In this article, you will find the best ice makers for your home. You will find both budget-friendly options as well as the best fully-featured models. And for those of you who want something extra, there is the best ice maker to serve professional-looking drinks. So let’s go!
Do I Really Need an Ice Maker?
Before buying an ice maker, it is good to ask yourself whether an ice machine is worth it to you. Every person has to answer this question for themselves since it largely depends on personal preferences. There are two important factors to consider: the financial aspect and the laboriousness.
First, let’s look at the financial aspect. An ice maker can cost from $100 to $550. Since you can buy a 10lb ice bag for $1.88 in Walmart, if you opt for the cheapest ice maker for $100, it would pay itself after 532lb of ice (in case of the $550 ice maker, it would be 2926lb. :D). Of course, there is also the added cost of driving and your time, which is priceless, right :)? So if on average, you use a couple of ice cubes a day, it seems like an ice cube tray or an ice bag once in a while is a better option. However, if you use 530lb of ice in no time and you want to save some money and time, then a countertop ice maker might be the perfect solution for you.
The second, less apparent aspect to consider is laboriousness. An ice maker has to be kept clean. After all, it contains water that you will eventually drink. Since the inside of the ice maker is wet, it is prone to mold growth. Because of that, you should change the water daily. Otherwise, it might start to get slimy. When the ice maker is not in use, it is best to dry the inside and leave the ice maker open to dry out completely. You should also remember to clean/descale the ice maker at least every couple of months with a cleaning solution (store-bought or, e.g., a solution of 1:1 water and vinegar). You might have to clean/descale your machine more often depending on, e.g., the type of water you use (hard water, etc.).
There are ice makers that have a self-cleaning option, which can help you with the maintenance. However, this function is usually not fully automatic. So better check what it does before buying so that you are not unpleasantly surprised after the purchase. For more information on the self-cleaning process, click here.
Do Any Countertop Ice Makers Keep Ice Frozen?
Before we start, there is one more thing I would like to highlight. You might wonder if you can find a countertop ice maker that will keep ice frozen. Unfortunately, ice makers are not freezers, so they won’t keep the ice frozen. They are insulated, so the ice is kept cold; however, it will melt over time. Fortunately, most ice makers use water from the melted ice to make new ice, so at least you can refill the ice maker less often.
What is the Best Ice Maker for Home Use?
There are three main types of countertop ice makers. They differ based on the kind of ice they make – bullet ice, clear ice, and nugget ice (also known as pellet ice, sonic ice, chewy ice, or “the good ice”). To choose the best ice maker, first, let’s decide which type is the best choice for you:
The Bullet Ice Maker
If you are looking for a fast and most affordable ice maker, the bullet ice maker is the choice for you. It costs around $140 and makes one batch of ice (usually nine pcs) in 6-9 min.
The Best Portable Bullet Ice Maker
The best portable bullet ice maker is the Newair Countertop Ice Maker (50 lb a day). What makes this portable ice maker stand out:
- All parts are certified BPA-free (a healthier material to get in contact with ice)
- 3-sizes of ice to choose from
- 3.7 lb. ice basket capacity
- Time program
- Side drain for easier maintenance
- Self-cleaning mode (for more information on the self-cleaning feature, click here).
The best budget-friendly bullet ice maker
If you are looking for a budget-friendly option with good ice production, I would go for an ice maker from the Igloo brand. Since most ice makers in the lowest price range of $100-$130 are very similar, I would choose a well-known brand with solid reviews. Because of that, the best budget-friendly ice maker is the Igloo Automatic Portable Countertop Ice Maker (Amazon link). It produces 26 lb of ice a day. It has an above-average ice basket capacity of 2 lb and 3-quart water tank capacity. With over four thousand five-star reviews and a low price, it is a great choice.
The Clear Ice Maker
If you want an ice maker that makes clear ice, the same as the store-bought ice, then the bullet ice makers are not for you. What you are looking for is a clear ice maker. Such ice makers create ice the same way as commercial ice machines. Cold water is constantly flowing over a metal grid which allows the ice cubes to form in layers. This ensures that there is no oxygen trapped inside and the ice cubes are crystal clear.
Advantages of Clear Ice
Clear ice has a couple of advantages over cloudy (white) ice.
- Clear ice has a couple of advantages over cloudy (white) ice.
- Clear ice is perfect for professionally-looking drinks.
- Clear ice melts slower than cloudy ice since there is more frozen water inside (no trapped oxygen).
- Clear ice doesn’t make your soda bubble excessively when you pour it in since there is no trapped oxygen that would otherwise react with the carbonated drink.
Disadvantages of Clear Ice
Even though clear ice sounds great, there are also some disadvantages to clear ice makers.
- Clear ice cubes don’t come out separately but in a cluster (like a chocolate bar). You have to separate them manually.
- It takes longer to make one batch of clear ice compared to bullet ice. Clear ice maker produces 24 pcs of ice at once in 12-18 minutes, whereas bullet ice maker makes 9 pcs in 6 min.
