Bullet ice

Best Counter Top Portable Ice Maker Reviews: Top 4 Deals + Buying Guide 2018

Planning to buy a portable ice maker?

Then you've come to the right place!

No doubt about it: a portable ice maker is a handy appliance.

Instead of rushing to the store when you need ice for a family gathering or an evening cocktail party, a portable ice maker like the 5 top picks below will keep you well-supplied with a minimum of work.

The best part? Portable ice makers today are not expensive- most cost less than $200..

In this in-depth buying guide, I'll cover everything you need to know to select the right portable ice maker your budget and needs - 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.


4 Best Portable Ice Makers (2018)

Ice Maker
Learn More

Igloo ICE103

BEST OVERALL

Igloo Silver Ice Maker

26 lbs of ice/day

$$

Della Electric

BEST BUDGET ICE MAKER

26 lbs of ice/day

$$

hOmeLabs

MOST PORTABLE

hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker

26 lbs of ice/day

$$

GE Opal Sonic

BEST SONIC ICE MACHINE

Opal Ice Maker

2​4 lbs of ice in 20 minutes

$$$$


Best Portable Ice Maker OVERALL: Igloo ICE103 26lb Counter Top Ice Maker

Portable Igloo ICE 103 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.

  • Production capacity: 26 lbs in 24 hours.
  • Storage capacity: 2.2 lbs
  • Cycle time: around 6 minutes
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Ice sizes: 3 (small, medium and large)
  • Weight: 27.6 lbs

Read on below to see why we chose the ICE103 as our top pick.

Best Features

1. High Production Capacity

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.

2. Oversized storage bucket

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.

3. Short cycle time

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.

4. Easy to use

Igloo Silver Ice Maker

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. 

Concerns

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.


Best Budget Ice Maker:
Della Electric Ice Maker Machine

Della counter top ice maker

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. 

Here are its quick specs.

  • Production capacity: 26 lbs
  • Storage capacity: 2 lbs
  • Cycle time: 6 minutes
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Ice cube sizes: 3
  • Weight: 24 lbs

Best Features

1. Large production capacity

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.

2. Large storage capacity with quick cycle time

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.

3. LCD display with clock and timer

Della counter top ice maker LCD display

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.

4. Lightweight and compact

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.

That said, it is still a bit too heavy for camping trips and outdoor use - not that you'll have a 115V outlet around, anyway.

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.

Concerns

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.


Most Portable Ice Maker:
hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker

The hOmeLabs portable ice maker is a great budget alternative to the Igloo and Della ice makers. It has almost the same specs at the same great price.

But it’s lighter than both ice makers which makes it a great option for those planning to hit the road with it.

For those who’ll be using it mostly at home, the compact size comes handy especially if your kitchen has limited space.

hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker

In fact, it’s small enough for an RV or boat.

Since it requires no installation, you can use it practically anywhere as long as you can access a 110/120V outlet.

Some quick specs before we cover the features.

  • Production: 26 lbs in 24 hours.
  • Storage capacity: 1.5 lbs
  • Cycle Time: 6-8 minutes (8 cubes)
  • Ice sizes: 2 (small and large)
  • Weight: 19.4 lbs   

Best Features 

1. Large Production Capacity 

26lbs of ice per day is more than enough ice for most people’s needs. You’ll probably end up using less than that most days.

hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker

The ice maker is still able to hold its own when you have guests over. You can make ice cubes ahead of time and store them in the freezer.

In just an hour, you’ll have more than 5lbs of ice cubes.  

2. Quick Cycle Time

The ice maker’s quick cycle time comes in handy when there are a lot of drinks to chill. It cranks out a full batch in 6-8 minutes.   

3. Compact and Lightweight

The hOmeLabs ice maker weighs just a little over 19lbs, making it one of the lightest portable ice makers.

It’s a great choice if you are looking for a compact ice maker that is easy to travel with. You can use it when camping, going for picnics or enjoying a family road trip.  

The compact size also makes it a great option for small kitchens, boats and RVs. It takes just about the same counter space as your coffee maker.

4. Easy to Use

The easy-to-use control panel has buttons for on/off and ice size. There are two ice size options: small and large.

