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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 right alongside a wine cooler or other larger appliances. You should consider how often you'll want to use your ice maker, how quickly it can produce ice, and how much ice it can hold at one time before making a purchase—especially because some of these machines can get pricey.
Here are our picks for both styles of the best ice makers.
Best Overall: NewAir 50-Pound Portable Ice Maker
Makes ice quickly
Self-cleaning feature and timer
Large and heavy
Whether you're replacing an existing ice machine or looking to buy one for the first time, the NewAir 50-Pound 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 7 minutes, so you’ll have a ready supply for cocktails, soda water, or any other beverage—although our tester reported it takes closer to 13 minutes for ice at the largest setting. 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. Eventually, the ice will melt since the bin is not refrigerated, but our tester said it was better insulated than other smaller ice maker models she's tried.
This machine doesn't require much maintenance (it has a self-cleaning mode) and produces ice really fast—leave it running for 2 hours on the small setting and you'll have a full bin, according to our reviewer. Just be prepared to give up some counter space. It's portable, but at around 40 pounds, it's a serious machine that you won't want to move around all the time.
If you don't need quite as much ice, or if you prefer clear cubed ice as opposed to the bullet-shaped pellet ice of the NewAir 50-Pound model, NewAir's ClearIce40 machine is similar (although it doesn't have the self-cleaning function) and less expensive.
Dimensions: 17.2 x 15.3 x 16.5 inches | Weight: 37.6 pounds | Output: 50 pounds/day
"After two hours of running the machine on the small-ice setting, I had a full basket of ice. And aside from that first skinny batch, it was almost all the same size; no tiny melty pieces that had been withering away the whole time." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best for Nugget Ice: GE Opal Nugget Ice Maker
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. 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 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 much easier than that.
While our reviewer said the Opal doesn't churn out an exact replica of some of the more famous nugget ice from chains like Sonic, she tested it out with a wide variety of drinks, and was pleased overall. In taste testings, the ice definitely soaked up some of the flavor of the drink it was in and was soft and easy to chew.
Note: FirstBuild is a co-creation community backed by GE Appliances with a goal to get products to market faster with the input of consumers from the beginning. This global community was behind the development of the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, which launched in FirstBuild's first year (2014-2015). Products are then scaled up to large-scale production in GE’s factories, which is why you might sometimes see this product listed as GE Opal Nugget Ice Maker and others as FirstBuild Nugget Ice Maker.
Dimensions: 16.5 x 10.5 x 15.5 inches | Weight: 47 pounds | Output: 24 pounds/day
"[The ice is] easy to chew and works well in all sorts of drinks. I tried it in everything from soda and cocktails to a copycat recipe for Sonic Cherry Limeade, and I liked that it soaks up a little of the drink’s taste." — Camryn Rabideau, Product Tester
Best Customizable: Euhomy 40-Pound Countertop Ice Maker Machine
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 six for the largest) for different thicknesses of ice. It makes 24 cubes per cycle, and each cycle takes 12 to 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.
Dimensions: 14.1 x 11 x 13.7 inches | Weight: 19.96 pounds | Output: 40 pounds/day
"For mixed drinks, I prefer 1-inch square cubes, not crushed ice. The problem with crushed ice is by the time you’ve poured the drink, half the ice is gone." — Andy Currie, Mixologist at Hopleaf Bar in Chicago
Best Compact: NewAir Countertop 28-Pound Ice Maker
Three ice cube size settings
No self-cleaning feature
A little smaller than our top pick, 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 nine 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.
Dimensions: 13.75 x 11.75 x 14.6 inches | Weight: 24.3 pounds | Output: 28 pounds/day
Best for Bullet Ice: Frigidaire EFIC103 26-Pound Freestanding Ice Maker
Large thick ice pellets
Three sizes of ice
No self-cleaning cycle
Ice storage isn’t refrigerated
Bullet ice, also sometimes called hollow cube ice, is more cylindrical in shape than nugget ice and works great in everything from soda to mixed drinks—making it ideal for a party. This Frigidaire model makes some of the largest, thickest bullet ice we've found from a countertop ice maker, and it does it quickly. The Frigidaire EFIC103 can churn out 26 pounds a day, and in our tests, made a batch of nine in just 8 minutes. And because the ice is so large and thick, a little goes a long way. Our reviewer reported that this machine produced "hollow, bullet-shaped ice as thick and as fast as brands that cost twice the price."
The ice maker can store 2.2 pounds of ice at a time, but like most models, the bucket that holds the ice sits above the water in the reservoir so it will eventually melt. While this one isn't as well-insulated as some higher-end models, our tester still found it adequate. In terms of customization, you have your choice of three ice sizes (small, medium, large), and our tester noted that the size corresponded to thickness rather than length.
