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How Does a Gelato Maker Work?

Updated on March 9, 2012
Raspberry gelato ingredients being added into the bowl
Raspberry gelato ingredients being added into the bowl | Source

A Gelato Maker Has 3 Basic Parts

If you are confused about all the gelato makers out there on the market and don't know which one would be best suited to your needs, don't worry. Gelato makers are actually very simple machines with three main parts: the freezer, the bowl, and the paddle (spatula). Everything else is merely window dressing. Knowing how these three parts work together will help you select the gelato machine that best works for you.

Gourmet gelato at your fingertips
Gourmet gelato at your fingertips | Source

The Gelato Maker Mixes and Freezes 3 Basic Ingredients

Gelato makers take the three basic ingredients of gelato, namely milk, sugar and fruit, and mix them together under low temperatures to create gelato. For more information about gelato ingredients and how they differ from those of ice cream, please refer to my other article titled, "What Makes Gelato Better than Ice Cream?" There are two main purposes to the gelato maker: to mix ingredients together in order to create a smooth and consistent texture to the dessert, and to freeze the ingredients so that they become a frozen dessert.

To this end, modern day gelato makers contain a built-in compressor freezer that lowers the temperature of the gelato mixture to about -4 F, or roughly -20 C. This would normally freeze the ingredients into a solid chunk except for the fact that the spatula is continually churning and mixing them. All churning/mixing occurs in the gelato maker's provided bowl. Once the gelato maker is finished making the gelato (most often in about 30 minutes), it is ready to scoop out and eat.

The 3 Parts of a Gelato Maker: More Information

The following are the 3 basic parts of any modern day gelato maker:

The Bowl: Most gelato makers have the user add all ingredients into the in-house bowl. Some bowls, like that in the Lello 4070, are made of aluminum. Other gelato makers, like the DeLonghi GM6000, use stainless steel for the bowl. In some cases, and especially with older gelato maker models, the "bowl" may actually be a wooden barrel that is surrounded by a freezing mixture of salt and ice. More modern bowls do not rely on external coolants and instead have a hollow wall that is pre-filled with a synthetic freezing mixture. In such cases, the bowl must be pre-frozen before the gelato making can begin. Luckily, machines such as the Lello 4070, the Lello 4090, and the DeLonghi GM6000 do not contain such pre-filled bowls, relying instead on the in-house compressor freezer to do the actual freezing. As a result, one saves time by not needing to perform any bowl pre-freezing.

The Paddle: If gelato ingredients are not constantly mixed and churned, water crystals will start forming at the top of the mixture and the final product will lack creaminess and consistency. Older model gelato makers included a manual crank that had to be operated by hand; today's modern gelato makers contain an electric motor that operates the paddle automatically. Alternately, some gelato makers contain an electric motor that operates the bowl, allowing it to rotate while the paddle itself remains stationary.

The Freezer: In the first gelato machines to be released on the market, there was no built-in compressor freezer and the final mixture had to be frozen in a separate freezer. Fortunately, today's gelato makers typically include a self-refrigerating freezer unit that freezes the gelato ingredients as they are being mixed. This allows the gelato to be eaten as soon as it is finished mixing. Likewise, the simultaneous freezing and mixing allows the gelato to become very creamy and smooth. Many contemporary gelato makers take as little as 30 minutes to mix and freeze gelato to the point where it can be instantly scooped out and served.

Would you still like more information about gelato makers, how they work, and how their costs differ? Please feel free to click on my website devoted to the Gelato Maker.

For more information about gelato and how it is different- and better- than ice cream, click on my other gelato article: What Makes Gelato Better than Ice Cream? If you want the lowdown on total calories and fat from gelato versus ice cream, please read my article Gelato versus Ice Cream: Which One has Fewer Calories and Less Fat?

Gelato Maker Cost

Gelato makers vary in cost based on gelato capacity (i.e., one quart versus four quart capacity), horsepower (allowing for continual versus intermittent gelato making), and features (e.g., automatic shut-off, alarms, built-in programs). Additional features such as manufacturing materials will also change the price of a gelato maker; for example, a stainless steel bowl will raise the price of a gelato maker compared to it having an aluminum bowl.

What is the going price range of a typical gelato maker? The small and relatively inexpensive Lello 4070 Gelato Junior has a MSRP of $300; however, it is available on Amazon for as little as $137. Meanwhile, the DeLonghi GM6000 has an MSRP of $420 but can often be found on Amazon for about $250. Incidentally, both the aforementioned Lello and the DeLonghi contain internal freezers, bowls and paddles. Commercial gelato makers can start at $1,000 and go as high as $5,000- or even higher.

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