If you have a refrigerator at home, chances are you won’t need to have a portable ice maker. The freezer part of your fridge will produce ice cubes just as fine but it will be far more versatile and useful than an ice maker.
But if you have an RV, a camper, or a boat, the portability and compactness of an ice maker will be useful. This is true if you're relying on a mini fridge too.
An ice maker is smaller than the smallest fridge so it will easily fit tight corners and nooks. And it does produce ice much quicker than a fridge, so it’ll be perfect for making sudden cocktails if you feel like having one away from your home. In which case, you might want a blender for cocktails too.
Typically, the average ice maker can make about 26 to 40 pounds of ice per day. Unlike a fridge which takes hours to freeze ice cubes, these appliances usually take around 10 minutes to make ice.
This is the reason why bar owners find them handy to have around because they guarantee an almost endless supply of ice.
The shape and type of ice though is different from your usual ice cube. Unlike square ice cubes whose sharp edges can injure the mouth, the ice from ice makers tends to be bullet-shaped and is hollow. This makes the ice float better in your drink. And it looks look pretty too.
The downside is, hollow ice melts much faster in your drinks than your typical compact freezer ice. But that isn’t so bad since there’s more ice where it comes from. Some brands will actually refilter and reuse the melted water in the ice basket to make more ice especially when its sensors detect that the ice bucket is no longer full.
Ice makers are meant for indoor use. This means they should be operating at a room temperature of around 70°F. If it’s hotter than that, the ice maker will have difficulty producing ice. While many brands use compressor cooling systems to make ice, they don’t have the same amount of refrigerant as a normal fridge would have.
Think of ice makers as a little like an ice cooler. When it finishes producing ice, the interior temperature will remain around 27 degrees. It won’t get any colder, unlike a freezer. This is why freezer ice tends to be harder and more solid than ice maker ice.
As costs go, ice makers tend to be expensive. These are the ones that have a lot of features and settings. But if all you want is a no-frills machine to give you ice when you need it quickly and easily, there are a lot of brands that are easy on the budget but perform just as well as the high end ones.
Here are my top picks for the best affordable ice makers on the market today.
The Best Portable Ice Makers
- IKICH Portable Ice Maker Machine for Countertop
- Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker
- NewAir Portable Ice Maker
- Whynter Compact Portable
- BOSALY Ice Maker Machine
1. IKICH Portable Ice Maker Machine
This portable ice cube produces 9 pieces of bullet ice cubes in just 6 minutes. It is equipped with a 2-liter water reservoir that is capable of making 26 lbs of ice in a day.
You can choose to make small or large ice cubes with this machine. It’s easy to use; just add water, plug it in, press the power button and then select your desired size. Indicator lights on its LED display will then alert you if the machine is full or if the reservoir needs more water.
It uses a powerful compressor and a Nickel Plated Pure Copper Evaporator to quickly cool down water into ice while being energy efficient. It also has a high density polyurethane foam layer to insulate its interior from outside heat and slow down the melting of its ice.
It’s small enough to fit in most counter tops and runs quietly at less than 45dB. It doesn’t need a water hook up so you can bring it anywhere. It also has an outlet and drain plug at the bottom for easy drainage of unused water.
Housed in a smooth ABS shell which makes it easy to clean, this ice maker comes with a 2-year warranty and 45-day return policy.
- Large translucent viewing window
- Water reservoir that also acts as a catchment for melted ice
- Produces hollow ice
- Not for long term storage of ice cubes
2. Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker
This ice maker makes 9 ice cubes every 7-15 minutes. It has a a 2.3 quart reservoir that can produce 26 pounds of ice per day. A complete cycle, meanwhile, creates a quart (4 cups) of ice.
This appliance produces clear ice cubes which look better than the usual opaque ones made by most ice makers. It also features two settings for ice sizes.
It’s designed to be compact so that it can be used in boats, RVs or tiny kitchens. Its LED control panel is easy to use, with convenient buttons. If the water reservoir is empty, it automatically shuts itself off.
It uses a small compressor and no chemical refrigerants to make ice. It also has a large viewing window for easy monitoring and a drain plug to clean the ice maker quickly. There’s a fill line marker inside to indicate the correct water level needed to produce ice.
This product comes with an ice shovel and a 1 year warranty.
- Automatic pause function when the ice basket is full and the ice maker will automatically resume later when some ice is removed
- Uses lights instead of annoying beeps to alert the user of its condition
- California’s Proposition 65 label
- Some users found this product very noisy when making ice.
