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Review: NewAir AIC-210 Ice Cream Machine

NewAir contacted me recently and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing their ice cream machine.  It took me all of two seconds to reply with, “Of course I’ll review your ice cream machine!”  :-)

NewAir AIC-210 Commercial Grade 1 Quart Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker [1]

The NewAir AIC-210 [1] has a built-in compressor so it can make back-to-back batches of ice cream, and its sleek white curves and piano-black racing stripes make it an attractive looking machine before you even turn it on.

It has a 1 quart removable bowl, which I think is a bit too small for most home recipes. Its big brother, the NewAir AIC-220 [1] has a 1.5 quart capacity, and would probably be a better choice for most users.

The built-in compressor works very well, and chills down to -19F (-28C) in about 12 minutes. The digital display shows the compressor temperature as it’s running, but this temperature seems to be of the compressor itself, not the surface of the bowl. The temperature is displayed in Celsius, which seems a bit odd for the American market, but it’s not an important part of the ice cream making process. The machine was made in China, but I believe it was originally marketed for the UK — more on that in a moment though.

The digital display also includes a timer that can be set in 10-minute increments up to a max of 60 minutes, but I’ve never been a fan of timers on ice cream machines. I believe the best strategy is to just set it for the longest time and then turn it off manually when the ice cream thickens enough to stop the motor, or otherwise appears to be done (the ice cream often pulls away from the sides of the bowl and spins with the dasher when it’s finished). It’s impossible to guess exactly how many minutes it’ll take to finish because there are so many factors involved, including the starting temperature of the mix, the starting temperature of the machine, the ingredients used, etc. Many of the high-end professional machines have sensors to detect when the ice cream has thickened to the desired consistency, but home machines don’t, and are better controlled manually by the user.

I clocked the plastic dasher speed at about 63 revolutions per minute, which is faster than the Cuisinart ICE-20 [2]’s 38 RPM plastic dasher but slower than the Musso Lussino [3]’s 100 RPM stainless steel dasher. For home machines, a faster dasher speed typically produces a smoother ice cream because of the ability to produce smaller ice crystals.

It’s also much quieter than the Cuisinart ICE-20, and maybe even a little quieter than the Musso Lussino.

So how is it at making ice cream?

I made a batch of vanilla using the Ben & Jerry’s Sweet Cream Base #1 [4], but I could only pour about three quarters of the mix into the machine because of the 1 quart capacity. The motor eventually stopped on its own before the timer ran out, but I could tell right away there was something wrong. The ice cream was the consistency of whipped cream, not thick like soft-serve like it should have been. I hardened it overnight in the freezer, but it came out really icy, with large ice crystals, and a feeling in the mouth like crunching on snow.

I think the problem was that the motor stopped too early. I had very similar results once with the Cuisinart ICE-20 machine when I didn’t leave it running long enough. But since the motor actually stopped on its own with this NewAir machine, there was nothing I could do about it.

I tried a couple more tests, and eventually discovered that if I let it run until the motor stopped, and then removed half of the mix and started it back up again, the motor would run until the ice cream was finished. I ended up with a nice, thick ice cream out of the machine, and hardening it overnight produced a pretty decent (half) batch of ice cream finally.

Taste test

The final texture was very similar to the ice cream from the Cuisinart ICE-20. The Musso Lussino beat both of the other two machines handily though, which I wasn’t too surprised about — everything I make in that machine tastes just like commercial, high-quality ice cream. Although the batches from the NewAir and Cuisinart machines are good, there’s a very slight sandy texture when the ice cream melts on my tongue, compared to the silky texture of the Musso Lussino batches.

The final verdict

I’m afraid my experience with the NewAir AIC-210 wasn’t what I’d hoped for. The impressive built-in compressor seems to be matched with an under-powered dasher motor, and the only way I was able to make good ice cream was by making half a batch. Since the 1 quart capacity was already too small, filling it half way just wasn’t worth it. If it had a better dasher motor and a larger capacity, it’d be a good step up from the Cuisinart ICE-20 because of the ability to make similar-quality ice cream, but in back-to-back batches.

More info

I have a theory about why the motor stopped too early. I wonder if this machine was originally made for a market that uses 220 volt electricity, and maybe with the higher voltage, the motor runs longer because of the extra torque. The reason I say that is because I found two other machines that look very similar: the Andrew James Professional Ice Cream Maker (UK) [5] and the Ice Appliance – Ice Cream Pro (UK) [6]. The two machines have slightly different housings, but the exact same motor, plastic cover, digital display, blue plastic dasher, and even the same plastic measuring cup and ice cream scoop as this NewAir machine. The Andrew James machine got almost all positive reviews on the Amazon UK site, whereas the reviews for the NewAir AIC-220 on the Amazon USA site were much more varied, and included problems with the motor related to overheating, stripping the gears, and stopping before the ice cream had thickened.