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Whether you’re drinking cocktails, sodas, spirits, or water, an ice maker is an important sidekick. With a quality ice maker, filling and emptying ice molds or buying a bag of ice becomes a thing of the past. It’s a handy tool no matter the setting, though if you’re one to entertain, this appliance is sure to become your best friend.
Choosing the perfect ice maker for your home or bar comes down to a few key details: What kind of space you can allocate, the quality and type of ice you’re looking for, and how much you need at one time. For instance, if you’ve got a large household that consumes significant amounts of ice, you’ll want something in the home-friendly commercial range or a powerful countertop option. If you host the occasional small gathering and plan to bring your machine to other functions, consider something portable. Lastly, are you drinking casually or mixing up serious cocktails requiring large, clear cubes?
Once you’ve laid out your priorities and needs, see our picks of the best ice makers for every scenario.
Best Overall: GE Profile Opal | Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
Pebble ice (also referred to as nugget ice) is great for tropical and tiki cocktails, cobblers, crusta's, blended drinks, juice and much more; it’s also a type of ice that’s difficult to make in bulk without a machine. The countertop Opal model from GE measures 15.2 x 14.2 x 17.2 inches and is smartly designed with a water reservoir that refills itself if ice begins to melt, minimizing water waste.
The machine yields ice in as little as 20 minutes and can produce a total of 24 pounds in one day, holding up to 3 pounds at once. The Opal is also equipped with Bluetooth controls, so you can manage its production from your mobile device with the free GE Profile Opal app.
Best Budget: Magic Chef 27-Lb. Portable Countertop Ice Maker
Not only is this Magic Chef ice maker compact enough at 12.9 inches high and 9.5 inches wide to sit out of the way on your kitchen countertop, but at 17.8 pounds it's portable and lightweight to take on the go—whether in your RV or to a friend's house.
No need to ever stop off at the store for ice again when this machine can churn out 27 pounds of ice a day, specifically nine bullet cubes in two sizes (small or large) within 7 minutes. When its storage bin fills up with 1.5 pounds of ice, the user-friendly digital control panel will signal you, or you can just peek at the bin through its clear lid. The machine will also give you a heads-up when the water level is low.
The included ice scoop and the removable storage bin make it easy to either fill up your pitcher or your ice chest. It's also available in five different finishes (black, red, white, silver, stainless steel, and stainless) to better match any decor.
Best for Portability: Igloo Countertop Ice Maker
For those with aesthetics in mind, Igloo’s retro-inspired countertop ice maker is an excellent option. In seven minutes, this 9.6 x 14.7 x 12.4-inch mini machine makes nine small or large bullet cubes and can produce up to 26 pounds of ice daily (the inner basket can also store 2 pounds at once).
Add water (up to 3 quarts), choose your cube size using the LED-illuminated control panel, and wait for your ice to appear—the ultra-quiet mechanism does all the leg work for you. This countertop ice maker includes an easily removable basket and a scoop for serving. In addition to red, the machine is available in aqua, black, stainless steel and white.
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Best Undercounter: EdgeStar Built-In Ice Maker
This EdgeStar ice maker is both built-in and compact in a stylish, stainless steel and black finish, all at an appealing price point for home and office use. With a front-facing vent and reversible handled door, this unit serves as a functioning freezer for up to 6 pounds of ice at a time and can produce 12 pounds total over the course of 24 hours. This machine is managed with a simple on/off switch and will even shut itself off when the bin is full of ice. At 15 inches wide, 20 inches deep and 26 inches high, this ice maker will easily fit under any countertop.
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Best Countertop: Frigidaire Countertop Ice Maker
Sleek, space-saving and incredibly quiet, the stainless steel Frigidaire countertop ice maker boasts LED-backlit controls, compressor-powered cooling to avoid overheating, and settings for two different ice cube sizes. It's also portable and can be placed anywhere in your kitchen or bar. At 14.5 inches deep, 11.7 inches wide and 15 inches high, this freestanding machine can make ice in less than seven minutes and can produce up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours.
Best for Nugget Ice: NewAir Nugget Ice Maker
Read Full Review: NewAir Nugget Ice Maker Review
Touted as one of the fastest nugget ice makers on the market, this NewAir machine can churn out its first batch of ice in just five minutes. Thanks to a high-power cooling process, it can produce up to 40 pounds of ice per day—all in a compact, countertop body that measures 16.5 x 10.6 x 16.3 inches.
The crunchy, yet chewy nugget ice it makes is perfect for chilling any cocktail or blended beverage. Even more, the interior's extra-thick wall keeps newly made ice insulated. The freestanding machine also features a self-cleaning function and is made of BPA-free parts for clean, safe ice. Plus, its stainless steel exterior will look good on any kitchen countertop.
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Best for a Home Bar: Euhomy 40-lb Portable Ice Maker
Small household ice makers generally churn out bullet or nugget ice. But this one actually produces clear square ice cubes, which quickly chill down a drink but are also denser and slower-melting. Serious cocktail lovers are sure to appreciate that.
