No doubt about it: a portable ice maker is a handy appliance.
Instead of rushing to the store every time you need ice for an afternoon gathering or an evening cocktail party, a portable ice maker like the best picks below will keep you well-supplied with a minimum of work.
Best part: the best portable ice makers today are not expensive, at all. Most are less than $200..
In this in-depth buying guide, I'll cover everything you need to know to buy the one for your budget, including the best brands and what factors you should consider.
So let's get started with my short-list of the 4 best portable ice makers sold today.
Portable Ice Maker
* BEST OVERALL
BEST CLEAR ICE MAKER FOR BARS
BEST SONIC NUGGET ICE MAKER
BEST BUDGET ICE MAKER
Our top recommendation is the Igloo ICE103 26lb ice maker. It features a smooth, stainless steel body and is available in several colors including black, red and white.
Read on below to see why we chose the ICE103 as our top pick.
Able to produce up to 26 pounds of ice every day, you will never run out of ice. For daily use, you’ll actually need much less ice than this. But it comes handy if you have lots of guests over.
At 26pounds, this portable ice maker is one of the largest you will find. So if you are looking for something that will handle a wide variety of situations, this is it.
Next to the production capacity, the storage capacity is the next most important factor. This is because it determines how much ice you can have after one cycle.
The ICE103 comes with an oversized bucket that can hold up to 2.2 lbs of ice cubes. If you have several guests over, you don’t have to worry about having to run several cycles to get enough ice for everyone.
You can even prepare the ice cubes ahead of time and have enough to fill everyone’s first drink.
If you have a really big party at your home, 2.2lbs of ice may not be enough to go round, especially when the drinks begin to flow.
In that case, you have to keep refilling the reservoir and waiting for new ice cubes to form. Fortunately, the ice cubes take 6 minutes or less to be ready. Guests won’t even notice anything missing.
Pro tip: Use chilled water instead of room temperature water to get the ice cubes to form faster.
Even your kid can make a bucketful of ice cubes thanks to the easy setup and controls. You just need to plug in the ice maker, fill up the reservoir with water and use the control panel to specify your preferences.
There is an LED indicator at the front to make the ice maker easier to use.
There are three ice cube sizes to choose from: small, medium and large. You can choose whichever fits your needs.
One of the issues we have with the ICE103 is the weight. While 27.6 lbs and the compact design qualify the ice maker as portable, it still won’t be easy to carry around.
I wouldn’t suggest it for camping or any other situation where you need to carry it by hand. But the weight is no issue if you are using it at home or at a bar.
Some customers also warned that you should take out the ice cubes soon after they are dumped into the bucket. If you leave them there for too long, they take on a certain unpleasant smell and taste.
Instead of the cloudy-white ice cubes produced by most home portable ice makers, bar customers prefer clear ones. Furthermore it should be thicker and harder than usual to ensure it stays longer without melting.
If you own a bar, you’ll also need an icemaker that can deliver a sustained supply of ice to keep your customers happy.
You could get a built-in ice maker that produces 50 lbs of ice in one day but that would be very expensive and you may not even have the space for it.
What you need is a portable ice maker that meets your needs at an affordable cost. Meet the Luma Comfort Portable clear ice maker.
Before we tell you all about it, here are the quick specs for those short on time.
This is the one feature that stands out most. Rather than the milky white ice you get with most other portable ice makers, the Luma Comfort makes colorless cubes.
Not only do they look more elegant in a cocktail glass, they are harder too. This keeps them in solid form for longer. Your patrons can take time with their drinks without worrying about the ice melting.
Whether you run a bar or restaurant, this ice maker will come in handy.
When you are serving dozens of customers per day, the last thing you want is to run out of ice.
Bigger bars will often invest in a full built-in ice maker capable of producing 50 pounds or more of ice every day. But these large ice makers take up a lot of space and they are pricey, usually over $1,000.
If you are looking for something cheaper but still capable of handling a steady stream of customers, try the Luma Comfort.
It boasts of respectable 28 lbs production capacity. This means that it can produce 28 lbs of ice every 24 hours. For most small to medium-size bars and restaurants, this is adequate.
A large production capacity needs to be accompanied by a large storage capacity.
The Luma Comfort can load up on 2.15 lbs of ice per cycle. This is enough to provide a steady supply even on those extra-busy evenings.
