contend with, these machines are run by powerful compressors. Think of it as a much scaled-down version of McDonald’s soft-serve machine that’s always broken when you’re craving a McFlurry. Since there’s no downtime with needing to refreeze a freezer bowl, you can make batch after batch after batch of sorbet, ice cream, and plenty of other treats.
If it’s a big, gorgeous, pricey machine in a shiny, stainless-steel package, you can bet it’s a Breville. I know stainless steel is more or less standard when it comes to kitchen appliances, but Breville steel is premium quality. Perhaps it’s because these appliances are fairly reliable, and at their price points, they better be. There are plenty of options for ice cream makers, but Breville keeps it simple with an easy-to-read LCD screen and only a handful of buttons and a dial that sets the desired texture of the finished product.
The Smart Scoop is massive and heavier than it looks. The churning bucket takes up a very small space on the machine, and unlike other compressor-powered ice cream machines, you can lift it in and out. While it churns, a small plastic lid covers the bowl, though there’s a small flap on it so you can add mix-in ingredients like chopped fruit, nuts, or candy.
Tech and Power
The Breville Smart Scoop is an absolute tank, but it’s not just a device that takes up precious real estate on your countertop. There are no special preparations needed to operate this machine. No ice, no rock salt, and no pre-freezing. Some users even reported adding ingredients directly to the bowl and turning the Smart Scoop on. Using the dial, you can select between twelve automatic hardness settings including sorbet, frozen yogurt, gelato, and ice cream. If you prefer, you can go manual and set a timer to churn your mix for a desired amount of time. Because ice cream making is the art of adding cool to liquids, you can switch between Fahrenheit and Celsius with a single button. There’s also a button that pre-cools your mixture, so you can skip the annoying step of allowing a cooked mixture to cool to 30 degrees Fahrenheit before churning. And once a mixture is done churning, there’s a button that will keep it cold for up to three hours.
Breville Smart Scoop Review: Is The Ice Cream Maker Worth the Price?
Making homemade ice cream is a time-intensive procedure. A base that’s 20 percent sugar must be mixed up first and typically cooked on a stove. Churning something hot is going to resemble something more like weird soup than Haagen Dazs, so you need to cool a mix down before putting it in a machine. After a mixture is churned, you then have to pack the aerated mixture and then transfer it to the freezer for another four to eight hours. How do you make homemade ice cream? With patience, of course. If done correctly, a powerful machine like the Breville Smart Scoop may cut down on these arduous hours.
The first of many ice cream adventures would begin with a batch of homemade peach ice cream, an almost ancient Alton Brown recipe that I’ve been making for years. First, I cooked the base on the stovetop, and allowed it to cool in the fridge overnight. I then poured the pale orange mixture into the churning bowl, closed the lid, and selected the hardest hardness setting. The mixture was fresh from the fridge, so I didn’t bother with the pre-cool settings just yet. A watched pot never boils, and a watched ice cream machine never churns, so I walked away for about ten minutes and let the Smart Scoop do its work.
Ten minutes later, not much had happened. I was wondering if I had somehow installed the bowl incorrectly. But there wasn’t smoke coming out the Smart Scoop and the mixture was thickening up somewhat. I stuck around just in case something did go wrong though. Another ten minutes went by and I peeked at the mixture once again. Yes, it was thicker than before, but it was still not nearly as thick as I wanted it to be at that juncture. After half an hour, I was instructed by the machine to add in mix-ins if I had any. I did: some chopped-up peaches. I used the little mix-in flap and added them without incident.
I won’t bore you with the play-by-play any more than I already have. But the peach ice cream base took almost an hour to churn to perfection. It was the longest I’ve waited for a mixture to churn, though I was greeted with a charming little tune when the Breville Smart Scoop finished its task. The churning bowl has a thin metal handle on it, which allowed me to remove the mixture to pack it in an airtight container to set up completely in the freezer. The paddle that came with the machine was great for getting every ounce of ice cream out.
The churning process may have been a little longer than normal, but once the ice cream was set in the freezer overnight, I scooped out one of the best batches of homemade ice cream I’ve ever made. The texture was dense and slow melting just like the kind you pay upwards of eight dollars a pint at the grocery store.
The Possibilities Are Endless
The Smart Scoop also has useful capabilities beyond cranking out ice cream. One Saturday morning, I was busy squeezing limes to make a batch of margarita mix for a backyard summer picnic lunch with friends. The Breville Smart Scoop caught my eye and inspired me to ditch the blender and churn my cocktails instead, tequila and all. In about half an hour, the margarita mix was a slushy consistency. I planned to freeze what was left into a sorbet, but four thirsty folks devoured every ounce.
