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There’s no better way to surface childhood delights than with a cone of fresh, airy, and bubblegum-colored cotton candy. Whether you’re hosting an elementary school birthday party or just love to treat yourself to gauzy spun sugar on your Friday night margarita, having your own cotton candy maker is an easy way to delight and satisfy a sweet tooth.
Making cotton candy to decorate your favorite vanilla birthday cakes is probably easier than you realize. All you need for most countertop machines is flossing sugar or hard candy and a stick to hold the cotton candy together. Then you can make clouds to string above your gingerbread house or to hold your spooky Halloween cookies.
Since these specialty candy makers come in many sizes and shapes with all sorts of different promises and prices, I’ve narrowed it down to just the best models. Cotton Candy Express' Cotton Candy Machine tops the list.
Here, the best cotton candy machines for hours of sugary fun.
Best Overall: Cotton Candy Express CC1000-S Cotton Candy Machine
What We Love: Easy to use, comes with floss sugar, easy to store away
What We Don't Love: Not dishwasher-safe, not for big crowds
Great cotton candy machines spin up fairy floss in minutes, offer fun ways to make new flavors, and ultimately, clean up and store easily. What I love about this machine from Cotton Candy Express is that it not only does all of that, it also comes with a full starter kit so you can enjoy cotton candy right out of the box.
This machine works similar to other countertop cotton candy makers: you allow it to warm up for a few minutes, place your floss sugar in the center warmer, and begin wrapping the candy around your cone as it spins out. Cotton Candy Express starts you off with paper cones just like at the carnival, plus a few flavors to test out (it does sell 10 different flavors in all). Once you've got the hang of spinning sugar, you can also experiment with your favorite hard candies.
While you can make a full cone about every 2 minutes, you should wipe down the inside after a few cones or when you change flavors. When the party's over, the inside of the machine should be cleaned out with a non-abrasive sponge and warm, soapy water.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 13.5 x 7.5 x 16.5 inches | Weight: 10 pounds | Wattage: 360 W
Best Budget: Nostalgia PCM205 Hard Candy and Cotton Candy Maker
What We Love: Includes reusable cones, easy to use, secures to countertop
What We Don't Love: No dishwasher-safe parts, doesn't include flossing sugar
This retro-looking machine is as adorable as it is practical. It spins up fluffy cotton candy and melt-in-your-mouth hard candies, plus it's easy to take apart and reassemble for cleaning.
This Nostalgia cotton candy maker is compact and lightweight enough to easily transport and store. The clear plastic rim lets onlookers see their candy being spun without getting too close to the heat source. This also makes it easy to supervise when you want to let children try their hand at making cotton candy. There are suction cups on the bottom of the machine to make sure it stays securely on your countertop or table.
This machine does come with a sugar scoop and two reusable cones, but you might need to buy flossing sugar and paper cones. This does also work if hard candy is placed in the warmer.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.25 x 11.25 x 9 inches | Weight: 2.85 pounds | Wattage: 450 W
Best Cart: Great Northern 6315 Flufftastic Cotton Candy Machine
What We Love: Large bowl, scoop included, vintage design
What We Don't Love: Doesn't come with flossing sugar
If you're planning on regularly creating candy floss for crowds, investing in a cart model might be a better option than a countertop version. First, it brings a fun carnival vibe to making cotton candy, which is perfect for parties. And when you get down to spinning, a cart will help make sure everyone gets a cone faster.
This cotton candy cart from Great Northern Popcorn is built to make the airiest, most ethereal candy you can imagine. You’ll have a line in no time when you start spinning cones of sugar. The 13-inch wheels and chrome handle make it easy to maneuver around, and the two shelves mean you can easily set up your cotton candy station. Both shelves have three cone holders for handing out candy faster since you'll be able to spin a new cone every 30 seconds. The metal bowl does keep hands away from the wires and warmer for safety.
This only comes with a sugar scoop, so you will need to purchase flossing sugar during the party planning.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 36 x 20.5 x 37 inches | Weight: 36 pounds | Wattage: 1000 W
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Best for Kids: Bavpelp Cotton Candy Machine for Kids
What We Love: Accessories included, easy to clean, under 3 pounds, safe for kids
What We Don't Love: Small bowl size
This cute pink, portable cotton candy machine is great for kids since it's easy enough for little ones to use themselves when they want to try their hand at candy art (with supervision, of course). This is also the best choice for anyone needing a compact cotton candy machine since it has an impressive amount of power and performs well with a small footprint.