One thing we would have wanted though is a shorter cycle time. The ice maker takes 15 minutes to produce a batch of ice cubes. This is more than double the cycle time for the Igloo ICE103.
But considering that the ice maker produces clear and harder ice, it is understandable why the process takes longer. .
Most customers seem to have a hard time getting a hang of how to operate the ice maker. It seems simple enough but it can keep frustrating you before you understand how to make it work.
For instance, one user had difficulty getting clear ice until he discovered that chilled water was the key. Another advises users to wait a couple of hours when the unit has been delivered before plugging it in.
Another issue is the weight. At almost 29 pounds, this is one of the heaviest portable ice makers we have encountered. But if you are just using it at the bar, then weight is not really an issue. It is still compact enough to fit on the bar countertop.
Sonic Nugget ice is famous for its soft cloudy texture. It easily crumbles in your mouth, making it perfect for smoothies, cocktails or even crunching on its own.
If, like most people you are crazy for Sonic ice, you can order a bag of it at any of their drive-ins. But if you want an endless supply of it, you need an ice maker that can produce the same soft chewy ice.
Portable ice makers that make soft chewable ice are hard to come by. Fortunately, we found a great one with plenty of positive customer reviews.
The Della Portable Ice Maker comes in a flashy red color and glossy exterior. It is quite compact, weighing just 21 pounds. It produces small and soft nuggets that you can easily chew on or add to your beverages.
Here are the quick specs.
26 pounds per day is quite a lot of ice for an ice maker this compact. It will keep you well supplied through the day.
The large capacity will also come in handy if you are planning to invite some guests over. You can chill everyone’s drinks without running out of ice.
The tray is smaller than that of most ice makers – 1.5 lbs – but still large enough to fill up several drinks.
If there are more drinks to fill, the 6 minute cycle time ensures that you will have more ice in no time.
If you love the soft Sonic nugget ice pieces, this is a must-buy. The ice is not perfectly soft and crumbly like that of Sonic but it comes close.
It is great for cocktails or for crunching in your mouth.
At 21 pounds, this is one of the lightest ice makers we have seen.
The lightweight feel combined with the compact design makes it perfect for camping, RVs, boats and outdoor use.
The ice maker comes with some really cool buttons at the top. The seller calls them easy-touch buttons. They are set flush to the surface of the ice maker so that it feels like you are touching rather than pressing them.
It is a small feature but adds a lot to the overall experience. Instead of fumbling around trying to press the right buttons, the buttons provide and easy and quick way to set up the ice maker.
The main issue we have with the Della ice maker is the small amount of ice it makes. 1.5lbs – which translates to around 9 small ice cubes – may be good enough when you are alone but quickly runs out when you have guests.
Thanks to the short cycle time however, you don’t have to wait that long to get more ice.
Another problem noted by some users is the slightly plastic-y taste the ice contains. It can be especially noticeable if you leave the ice in the tray for too long.
If you experience this, one user suggests adding a little vinegar to the water when you refill the reservoir.
Portable ice makers are generally mid-range in cost. The most expensive ones usually never go above $300.
But if you want a bargain, there are some cheap ice makers that are still great. The best one we found for a little over $100 is the Della Electric Ice Maker Machine. It has a quick cycle time and can make as much ice as other pricier icemakers.
What is even more surprising is the number of bonus features it has for its price. Extra features include a clock, timer and refill alerts.
Simply put, it is one of the best countertop ice makers you can get for under $200. Click to replace anchor text
Here are its quick specs.
Despite the lower price tag, this ice maker easily matches the more expensive ones in production capacity. 26lbs of ice per day is plenty enough for your daily use and can keep up with demand when you have guests over.
You can even use it in a small office with several workers.
If you have several guests and need a lot of ice around, the large storage capacity comes in handy. The ice tray can hold up to 2 pounds of ice.
This should be enough to fill up several drinks. If even more ice is needed, simple add more water and you will have more ice cubes in six minutes.
This is one of the few ice makers to have a feature-rich LCD display. The most noticeable thing on the display is the clock.
Other settings are also shown including the timer, refill alerts and the current state of the machine (e.g. ‘working’).
The display provides an easy way to set up your preferences and keep an eye on what's happening. It also makes for a cool-looking addition to your kitchen.
