Ice Cream vs Soft Serve Machines

When it comes to making ice cream, there are two main types of machines: soft serve machines and regular ice cream machines. You will use each of these for different purposes, so it is important to know the difference between the two. Soft serve machines are used to make soft serve ice cream, while regular ice cream machines are used to make regular, harder ice cream.

On this guide, we'll compare the two types of machines and look at their different features to help you decide which one is right for you and your business.

Ice cream shop

Soft serve machine

Soft serve machines are perfect to produce a light and fluffy texture that is perfect for soft serves and other frozen treats like frozen yogurt and sorbet. These types of machines are incredibly easy to use and are ideal for small businesses or cafes that want to offer a wide range of frozen treats.

There are many variations of soft serve machines on the market, but they can generally be broken down into four categories: number of flavors, capacity, feed system, and cooling system.

Soft serve machine

Number of Flavors

Some machines have one flavor, while others can have up to three flavors. The capacity of the machine will determine how much ice cream it can produce at once.

  • One flavor machine
  • Two flavors machine 
  • Three flavors machine


The capacity of the machine also varies- from small personal size machines to those that can make gallons of soft serve at a time.

  • Countertop model: This is the most popular type of soft serve machine. It is designed to sit on top of a counter and has a small footprint. These models tend to have a low-medium volume of production with 13-28 qt. capacity.


  • Stand-alone model: This type of machine is larger and needs to be placed in an area where there is enough space for it to stand. These models tend to have medium to high volume of production with 17-32 qt. capacity.

Two flavors ice cream machine

Feed system

There are also two types of feed systems- gravity fed and pump fed.

  • Gravity fed: This type of machine is common in smaller soft serve machines. Gravity fed machines rely on the weight of the product to feed it down into the blades so it can be mixed and frozen. This will lead to a fixed rate of ice cream overrun of about 30%.
  • Pump fed: This type of machine is more common in commercial soft serve machines. pump fed machines use a motor to pump the product up to the blades.

Cooling system

Finally, there are two types of cooling systems- air cooled and water cooled.

  • Air cooled machines use a fan to blow air over the product, cooling it down. This type of machine is popular with people who have limited space because the fans can be stored inside of the machine.
  • Water cooled machines use cold water to cool the product. This water can be from a tap or from a refrigerated tank. The product is submerged in the cold water and a fan blows over the top of it, cooling it down.

Which type of machine you choose really depends on your needs and preferences. Some people prefer air cooled because they think it tastes better, while others prefer water cooled because it produces less noise. Ultimately, it's up to you which type of machine you choose!



Ice cream machine

Ice cream machines or also known as batch freezers, are better for making large quantities of ice cream. They have a wider range of features, such as the ability to make different flavors and textures. These machines are perfect to make ice cream, gelato, custard, and sherbet.

Stand alone model


  • Countertop model: These models have a smaller production with 3-8 gallons per hour.
  • Stand-alone model: These models are larger and can produce up to 20 gallons per hour.

Refrigeration system
  • Air-cooled: These systems have their condensing unit mounted on the exterior of the ice cream machine. Air-cooled systems are less expensive to install, but they can be noisier and less energy efficient than water-cooled models.
  • Water-cooled: These models have their condensing unit mounted inside the ice cream machine. Water-cooled systems are more expensive to install, but they can be quieter and more energy efficient than air-cooled models.

Number of flavors
  • One flavor
  • Two flavors 
  • Three flavors

Ice cream flavors

Types of Batch Freezers
  • Vertical: These are the most famous since they dispense ice cream vertically. The volume per second is a lot smaller than horizontal machines.


  • Horizontal: These machines dispense the ice cream horizontally and they allow you to get higher amounts of ice cream in less time. You would use this type of machine to reload your ice containers.



So, which is the best machine for you? It depends on what you are looking for in an ice cream maker. If you want a quick and easy way to make small quantities of ice cream, then a soft serve machine is the best option. If you need to make large batches of ice cream, then a regular ice cream machine is a better choice.

Whatever machine you choose, be sure to enjoy some delicious ice cream! Ice cream is the perfect dessert for any occasion. Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or just want something sweet and satisfying, ice cream is the perfect choice. 

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About the Author: Tim Porter

Tim is the CEO and people builder of In his free time, he enjoys being with his family, collecting watches, and Classic Mini Coopers.


Our purpose at Frozen Dessert Supplies is "Build People and Deliver Joy." That means that everything we do, from manufacturing to packaging to delivery, is to build you and your business and deliver joy to you. We also strive to build our employees and help them to be better people.

Our paper ice cream cups are made withFDA approved food-safe papercoated in a thin layer ofPE (Polyethylene). Our clear plastic cups, banana split boats, and plastic dome lids are made fromPET (Polyethylene Terephthalate). Our plastic spoons and straws are made fromPP (Polypropylene). Our eco-friendly ice cream cups are made fromFDA approved food-safe papercoated in a thin layer ofPLA (Polylactic Acid). PLA is plastic made from corn starch. Our eco-friendly spoons are also made from PLA. Our eco-friendly wooden spoons are made from FDA approvedsmooth birch wood.