Dimensions: 14.4 x 14.9 x 11.7 inches | Weight: 24 pounds | Output: 26 pounds/day
"The pieces are so chunky, we found it only took two batches of ice to fill a pint glass. With other brands we tried, it took three batches of ice to have enough to fill a glass." — Danielle Centoni, Product Tester
Best Commercial: hOmeLabs Freestanding Commercial Ice Maker Machine
Ice melts quickly
Built for commercial use, this freestanding ice maker is perfect for barbecues. 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.
And if you're looking for an even more heavy-duty commercial ice maker, hOmelabs makes one with a 143-pound/day output.
Dimensions: 17.6 x 15.7 x 31.4 inches | Weight: 62.4 pounds | Output: 99 pounds/day
Best Undercounter: GE 15-Inch Built-In 56-Pound Freestanding Ice Maker
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.
Dimensions: 22.75 x 33.38 x 14.88 inches | Weight: 112 pounds| Output: 56 pounds/day
Best Budget: Magic Chef MCIM22B 27-Pound Portable Ice Maker
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 nine cubes in every 7-minute cycle, so you’ll have ice for the first drink quickly, while it continuously works on making more.
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.
Dimensions: 14.1 x 12.9 x 9.5 inches | Weight: 17.8 pounds | Output: 27 pounds/day
Best for Clear Cubes: Merax Sentern Portable Electric Clear Ice Maker
Can make small, medium, or large cubes
Makes up to 48 pounds of ice per day
Takes just 15 minutes to make first batch
Produces sheets that need to be broken down
Small enough to move on and off the counter, this impressive unit can make up to 48 pounds of ice per day, and it holds nearly 2.4 pounds for easy retrieval. Unlike other machines on this list, the Sentern Ice Maker only produces clear cubes—not bullet-shaped ice. You can choose from small, medium, or large cubes by adjusting the cooling time, and depending on the size you choose the first batch of ice will be done in about 15 minutes. The clear, dense cubes melt slowly, keeping your cocktails cold without diluting them. Other handy features include a digital control panel for easy programming, a see-through window so you can monitor ice production, and a stain-resistant exterior.
If there's one downside to this machine, it's that the ice drops off in a sheet and you have to break up the individual cubes yourself. Some say it's also slower to produce ice, but it makes a lot during each cycle so it's not a huge problem.
To improve the taste of your ice, a countertop water filter may help purify and clarify the water you're using.
Dimensions: 11.2 x 14.4 x 13.8 inches | Output: 48 pounds/day
"For cocktails, ice shape is a personal preference. I prefer square cubes, but it’s a visual preference. There are 1 1/2-inch round cubes that look great in a glass, but drinking out of the glass is weird because you have this large piece of ice." — Andy Currie, Mixologist at Hopleaf Bar in Chicago
What to Look for When Buying an Ice Maker
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 need to fill drinks for the family, or do you prefer to keep a large one operating at all times in the garage?
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.
How do countertop ice makers work?
While models are different, in general the ice makers start by pumping water into the molds that make the ice. The ice maker monitors the freezing progress and when the ice in the molds is frozen, the molds are heated slightly so the ice releases easily and can be ejected into the storage bin. The process repeats as long as there is water available and/or there is space in the bin for more ice.
Do portable ice makers need a water line?
Since they’re meant to be easy to move around, most portable ice makers have a reservoir for water, and don’t need a dedicated water line. However, there are some commercial units that home users might choose that do require a water line, and perhaps a drain as well.
What is nugget ice?
Nugget ice might look like crushed ice, but it’s quite different. Crushed ice starts with large cubes and is crushed into smaller pieces. Nugget ice is made from flakes of ice that are compacted to form the nuggets. If you bite into crushed ice, it’s hard and solid. Nugget ice shatters.
What is bullet ice?
Bullet ice is cylinder-shaped with one rounded end, so it looks like a large bullet. Often, the cylinder is hollow, which means there’s more surface space, so drinks chill faster. Bullet ice is often cloudy or white, so it may not be as attractive for clear drinks.
Do any countertop ice makers keep ice frozen?
Most countertop ice makers do not have a freezer compartment for ice storage. While the bins may be insulated, the ice will still eventually melt. The water then drains back into the water reservoir so it can be frozen again. Larger and more expensive ice makers may include a freezer section that will keep ice frozen.
Do countertop ice makers use a lot of electricity?
It depends on the model, but ice makers do not typically use a lot of power. The draw can vary depending on what the ice maker is doing—freezing, pumping, or heating the molds—and the range is fairly wide, from 50 to 160 watts, with an average of 100 watts per hour.
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. She interviewed Andy Currie, Mixologist at Hopleaf Bar in Chicago, as part of her research for this roundup.
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 makes cooking faster and easier and specializes in small kitchen appliance testing and reviews for The Spruce Eats.