At 24 pounds, this ice maker is more portable than most. If you are looking for something lightweight for your RV, boat or office, try this one. However, it is still a bit too heavy for camping trips and outdoor use.
For that, look for those ice makers weighing around 20 lbs.
The compact design of the Della ice maker means you can place it just about anywhere there is a surface and a power source nearby.
One of the most annoying features of this ice maker is the alerts. Most customers hate the shrill beeps it makes when it fills up.
Even worse, there is no way to stop the alarm. You have to empty the ice reservoir for it to stop beeping. This can be a problem if you are not planning to use the ice immediately and want to leave it in for a while.
So you have decided you want an ice maker at home. Or maybe you want one for your boat or RV.
Whichever the case, the biggest task ahead is finding the right ice maker to spend your money on. With dozens of different brands and types of ice makers available, you have quite some work ahead of you.
We have made it easier by recommending 4 top ice makers. But if you want to explore your options further, you’ll need some help navigating the vast and cluttered options you’ll come across.
To help you narrow down your options and make the right pick, we came up with a list of the six most important questions you should ask when shopping for an ice maker.
The most important feature of an ice maker is its production capacity. This refers to the amount of ice it can produce within a 24-hour period.
The production capacity is measured in pounds. So a figure like 24 lbs means that ice maker can produce up to 24 lbs of ice cubes every day.
This is an important measure since it tells you whether that ice maker will fit your situation.
If you are just buying an ice maker for yourself and perhaps your partner, then a low figure like 20 lbs is fine. But if you are buying one for a large family, you need something bigger, around 24lbs to 26lbs..
If you are buying one for your bar or to cater to your frequent guests, look for something with an even larger capacity, ideally over 28lbs.
Most of the ice makers you will come across have a capacity of 26 lbs. That’s the standard even for ultra-compact ice makers such as the Della Portable Ice Maker, which weighs 21 pounds. .
Some go a bit higher to 28 lbs. The bar-ideal Luma Comfort Portable Clear Ice Maker is a good example.
But that’s as high as they get. If you want a higher capacity, you would have to go out of the realm of portable ice makers. Under-counter and built-in ice makers can extend their maximum production capacity to 30 lbs and even 50 lbs.
The production capacity of a specific ice maker should be clearly stated in the specification. It should be the first thing you check for every ice maker you come across.
The production capacity of an ice maker goes hand in hand with its storage capacity. While most people tend to confuse the two, they are completely different.
The amount of ice an ice maker can possibly produce in a day is its production capacity. The amount it can hold in its tray or bucket is its storage capacity.
The storage capacity determines how much ice an ice maker produces per cycle and thus how much ice you get in that single cycle. This is important if you have an event or you are using the ice maker in a bar where there is high demand for chilled drinks.
Unlike the production capacity, there is more variation when it comes to how much ice an ice maker can hold.
The smallest ice makers can handle 1.5 lbs of ice before they stop making some more. Larger portable ice makers range between 2 lbs and 2.5 lbs.
In our top picks above, the Igloo ICE103 has the highest storage capacity of 2.2 lbs, making it ideal for parties, large families, small offices and bars. The Della Portable Chewable Ice Maker has the lowest storage capacity of 1.5 lbs making it ideal for small families and individuals.
You may be wondering what happens if the ice maker keeps making ice once the storage capacity has been exceeded.
Theoretically, it may cause the tray or bucket to overflow and possibly damage the ice maker. I say theoretically because it is something you might never see.
Most ice makers are fitted with sensors that automatically stop further production once maximum capacity has been reached. Some, such as the Della Electric Ice Maker Machine even come with an alarm to alert you that the tray is full.
So you don’t have to worry that the ice maker will overflow and get damaged. In fact, some portable ice makers come with timers. You can set it to automatically start making ice even if you are not around.
As with the production capacity, it should be easy to find the storage capacity by checking the product details. But some sellers tend to hide it deep in other specs so you may have to look a bit hard to find it for certain models.
This entire guide is about portable ice makers, emphasis on the word “portable”.
But it is such a relative term that you can’t simply rely on the word of the seller to determine how portable an appliance is.
Fortunately, most ice makers are in the ‘actually portable range’. The lightest ones eight around 20 or 21 lbs while the heaviest ones can weigh up to 28 lbs.
