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All but the most basic refrigerators are equipped with an ice maker these days, but for some, their modest output just isn’t enough. Anyone who regularly entertains, crafts cocktails in a home bar, or simply doesn’t want to fuss with inconvenient ice trays or huge, melting bags of store-bought ice will be well-served by a dedicated ice maker.
Ice makers meant for household use generally fall into two broad categories: countertop models that are small and light, and built-in, under-counter models that can fit in right alongside a wine cooler or other larger appliances. Here are our top picks for both styles of ice makers.
Makes ice quickly
Self-cleaning feature and timer
Large and heavy
Having an ice maker at home can be a worthwhile investment if you entertain a lot or have a large family. Most refrigerators are able to produce ice, but it's not as efficient as having a dedicated ice maker. Whether you're replacing an existing ice machine or looking to buy one for the first time, the NewAir 50 lb. Portable Ice Maker is a great choice.
Small but powerful, this ice maker can produce up to 50 pounds of ice each day, and 12 pieces in 13 minutes, so you’ll have a ready supply for cocktails, soda water, or any other beverage! You can choose one of three different ice sizes and set the 18-hour timer to make ice on your schedule. Indicator lights let you know when you need to add water or when the removable ice bin is full, and an ice scoop is included for easy serving.
Reviewers like the fact that this machine doesn't require much maintenance (it has a self-cleaning mode) and produces ice really fast. They also say that it looks sleek and modern.
Three ice cube size settings
No self-cleaning feature
A little smaller than our top pick (NewAir's 50 lb model) but still plenty powerful, this ice maker can produce up to 28 pounds of ice each day while taking up less space on your countertop. It can churn out 9 pieces of bullet-shaped ice in as little as 6 minutes so you won't have long to wait for fresh ice cubes to chill your favorite beverages or create an ice bath to quickly cool blanched veggies or hard-boiled eggs!
There are three ice cube sizes to choose from and an indicator light to let you know when it's time to add more water. Unlike its larger cousin, it doesn't have a self-cleaning mode so you'll have to unplug it and empty it to clean it the old fashioned way. Reviewers like that this ice maker is easy to use, portable for travel and camping trips, and consistent.
Makes thick ice
Three different size settings
No timer or self-cleaning function
Could be more compact
Ice storage isn’t refrigerated
According to customers, the Frigidaire Portable Countertop Ice Maker is a “game changer.” Though it's smaller in size (11.70 x 14.44 x 14.88 inches), this model still produces an impressive 26 pounds of ice per day, and you can choose between small, medium, or large cubes. The cubes are nice and thick, so they won't melt too fast, and the ice production is quiet and efficient.
Running at only 38 decibels, you'll barely notice any noise coming from this machine. Other notable features include an interior bin which can store more than 2 pounds of ice, an ice shovel, digital control panel, and see-through window so users can monitor ice production without having to open the lid. Plus, the stainless steel exterior is sleek and modern, so it won't be an eyesore on your kitchen countertop.
Makes chewable nugget ice quickly
Easy to use and clean
Syncs to smartphone
Not a dupe for Sonic ice
If you're not familiar with nugget ice, it's a soft and chewable type of ice that's best used for blended drinks like smoothies and frozen margaritas (if you're looking for an easy margarita recipe, try one of these margarita mixes). Nugget ice is also great for blended cocktails as it will keep your mixture cooler for a longer period of time and won't dilute the flavors.
For a top-rated nugget ice maker that has plenty of convenient features, we recommend the FirstBuild Opal Nugget Ice Maker. It produces 1 pound of ice nuggets per hour, and the bin can hold up to 3 pounds. The clear bin lets you see how much ice you have available and it’s easy to pull forward when scooping ice (ice scoop included). The bin is also insulated to keep the ice cold, but as it inevitably melts the ice maker will sense the lower level of ice and automatically make more.
Looking to control your ice maker from your smartphone? The Opal Nugget is also equipped with Bluetooth technology so you can use your phone to adjust the controls. Download the FirstBuild app and set up a schedule that you can monitor or adjust on-the-go. It doesn't get any easier than that!
