Making homemade ice creams and frozen yogurts is fun, but even when you have a good quality ice cream maker, there can be some difficulties with the process. The top two concerns that people have are (1) the ice cream is too soft and (2) the ice cream is too hard.
Ice cream made in a machine designed for home use often doesn’t freeze ice cream to the consistency of store-bought ice cream, and while it is still scoopable right out of the machine, the fact that it is a bit softer can put some people off. My ice cream maker has a frozen “core” that chills the ice cream as it churns. It also becomes less cold the longer that the machine is on, so there is a point at which my ice cream mixture simply will not get any firmer. The reason for this lack of firmness compared to commercial ice cream largely has to do with the fact that commercial ice creams have spent lots of time in extremely cold freezers (even at the grocery store), while a fresh homemade ice cream has not. Almost all recipes will direct you to further chill your finished product to firm it up even more after it comes out of the ice cream maker.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the problem of homemade ice cream being too firm, especially after it has been stored in the freezer for a while. Some say that fat content will keep ice cream creamy and soft. This is true (especially when it comes to keeping the ice cream creamy) but one of the keys to a scoopable ice cream is actually the amount of air in the mixture. The more air that is distributed into the mix, the easier it will be to soften the ice cream and to scoop it. Home ice cream makers don’t work at the speed of commercial machines, and often less air gets incorporated into the mix overall. Adding a bit of vodka or other alcohol (as I did here) can lower the freezing point of the ice cream and help to keep it from hardening too much, but really the only way to beat this problem entirely is to have patience and thaw your ice cream for half an hour or so before indulging.
If you need a starting place for great ice cream recipes, check out my book, How to Make Ice Cream!