Instead of looking for the word ‘portable’ in the product details, look at the weight specification. This will give you a better idea of how easy it is to carry and move the ice maker around.
If you are buying an ice maker for camping or the patio – basically any situation where you might have to carry it by hand regularly – the lighter the better. On the other hand, something that is going to spend most of its time on your countertop can be heavier without lowering the user experience.
The Della Portable Ice Maker weighs only 21 pounds, making it ideal for those who are planning to move around with the ice maker.
But if portability is not your biggest issue, you can opt for the 28.9-pound Luma Comfort ice maker. You can still carry it, though perhaps with some help, on those few times when you need to move it.
There are other much heavier portable ice makers such as the Whynter IMC-491DC Portable Ice Maker which weighs 38 pounds. It may be portable but only when three sets of hands are involved.
If you have never used an ice maker before, you may assume it requires a complicated set up and maybe even needs professional installation.
This may be the case for under-counter and built-in ice makers. They need to be installed professionally and some even require plumbing.
But most portable ice makers are incredibly easy to use. No installation or long set up process is necessary. You simply plug it in, add water to the reservoir and switch it on.
This is not to mean that there aren’t the odd ice makers that can be frustrating. Go through customer reviews of some ice makers and you will encounter users wondering how to make their appliance work.
For some, the ice maker keeps producing the wrong kind of ice. For others, the sensors fail to work and the ice maker keeps on overflowing. In the worst of cases, some users are forced to make returns after their ice makers simply refused to work.
So while ice makers are supped to be simple machines, be wary of those that are anything but.
Start with the product details. What kind of initial set up does the ice maker need? What buttons and settings are used to get it working?
For a majority of ice makers you just need to add water and then use the buttons to set your preferred size and shape of ice cubes.
Once the ice is ready, you should be able to remove it with ease either by sliding the holding tray out or scooping out the ice cubes with a scoop. Some ice makers even come with the scoop included.
For a better picture of how easy or complicated a specific ice maker is, turn to what customers are saying. Look at the complaints to determine which components and features are causing the most trouble.
If too many customers say they could not get the ice maker to work properly or did not get the results they expected, move on to another brand.
One thing to be wary of is unnecessary bells and whistles.
A good example of problems arising from extra features is the low-cost Della Electric Ice Maker Machine we have reviewed above. It comes with an LCD display, a clock, a timer and an alarm. These are features you don’t find even in higher-priced ice makers.
While the features are somewhat helpful, they can also be frustrating. Some customers complained that the shrill alarm would keep beeping until you either added water to the reservoir or emptied the holding tray.
Focus on those ice makers which, though they may be simple and plain, are reliable. Most importantly, your ice maker should be long lasting, rather than breaking down after a just couple of months.
After checking an ice maker’s production capacity, being sure of its storage capacity, noting its weight and ensuring that it is not a headache to use, you can finally decide whether it is the right ice maker for you.
Here are 5 more questions I want you to ask yourself before you make the final decision.
With these questions, it is so easy to determine exactly what kind of ice maker you need.
For a large family: Medium or large capacity and easy to use.
For myself: Capacity not essential but size is if you live in a small apartment.
For the bar: Large capacity, easy to use and durable.
For my RV or boat: compact, durable and lightweight.
Finally, the question that makes or breaks a purchase.
As important as the issue of price is, I recommend leaving it for last. First, look for a selection (two to four) of ice makers that meet your needs, or at least come close.
Once you are satisfied with your picks, you can then choose the one that best fits your budget. If you start with the price tag, it is easy to get lured by cheap but low quality ice makers. You may also be misled by pricey but ultimately low value ice makers.
Generally, portable ice makers are mid-range in price. The average range is $100-$300.
There are great portable ice makers that cost below $200. They may not have a lot of features or a huge capacity, but they are perfect for most people. In this price range, you will find compact ice makers with a 24-26 lbs production capacity and 1.5-2.2 lbs storage capacity.
If you want something bigger and more capable, be ready to spend between $200 and $300. In this range, you will find ice makers with bigger production capacities, usually 28 lbs. They also have bigger storage capacities ranging between 2.2 lbs and 3 lbs.
Beyond $300, you will find some specialized or extra high-capacity portable ice makers. Target this range if you want an ice maker with a production capacity over 30 lbs or you are looking for an ice maker that makes many sizes and shapes of ice cubes.