The Smart Scoop comes with 12 hardness settings that are divided between four different ice cream styles. This provides plenty of options as far as texture goes but if I’m being honest, I can’t ever see myself using anything but the hardest texture setting for anything freezer bound. On another occasion, I churned some sorbet mix using the suggested sorbet setting and froze it hard. The texture was far icier than I would have liked and didn’t have that dense mouthfeel I want out of ice cream, homemade or otherwise. Luckily, all I had to do was allow this bad batch to melt and rechurn it. The stakes are far lower with Breville Smart Scoop, and you can try out different hardness settings on the fly to see which one is right for you.
Speaking of playing with your food, after the successful margarita incident, I started looking around my kitchen to see what I could toss inside this ice cream maker and turn into something cold and delicious. Who amongst us doesn’t go to the farmer’s market to take advantage of summer’s bounty, only to be left with a bowl of fruit that you keep walking past on your way to the kettle chips? Dietary choices aside, it’s a shame to let such great fruit go to waste. In the past, this fruit would be dispatched with a knife and frozen for smoothies and jam. The aforementioned sorbet I made was a melange plum, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries that looked like they were minutes from spoiling. A quick spin in the blender equalized everything into a gorgeous burgundy liquid which I sweetened up with sugar and a little lemon juice for brightness. What Smart Scoop churned out was a refreshing sorbet made from stuff that could have easily been destined for the compost bin.
While the hardness settings don’t really do it for me for anything destined for the deep freeze, that doesn’t mean they are altogether unnecessary. The Breville Smart Scoop spits out a loud ding every time it goes from one of the four main hardness settings, so you can assess the texture of your product through the see-through lid. Pulverized fruit made delicious sorbet, but if I stopped along the way, I could have enjoyed a smoothie bowl or something resembling a Jamba Juice. The same principle applies to dairy-based mixtures, making the Breville Smart Scoop more than capable of making milkshakes, soft-serve, and previously impossible treats in the home environment. I turned some sweetened half and half and chopped up cookies into a delicious Stroopwaffle McFlurry, the international treat that isn’t available stateside. And like a good McFlurry, it was so thick it held its own even when turned upside down. As with any good kitchen appliance, Breville Smart Scoop lets choose the way you want to churn, and not just with the automatic settings it provides. Still, I can’t imagine ever truly tapping into the manual settings considering that even the automatic settings allowed for quite a bit of customization. The option is a welcome one though, especially when compared to other ice cream makers on the market.
Breville Smart Scoop vs. The Competition
The Breville Smart Scoop ice cream maker is fairly good at what it does, but it’s not the only compressor-style ice cream maker on the market. I figured it might make sense to compare it to two other popular compressor-style ice cream machines, including one that’s a little more affordable and one that’s a good bit pricier.
— Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream and Gelato Maker: This machine is a little bigger than the Breville Smart Scoop, but a few pounds lighter. Newer models have the removable ice cream bowl, and it comes with two paddles, one for ice cream and one for gelato. As far as customization goes, though, the options are incredibly limited. There are no hardness settings, no fun jingle alerts, just a timer that churns ice cream for up to 60 minutes. It does churn ice cream a little quicker than Smart Scoop, but the finished product is nowhere near as dense and creamy. It’s not altogether a bad machine but has far fewer features than Breville Smart Scoop.
— Lello Musso Pola: This massive, nearly 70-pound tank is so expensive it’s typically only used in restaurant kitchens. Powerful as it may be, it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as the Breville Smart Scoop. There’s a timer, and one switch that turns on the compressor, while the other spins a big paddle that churns whatever you put in it. It operates fast, and the ice cream, sorbet, and gelato that this spits out are ungodly delicious. Sadly, there is no removable bowl here, so getting every ounce of finished product out of it is annoying and almost impossible. Cleaning it is even worse, especially when compared to both the Cuisinart and Breville Smart Scoop.
Final Thoughts on the Breville Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker
Making homemade ice cream is incredibly rewarding, and Breville Smart Scoop is one of the easiest and most versatile compressor-style machines on the market. It may be more than you’d like to spend on any style of ice cream machine, but it does much more than crank out a solid batch of butter pecan. To say that it only makes ice cream, sorbet, and gelato would be a gross understatement of Smart Scoop’s full capabilities. If it’s a liquid and about 20 percent sugar, Breville Smart Scoop will turn it into frosty goodness. This includes making an actual Wendy’s Frosty, which is nothing more than chocolate milk and condensed milk churned until thick. For a compressor-style machine, the Smart Scoop a mid-priced model, and unlike the even glitzier machines, it doesn’t require any special training to use. Just make sure you can dedicate the countertop space to it because its size matches its power.
For another in-depth review of a fantastic Breville product, check out our Joule Oven Air-Fryer Pro review.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.