Everyone is always looking to add something sweet and unique to their parties, whether it is a school fundraiser, a birthday party, wedding or even a corporate event; cotton candy is always an entertaining crowd pleaser. We know not everyone needs a huge commercial machine and that the size of your event, or business, will dictate which type of machine is best for you. We have three top favorites to fit various events, budgets, and requirements.
The top three best cotton candy machines are the residential size, Nostalgia Electrics, mid-grade Great Northern Vortex, and the commercial size, Gold Medal Whirlwind. We know one of these machines will be the best cotton candy machine to meet your needs.
Spun Paradise has been in the cotton candy business for years and has tested numerous machines. We have also helped multiple individuals get their own cotton candy businesses up and running both at a catering level and a large scale manufacturing level. The following is a summary based on our experience with these top three cotton candy machines.
Best Residential: Nostalgia™ Cotton Candy Maker
Price: For not much more than the price of the floss sugar, you can buy the Nostalgia™ Electrics Retro Hard Candy Cotton Candy Maker. This residential machine is compact and ultralight weighing in at 4.5 pounds. We love the simplicity of this machine and how easy it is to clean, requiring only a quick rinse. It looks brand new after every rinse, literally! The price is very reasonable at $32 and it really does produce delicious, fluffy cotton candy. We feel the price is low enough that if it eventually breaks, after a lot of use, it was still money well spent.
Accessories: The sugar scoop included with the machine is perfect as it measures the perfect amount of floss sugar every time, no need to pull out additional measuring cups or kitchen accessories when using this machine. The Nostalgia comes with two reusable plastic cones as well which provide convenience to spin up cotton candy anytime. This little table top machine has a clear top, providing great visibility and the opportunity to see the cotton candy machine in action.
Production: The Nostalgia takes 20 minutes to heat up before use, so make sure you plan ahead accordingly. Each time you fill and spin in it; this cotton candy machine will only produce 1 or 2 cones, which will work well for the kids making a fun treat in the kitchen or for a few friends to gather around to enjoy a cone. This machine has a small bowl and isn’t designed for long term use at an event such as a school carnival.
Additional Notes: There isn’t a temperature control on this machine, which can sometimes affect the color and flavor of your cotton candy. The hotter the temperature of the machine, the less flavor and color your cotton candy will have. This is a great little machine for the kids (and adults) to play with at home, but it will not be useful for larger events or catering.
Best Mid-Grade: Great Northern Popcorn Company Vortex Candy Machine
Price: At around $200, Great Northern Popcorn Company Vortex Candy Machine is well-priced mid-grade machine, providing cotton candy quickly and efficiently. This machine is relatively small weighing in at 22 pounds, making it simple to move around for various events. Cleaning this machine is incredibly simple requiring a quick rinse after use. While we do not use this machine for cotton candy catering, we highly recommend it to anyone who is starting out with a cotton candy business.
Accessories: There is a great stainless sugar scooper that comes with this machine, measuring the perfect amount of floss sugar every time. The drawer on this machine provides a lot of convenience providing storage for the sugar scooper, sugars, cones, and any other cotton candy accessories you might have. When spinning, the cotton candy releases vertically which, in our opinion, means you absolutely need the clear dome cover that is sold separately. Without the cover cotton candy will “fly” away and get pretty much everywhere. Yes, the dome is another cost, but it is completely worth the investment!
Production: The Vortex is very quiet with minimal vibration which is especially great for indoor events. Within two minutes this cotton candy maker is warm and ready to spin. The cotton candy is produced quickly at about 30 seconds per cone, making a reasonable turn around for events such as school fundraisers or birthday parties. A feature we love about Vortex is that the sugar floss can be poured into this machine while the machine is spinning. This is important because it means you can make 1 or 2 cones of a particular flavor and then immediately switch to another flavor. The capability to offer various flavors within minutes is ideal for anyone spinning cotton candy at farmer’s markets, carnivals, fundraisers, or private events.
Additional Notes: The Vortex does not have temperature control, which is not always ideal. This machine is belt run meaning you can get stuck with belts breaking but parts can be ordered.
Best High-End Commercial: Gold Medal Whirlwind
Price: Our absolute favorite commercial cotton candy machine is the Gold Medal Whirlwind. The cost is high at around $1,000, but worth the investment if you have a high volume manufacturing facility or if you are spinning at large events such as a state fair. The Whirlwind is heavy weighing in at around 50 pounds. We use this cotton candy machine for catering events, but due to weight, this wouldn’t be ideal for most cotton candy caterers. This machine cleans itself by burning off most sugar through heat when turned to the highest heat setting, but for a full maintenance cleaning, this machine head needs to be completely disassembled.
Accessories: While this machine does have a horizontal release of the cotton candy, we still highly recommend the clear bubble to put over the cotton candy bowl. Believe us, it is a very sticky mess without the bubble protector! We also recommend the netting that attaches along the inner sides of the bowl as it helps catch any loose sugar or cotton candy and we find the net a necessity (the net is provided with the bowl when purchasing the machine new).
Production: This machine is solid, as in some of our Whirlwinds are from the 1980’s, and make beautiful cotton candy! We love this high output machine, producing 6-8 cones per minutes with a 30 second warm up. The Gold Medal Whirlwind has run for 24 hours straight in our manufacturing facility without any issues. Noise output from this machine is significantly louder than the Vortex, again making this not as ideal for catering, especially small, indoor events. Gold Medal does recommend the spinner head be filled completely before each spin which means flavors cannot be changed out as frequently as the Vortex.
Additional Notes: The temperature control is amazing on this machine as it allows us to control temperature, yielding a better flavor and color cotton candy. The temperature control is also an excellent method for controlling overall production speed; having a hard time keeping up with the output, then just turn back the heat, need faster production just turn the heat up. Gold Medal is a great company with replacement pieces for everything on the machine, so it is always easy to repair if needed. For smaller cotton candy caterers, the Vortex will do, but for larger events and businesses doing high volume production, the Whirlwind is a must.
What are your needs in a cotton candy machine? Is this something fun for the kids to experiment with or are you ready to build a cotton candy empire? While all of these machines are great, the one best for you will depend on your event and use of the machine. From tabletop residential for some cotton candy fun to a commercial cotton candy machine for large scale production, everyone can reap the sweet benefits of one of these machines. Have you used one of these machines or another machine you think tops these three? Tell us in the comments!