Though most refrigerator/freezer combos in the typical kitchen have ice makers, they may not produce the right amount for your needs. Perhaps the ice maker is too noisy, or the ice ends up in a solid block in the bin. If you love to entertain, and multiple ice trays in the freezer aren’t sufficient, that’s where a portable ice maker comes in.
There are so many of these machines on the market that researching them can make your head spin. This guide explores the most common features of portable ice makers, such as the shape of the ice, the speed of production, automation capabilities, and more. The result is a list of the best portable ice maker models, one of which should suit your needs.
- BEST OVERALL: GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Euhomy Ice Maker Machine Countertop
- BEST EFFICIENT: hOmeLabs Chill Pill Countertop Ice Maker
- BEST LIGHTWEIGHT: BOSSIN Countertop Ice Maker Portable
- MOST COMPACT: COSTWAY Countertop Ice Maker
What to Consider When Buying the Best Portable Ice Maker
A portable ice maker can come with quite a few bells and whistles, but the basics still matter. The primary considerations include production speed, unit size, ease of cleaning, and noise level, among other factors. Take a look at the most important features to keep in mind while choosing the best portable ice maker for your needs.
If you’re catering to a large crowd, faster ice production matters. If you just want enough ice for a small family dinner, production speed might not be as important. Most machines produce 20 to 30 pounds of ice per day, but some are overachievers that can create up to 40 pounds per day.
As a good rule of thumb, a fast machine will produce about one piece of ice per minute. Some are faster, such as an ice maker that creates nine pieces of bullet ice in 6 minutes, while some take longer but produce bigger chunks that last longer in your glass. Consider the ice maker’s main purpose and purchase accordingly.
Size and Weight
Size, weight, and available space are important considerations, depending on where you want to keep your ice maker. If you’re using it only occasionally, look for a lighter model you can move easily that fits into a cabinet when not in use. If you want a machine that you’ll use regularly and thus need ready access to, measure the space you have in mind to ensure the model you choose will fit.
As a general rule of thumb, all portable ice makers are compact enough to carry around. However, some of the ones with larger capacities might be tougher to move. An ice maker should never be transported when it has ice or water in it. Be sure that wherever you place it, you won’t need to move it until you’re ready to empty and clean the unit.
Choosing an ice maker with a mesh filter is a great idea if you want clear, tasty ice without any buildup in your machine. Just as a filter operates for an ice maker in a refrigerator/freezer combo, a mesh filter in your portable ice maker ensures the typical chemicals in municipal water are removed (at least to a point), leaving you with ice that tastes fresh.
If the portable ice maker doesn’t come with a filter or have a place for one, make a point of filtering the water through a filtering pitcher or faucet attachment before adding it to the machine. Not only will the ice taste better, but it could also enhance the longevity of your device.
A timer is an excellent way to make sure your ice is ready when you need it with no waiting at all. Some units allow you to set the timer for up to 24 hours later; keep in mind the speed of your particular machine’s production to set that timer appropriately to fill up the bin. Fill the unit with water and then let it begin working when the time comes.
If you want advanced features, look for a portable ice maker equipped with Bluetooth technology, which allows you to control when it starts through an app on your phone. Start it up when you leave the office, and by the time you get home, your ice will be ready.
There are two ways to go here: self-cleaning machines or those that need manual cleanings.
A self-cleaning machine requires you to drain the unit first. Some have a drain plug on the bottom to simply open up over the sink, allowing the water to drain out. Others require you to tip the unit over and pour the water out. You’ll then follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the self-cleaning process.
For manual cleaning, the process is usually as simple as it would be for cleaning out any other appliance: Make sure every surface has been wiped down with a clean, damp cloth, then dry as many areas as you can with a clean, dust-free cloth. Remove the basket or bin if there is one, and leave it to air dry.
A point to keep in mind: Periodically check the unit for mold near the seals or around the bin. Without proper drainage or cleaning, your ice maker could develop mold, mildew, and potentially rust.
Most of the portable ice makers chosen in this guide can store roughly 2 pounds of ice in their bin. While portable ice makers can create quite a bit of ice, they do not have a refrigeration unit; therefore, storing the ice in the bin for an extended period isn’t possible.
If you are regularly using the ice, such as during a party, the lack of storage might not be a problem. If there is a lull in usage during the evening, most of these machines will reuse the water that melts, continuously creating new ice as long as there is water in the machine. But if you aren’t using all the ice it makes, you can always bag up the ice and put it in the freezer to keep for future use.
Currently, no portable ice makers on the market hold an Energy Star certification. However, keep in mind that these are small appliances that sit right on your countertop and use about as much power as your microwave. Most countertop models, even if used often, won’t leave a significant dent in your utility bills.
If you’re concerned about how much energy a particular unit will draw, look carefully at the manufacturer’s information on the box or the insert. If you’re still not sure, contact the manufacturer directly for specifications on energy usage.
Anyone who has used a noisy appliance for extended periods of time may understand how the constant hum can grate on one’s nerves. Some ice makers on the market are virtually silent, while others sound similar to a microwave running. Others can be even louder, but that might not matter if you’re in the midst of a boisterous gathering.
The loudest sound you will likely hear from any of these machines is the sound of a new batch of ice falling into the bin, especially when that bin is relatively empty. But this is akin to the sound of ice dropping in a typical refrigerator/freezer ice maker, and is something that can be overlooked in most cases.