Makes nugget ice quickly
Works indoors or outdoors
Door panel sold separately
The perfect addition to your kitchen or home bar, this ice maker can be installed under a cabinet or used as a freestanding unit. If you don't have enough room indoors, install this unit in the garage or on a patio. The largest machine on our list (in terms of dimensions), it's capable of producing 56 pounds of nugget ice per day and can hold up to 26 pounds of ice that will be kept cool until you're ready to use it. An automatic shutoff stops ice production when the bin is full and internal LED lighting illuminates the ice bin so you can check your supply when you need to. This has a gravity drain, but an optional pump drain is included if it’s required for your installation.
Customers say that this ice maker is quiet and produces nuggets quickly, but several reviewers were unhappy that it doesn't come with a door and requires an additional purchase to complete the unit. On the plus side, it gives you the opportunity to choose the door color that works best for your kitchen.
Makes ice quickly
Ice might need to be broken up
This machine can make thicker or thinner cubes simply by pressing the “–“ and “+” buttons (up to 6 for the largest) for different thicknesses of ice. It makes 24 cubes per cycle, and each cycle takes 12-18 minutes, but freezing time can be adjusted using the timer if desired. This can make up to 40 pounds of ice per day, so it can keep up with a family’s ice needs all day as it continuously churns out new ice.
There are sensors and indicators that show when the ice basket is full and when the water reservoir is empty, and it automatically stops making ice when the basket is full. Ice that is unused and melts goes through a filter for better-tasting ice before it returns to the reservoir and is used to make new ice.
Makes ice quickly
Can make small or large cubes
This portable ice maker will sit neatly on the counter, making up to 27 pounds of ice in a day. It makes 9 cubes in every 7-minute cycle, so you’ll have ice for the first drink quickly, while it continuously works on making more for parties and events.
This can be set to make either small or large cubes, and a see-through window makes it easy to check the ice level. Unused ice simply melts away and the water drains into the water reservoir where it will be frozen again, or it can be easily emptied if no more ice is needed.
This has a removable ice basket that makes it simple to retrieve the finished ice to use or stockpile in the freezer. A scoop is included to collect smaller amounts. This is also available in several colors.
Ice melts quickly
Built for commercial use, this freestanding ice maker is perfect for those who host sizable parties or barbecues, or need to fill large coolers for tailgating or other events. It can make up to 99 pounds of ice in 24 hours, and it can store 29 pounds of ice at one time, so you'll always have plenty on hand. The thickness of the ice and freezing time can be adjusted by pressing the plus or minus buttons on the control panel, so you can customize the size and frequency of ice depending on your needs. Despite its high output, it only measures 17.6 x 15.7 x 31.4 inches, so you can easily place it in your kitchen or pantry without it taking up too much space.
Customers praise the easy setup (it has a 1.2-liter water tank that you need to connect to a water supply and drain) and say it generates a massive amount of ice. A water supply hose, a water draining hose, and an ice scoop are included with this model.
The NewAir 50 lb. Portable Ice Maker is our top pick because of its large capacity and how quickly it makes ice. Plus, it boasts a sleek design. Looking for something smaller? The portable Frigidaire Compact Counter Top Ice Maker is a good bet. It makes thick ice that won't melt quickly and has three ice cube size settings.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie is a cookbook author, as well as a writer and product tester for The Spruce Eats, specializing in all the latest kitchen gadgets. She's tested over 90 products for the brand.
This roundup was updated by Sharon Lehman, a home cook who happens to be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She happily makes space for any gadget that make cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.
Size: Ice makers come in a wide variety of sizes, from small countertop models to some that require significant floor space. Do you want to set up that countertop model in the kitchen every time you have a party, or do you prefer to keep a large one operating at all times in the garage?
Speed: How quickly do you need your ice? Whether you prefer to make a lot of ice ahead of time or want a constant supply flowing will determine how important speed is. Some machines can supply the first ice quickly, so you can get the party started, but if you don’t have sufficient storage space for ice, it’s wise to get an ice maker that can keep up with hourly demand.
Ice storage capacity: If your ice maker can produce a lot of ice quickly, but it can’t hold much, you’ll need to keep removing the ice and storing it elsewhere. That’s great if you’re planning ahead and you can check the machine regularly, but a machine with a larger storage capacity might be able to hold enough ice so you’ll never need to unload it to make more room.