Sorbet maker, Meidinger

Type of object
Ice cream maker
Technique and material

Iron sheet metal, wood veneer

40 x 22 cm

The German physicist Joseph Heinrich Meidinger (1831-1905) perfected the ‘automatic’ sorbet maker known as the Eismaschine in 1870. Its low price made it accessible to most households and so it soon outdid the moulds and hand-cranked sorbet makers of the 18th century and early 19th century.

This 1900 model was misleadingly called ‘automatic’ as real automatic machines have a rotating blade in the metal recipient, which constantly stirs the sorbet mixture. In fact, what Meidinger proposed was to replace the large grain salt traditionally added to ice in the external cooling wall with a special saline solution to maintain a constant temperature of minus 19°C. This innovation meant that, in comparison to earlier manual models, it was no longer necessary to constantly stir the ice and hence gained time and saved a good deal of work. As this 1900 model illustrates, scientific research made it possible for the public at large to access an aesthetic and carefully detailed machine, decorated with a wooden veneer, gold and porcelain.