Beyond $400 and $500, you are no longer looking at portable ice makers.
There are good chances that whatever ice maker you end up choosing will be within your budget. If not, you can easily find alternatives within your budget that provide roughly the same features and functionality.
This refers to the amount of time the ice maker takes to make a single batch of ice. It ranges from 6 minutes for fast ice makers to 15 minutes for slower ones.
Generally, cycle time is not a make-or-break factor. A 15-minute ice maker will serve you just as well as a 6-minute one.
However, if you expect to serve a lot of people – such as if you own a bar or hold frequent events at home – consider getting an ice maker with a shorter cycle time. It will help you keep up with the demand.
But note that most high-capacity ice makers that are ideal for serving more people tend to have longer cycle times.
The other issue you may want to check is the kind of ice that the ice maker produces. Most ice makers produce two sizes of hollow bullet-like ice cubes. This is good enough for most people.
If you need more variety, look for those ice makers that can produce three or more different shapes and sizes.
If you are buying the ice maker for use at a bar, you may want one that produces clear ice. The Luma Comfort Portable Clear Ice Maker is a great example.
Unlike the usual cloudy-white ice you get with most portable ice makers, you get colorless ice cubes. You can also opt for a clear ice maker for your home if you love the elegance and extra hardness of clear ice.
Another important thing: the thickness or hardness of the ice. Some ice cubes tend to melt faster than others because they are thinner and softer. If the product details do not say how hard or soft the ice is, check customer reviews.
The best type of ice will depend on your needs. For a bar, you need hard slow-melting ice. The Luma Comfort produces clear hard ice that melts five times as slowly as other ice cubes.
For home use, the average ice cubes (not too hard neither too soft) will do. You can also buy a Sonic Nugget ice maker that produces really soft and chewable ice.
Before you buy a portable ice maker, check how long the warranty is and what sort of coverage it provides. The warranty is a sign that the manufacturer has confidence in their product.
Portable ice makers do not have very long warranties. Some can even be just a few months long. This is especially the case for ultra-compact portable ice makers.
But the standard warranty period is 1 year. If you are buying from Amazon, you will easily find the warranty document in the product details.
Go through it, noting how long they cover the product for, what exactly they cover and how to make a claim. Also check whether you can purchase an extended warranty.
One of the coolest features we have seen in some portable ice makers is the ability to recycle melted water.
Because portable ice makers do not keep the ice cubes in a freezing condition, any ice you leave in the tray is going to start melting.
Some ice makers take the melted water back into the system and reuse it. You can leave the unit running even when you are not around and you’ll still find perfectly solid ice cubes waiting for you.
If you can find ice makers with extra features like this, go for it. The bonus features are not must-have but they add to the experience. Just be careful not to pay too much for unnecessary bells and whistles.
Another bonus feature we have come across is an automatic timer. This allows you to schedule the unit to make ice cubes at a specific time. For example, you can use the timer to make sure you find ready ice cubes in time for your after-work cocktail.
The Della Electric Ice Maker Machine has the most bonus features including a timer function, refill alerts and an LCD display with a clock.
We have already talked about weight as a crucial factor to consider when buying a portable ice maker. Along with the weight, size is also important especially if you are going to use the ice maker in an RV or for camping.
There are some extra-compact portable ice makers that you can easily carry around and can fit just about anywhere. On the other end of the scale, there are larger portable ice makers that are as big as they are heavy. These present a portability problem.
They are ideal for countertops and bars. And even then, you should be sure you have enough space for the ice maker.
We recommend checking the dimensions before buying an ice maker. They will be displayed prominently along with other product details. Match the dimensions with the space you have to decide whether that is the ideal ice maker.
Customers provide a deeper and more balanced insight into a product than you will get from manufacturer-provided product information. Because they have personally experienced the product, they can help you make a smart purchase decision.
We ourselves used customer reviews as part of our research into each of our top picks above. When researching these and many other products, we have discovered a few tips and tricks that will help you get a lot more from Amazon customer reviews.
i) Do not make your decision based solely on the best or worst reviews
5-star and 1-star reviews tend to attract the most attention. While they can provide crucial information, they can also be misleading if you don’t weigh them against 4, 2 and 3-star reviews.