At 14.1 by 11 by 13.7 inches, it won't take up too much space, and it's the perfect addition to any busy home bar since it can kick out 24 ice cubes every 12 to 18 minutes, up to 40 pounds of ice cubes every 24 hours. Just make sure to regularly empty the removable basket, which can only store 2.2 pounds of ice at a time. Unlike most ice makers, it is equipped with a water recycling system that filters and reuses ice melt, so no water is wasted.
Best Commercial: hOmeLabs Freestanding Commercial Ice Maker Machine
When you're in the business of making drinks, you need an efficient and speedy ice maker, and the hOmeLabs commercial ice maker will keep up with your demands.
It can produce 45 square ice cubes within 11 to 20 minutes, and 99 pounds in 24 hours. Plus with a storage capacity of up to 29 pounds of ice per cycle, you'll never run low. At 17.6 by 15.7 by 31.4 inches, this freestanding stainless-steel machine can slot in anywhere in your kitchen, cafe or bar. Bonus is that it's not only easy to install, only taking three steps, but its 1.2-liter water tank connects to a water source, facilitating the refill process.
The machine comes equipped with both water supply and water draining hoses, as well as an ice scooper.
You can't go wrong with either of the GE Opal (view at Amazon) and NewAir (view at Amazon) machines, which both produce beautiful nugget ice. The NewAir ice maker is not only the fastest one in the market at 5 minutes per cycle, but its insulated interior keeps your new ice cooler longer. However, the countertop Opal is the way to go for its convenience. It's equipped with a side tank that doubles the capacity of its main 2.4L water reservoir, providing water for three times the amount of ice so you don't have to refill it as often. And its Bluetooth capability and mobile app make it super easy to monitor ice production from your phone.
How do you clean an ice maker?
Begin by unplugging your ice maker. Empty its reservoir of any liquid, either by turning the unit upside-down or opening the drain cap if it's equipped with one. Remove the ice bin and wipe it down with a soft sponge dampened with a bit of vinegar and lukewarm water. Next, wipe the interior with the same sponge and vinegar-water solution. The exterior can simply be wiped down with a wet cloth. Finish up by wiping everything down with a soft, dry cloth. Let your ice maker completely dry for about an hour before reinserting the ice storage bin and plugging in the machine. If your ice maker is equipped with a cleaning cycle option, engage it now. If your ice maker doesn't have this option, allow it to make ice a couple of cycles and throw out the ice.
How does an ice maker work?
Portable ice makers work differently from commercial ones. With most consumer units, water needs to be added to the water reservoir, up to the fill line. The water is then pumped from the reservoir through a water filter to the ice tray. The compressor and fan freeze the water into ice or prongs are lowered into the water and turn very cold. Afterward a warm refrigerant or a heat exchanger heats up the prongs and the ice slides off and falls into the ice basket. Ice makers take about several minutes, anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, to produce ice in one cycle.
How do you fix an ice maker?
If your ice maker isn't producing ice, troubleshoot it before springing for a pro repair. First, check the power cord to verify it's not damaged or unplugged and then make sure the water reservoir isn't empty. If the water sensor says the tank is empty even after you filled it, find the sensor and clean it off to make sure it's not giving a false reading. Another issue could be a blocked water supply line. This is usually due to mineral deposits from hard water. Remove the water filters and thoroughly clean them. Then check the pipes and water lines as well for blockages.
What to Look for
You'll want to choose an ice maker that can keep up with your needs, whether you have a large thirsty household or simply fix a drink for yourself every now and then. Speed of ice production is one thing to look out for, but how much ice is produced depends on the ice maker's size. A compact ice maker's storage bin will only hold a small amount of ice at a time so will need to be emptied more frequently than that of a larger machine.
Types of Ice and Size
Portable ice makers offer a variety of ice shapes, such as bullet, nugget, crescent or cube. Which one suits your needs the best? Are you into tiki or blended drinks? You'll want a machine that produces nugget ice. Or if you prefer stirred drinks, a machine that makes slower-melting cubes is the way to go. And not all ice makers offer different ice size options. But there are a few that can dispense as many as three different sizes.
Type of Ice Maker
Where are you most likely going to need ice? Outside on your patio, in your kitchen or in your restaurant? There are built-in ice makers that not only boast a larger storage capacity but can blend in with the decor or be hidden out of the way under a counter. Countertop models are smaller but handy when you just need extra ice.
Some ice makers not only offer you a variety of ice sizes and ice thickness but an automatic timer to set when you want your ice ready. Also, if you aren't keen on scrubbing down your ice maker regularly, there are machines that come with a self-cleaning feature. For one-stop drinking, consider machines that work as both a water dispenser and ice maker.
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This roundup was updated by Caroline Pardilla, a cocktail writer and Instagrammer who has that condition where she can't drink a cocktail until after she takes a picture of it first.
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