I personally use a standard Cuisinart 1.5 quart maker that uses a frozen canister. While it does suffer from a slightly icy texture if any of the ice cream is left in the freezer for a while, for $50 or so its great. I might upgrade one day to a compressor-based model, I believe there are some excellent options for a couple hundred dollars, but I'm perfectly happy with what I have for now.
As with most things, it all depends on your budget and your expectations.
The Cuisinart is fantastic. I have used the smaller ICE-20 frozen bowl unit at work and as long as you purchase a second or third bowl you can keep up with demand. And for about $100.00 with an extra bowl you cant go wrong. It doesn't take up much space either for storage. Just make sure you have freezer space for the bowls.
I own the Cuisinart ICE-30BC... which is just a larger and prettier version of the former. Same rules apply, because it takes 24 hours to refreeze the bowls. You get a larger yield with this machine but it is also considerably more expensive.
I also have a Cuisinart with the freezer bowls. It works very well for ice cream, although I haven't tried it for sorbet. I would recommend it, unless you want to move up a step and shell out the $$ for one with a compressor.
I have used and tried many different models over the last 20 years and being a penny pincher (my wife says I squeak when I walk) I would recommend two.
Cuisinart ICE 30
Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Attachment.
PRO and CONS
Cuisinart is a separate machine (more junk to store) Kitchen Aid is just an attachment to your mixer Cuisinart’s bowl is smaller (good for freezer storage bad for amount made) Kitchen Aid is more expensive ($ 70.00 mail order vs $ 40 at Costco) Cuisinart has only 1 speed Kitchen Aid allows you to control you speed Kitchen Aid is ‘slightly’ easier to clean Kitchen Aid’s finished product when tasted side by side is ‘slightly’ creamier with less ice crystals. However since you will probably not eat side by side the difference is negligible.
In the end I bough a Cuisinart simply due to price, I also got a second bowl on Craig’s list (luck) and my whole set up costs less than the Kitchen Aid. If price were not a concern I would probably buy the Kitchen Aid, not for product quality, but simply to reduce the amount of machines that I have.
As far as the ICE 20 goes I noticed more ice crystals and a grainer consistency in it on several different batches. I don’t really understand why since it’s the same process as the ICE 30 but with a 1 ½ qt bowl vs a 2 qt bowl. Maybe it was user error, but I was not impressed with it. Besides I could get an ICE 30 cheaper at Costco than an ICE 20 on line so the choice was pretty clear.
Also I was not very impressed with the ICE 50 either, similar results as the ICE 20, grainy. If money is no object buy the Lello Musso Pola 5030, a bit of a pain to clean but the end results are the best (worth the money [it’s over $100 – not in my opinion, but it made the best ice cream of all the units.)
Chilled-bowl churns are a lot different from makers with their own compressors. It doesn't matter if it says Cuisinart or not. The name is not a thaumaturgic talisman. At least not that name.
The relative creaminess/ice-crystal ratio depends entirely on how quickly the cream, gelato, sherbet, what have you goes through the phase change from liquid to solid. Nothing else. That's why very well-chilled bases freeze much better than less chilled bases in chilled-bowl type churns. It's also why smaller bowls, and bowls with larger surface area/volume ratios work better than smaller and/or lower ratio bowls.
In the respects of smoothness and density, compressor type machies usually work better than chilled-bowls.
If you want a chilled-bowl type machine, you can do worse than a Cuisinart, and I'll add my endorsement along with everyone else's to the "ICE 20." It's a good little machine, with a fair amount of reliability for the money. I believe we find ours on sale, during some sort of cosmetic model change, for $30. However, it's peformance is limited by its type.
If you want a churn with a built in compressor, say so and save us all a lot of time.
I have a Krups model (nothing special to talk of) I have seen the Cuisinart and if mine died I would be happy for the upgrade.
One drawback to the chilled bowl type is that it limits you to making one batch at a time as bowl needs to be re-chilled after a batch is made. I used to pre-chill ingredients as much as possible before starting to help with process (on a hot day chill bowl has not been up to task of fully chilling mix.
This might sound a bit whacky but I am now quite proficient at making 2 or 3 batches at a time with a single chill bow and thought I would share the tip. THe unit I have is quite compact and can be fit motor and all into the freezer with power cord hanging out the door and plugged in with an extension cord.
Works great! Would be even easier with a walk in freezer (mine is just the regular top of fridge type!).