What We Like
Makes ice fast
Large uniform pellets melt slower
Self-cleaning and timer functions
What We Don't Like
Takes up space
When you don’t have an in-fridge ice maker, running out of ice is a frequent struggle. Even if you do have one, they only make about 3 to 6 pounds per day. If you live in a warm climate, like to entertain, or are just one of those people who consume ice like it’s a major food group, a portable countertop ice maker is your friend. It can produce ice all day long, freezing a batch in as little as six minutes, and you won’t have to clear out space in your freezer for a giant bag from the store. But keep in mind, the smaller the ice maker, the smaller the output, which is why big-time ice consumers should consider one that’s generously sized, like the NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker. NewAir got its start 15 years ago, specializing in portable air conditioners and coolers, and today its expanded lineup includes a range of portable ice makers. The 50-pound model is fairly big and heavy, but it produces a whopping 50 pounds of ice per day.
Is it worth all the precious countertop real estate it takes up? We cleared out some cookbooks and coffee paraphernalia in our crowded, galley-style kitchen to make way for the appliance. Then we plugged it in, filled it up, and waited to see if its seemingly never-ending supply of fresh ice could justify its hulking presence. Read on to find out.
Performance: Large, thick ice bullets
The NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker perfectly fills the niche between a big, expensive commercial ice maker and one better suited for home use. It produces 50 pounds of ice per 24 hours, which is about double what smaller and more compact home countertop ice makers can produce. Its fan is about as quiet as a computer fan, and even the sound of the ice cubes dropping in the tray is fairly muted.
Finding space on the countertop was the hardest part of using this appliance. We managed to clear an area near a standard three-prong outlet, then we plugged it in, filled up the reservoir to the shelf that holds the ice basket, and waited just six minutes as promised for the first batch to be ready.
The first time we used the machine, the ice was great right off the bat, and it got even thicker by the second batch as the evaporators had more time to get the coolant flowing. A different time we used it, we had it placed near our gas range and turned it on while we were heating something up. We noticed that the first batch of ice was far smaller and skinnier than usual, likely due to the hot air near the appliance. That’s why the manufacturer recommends not placing the machine in direct sunlight or near heat sources. The ambient heat really does make a difference.
The first time we used the machine, the ice was great right off the bat, and it got even thicker by the second batch as the evaporators had more time to get the coolant flowing.
The manufacturer says the reservoir holds 24 cups, but we could only fit about 16 before it reached the bottom of the ice basket. We wondered if 24 cups might be referring to the amount of water it takes to make 50 pounds of ice. The unit has 12 evaporators, so you’ll get 12 pieces of hollow, bullet-shaped ice in each batch. Bullet ice is the most common shape for home countertop ice makers, but because the ice is hollow it melts a bit faster than ice cubes. Luckily, the NewAir has small, medium, and large settings. The size relates to the thickness of the pellets, and the thicker the ice, the slower it’ll melt. It takes closer to 13 minutes to make the large ice, but we noticed it melted far slower and therefore would be the ideal size for hot summer days.
The ice maker isn’t refrigerated, so eventually, any ice it makes will melt and drip back into the reservoir. However, it does seem better insulated than smaller and more lightweight ice makers we’ve tried; we found that the ice in the basket didn’t melt as fast. After two hours of running the machine on the small-ice setting, we 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. Still, the ice isn’t being made in a freezer-cold environment, so it’s wet on the outside. We packed it into bags and tucked it in the freezer for the next day. The pellets had stuck together a bit, but they were easy to separate.
Design: Large and in charge
Make no mistake: This appliance may be portable, but it’s big, and at nearly 40 pounds, it’s heavy. It’s portable in the sense that it doesn’t have to be permanently plumbed into a water line in order to work. If you really do want to move it, two built-in handles on the side make that easier. Keep in mind, however, that the coolant has to settle for two hours if the machine has been bumped around a bunch.
If you have room for the ice maker to live in your kitchen full-time, its sleek stainless steel body and black lid help it blend in as seamlessly as, say, a microwave. The stainless steel finish does attract fingerprints. If you’d rather have a color, you can find different models in red, blue, orange, and white from the same manufacturer. The window in the lid allows you to keep track of how much ice is in the bucket; however, it wasn’t big enough to show us the ice being made.
