I got this particular cotton candy machine today (Nostalgia Electrics PCM-805 Hard & Sugar-Free Candy Cotton Candy Maker), and while I was initially skeptical, it totally works! After eating cotton candy at a kids' festival, I began searching to see if there were any DIY articles of how to make it at home. I was thinking maybe something like melting the sugar over the stove and using a blow dryer or something. I was hoping there was some technique that would be safe and not get melted sugar all over over the kitchen.

But I almost immediately started finding reviews of this machine. I was skeptical until I saw it on a news station where they were reviewing hot gifts for whatever year, and figured they wouldn't recommend it if they hadn't tried it and found it to work.

So I ordered it, and it arrived today. I had read reviews to be sure to get the model that used either hard candies OR sugar, so that's what I got. But I suspect I'll mostly use hard candies.

I tried it out tonight. I took it out of the box, read the extremely short instructions, and put the three top pieces together. I plugged it into an outlet and preheated it for five minutes, and while that was going on, I dug through the candy dish to find two matching hard candies (it's not necessary to use two candies of the same flavor, but that's what I wanted to start with). I found two cinnamon candies.

After preheating, I turned the machine off, waited until the middle stopped spinning, then placed the two candies opposite each other in the middle well. When I turned it back on, I expected it to take some time to start making floss, but it was nearly instantaneous!

I stuck my reusable plastic cone (two came with the machine) down into the bowl, and sure enough, strands of cotton candy started sticking to it! I mostly moved the cone around the bowl in a circle while simultaneously spinning it around with my fingers. The instructions said something about holding the cone horizontally once it got started, and I didn't understand that exactly while reading it. But after I got started, I could see that once you have some volume of cotton candy on the stick, you can hold it more horizontally than vertically and as long as some bit of the stuff on your stick is protruding down into the bowl, the floss will stick to it. Does that make sense? Other reviewers recommend finding a YouTube video to watch someone else's technique, but I haven't bothered to do that. I figure that a little experimentation and practice will help me perfect my technique.

When the floss stopped blowing out, I turned the machine off and ate my cotton candy. It was a novelty having cinnamon flavor! Next time I think I will try butterscotch, although root beer is also high on my list. Lots of people have indicated that Jolly Ranchers don't work. The instructions recommend the traditional-shaped round, flat candies. They say ball-shaped ones don't work. There are lots of flavors of the traditional hard candies that I like, so I don't have a problem limiting myself to those. Other people even have "recipes" where you mix various flavors together to get new flavors. I think there were a few ideas in the instruction book, too. Like Root Beer + Cream Soda = Root Beer Float. That sort of thing.

After I ate up my cotton candy, clean-up was very easy. There was a crust of cinnamon candy dust in a line around the inside of the bowl, and I actually chipped off the larger bits and ate it before washing it off in the sink. Sugar readily dissolves in warm water, so it was quick and easy to clean. Same with the candy well. There was only a few small spots of melted sugar left in the metal well, which also dissolved away in warm water. Then I put the whole shebang back in the box until the next time I want to make cotton candy.

Some other reviewers complained because it only makes a small amount of cotton candy per batch. I can see that being annoying if you wanted to make lots and lots for a big party. But I'm thinking I will just use it to make a treat for my family a few times per month. Maybe every week on Sunday, I'm not sure. To me, one of the beautiful things about this is that each cone cane be a different flavor! It doesn't matter if one person wants cinnamon and another wants caramel. Each cone is independent of the one before or after, so everyone can have whatever flavor they want.

And others also complained because each cotton candy "cone" was small. I actually viewed this as a positive. If I tried to eat an entire cotton candy thing from a fair, I'd give myself a tummy ache. One is enough for the whole family (although my boys are very young, I'm sure if they were teens it would be a different story). But two hard candies is less than 50 calories, so that seems like a very sensible indulgence per person, even if it is pure sugar.

I have only used the machine to make one cotton candy so far, so I don't have a lot of perspective in this review. But I will add to it later if I find that making four batches (one for everyone in the family) turns out to be a nuisance. But as long as I don't have to do this every day, I suspect it will remain a bit of a novelty. Besides, it goes really fast. This is waaay easier than making a batch of cookies. Maybe it involves an effort similar to making a batch of brownies from a box (which I personally think is ridiculously easy), but with this you can eat your dessert in a matter of minutes rather than waiting an hour for the brownies to bake and cool.

Overall, I am already a big fan of this machine. It is hard to believe that homemade cotton candy could be so quick and easy to make. Two hard candies. That's the sum total of the ingredients you have to find. Nothing perishable, nothing to be refrigerated. Nothing to measure. The only thing you need to do is set a timer for five minutes to preheat, and master the art of getting the floss onto the stick. I would recommend this for anyone with space to store the machine in their house. It might not be the most practical thing for someone living in a studio apartment, unless they really love cotton candy.