A “broken” ice cream machine at McDonald’s is a common occurrence. So common that people always make jokes and complain about how often this seems to happen. Some people even joking about calling for a Royal Commission into why the ice cream machines are never working.
The real reason is hygiene rather than a fault in the actual machine.
McDonald’s Ice Cream Machine Cleaning Cycle
These machines are computer operated. The computer on the machine is programmed to go through an automatic bacteria breakdown cycle every 24 hours which takes about two hours.
The machine heats up the mix inside to anywhere between 79-90 degrees to get the mix out of the temperature danger zone and kill any bacteria that could be breeding because, you know, milk, and then goes through a cool down to get it back to the temperature it’s required to be at for serving (1-4 degrees).
It’s just 100% easier to say that it’s “not working” than to explain how a heat treat bacteria cycle works. A lot of people don’t really want to hear about possible bacteria in their food. The staff also don’t want to hold up the drive-thru by explaining this whole story every time.
Once every fourteen days the machine gets fully taken apart to wash/rinse/sanitize which takes around four hours, so it’s down then as well.
When is the best time to buy ice cream at McDonald’s?
Whilst each restaurant might have a different schedule based on their own peak times, daytime should usually be pretty safe. Depending on the size of the restaurant, they might have multiple machines meaning they can clean them one at a time without having to totally stop those products.
A pretty common time for the ice cream machines to be in their cleaning service around 3:30am and comes out at 6am