The best clear ice makers for home bar
Below you can find a comparison of five clear ice makers that you can get on Amazon. The best portable clear ice maker turned out to be the Newair Countertop Clear Ice Maker. The main advantage of this 40 lb ice maker is that it is made of certified BPA-free parts. And if you don’t need that much ice, you can choose the BPA-free runner-up 28 lb Luma Comfort Portable Clear Ice Maker.
If BPA-free parts are not your focus, then I would choose the Euhomy Ice Maker. With three ice sizes, 2.2 l water tank capacity, a timer, and a self-cleaning mode, it is the best-equipped clear ice maker of the four.
The Nugget Ice Maker
If you are looking for smaller, softer, chewable ice, then the best option for you is nugget ice, also known as sonic ice, pellet ice, Chick-fil-A ice, or “the good ice”.
Below you can see a comparison chart of countertop ice machines that make nugget ice. But first, I have to give you a heads up. There is one downside to all nugget ice makers. Unfortunately, nugget ice comes at a premium price.
TIP: If you don’t want to spend that much on a nugget ice maker, you could opt for a 2-in-1 countertop bullet ice maker with an ice shaver (Amazon link) or a 3-in-1 bullet ice maker with an ice crusher and water dispenser (Amazon link). Another possibility is to buy a more affordable bullet ice maker and an ice crusher or ice shaver.
The best nugget ice maker for home bar
The best nugget ice maker is the GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker. What makes it stand out is the Bluetooth connectivity that allows you, e.g., to schedule fresh ice or monitor the ice maker’s status through an app. However, it is the most expensive ice maker.
If you don’t need the extra feature of setting the timer, you can save some money and get the TaoTronics Nugget Ice Maker. It has the largest ice bin capacity of 3.3 l and a self-cleaning mode (for more information on the self-cleaning feature, click here). Also, it can be connected to the plumbing to refill the water tank automatically.
Best High Capacity Nugget Ice Maker | Budget-Friendly Option
If you are looking for the highest daily ice production possible, then the best nugget ice maker for you is the FRIGIDAIRE Countertop Crunchy Chewable Nugget Ice Maker. With a capacity of 44 lb a day, it is a clear winner. Just know that even though it is not in stock for such a low price as of now, it was once sold in Walmart for $279!
How to Choose a Portable Ice Maker
There are many portable ice makers on the market, so it is pretty hard to know which ice maker is a good choice. To help you make an informed decision, below you can find five features that are worth checking. They can help you pick the best ice maker for your home:
- Multiple Ice Sizes – bullet ice makers can make from 1 to up to 3 sizes of ice. Just know that the medium and large ice bullets take longer to make. Usually, 9 small pcs (1 batch) take 6 min., and 9 large ice pcs take 9 min to make. The upside is that the larger the ice bullets, the longer they melt.
- Output – Every ice maker has a maximum quantity of ice that it can produce in a day. Usually, it is 26 lb, but you can find ice makers that can make up to 50 lb of ice per day. But remember that such large quantities are possible only if you will empty the ice basket regularly, which leads us to the 3rt point.
- Ice basket capacity – An ice maker will stop making ice when the ice basket is full. To continue, you have to empty the ice basket (using the ice right away or putting it into the freezer). Since the size of the basket will determine how often you need to empty it, the larger, the better (the sizes we found differ from 1.25 – 3.7 lb).
- Time program – Some ice makers have a time program that allows you to set when the machine should start or end making ice. A handy feature if, e.g., you want to have fresh ice first thing in the morning.
- Drain – When cleaning an ice maker, you need to drain the remaining water. In many ice makers the drain is situated on the bottom. This is quite inconvenient since you need to set the ice maker, e.g., on the rim of your sink. Fortunately, some ice makers have the drain on their side (or back), which makes it easier to drain.
Slef-Cleaning Function Not What You Think?
Some ice makers have a self-clean function, which might sound great. But you might be expecting much more from this function than what it really does. Don’t get me wrong, this function can be helpful, but you should not expect it to be a fully automated cleaning mode, like in a dishwasher. A self-cleaning function (e.g., in the Igloo bullet ice maker) lets a cleaning solution circle in the ice maker a couple of times. Also, it dips the ice “shovel” (the tray that pushes the ice) in the solution. However, the solution does not cover the whole inside surface of the ice maker. After the cleaning mode, in some cases, you still have to wipe the inside and rinse the cleaning solution. Plus, to remove the buildup of calcium or other impurities, some brands advise running a couple of regular ice-making cycles with a cleaning solution. Such cleaning/descaling of the machine is the same for some machines with and without self-cleaning feature. Since the self-cleaning feature usually comes with a higher price, it might be a good idea to check whether it is worth it to you. Here is a link to a YouTube video that shows the self-cleaning mode of an Igloo bullet ice maker.