Since the unit is on the large side, so is the ice basket. You’ll only have to empty it every 2 hours if you’re not using the ice. A little plastic shovel is included. The machine will go through a full reservoir of water about every five hours.
Make no mistake: This appliance may be portable, but it’s big, and at nearly 40 pounds, it’s heavy.
The touchpad on the front has a power button, self-cleaning button, timer button, and toggle ice selection button. The LCD display shows symbols to indicate when the power is on, which size of ice is selected, the time remaining on the timer, the self-cleaning mode, when water needs to be added, when the ice bucket is full, and if there’s a problem.
To drain away excess water after using, there’s a plug on the left side. This is great if your ice maker sits on the right-hand side of your sink, but if not you’ll have to heft it over there to drain it, or turn and maneuver it to the edge of the counter and position a bowl beneath it. Some other ice makers we tested position the plug under the unit, which is easier because we could simply scoot the unit forward a few inches to drain into a bowl.
Several really useful features set the NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker apart from budget models. First, you can choose between three sizes, or thicknesses, of ice. Even the smallest size is robust enough to effectively cool down a drink without melting away in minutes. When we wanted it to last even longer, we chose the medium size. And for the hottest days, when you really wanted the ice to stick around a while, the largest size was the way to go.
There’s also a timer function that can delay the start of ice-making by one to 18 hours, or you can set it to stop the ice maker after one to 18 hours. When we wanted to wake up to a fresh batch of ice or wanted it waiting for us when we got home from school and work, we just set the timer. It also worked great for when we knew we’d be leaving the house later in the day and didn’t want to have to remember to turn it off before we left. We just set it to shut off after a few hours. The only downside is we had to remember for each use; you can’t simply set a specific time, like a coffee maker.
In addition, the NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker has a self-cleaning function that makes cleaning the inside of the appliance a lot easier. It’s a five- to six-minute cycle that skips the freezing process. According to the manual, you fill the reservoir with a 1:1 mix of water and vinegar, let the cycle do its thing, then drain the mixture. Refill with fresh water (no vinegar) and run the self-cleaning cycle again to rinse out any vinegar-y residue. Drain and either add water and start making ice or dry thoroughly (so it doesn’t grow mold or mildew) and store.
Price: A bit pricey
With a retail price around $270, the NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker is something of an investment. Cheaper countertop ice makers with a smaller capacity and fewer features cost about half that. But if you want an ice maker that can keep up with the demands of a large group, whether that’s at an office or a backyard party, the NewAir can really push out a large amount of thick, high-quality ice in very little time. And the timer and self-cleaning features come in handy. The price is in line with similar ice makers that have the same features and capacity.
NewAir 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker vs. Whynter IMC-490SS Portable Ice Maker
Both the NewAir and the Whynter portable ice makers can crank out three sizes of hollow, bullet-shaped ice, all day long. And both have nearly the same capacity. They even look almost identical, though the Whynter is completely stainless steel, even on the top, while the NewAir has a black top.
They both offer self-cleaning functions and a timer function. NewAir allows users to set it in one-hour increments up to 18 hours, while Whynter offers half-hour increments up to 18 hours. But the NewAir is about an inch narrower than Whynter, and it freezes ice on the smallest setting in under seven minutes. The Whynter takes ten minutes at the smallest setting.
Great for ice fanatics who have space
If you’re looking for a portable ice maker that can keep up with the demands of an ice-loving lifestyle, the NewAir is a solid bet. In about 20 minutes, it can make enough ice to nearly fill a pint glass, or you can let it run all day and have 50 pounds to pull from, plenty to fill the glasses of a large household or even an office throughout the day. Size-wise, it’s a bit of a commitment, but if you have space, this ice maker won’t disappoint.
- Product Name 50-lb. Portable Ice Maker
- Product Brand NewAir
- SKU 854001004068
- Price $269.95
- Weight 37.6 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 17 x 16 x 14 in.
- Color Stainless steel, red, blue, orange, and white
- Ice Output 50 lbs. per 24 hours
- Voltage 115 volts
- Warranty Limited 1 year