Best ice maker – Reviews and Buying tips for 2020

No matter where you are or what you do, during those hot summer days, the one thing you crave and enjoy the most is ice, right? Whether you put it into drinks at a grill party, use it to keep the food cold, or you are a bar owner, ice is a crucial element for a successful gathering. That is why you might want to start looking into an ice maker.

Why should you buy an ice maker instead of some ice bags and a freezer? There are lots of reasons. Think about camping or RV traveling for example: first of all, you would have to constantly stop at gas stations to buy ice packs that you would then store in the freezer, but the probability of running out of ice at one point is very high, not to mention there is only so much space to fit ice packs in the freezer. A more convenient way to ensure you would always have ice on hand is to have a portable ice maker that can make ice for you in minutes. That way, you won’t have to stash and stock your ice bags in the hope that it would be enough to get you through the day.

On the other hand, bar owners have different needs. They would need a large amount of ice to ensure a continuous flow of fresh ice regularly. In this case, a commercial ice maker would be an excellent long-term investment. These machines have higher production capacity, some producing up to 300 pounds of ice in 24 hours, they have bigger storage capacity. They are generally made for professional use (in a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop).

Long story short, there are two main types of ice makers: countertop and under-counter or freestanding ice makers. From here, let’s see what else is worth mentioning to help you choose the right one for your needs.

What are some of the key differences, and what should you know?

Well, depending on where you are and how you plan to use them, ice makers can be very useful. Some may prefer the portable ones that are lightweight and made for traveling, while some people just need a stationary, built-in device in their kitchen. Portable ice makers usually have lower capacity, both in production and storage, but they don’t need professional plumbing or connection to a water line. You just fill the tank with water, and they start producing ice until the bin is full. These usually make bullet-shaped ice, which is chewier and melts easier. Still, they have the advantage of being smaller, lighter in weight, fitting on the countertop, and blending with other kitchen appliances.

Under-counter ice makers are those larger machines that need to be connected to a water line to make ice. They are significantly heavier, but they have higher production capacity and storage, as well as being capable of keeping your ice frozen for a more extended period. They can be built into your kitchen cabinet and can look just like a mini-fridge.

The last one is the commercial ice maker, which is used (as the name says) for commercial purposes. If you own a bar, a restaurant, or a coffee shop, the smarter investment is to buy a larger capacity commercial ice maker. It is designed to be stationary, it is very heavy, but it has a very large capacity both in production and storage and keeps the ice frozen for longer.

A guide on what to look for before buying

Performance

Usually, performance is measured in production capacity versus 24 hours; in other words, how many pounds of ice you get in a day. Depending on your needs and demands, even if you’re looking for something more portable, you will find that the most common capacity is 26 pounds per day in portable ice makers. Always compare price with capacity, because higher price doesn’t necessarily mean higher capacity.

Ice Shape

  • Bullet ice – this is the most common shape for countertop ice makers. This would be great for cocktails, juices, or iced tea, and it is chewy and soft.
  • Square-shaped ice – this is a harder type of ice, ideal for keeping drinks cold for longer. It melts slower, and it is ideal for all kinds of beverages, especially strong alcoholic ones like whiskey or vodka.
  • Crescent ice – this one melts fast, and it is ideal for blended beverages and soft drinks.
  • Nugget ice – this is also a very chewy type of ice, great for blended drinks and soft drinks

Quality

When you spend money on something, you want to make sure that you won’t need to replace it the next month, but not all ice makers are created equal. Look for the ones that are made out of good quality materials like stainless steel, so bacteria, dust, and scratches would stay out of the way.

Features

Some have a self-cleaning option; some have a timer so you can set them to be ready at a specific time, and some have user-friendly LED displays. Look for the ones that are the most comfortable to use and stay away from cheap gimmicks.

Now that you have a better idea about what an ice maker is and what you should look for, let’s look at some of the best ice makers that we found on the market from each category.

If you’re looking for a large capacity ice maker for your bar, coffee shop small restaurant, or just for large RV parties, the hOmeLabs Freestanding Commercial Ice Maker Machine is an excellent choice. It is still significantly smaller than those huge commercial ice makers that you can find but manages to produce either 99 or 143 pounds per day, as you can choose between those two options before buying.

The price is very low compared to other commercial ice makers that can reach up to USD 3000; this one is just above the 400-dollar mark.

It produces clear, square-shaped ice and can make 66 pieces within the first 11-20 minutes. This kind of ice takes longer than others to make, but it is harder and will melt much slower, so it is excellent for alcoholic beverages, as well as keeping bottles or food cooler for longer.

The freestanding, slim form factor gives you more options when it comes to placement so that you can put it under the counter or in a tighter space. It comes with all accessories needed for installation, as it needs to be connected to a water and drain line to function. It is made out of stainless steel, which makes it easy to clean and free of bacteria and future scratches. It also features one LCD control panel, which is easy to use.

Some users mentioned that, if you don’t want to have a sheet of ice instead of separate ice cubes, you have to set the unit like so: take away 5 minutes from the default time that it takes to make each batch of ice cubes. So, set it at -5, and you will have harder individual ice cubes.

Overall, a good option if you own a small business or even if you happen to have a huge home. The production capacity is good, but keep in mind that the storage compartment itself is not refrigerated, so ice will eventually start melting if you don’t take it out. Some users mentioned that the connectors and hoses are a little bit difficult to manipulate and not so high quality, but if it bothers you, you could probably find better ones at the hardware store.

What’s to like:

  • Small form factor while still made for commercial use
  • Produces clear square-shaped ice
  • The excellent price point
  • Easy to use control panel
  • Stainless steel material
  • Possibility to set a timer

What’s not to like:

  • Has no filtration system – you would need to install a filter
  • The connectors and hoses are lower in quality

Did you ever wonder how to get that restaurant-quality, crunchy ice at home? Well, here’s how: buy an ice maker that makes nugget ice. This is a soft, chewy, and, at the same time crunchy experience if you like to chew on ice, of course.

The Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker is a fantastic product: it makes 24 pounds of ice daily, but the best feature is not its capacity. This is not only a beautiful and elegant device to put on display, but it is also a smart one. You can use it to schedule the ice making process via Bluetooth directly from the free app on your phone. This is a very nice feature to have – no more complicated panels and settings, just the comfort of your phone and a Bluetooth connection.

Before we dive into any more details, we have to say that it is pricy but honestly worth every dime for its features and quality materials. It is made out of stainless steel, looks very fancy, and the quality of the nugget ice is just something that you would have to try yourself.

It is heavier than other portable ice makers, at 44 pounds, but that’s why it is designed to go on your countertop seamlessly. Its vertical design allows you to see how much ice is already inside, and the bin can hold 3 pounds at a time, so hurry up, take out the ice, and put it into your delicious cocktails, soft drinks, or fresh juices.

What’s to like:

  • Minimalist, elegant design
  • Stainless steel
  • Sturdy
  • Bluetooth function and control via a dedicated app
  • Soft, crunchy, quality ice

What’s not to like:

  • High price
  • No self-cleaning function

If you intend to buy an ice maker for at-home use, then Vremi Countertop Ice Maker is a great companion for your home bar or countertop, though putting it on a bar would be much better, especially if you don’t have much space on the countertop.

Design-wise, it looks terrific. It’s compact, very minimalistic, and made of stainless steel, which makes it look not only great but also practical, easy to clean, and sturdy. This very simple yet elegant design would fit in with all other appliances. Still, honestly, you can put it anywhere as long as you leave about 6 inches of space around it for proper ventilation.

It produces 26 pounds of ice in a day, which is the standard capacity when it comes to countertop ice makers, and the first batch of ice cubes is ready between 8-10 minutes. Sorry, we said ice cubes the machine produces ice bullets, which is a different type of ice: it is chewier and softer than a clear ice cube, but this type of ice is great for mixed drinks, soft drinks and one bullet is small enough to fit into a water bottle. It comes with a 1.5-pound basket capacity and an ice scoop.

These countertop/home bar ice makers don’t require a water line connection, as they have their water tank, which you would have to refill every once in a while. It has an automatic shut off feature and lights that warn you when the water tank is empty, or the basket is full of ice.

It doesn’t make too much noise and has a clear see-through window, so you always know how much ice is available. It weighs 20,9 pounds, an average weight for a portable machine.

However, it lacks an essential function for some people, and that is the self-cleaning function. Not a significant drawback, but keep in mind that, if you don’t want bacteria or other nasty microbes in your ice bullets, you must maintain it and clean it yourself. Try to use a mixture of water and vinegar when cleaning it and avoid harsh chemicals.

What’s to like:

  • Beautiful, sleek design
  • Stainless steel
  • The fast first batch of ice bullets
  • Easy to use
  • See-through window
  • Good price point

What’s not to like:

  • Has no self-cleaning function
  • Needs 6 inches of space for proper ventilation

If you like to entertain many guests and usually throw big parties, then you probably need lots and lots of ice. The NewAir Portable Ice Maker is a heavy-duty machine, making 50 pounds of ice bullets per day.

It is bulkier than others, but it is perfectly understandable given its large production capacity, and it would be perfect as a residential ice maker.

This one has a convenient feature: self-cleaning. This spares you the trouble of always worrying if your ice bullets are clean enough or not, as it ensures that your ice is always free of sediments. You just add a mixture of water and vinegar, hit a button, and you can use the next batch of ice.

Speaking of batches of ice, the first one is ready in 15 minutes. You have the option to choose between three ice cube sizes: small, medium, and large. This is both handy and versatile, as you can choose small to fit the cubes in a water bottle, or larger cubes to use them in various drinks.

Given its larger form factor, it is a bit heavy, weighing 37.6 pounds, so even if it reads “portable,” it is not a very lightweight product. It has an LED display, and it’s easy to use and select your preferences.

What’s to like:

  • Large capacity 50 pounds/day
  • It has a self-cleaning function
  • You can choose between three ice cube sizes (S/M/L)
  • LED display

What’s not to like:

  • It is pricey
  • It is a bit heavy

Yes, another portable ice maker, this one easily fits on the countertop, even if you don’t have that much space. The hOmelabs Portable Ice Maker is capable of making 26 pounds of ice bullets in 24 hours, but it manages to deliver the first batch in just six minutes. If you are in a hurry and need ice for your beverages fast, this is a plus. This one also comes with an option to choose the ice bullet’s size: small or medium.

Easy to move around, as this ice maker weighs about 19.3 pounds, you can put it on your kitchen countertop or take it with you camping or install it in your RV, as it is small and portable.

It has a see-through lid, so you won’t have to open it to see the ice level continually, and you also get an ice scoop.

We would’ve liked to see a self-cleaning function, but unfortunately, you would have to clean it manually. Also, make sure you are using filtered water for the best results.

At the end of the day, if you don’t need large quantities of ice quickly, you’re looking for a small ice machine that you can quickly move around and don’t want to sacrifice too much space or go through a complicated installing process, this portable ice maker is a great deal. The price is not too high but reasonably affordable for this product category.

What’s to like:

  • Small form factor, portable
  • The fast first batch of ice bullets – ready in six minutes
  • Good price point
  • Has a see-through window on the lid
  • Two ice cube sizes

What’s not to like:

  • Has no self-cleaning function
  • No stainless steel

If you don’t want to sacrifice countertop space, but you have some under your counters, then you can also take a look at an under-counter ice maker.

The EdgeStar IB120SS Built-in Ice Maker is, as we mentioned, an under-counter, as well as a freestanding option. It has a lower capacity of just 12 pounds a day, but the great thing about this one is that apart from being an ice maker, it also operates as a freezer. So yes, this means that unlike other ice makers that make ice that you then must take out quickly to prevent melting, this one keeps the ice frozen until you decide to use it. This is a big plus if you don’t go through pounds of ice quickly, and you prefer to take your time.

It produces relatively small cubes, and the storage tray holds up to six pounds of ice, so half the total production capacity.

It looks just like a mini-fridge or a freezer, and it requires connecting it to a water line. However, it doesn’t require a drain line.

The door can be reversed, and it is made of stainless steel, and the rest of it is black. You can install it in your kitchen, wet bar, or take it with you on the boat and enjoy fresh ice.

The price is very affordable, as you would find that most ice makers that also act like freezers cost more than twice as much, so this is an overall affordable unit.

Overall, users are mostly pleased with the purchase, but some say that it’s not frost-free, so, from time to time, it will need defrosting.

What’s to like:

  • Built-in or freestanding unit
  • Also acts as a freezer
  • No drain line required
  • Quiet, no loud noises

What’s not to like:

  • Small production capacity
  • Not frost-free. It needs defrosting from time to time

If you genuinely desire an ice maker but don’t want to break the bank and you also don’t have significant production needs, then the Frigidaire Portable Compact Ice Maker is an excellent alternative to those expensive and fancy options on the market.

You can choose between four colors: black, copper, red, and silver.

At this reasonable price, it has most of the features that you would need. It produces 26 pounds of ice bullets per day, and the first batch is ready in just six minutes. The storage capacity is 2.64 pounds, and you can choose to have small or large ice bullets. It is lighter than other similar products, at just 17.86 pounds, and it has a small form factor so that it would fit on your countertop, or you could take it with you when you’re traveling.

Don’t expect it to have fancy self-cleaning options, timers, or Bluetooth. This is a simple and straight forward product: it makes ice, and it is very good at this job, so take it for what it is. However, for the price point, it is relatively quiet, producing about 38 decibels, so maybe you won’t be able to sleep in the same room when it’s working, but other than that you probably wouldn’t mind it too much.

The see-through window lets you see the level of ice bullets. However, another aspect worth mentioning is that users pointed out that it doesn’t alert you when the tray is full of ice or the water tank needs to be refilled. Keep this in mind, as you would need to check on it from time to time to see if it needs your attention.

What’s to like:

  • Low-priced, budget-friendly
  • Small, compact size
  • Good production capacity versus size
  • Fast first batch

What’s not to like:

  • No sound alert when the basket is full, or tank is empty
  • No stainless steel option

We hope that by now you have a better idea about the different types of ice makers out there and what to look for before buying one for yourself. Lastly, we thought we could answer some other possible questions that you might still have about the process of ice making and other facts, so enjoy!

What is the difference between the portable, countertop and residential ice makers?

There is not necessarily a specific difference, as all three are in fact portable, meaning they don’t require water or drain line connections in order to function. The difference can be in the fact that, although all of them are technically portable, some of them are bigger in capacity, heavier and require more space around them for proper ventilation, so they are more appropriate for at-home use, therefore, either on a countertop or on a bar.

Can any ice maker keep the ice from melting?

No. Portable ice makers (the ones that don’t require connection to a water and drain line) don’t act like freezers. The ones that are also freezers are either under-counter or commercial ice makers and they are heavier, larger, pricier and require proper installation by a certified plumber.

What is the proper way to clean an ice maker?

Try to clean it with a mixture of water and vinegar, as it is an eco-friendly way to do it, and it doesn’t expose you to the risk of contaminating the water with harsh chemicals. Consult the user’s manual before attempting to clean it by yourself and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, check for parts that are dishwasher safe; if not, wash them by hand.