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- An ice maker can be a useful purchase if your fridge doesn’t have one built-in. They’re also great in RVs and on boats.
- Countertop ice makers are inexpensive, efficient, and easy to store (we have other, larger picks below, too).
- We’ve found that the best ice maker on the market right now is the compact Frigidaire EFIC108. Unlike many others within its price range, it can produce two different sizes of ice cubes.
- You may also want to consider a nugget ice maker if you’re looking to make smoothies or cocktails that can be easily diluted by adding regular crescent ice.
- Read more: This ice shaver is a hit with my kids and makes dessert inexpensive, easy, and maybe even a little healthier
While many modern freezers come equipped with built-in ice makers, those of us who are working with older or more streamlined refrigerators typically have to rely on ice cube trays. And while this method is perfectly fine for chilling a pitcher of lemonade or whipping up two or three frozen margaritas, anything that requires a larger amount of ice — like packing a cooler, filling a champagne bucket, or whipping up two or three batches of frozen margaritas — requires a run to the grocery store, where a 7-pound bag of ice costs about $3.
So, with small countertop ice machines running about $100, investing in one isn’t a half-bad idea — especially if you like having multiple options when it comes to ice cube sizes. A portable ice maker is also a solid investment if you own an RV or boat (even more so if you fish and need to keep those catches cold). Before you buy, here are the main types of ice makers to consider:
It’s worth pointing out that nearly all countertop ice makers are remarkably similar, and often come from the same manufacturer, regardless of the brand. Most have the same guts, the same design, and they all make the same ice, more or less. They’re rudimentary machines, and you probably can’t go wrong.
Standalone — commonly referred to as “commercial” — ice makers are the biggest and best ones you can get. They’re pricey, but they last with a bit of servicing, and they’re what hotels, restaurants, and bars rely on for a reason.
Full-size standalone ice makers are a bit much for most private users. For the home, an “under-counter” version will offer the same quality at about half the size, tucking under your countertop. It’s still spendy, but it’s worth the initial investment since cheaping out on an ice machine can often be a lot more costly in the end (think poor drainage, mold, and having to repair your kitchen floor). If your budget is limited, either buy a simpler countertop machine or stick with ice trays for the time being.
We’re currently working on testing more ice machines here at Business Insider, but below you’ll find the results of hours of online research, and some degree of testing.
Here are the best ice makers you can buy:
- Best ice maker overall: Magic Chef MCIM22W
- Best high-output countertop ice maker: NewAir Portable Ice Maker
- Best portable nugget ice maker: FirstBuild Opal Nugget Countertop Ice Maker
- Best freestanding ice maker: Manitowac Air-Cooled Undercounter Dice Cube Ice Machine
Updated 6/18/20 by Owen Burke: Our former top pick, the Vremi Ice Maker, is unavailable, so we swapped it with the Magic Chef MCIM22W, which has the same components on the inside and makes slightly more ice (27 pounds within a 24-hour period, compared the Vremi’s 26). We’re also testing the Igloo ICEB26BK to see if it serves us better and is worth the extra money, but we stand by the Magic Chef for now. Prices and links are up to date at the time of publishing.
Options trading The best ice maker overall
Countertop ice makers are by and large all the same on the inside, including Magic Chef’s portable MCIM22W, which produces 27 pounds of ice per day. But unlike many others within its price range, it can produce two different sizes of ice cubes.
For most people, a countertop ice maker like Magic Chef’s will do the trick without taking up too much counter space. And for whatever reason, almost all countertop ice machines are made by the exact same manufacturer (our former top picks from Frigidaire and Vremi included), meaning most of them have the same components underneath the casing.
The only differences are the interface, the shape, and the fact that some models (like the Magic Chef) have the ability to make two different sizes of cubes. The Magic Chef is also, on average, a few minutes faster than the Vremi, producing 27 pounds of ice per day to that brand’s 26. It churns out nine bullet-shaped ice cubes every seven minutes, and if you forget to empty the ice tray, it gets recycled back into fresh ice.
At 14.1 inches deep, 12.9 inches high, and 9.5 inches wide, the MCIM22W will fit on most countertops with overhanging cabinets, and because it’s fairly square in shape, you also shouldn’t have much trouble storing it away when you don’t want to use it (other ice makers are more bulbous and non-stackable).
Pros: Makes two types of ice, relatively small, easily stowable
Cons: Some owners complain about soft ice
Options trading The best high-output countertop ice maker
The NewAir Portable Ice Maker can make 50 pounds of ice per day right from the convenient location of your countertop. Chances are that you won’t find yourself having to dash out to the store for backup ice.
Most of us don’t need a huge freestanding ice machine. They’re big, noisy, and probably make more ice than any of us really need in the first place. Something small and stowable that can augment what we have going on in our freezers is all we need.
The NewAir Portable Ice Maker produces three different sizes of ice, generating 12 bullet-shaped cubes every 13 minutes, and has a maximum output of 50 pounds of ice per day. Chances are that you won’t find yourself having to dash out to the store for backup ice, even when you’re hosting guests.
There’s also a self-cleaning mechanism and an 18-hour timer, which you may or may not use, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
We haven’t tested this machine yet, but it’s the editors’ top pick over at the Spruce Eats, and if it runs as well as the Vremi Ice Machine we tried, we’re confident it’s worth buying based on its size, output, self-cleaning function, and the variety of cubes it offers.
One thing we’ll say of all these countertop machines is that it’s a good idea to remove ice and stick it in a bag in your freezer as soon as possible, to keep it from melting while it’s sitting in the tray; many ice makers (NewAir’s included) are not refrigerated.
At 16.88 inches wide, 14.25 inches deep, and 16.75 inches high, this a much larger machine than the Vremi, and it weighs 37.6 pounds, which is 14 pounds heavier than the Vremi — certainly a consideration. Make sure you’ve got the space for this thing.
Pros: Produces a lot of ice for its size, produces three sizes of ice, has a self-cleaning mechanism
Cons: Not tiny, not refrigerated (again, move ice to the freezer)
Options trading The best portable nugget ice maker
Nugget ice, which is chewable, is said to be all the rage. If that’s something you’re into, FirstBuild’s Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker is probably your best bet for a consumer-grade machine.
You can spend thousands on bigger, ostensibly better machines, but how many margaritas are you really making, Jimmy Buffett? Don’t worry, we have a pick for you.
But for those of us waiting for five o’clock right where they are, FirstBuild’s Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker will more than make do.
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Putting out a pound of chewable little clumps of ice per hour and housing around three pounds until it’s full, you’ll be able to take care of you and yours any given night (or day) you see fit.
Nugget ice, by the way, isn’t just for boozy frozen concoctions: it’ll make smoothies without diluting them with too much water, as regular crescent ice would. Of course, it’s really, really great for cocktails for the very same reason.
This ice maker comes with other perks to help justify the price: a corresponding app (which you can download on your smartphone) that lets you set a schedule so that there’s always plenty of ice whenever you want it, a refrigerated storage bin, and a sensor that automatically makes more ice as your supply gets low.
The FirstBuild Opal isn’t exactly small (10.5 inches wide, 15.5 inches deep, 17.2 inches high), but it is squarely shaped (like the Magic Chef, our top pick for most people), which pays off in dividends if you don’t want this thing living on your kitchen counter 24/7.
Pros: High output, easily stowable, helpful corresponding app, sensor that recognizes when your ice supply is getting low, refrigerated storage bin
Cons: Pricey, only makes nugget ice
Options trading The best freestanding ice maker
If you need loads of ice for entertaining or for heading out on an adventure, the Manitowac Undercounter Dice Cube Ice Machine is your ticket. It’s a high-output machine from a longstanding, reputable brand.
Manitowac 26-inch Air-Cooled Undercounter Dice Cube Ice Machine is the big kahuna of home ice machines, bordering on commercial-grade. Yes, it’s almost $2,000, but if what you want is high output and little risk (ice machines can be notoriously troublesome), that’s probably about what you have to spend.
Bigger ice makers require water hookups, which gets you into a whole other set of complications. The best thing to do with machines like this (which are also much louder than countertop ice makers, mind you) is to put them outside, or in your garage. If they can drain freely, you don’t have to worry about them ruining your hardwood floors (don’t you dare keep something like this on a carpet unless you’re looking for an excuse to tear it up).
The Manitowac 26-inch ice machine comes in three sizes based on output: 135 pounds ($1,873), 198 pounds ($1,988), and 290 pounds ($2,674). If you spend a lot of time outdoors or frequently take coolers full of ice along on road trips, this isn’t the wildly unnecessary investment you might think it is.
I, for one, dream of the day I can own one. I fish regularly, and I generally buy about four to six large bags of ice at a time to keep my catch cold, which adds up to something like $12 to $18 a weekend. That’s at least $144 over the course of four months of summer here in the northeastern United States, and that’s not counting incidentals, or the many off-season days or weekends I spend on the water. You could safely double that cost. Provided a machine lasts about 10 years and accounting for the convenience of having it right at home, it’d pay for itself.
Some Amazon reviews suggest that these are loud machines, and they’re probably not wrong. If you’ve ever stayed at a Holiday Inn, you’ve experienced their likes.
The Hull Truth, which is among the definitive boat owner’s online forums, largely lavishes it with praise.
As a side note, if all you want is ice for drinks (lots and lots and lots of drinks), check out the GE 15-inch Built-In Freestanding Stainless Steel Ice Maker. It can either be installed or used as a freestanding piece.
Pros: Makes a ton of ice, manufactured by a longstanding reputable brand
Cons: Pricey, potentially loud (depending on where you store it)
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