At just 2.6 pounds, this countertop machine can secure firmly to a flat surface via the bottom suction cups. Once ready, you simply warm it up, turn the power back off to add the sugar, and then begin spinning. When the party’s over, it’s just as easy to clean the bowl and accessories in warm soapy water, and any stuck-on candy will pop right off. Plus, this machine comes with a scoop and 10 candy sticks to get you started. I love this machine for kids because it’s designed for safety and fun.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 9.8 x 7.5 x 9.8 inches | Weight: 2.6 pounds | Wattage: 400 W
Best for Parties: Paragon Classic White Stainless Steel Cotton Candy Machine
What We Love: Fits on a countertop, cool-touch exterior, has a warranty
What We Don't Love: Heavy and bulky to move
I love this machine for hosting parties because it can easily handle high-volume candy-making jobs without overheating or tuckering out. This countertop appliance churns out cotton candy indoors or outside and offers more than 1600 watts of power for fast, efficient candy-making.
Encased in stainless steel and containing a metal head instead of plastic makes this one of the most durable cotton candy makers. For safety, the exterior of the machine stays cool to the touch, so it’s safe for kids to try too, with adult supervision. Once it starts up, it provides 3400 RPMs, so you'll be able to spin up about 200 cones per hour in the 26-inch bowl. Better yet, it only needs a good cleaning every few uses, so no one has to stop what they're doing to clean out the machine. This is a workhorse that you can rely on for sweet treats all year long.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 12 x 19 x 21 inches | Weight: 48 pounds | Wattage: 1636 W
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If you're just looking for a countertop cotton candy maker for a few cones when a craving hits, the Cotton Candy Express Cotton Candy Machine (view at Amazon) is your best bet. For those who will be regularly whipping up clouds of candy floss, the Paragon Classic White Stainless Steel Cotton Candy Machine (view at Amazon) will create cotton candy in seconds and last you for years to come.
What to Look for When Buying a Cotton Candy Machine
Countertop vs. Cart
Cotton candy makers tend to come in two styles: they either fit on your countertop or come attached to a cart. The right style for you will depend on how you plan to use it and the amount of storage space you have. Countertop machines can be easily stored away when not in use but mean slower cones per minute and frequent cleaning. Cart machines are larger, so you can crank out more candy. But you’ll need somewhere to stash the cart when it’s off duty.
Depending on the materials, cotton candy machines can be easy or fairly difficult to keep clean and maintain. Countertop models need to be wiped down pretty frequently to avoid stuck-on sugar in the warmer head and bowls. Since many are made of plastic, they may also break down quicker. Professional-level machines tend to be sturdier and can go longer between cleanings.
You’ll need a few accessories to make your cotton candy in addition to the machine itself. Some of the appliances on the list come with a starter pack of a sugar scoop and wooden sticks or cones to wind your candy floss around. You’ll also need to purchase the flossing sugar itself, which you can find online in a wide range of flavors. If your machine doesn't come with a plastic lid, you might be able to purchase that separately. It'll make spinning the sugar a bit easier.
How do you clean a cotton candy machine?
To maintain your machine in tip-top shape, it’s important to clean it properly after every use since leaving dried-on candy pieces can damage your appliance over time. It’s always best to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning, as some machines have dishwasher-safe parts and others don’t.
After use, make sure you unplug and let the machine cool before starting to clean. Then use warm soapy water on the washable parts, being careful to avoid submerging electrical parts in water. Wipe down with a clean rag, and allow the machine to dry thoroughly.
What's the best sugar for a cotton candy machine?
You’ll need to use a special product called flossing sugar in your cotton candy machine. It’s available at some grocery stores and online. In fact, you can find all sorts of fun colors and flavors, like this multipack with lime, pina colada, vanilla, and more. In addition, you’ll need cones or skewers to wind up the sugar floss for serving.
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This article was written by Lizzy Briskin, a chef, food writer, and recipe developer who still remembers the wonder of her first cotton candy cloud at the circus.
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