This is a difficult question because we really don't want to recommend any of the currently made machines. They are all made in China and of very poor quality, some even more so than others. The cheapest machines available can be purchased for as little as $500-$700 but there is a 50/50 chance that the unit will show up dead on arrival. If they do arrive in a working condition, the expected life time of one of these machines is less than 6 months.
The slightly more expensive units are generally worth the money. If there is one brand we marginally favor it is the Kolice brand. These were the first machines we worked on and our first impressions were that they were pure junk. While we still think they are junk, they are actually much better than some of the much cheaper units. Kolice brand units tend to have significant problems with the electronics. While this is bad, the electronics can generally be replaced or repaired much cheaper than if there is a problem with any component of the refrigeration system.
We get this question several times a week. The customer complains that the unit has been working just fine for months then all of a sudden it starts taking longer to cool down or the unit cools down but cannot reach the set point. While it could be something serious like a loss of refrigerant or a damaged compressor, it is almost always a lack of air flow across the condenser coils. There are two main causes of poor air flow, an external blockage or dirty condenser coils.
First, an external air flow blockage may not be obvious. All rolled ice cream machines have an input vent for cool air and exhaust vent for the hot air coming from the condenser coils/fan unit. The blockage is often something as simple as someone placing a garbage can or other piece of equipment in front of either the intake or exhaust vent. Less obvious is when a new unit is placed in the same vicinity as an existing one. If the hot air exhaust from one unit feeds into the cool air intake of the second unit, it effectively chokes off the needed cool air to the second unit, causing it to run poorly.
The second and most likely culprit of poor air flow is that the condenser coils are dirty and the air simply cannot pass through the them. Where the dirt is likely to build up the most is on the fan side of the condenser coils. The two pictures below show the condenser coil and fan units. Similar coils/fans are used in every rolled ice cream machine. The problem is that cleaning the area between the coil surface and the fan can be quite challenging because of a lack of access. As can be seen in the condenser coil photo on the right, the fans often have protective shrouds over them which makes cleaning the dirty coil surface almost impossible. In many cases the fan may need to be removed entirely or a small section of the protective should may need to be cut out such that a flexible brush can reach the coil surface. An alternative approach, but usually less effective, is to blow a large volume of air from the NON-fan side of the coils back to the fan side. This will often dislodge a large amount of the dirt from the coil surface. Don't try to blow air from the the fan side of the coils through to the other side. The majority of the dirt and large debris, such as hair, simply cannot be forced through the coils.
We also purchase some brands of used and/or failed units. If you are interested in selling yours please contact us and send a picture of the unit. For additional questions or to have machines repaired contact us at: