In some homes, the built-in ice maker in your freezer or a few ice cube trays just doesn't cut it. Either way, ice production is pretty slow and comes in limited quantities and types of ice. And who wants to regularly take up a big chunk of their freezer space with store-bought bags of ice?
If you entertain often, or if your household frequently enjoys over-ice beverages like cocktails, mocktails, iced coffee, iced tea, homemade lemonade, soda or others, a countertop ice maker is a great appliance to have around to ensure you always have enough ice.
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Freestanding ice makers can be a little bit of an investment, though. So, it's worthwhile to do some research to pick out the best countertop ice maker for your needs and preferences. Below are some key factors to think about when you're shopping for one, followed by product recommendations for home ice-making machines in several different categories.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Countertop Ice Maker
Type of Ice: Countertop ice makers typically produce one of three main ice styles, and your preference in this regard is the first thing to consider. Some make opaque or clear ice cubes, others make bullet ice, and others produce nugget ice, otherwise known as pellet ice, pebble ice, soft ice, chewable ice and a bunch of other names.
Cubed ice is familiar to all, and it's a standard option that's moderately chewable and long-lasting. Bullet ice is cylindrical and hard, not easy to chew and longer lasting than cubes. Nugget ice is small and soft, making it quite chewable (which kids love) and well suited to blended beverages, but also faster melting. Because it piles densely, you can fit more of it into a glass or cup, so it chills beverages faster. But it's not as easy to produce nugget ice, and the countertop ice machines that make it are usually significantly more expensive than other models.
Capacity: Take a look at how quickly a given countertop ice maker produces ice. Countertop machines typically make between about 10 to 24 ice cubes at a time, and ice production can take around 7 to 20 minutes. Each product should tell you how many pounds of ice it can make in a 24-hour period; the standard range for countertop models is approximately 25 to 50 pounds per day. But you'll also want to see how much water you can add to the water reservoir at one time to get an idea of how often you'll have to refill it, as well as how much ice it can store at the same time.
Size: No kitchen has unlimited countertop space, and if you like countertop appliances, every inch of that space is valuable. Expect a countertop ice maker to be at least 11 or 12 inches wide and for the other dimensions to be at least a couple of inches bigger. Consider how much room you have for the appliance. Also, check out its weight. Countertop ice makers are supposed to be portable, but some are a lot easier to carry than others.
Features: See which features come with any ice machine you're thinking about buying. For example, can you choose from different sizes of ice cubes or bullets? And if so, how many options do you get? Also, most quality countertop ice machines sold today are self-cleaning models. It's a very convenient feature for keeping the inside of the machine—and the ice that's going in your drinks—clean. How long is the power cord? Does it have any type of dispenser, does it come with an ice scoop, or does it have a built-in handle to help you move the appliance?
Price: A countertop automatic ice maker can run you anywhere from around $100 at the cheapest end to many hundreds of dollars. Again, countertop nugget ice makers are usually the most expensive. Cost is often affected by how quickly the machine produces ice and how much it can make in one batch. But you can certainly find great countertop ice makers at relatively low prices, and a high price tag doesn't always equate to top capacity, performance and quality.
These factors will help you select the best countertop ice maker for your needs and preferences.
The Best Overall Countertop Ice Maker and the Best for Clear Ice Cubes
We're picking this product for two categories, as it's a great overall countertop ice maker, and it's a clear ice cube maker. While it's not one of the cheapest ice-making appliances, it's not at all a high price point for the category, and in fact, it's a good price for the capacity and quality of the machine. Plus, it's a notably quiet model.
This stainless steel, self-cleaning clear ice maker produces up to 40 pounds of ice in 24 hours. Single-cycle ice production is impressive, at 24 clear cubes in 12 to 18 minutes. You can also adjust the thickness of the ice cubes. The water reservoir holds up to 2.2 liters—enough water for five cycles, or 120 cubes.
The digital interface is user-friendly, and there are helpful features like indicators that the water reservoir is empty or the storage bucket is full (it holds up to 2.2 pounds of ice at a time). Although it doesn't have cooling capabilities for the stored ice, when the ice melts, this appliance recycles the water through a filter and back into the reservoir. This machine weighs in at almost 27 pounds and measures 14.1 inches long, 11 inches wide and 13.7 inches high.
The Best Budget Countertop Ice Maker
This is a budget-friendly countertop ice maker that doesn't sacrifice quality for the low cost, brought to you by the well-known Frigidaire refrigeration appliance brand. It's billed as compact, though at 15 inches long, 11 inches wide and 14.5 inches high, and weighing a little under 19 pounds, there are plenty of slightly smaller models available.
Able to produce 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours, this appliance uses compressor cooling to quickly freeze a single batch of bullet ice in only about 6 to 8 minutes. It's easy to keep tabs on the ice production through the big transparent window on top. In fact, everything about this machine is easy with its super-simple operation.
Choose from two sizes of bullet ice with this quiet machine. It alerts you when it's time to add more water and when the storage bucket is full. An ice shovel is included to facilitate easy, hygienic removal of the output. And between the stainless steel material and the sleek design, the machine has a nice look that outshines its low price. However, with this model at this price, you're not getting a self-cleaning ice maker.
The Best Countertop Ice Maker for Bullet Ice
If bullet ice is your shape of choice, this NewAir appliance is a great pick. It's a high-capacity product, producing up to 50 pounds of ice in 24 hours (12 pieces in about 7 minutes). Select small, medium or large bullets with this machine. The small size is perfect for individual beverages, while medium bullets are ideal for pitchers, and large pieces are good for a cooler.
This self-cleaning machine is easy to use and it operates quietly. The storage bin fills up in about 2 hours. While it doesn't have a cooling function for stored ice, it's ultra-insulated to hold the ice for an extended period. And when the ice does melt, the liquid gets recycled back into the water reservoir. This countertop ice maker also has indicators for when it needs more water and when the storage bucket is full.
Another useful feature is the timer that allows you to program the appliance to start making ice up to 18 hours ahead of time. Measuring 14.25 inches long, 16.88 inches wide and 16.75 inches high, this is a larger countertop ice maker model. And it's also hefty, weighing in at a little over 36 pounds.
The Best Countertop Ice Maker for Nugget Ice
Nugget ice is awesome, soft, chewable ice, but the ability to make it does come at a premium cost. This self-cleaning, stainless steel GE product takes 20 minutes to complete a cycle and makes 1 pound of pellet ice in an hour for a total of 24 pounds per day. It has a relatively large storage bin that holds up to 3 pounds. Its innovative design successfully prevents clumping—a common problem with countertop nugget ice makers.
The quality of the ice is exceptional, as it lasts notably longer than a lot of other nugget ice. And this is a smart countertop ice maker, too. Not only does it have a sensor to start automatically making ice again when the bin is running low, it's also Bluetooth enabled and you can monitor the machine and set it to run using an app on your phone.
Water from melted ice in the well-insulated storage bin is recycled back into the water reservoir. The clear bin makes it easy to see how much ice you have left, and an ice scoop is included. Keep in mind that this a relatively large and heavy model, measuring 15.5 inches long, 10.5 inches wide and 16.5 inches high, and weighing 47 pounds.
The Best Portable Countertop Ice Maker
If portability is a top priority for your countertop ice maker, this quiet, compact Igloo product is sure to please. It's only 12.2 inches long, 9.06 inches wide and 12.8 inches high, and weighs a mere 14.33 pounds, plus it has a sturdy carrying handle on top.
But you're also getting quality and performance. This self-cleaning appliance has a 2-quart water tank and produces up to 26 pounds of bullet ice in a 24-hour period. There are settings for small or large pieces, and you can get a single batch of ice (nine bullets) in just 7 minutes. The storage bin holds up to 1.25 pounds of ice—a bit low, but remember, this is a compact, highly portable ice machine.
The control panel is user-friendly, and there are indicators for when the ice bin is full and when it's time to add more water to the reservoir. The large, transparent lid on top lets you quickly glance at how much ice you have. Also, it comes with an ice scooper and the removable ice basket makes the ice itself easily portable. As an added bonus, you can choose from a few different appliance colors.