When it comes to the ice cubes themselves, most portable ice makers on the market make the “nine bullet” style. Nine pieces of ice are created at a time, which freeze around rods in the top of the machine, leaving you with small cone-shaped pieces of ice with a hole in the middle (that’s where the “bullet” name comes from). Some machines are limited to one size of ice, while others offer up to three different options: small, medium, and large.
Some machines produce solid pieces of ice, which last longer in drinks. These might take the shape of rectangles, crescents, or even little triangles. Some high-end ice makers produce “pellet” ice, the easy-to-crunch ice made popular by the Sonic Drive-In restaurant chain.
Portable ice makers use 110, 115, or 120 volts, which means they plug into a typical outlet, just like other countertop appliances. You might also be able to use them in RVs, some vehicles, and some outdoor spots, like your patio. To operate a portable ice maker in a vehicle, you may need to purchase an optional adapter that will allow you to convert energy from your running engine into the power the machine needs for your tailgating or cookout experience.
Though some ice makers use a battery pack and thus can be used in areas where electrical outlets are not readily available, these are relatively rare on the market today and pretty expensive to boot.
Our Top Picks
Now that you know what to look for in the best portable ice maker models, take a look at the following recommendations, all based on the considerations listed above.
If you’re looking for the tiny, chewy ice made popular by the Sonic Drive-In restaurant chain, this comes very close. It produces 24 pounds of ice in one day and holds up to 3 pounds at a time. The unique design shows the water reservoir on one side and the ice bin on the other, so you know at a glance how production is going.
The ice maker is a great size for standard countertops, and at a weight of 47 pounds, it’s not meant to be brought in and out of cabinet storage. The Opal ice maker has the coveted Bluetooth option, which allows you to control it through an app from no matter where you are. This top pick measures 15.25 inches by 14.25 inches by 17.25 inches.
The Euhomy Ice Maker Machine is a popular product for good reason: It works well and provides the necessary functions, but it doesn’t go overboard with fancy features. A simple, intuitive control panel on the front of the unit provides options for two ice cube sizes, has a low water indicator, and alerts you when the ice bucket is ready to be emptied. It takes 8 minutes to create a cycle of chewy bullet-shaped ice and can create up to 26 pounds per day.
A very quiet compressor keeps the ice making to a low hum. It’s compact enough for an RV and suitable for standard kitchen countertops. At about 17 pounds, it’s easy to transport, and the 2.2-liter water tank recycles melted ice, ensuring you’ll have a fresh supply if you don’t use it in time. The product’s dimensions measure 12.59 inches by 9.64 inches by 12.59 inches.
With an energy-efficient compressor for cooling, a compact 2.2-liter tank, and 1.5-pound bin, this ice maker takes the energy efficiency further with an automatic shutoff. Warning lights alert when the water level is low or the basket is full.
Just as the name says, this ice maker provides pill-shaped ice—up to 26 pounds of it per day. You can choose between two sizes and expect approximately eight cubes every 10 minutes. This is a relatively compact model and ideal for smaller kitchens, boats, and RVs.
Weighing just under 20 pounds, it might not be a good choice for those who have trouble moving heavier items around. This compact and efficient pick measures just 12.9 inches by 9.5 inches by 14 inches.
Weighing only 16.81 pounds, this ice maker can be scooped up and carried whenever you need it to go. The compact size of this model allows it to fit into small spaces. It features an auto power-off function, indicator lights for a full bin or lack of water, and two selections of ice sizes.
Expect 26 pounds of ice in a 24-hour period, with one cycle of bullet cubes produced every 6 to 11 minutes. It has the typical 2.2-liter tank but creates nine cubes with each round, which is slightly more than competing machines. Expect quiet operation from the high-quality compressor. The product’s dimensions are 12.3 inches by 8.7 inches by 12.3 inches.
Available in a variety of colors to fit the surrounding decor, this tiny but mighty option fits in well with RV and studio apartment living. Don’t let the small size fool you; this COSTWAY device creates nine pieces of ice in 6 to 13 minutes. Just like many of its brethren, this machine can make 26.5 pounds of ice in 24 hours. Choose from two sizes of ice and store up to 1.5 pounds in the bin at a time.
Made from food-grade material and ETL certified for safety, this ice maker creates bullet-shaped ice that’s easy on your mouth and looks good in your drinks. This compact pick measures 9.5 inches by 14 inches by 13 inches.
FAQs About Portable Ice Makers
You might have other questions floating around regarding cleaning the ice maker, whether you need a filter, and what you can really expect from the ice. Here are some answers.
Q. How do you clean a portable ice maker?
Some portable ice makers are self-cleaning, but many of them require manual emptying and cleaning. To clean, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions—that usually includes emptying the unit, rinsing it out, and wiping it out with a clean cloth, then letting it dry with the lid open.
Q. What type of ice does a portable ice maker produce?
This depends upon the model. Some create crystal-clear ice, while others produce cloudy ice. The shape can vary, as can the thickness; again, it depends upon the unit you choose.
Q. Do you need a filter for a portable ice maker?
A filter is a good idea, as it helps prevent buildup from chemicals in the water you use. However, using filtered water from a pitcher or faucet unit, or even bottled water, can help avoid this issue.