Do you find yourself waiting desperately for your ice trays to freeze? Have you ever hauled yourself to the corner store to purchase a big bag of ice? Perhaps an ice maker is a thoughtful addition to your home. These on-counter appliances turn a tray of water into dozens of ice cubes in a short period of time and continue to turn out ice as they run. If you go through a fair bit of ice, it saves you all that waiting time.
But an ice maker isn’t an essential appliance. If you only use, say, a tray or two a week, a stand-alone ice maker will only take up room in your home. Curious about whether an ice maker is a good investment for you? Read on.
What is an ice maker?
An ice maker is a stand-alone appliance unit that creates ice cubes. Essentially you plug the unit in, fill it with ice, and it’ll craft ice cubes of various sizes in a matter of time. It’s useful if you’re having people over and need many ice cubes. Just plug it in before a party, and the machine will continue to produce fresh ice throughout the evening. It’s an easier alternative to buying bags of gas station ice or relying on ice trays from the fridge.
How do you use an ice machine?
It’s a simple procedure. Place the ice machine on your counter, plug it in, and fill it with the required amount of water. Turn it on, select the size of ice, if the machine allows, then the ice machine will start turning out crisp, cold fully formed ice. From there, just make sure you’re refilling as needed and emptying the tray when the ice is made.
Luma Comfort Clear Ice Cube Maker
This countertop ice maker earned top marks for its high-volume ice production and its ability to be silent and fast. It has a 10-cup water capacity and produces a high quantity of ice in a short amount of time—beneficial if you’re hosting a good-sized group. What also won us over was the push-button controls and LED display that notifies you when the water is low or the ice tray is full. While it’s on the pricier side, it produces clear, restaurant-quality ice.
Frigidaire EFIC103 Countertop Ice Maker
This excellent ice maker makes large cubes, ideal for making craft cocktails. It’s a larger machine, it’s ultra quiet to use, and, most importantly, it produces thick ice pellets in under eight minutes. It’s not a particularly fancy unit, but its high functionality (speed, design, and features) and light weight makes this one of our top-rated ice units.
Your refrigerator can only produce between 3 and 6 pounds of ice a day. So when looking for a freestanding ice maker, you’re going to want one that can produce far and above what your standard fridge can. Many ice makers can produce over 20 pounds of ice a day; more if they’re larger in capacity. In addition to output, consider the size of the reservoir, how much ice fits in a tray, and how often you will need to refill the unit.
One of the most important factors when deciding whether to purchase a stand-alone ice maker is: do you have the space? It’s going to take up a fair amount of room on your counter (or home bar) so ensure you’re okay with bringing it out when needed and you have sufficient space to store it when not in use. Some units are larger than others, so if you live in a condo or a smaller-footprint home, consider a smaller unit.
There are basic ice machines: ones that simply offer basic ice output. If you’re pickier about your ice, other machines have the option of choosing between small, medium, or large ice. Outside of those functions, other units do offer self-cleaning functions and timers—pick when you want your ice maker to start turning out ice. (Think: just before you wake up in the morning for the perfect iced coffee or just before your guests arrive.)
Should I buy an ice maker?
An ice maker is a perfect tool for an entertainer. Instead of lugging bags home from the grocery store or waiting desperately for blocks to firm up in your freezer, an ice maker will be an excellent host’s assistant. But if you’re not someone who entertains a lot or if you rarely find yourself reaching into your freezer, an ice maker may be cumbersome and take up valuable space on your countertop or in your cupboard.
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Kate Dingwall is an experienced wine writer and working sommelier, who has her BarSmarts and WSET certification. She has been writing about the bar, spirits, and food worlds for eight years, including extensive coverage on kitchen tools and how to use them.