Which ice maker is best?
Whether you’re making cocktails, whipping up an iced coffee or just enjoying a glass of cold water, it always helps to have plenty of ice in your freezer. You can take a few days to make ice in trays, buy bagged ice at the store or rely on your fridge’s built-in ice maker to make enough batches. But if you need a large amount of ice in a hurry, a countertop ice maker is your best bet.
Most ice makers can usually produce 20 or more pounds of ice in a day. Each batch only requires a matter of minutes to make, too, so you can have loads of ice quickly. If you’re looking for a versatile, high-yield ice maker, the NewAir Countertop Ice Maker is the top option.
What to know before you buy an ice maker
Output and capacity
When shopping for an ice maker, ask yourself how much ice you need your maker to produce. For example, some models can create up to 50 pounds of ice in each 24-hour period, while others can only make 8 ounces of ice at a time.
A large-capacity maker that can produce up to 50 pounds a day is usually your best bet for parties and other social gatherings. With a smaller-capacity machine, you’ll need to make several batches and transfer them to other containers for storage. On the other hand, a large-capacity ice maker can often make enough that you don’t need to move any batches of ice into storage.
For everyday use in your cold beverages, though, a small-capacity ice maker is usually sufficient. It won’t take up as much space on your countertop either, so you can leave it out and use it daily.
Weight and portability
Some ice makers are designed with portability in mind, so you can easily move the machine around. Others are larger and meant to be left in one spot, such as your countertop.
Portable ice makers are usually compact and lightweight, so you can move them freely. They often have handles, too, to make it even easier to carry them from place to place.
Larger ice makers meant to stay in one place can weigh up to 30 pounds, so they obviously aren’t easy to move. They often feature compressor freezer technology, though, so they provide a larger output. If you opt for a small, lightweight ice maker, you’ll sacrifice output for portability.
What to look for in a quality ice maker
Ice types and size
Most ice makers create bullet-shaped ice cubes that have a hollow interior. These cubes work well for chilling beverages or packing food, but they aren’t as clear or dense as most people prefer for cocktails.
Some ice makers can make other ice shapes or textures, though. For example, you can find models that produce nuggets or tubes, dice-shaped cubes, crushed ice, flaked ice or ice pellets.
If ice cube size is also a concern, look for an ice maker that allows you to choose from small, medium and large options. Some reviews suggest that this feature isn’t a must-have, though, because the small cubes can melt quickly, and there isn’t much difference in size between the medium and large cubes.
Ice makers differ in how quickly they can produce ice. Some models have a production cycle of six to seven minutes, while others may require up to 20 minutes to make a batch of ice.
Remember that the advertised production time for a particular ice maker doesn’t always match the actual results. For example, some small models may only require several minutes to make their first batch, but subsequent batches can take longer. On the other hand, a larger ice maker may need 15 to 20 minutes to produce their first batch but can then create subsequent batches in just a matter of minutes.
Many ice makers feature a simple one-button operation, so you only have to press a single button to turn the machine on and begin making ice. These models typically don’t have many special features, which makes them extremely easy to use.
The more features that an ice maker has, though, the more buttons or controls it requires. However, most models with high-end features have digital touchpad controls that are still intuitive and user-friendly.
Some top-of-the-line ice makers offer a timer feature. That allows you to set a time for the machine to turn on and start producing ice. It’s an especially helpful feature if you throw parties regularly — you can set it to turn on a few hours before your event to ensure you have plenty of ice at party time.
Many ice makers have an auto shutoff feature that turns the machine off once the ice basket or chamber is full. That prevents any ice from making its way out onto your counter and melting all over the place.
High-end ice makers sometimes provide a self-cleaning feature. You just add a mixture of water and vinegar to the tank, and the machine cleans itself to remove any mold or mildew, so your ice always tastes fresh.
How much you can expect to spend on an ice maker
Ice makers usually cost $100-$500. For a basic countertop model, you’ll pay $100-$175. A high-end, feature-packed ice maker typically ranges $225-$250. If you want a model with an especially high capacity, though, you’ll generally pay $300-$500.
Ice maker FAQ
What type of maintenance does an ice maker require?
A. It’s essential to clean your ice maker regularly to prevent mold or mildew buildup. Some models have a self-cleaning mode, but for manual cleaning, check your owner’s manual for the proper procedure.
How often should you empty an ice maker?
A. You should empty your machine regularly. While the storage compartment is usually insulated, it’s not refrigerated. That means the ice will eventually start to melt if left in the compartment. It can then refreeze, so all the cubes stick together and jam your machine.
What’s the best ice maker to buy?
Top ice maker
What you need to know: This versatile, high-output ice maker fits easily on most countertops but can still produce up to 50 pounds of ice a day.
What you’ll love: It features BPA-free construction. It can produce a batch of bullet-shaped ice cubes every six minutes. It also offers a self-cleaning feature, a programmable timer and three size options.
What you should consider: It’s more expensive than other models, but it does have plenty of helpful features.
Where to buy: Sold by NewAir
Top ice maker for the money
What you need to know: An excellent value, this ice maker can produce ice quickly and even recycles melted ice to make a fresh batch.
What you’ll love: It can produce nine cubes in under 10 minutes and make up to 26 pounds per day. It has an auto shutoff feature and warning lights when the basket is full to prevent overflow. It also reuses melted ice to create a fresh batch.
What you should consider: The storage basket can’t hold 26 pounds. The sensor for the full basket warning can be tripped accidentally.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Igloo 26-Pound Automatic Portable Countertop Ice Maker Machine
What you need to know: With a clear lid that lets you see when the basket is full, this ice maker makes it easy to keep producing ice for daily use and parties.
What you’ll love: This mixer requires only seven minutes to make nine ice cubes and can produce up to 26 pounds in a day. Its reservoir has a 3-quart capacity. It also offers LED controls for easy operation. The machine offers three size options and has a basket that can hold 2 pounds.
What you should consider: It’s noisier than some other ice makers.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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