04 3 / 2013

Review: NewAir AIC-210 

When a home appliance company Air & Water offered to send me a commercial grade ice cream machine to review, and told me that I could keep it, I couldn’t say no. I mean, look at it. 

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Link: New Air AIC-210

Please note that I have only ever used a Cuisinart ice cream machine, so the Cuisinart is my only point of comparison as far as ice cream machines go.

My first impression of the New Air machine was - wow!  It is huge. And the canister looks tiny. It’s hard to imagine that 1 quart of ice cream will fit in there but it does! So far, I have made 4 ice creams in this machine: Bacon (with Pineapple), Spicy Chocolate, Celery (with Rum Raisins) & Banana (with Date Caramel).

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KEY FEATURES of the NEWAIR:

1. The machine is self-cooling with a compressor so the canister bowl doesn’t need to be frozen before spinning. This is super convenient and because the bowl is so small anyway, I keep it in the freezer. It doesn’t take up much space.

2. Ingredients don’t have to be cold before spinning. This is not an advantage for me because I like to chill my ice cream mixture overnight anyway to let the flavors intensify. But if you are in a hurry (and have at least 60 minutes), this is another convenient feature. 

This is my pre-chilled Spicy Chocolate ice cream mixture…

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3. The machine runs on automatic… Set the timer, walk away and let it do its magic. There is a tiny opening in the plastic lid if you want to add in extra ingredients during the last minutes of spinning. The default time is 60 mins, and it will automatically stop spinning when the ice cream is done - even if the 60 mins isn’t up yet. The machine will also keep the ice cream cold, after it is done. 

As my ice cream mixture is already cold before spinning, I find that the process takes roughly 40 minutes. A bit longer than the Cuisinart’s 20 minutes.

Counting down….

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4. No noise! I love that it’s so silent, unlike the Cuisinart.

CHALLENGES & TIPS:

1. This New Air ice cream machine is a beast. It’s large and weighs 30lbs. It takes up a lot of precious kitchen counter space.

2. There are more parts than the Cuisinart and they are quite awkward to fit together. For instance, there’s a heavy “motor” thing with a stick that has to slot into the canister lid AND also into a hole on top of tiny plastic paddle which has to be positioned  inside the canister at the correct angle so that the motor stick fits. It’s a bit like an Ikea assembly exercise and I keep feeling like I am going to break something.  TIP: A chopstick will help line up the paddle opening with the plastic lid opening.

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3. The second time I used this machine, the canister was frozen stuck and I could not lift it out of the machine. Tip from fellow ice cream maker David Vo (who has had experience with compressor-based ice cream machines): "Wipe down the outside of the canister with alcohol (eg, Vodka) before lowering it into the machine. The high freezing point of alcohol will prevent the metal canister from sticking". Yes, this works.

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SO HOW IS THE ICE CREAM?

Good ice cream! There is some inconsistency with the freezing… it tends to be solid down the bottom and on the sides, and softer on top and in the middle. (The Cuisinart result has a more consistent soft-serve texture throughout.) But this is not a big deal. I don’t know if the ice cream tastes “commercial grade” because I don’t buy commercial ice creams…

Here is the Bacon ice cream from the night before.  Sorry, bad lighting, but you can see what I mean.

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The  top/middle part is soft. Underneath and around the sides - frozen solid. This was after 60 minutes and the ice cream mixture was already cold before I added it to the machine. Increasing the freezing time would not remedy this issue because the paddle will stop anyway, as soon as the ice cream at the bottom becomes hard. 

To sum up, the Cuisinart, for all its noise and low-tech-ness, is more user-friendly. The Cuisinart parts fit together and can be separated with ease. The New Air parts are more fiddly…. I really dislike that paddle. It’s messy to lift out of the canister. (Not that it is entirely a bad thing to get ice cream all over your fingers).

On the other hand, the New Air machine is very convenient if you don’t have time to hang around the kitchen watching and waiting for the ice cream to be done, and just want to load in the ingredients and push a button. 

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[P.S. Only $159 on Amazon!]

 *UPDATE: I have used the New Air machine several more times and I am liking it more and more! It is especially convenient for fruit sorbets that don’t require ‘cooking’. Puree the ingredients, pour into the machine and it’s done in 30 minutes - perfect frozen consistency and ready to eat.

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