Some 5-star reviews for example come from customers who have had the ice maker for a short period, maybe even just a few days. Their assessment does not capture the full picture. After all, this is something you are going to use for years.
On the other hand, 1-star reviews can be unrelated to the product or they represent a unique issue that other customers have not experienced. For instance, a customer complaining of a dented ice maker they had to return.
Don't get me wrong, these reviews are important and can tell you a lot, even on other aspects such as shipping and customer support. But do not make a purchase decision before you read other reviews.
Between 4 and 2-star reviews, you will find a more balanced view of the product. You will find reviews that talk about the good and bad of the ice maker.
ii) The more detailed the better
Considering you don’t have all day to read through dozens of reviews, you need to focus on those that provide as much information as possible.
1-sentence reviews will not give you much information. Instead, target longer and more detailed reviews. They are better at presenting the user’s experience and laying out what other to-be buyers should expect.
If you find reviews that include pictures or a video, that’s even better.
iii) Read customer questions
Amazon has a very useful section with a list of questions from customers. The answers are provided either by the seller or other customers.
This can be another goldmine of information. You can get information beyond what you find in the product details and specs.
If you have questions on how to use an ice maker, how to troubleshoot problems or how to maintain it, try this Q and A section.
Generally, portable ice makers do not require much in the way of maintenance. In fact the only thing you need to do is clean them regularly. If you don’t, your ice cubes might start to smell and taste stale.
Minerals and other particles in water could also clog up the system, making it more difficult to make ice. This usually manifests itself in ice that smells weird or looks misshapen. In serious cases, the unit may completely fail.
Since different brands and models differ in architecture, you should refer to your product manual for cleaning instructions. But here are some general pointers that apply to most portable ice makers.
Making ice cubes with vinegar, lemon juice and water aids in removing any impurities and minerals on the insides where you cannot reach with a wet cloth.
One common problem users experience is a plastic-y taste in ice cubes. Others describe it as stale.
This usually happens when you go too long without cleaning the unit. The same steps above should solve the problem.
Choosing four ice makers from dozens of options takes a lot of research. We use customer reviews, expert takes, unit manuals and manufacturer information among other things to narrow down our options until we have the final winners.
But at the foundation of our efforts, there are certain essential features that we look for in a product. How the ice maker performs in each of the following features determines the overall rating.
The overall capacity is the most important factor that we consider when rating different ice makers. While it is okay for some ice makers to have lower capacity, sometimes it can be too low to be helpful.
In our reviews, we match the capacity of an ice maker with the ideal use for it. A 28-pound unit is much better for a bar while a 21-pound ice maker works best for individual use on an RV or boat. But an ice maker that has a capacity below 20 pounds won’t be of much help to anyone.
Generally, we only recommend portable ice makers with storage and production capacities that are in the right range.
This is another factor that can make or break a product. No matter how good and powerful it is, if it is not easy to use then it is useless.
So we take ease of use very seriously. We especially focus on what customers have to say. Sometimes, even the simplest-looking product can cause plenty of headaches.
Our top picks are easy to set up and straightforward in function. You don’t need to call an expert or keep consulting the manual every time you want to chill your cocktail.
Since this is a guide on portable ice makers, portability was a major issue in our ratings. We considered two things: size and weight.
As with capacity, there is an acceptable range of a ice maker's size and weight.
We match different weights and sizes of ice makers to their ideal uses. A heavier ice maker works perfectly well for a countertop while a lighter one is ideal for those on the go.
But if it is too heavy or too big it becomes harder to call it a portable ice maker even though it calls itself so. You came here specifically looking for a portable ice maker. We make sure each of our recommendations is actually portable.
Not many people consider how long an ice maker will last before buying one. We have come across so many customers saying theirs broke down after just a couple of months. They either had to return it or let their money go to waste.
While no one expects an ice maker to last for decades, it should at least keep breathing for a couple of years. If too many users complained about frequent breakdowns or dead units, we moved on.
By choosing only from trusted brands and checking user reviews, we selected ice makers that are most likely to last longest.
Remember to also check the warranty of an ice maker before buying it. It will ensure you are prepared in case of anything unexpected.
You are now ready to buy the best portable ice maker for your needs. Whether you go with our top picks above or decide to venture beyond our recommendations, you have all the information you need to make a smart buying decision.
If you have any additional comments or queries, leave a comment or contact us.