3. NewAir Portable Ice Maker
This ice maker makes up to 28 lbs of ice per day. The manufacturer says that it generates ice in just 6 minutes. Users, meanwhile, say that it can make 10 pieces of ice per batch.
This product produces hollow bullet ice cubes in 3 sizes. Its LED control features user-friendly buttons. Just add water, select the ice size setting and press start. There are two indicator lights: one to indicate that that the ice basket is full, the other to indicate that the water tank is empty.
It is also equipped with an Auto Shut Off feature. When the ice basket is full or if the water tank is empty, the machine will shut down. There’s also a side mounted drain to make it convenient for emptying unused water.
- Auto Shut Off feature
- Relatively quiet
- Too heavy
4. Whynter Compact Portable
This portable ice maker makes up to 27 lbs of ice per day. One user said that this generates 9 small pieces of ice in just 7-8 minutes. It has a 2.2L water reservoir capacity and can store around 1.5 lbs of ice.
It features settings for two ice sizes (small and large). The bullet shaped ice cubes are cooled down by an energy efficient, CFC-free compressor. There is no drain required; this machine will automatically filter and re-use the melted water in its storage to make more ice.
It’s easy to use and ideal for on the road trips. One user said that this ice maker is perfect for two people.
- Can be used to store ice
- No need for draining
- Not for making ice for parties
- Some user complaints about unreliable warranty
5. BOSALY Ice Maker Machine
This ice maker can produce 9 pieces of bullet shaped ice cubes in 8-10 minutes and up to 26 pounds in 24 hours. It can make ice in small and large sizes. According to a user, each cycle takes about 10 minutes so that in an hour or so, it will produce a full basket of ice.
It has a powerful compressor that has a low noise level and uses 22g of R600a refrigerant which is non toxic and has zero Ozone Depletion Potential and very low Global Warming Potential.
Its control panel is user friendly and is equipped with a smart indicator which lights up when the ice is full or if the machine needs more water. There’s a transparent window on top for convenient viewing. It also has a drainage plug at the bottom for easy cleaning.
This product comes with a removable basket and an ice scoop.
- Auto Stop feature
- Low carbon footprint
- Some users find the indicator lights too bright to read
- Not for parties
Buyers Guide To Choosing Your Portable Ice Maker
The minimum capacity that an ice maker should have is about 26 lbs of ice per day. Some high end models can produce more, like about 40 lbs a day. If you like hosting parties, a larger capacity ice maker should be your pick.
Another important aspect to note is how quickly ice is produced. These machines tend to produce ice in cycles. Some will be able to make around 10 pieces of ice per cycle with each cycle lasting around 7-10 minutes. Pick that one that works for you.
Clear or Cloudy Ice
If you’re particular about how your ice looks, then you might consider whether the model produces clear or cloudy ice.
Most bullet-ice makers produce cloudy ice. Occasionally though, there will be the more expensive ones that are capable of making clear ice.
Clear ice is the closest thing you can get to having gourmet ice on your cocktails courtesy of a portable ice maker. It melts slower than cloudy ice and it won’t make carbonated drinks fizz as much as a cloudy ones. The downside is, clear ice maker machines tend to produce smaller ice cubes. They also take a longer time to make than cloudy ice.
Because these machines run on compressor cooling technology, they will contain refrigerant. One example is freon which is moderately toxic and bad for the environment. Another is refrigerant R410a of which a kilogram of it has the same greenhouse impact as the equivalent of running your car for six months.
Look for eco-friendly substitutes like R600a refrigerant. This chemical compound won’t deplete the ozone layer and won’t contribute to global warming.
Look for features that help simplify the process of making ice. One useful feature is the Recycle function which uses the melted water to form new ice. You won’t have to bother with draining the appliance afterwards.
Other brands will have an Auto Shut Off function so that the machine won’t overheat. One standard feature among these brands is the setting for ice sizes. In general, you can choose between small and large but some brands may offer three choices of sizes.
If noise bothers you, you might also want a machine that’s designed to work quietly, at least when making ice cubes. All models will make some noise though especially when the finished ice cubes are dropped into the ice basket.
Most portable ice makers have 1-year warranties. But because most, if not all, of these brands are made in China, the quality of the inventory can be a hit or miss. I recommend reading through the user comments on the product pages since these will give you an idea of which ones have reliable warranties.
You could also check if the brand has good aftersales service. If representatives answer inquiries on its product page and resolve replacement issues promptly, that’s a good indicator of brand trustworthiness.