In addition to the buttons, there are indicators to tell you when there is no water and when the bin is full.

hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker

Maintenance is just as easy. All you need to do is occasionally wipe down the inside and outside with warm water and mild detergent or vinegar.

Concerns

The main downside with the hOmeLabs portable ice maker is that it makes very little ice per cycle; just 1.5lbs which translates to around 8 or 9 ice cubes.

But the quick cycle time ensures you’ll still have enough ice on hand when you have guests.


BEST SONIC ICE MACHINE: GE Opal Sonic Ice Nugget Machine

Opal Ice Maker

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 counter 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 Opal nugget ice maker makes a full batch of soft, chewy ice in less than 20 minutes. It’s bigger than a standard countertop ice maker, but it’s still easily portable.

It’s also more expensive but it’s the only portable ice maker we know of that makes true sonic ice.

Here are the quick specs.

Production capacity: 24lbs

Storage capacity: 3lbs

Cycle time: 20 minutes

Material: Stainless steel

Ice cube sizes: 1

Weight: 44lbs

Best Features

1. True sonic ice

Opal Ice Maker

Nugget ice machines like the ​Scotsman line often cost more than $2,000. They also require professional installation.  

It’s great that there’s finally an affordable home nugget ice maker that makes true sonic ice.

At less than $600, the GE Opal ice maker produces ice that is soft, crunchy and melts easily in your mouth.

When you are not chewing the ice, you can add it to cocktails, margaritas, smoothies and other mixed drinks.

2. 24lbs production capacity & 3lbs ice basket

Opal Ice Maker

The Opal ice maker can make up to 1lb of ice per hour which brings its production capacity to 24lbs per day.

However, the environment you use the ice maker in can affect its production capacity. The manufacturer recommends using it in a cool area.  

The ice basket is larger than that of most portable ice makers. It holds up to 3lbs of ice.

As with most ice bins, it doesn’t keep the ice frozen forever. It will begin to melt after a few hours. Either use the ice immediately or store it in the freezer.

3. Water recycling

If you leave the ice in the basket for too long, the melted water doesn’t accumulate inside.

Rather, it goes through the slots at the bottom and into the reservoir where it is re-used to make more ice.

This ensures there’s no wasted water.

4. Bluetooth connectivity

You can link the ice maker to your phone via Bluetooth and then use the FirstBuild smartphone app to control and monitor the machine.

Concerns

Because the ice reservoir is located below the ice basket (to allow the melted water to be recycled), it takes a bit of work to refill the reservoir with water.

You have to take the ice basket out first to access the reservoir and then put the basket back. It’s not a big issue, but it’s a bit inconvenient.



6 Important Questions To Ask When Buying an Ice Maker

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.

1. How much ice does it produce in a day?

Kitchen scale

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.

2. How much ice can it hold?

Portable ice maker storage capacity

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. 

3. Is it easy to move around?

Countertop ice maker portability

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.

4. Is it easy to use?

Portable ice maker easy to use

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.

5. Is it ideal for my needs?

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. 

  • Will I be holding regular events? (If you love hosting, then get the biggest portable ice maker you can.)
  • How many people will use it? (The bigger the number, the more the production and storage capacity should be.)
  • Will I use it at home, the office or bar? (A bar or office ice maker definitely needs more capacity to keep up with the increased demand.)
  • Will I move it around often? (If you expect to carry it around many times, get the lightest portable ice maker you can find.)
  • How much space do I have? (While most portable ice makers are compact enough to fit just about anywhere, you may need something space-saving for your RV or small kitchen.)

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.

6. Is it within my budget?

Portable ice maker budget

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.


Other Factors to Consider

Cycle time

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.

Size and shape of ice cubes

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.

Warranty

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.

Bonus features

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.

Size

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.


Reading Amazon Reviews

Countertop ice makers reviews

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.


Portable Ice Maker Maintenance

Portable ice maker maintenance

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.

  • Unplug the ice maker. Double check that you have disconnected it from the power source. This should be your first step whenever you are doing any sort of cleaning or maintenance check on the unit.
  • Empty the unit. Remove any ice that’s still left in the tray and pour out any remaining water from the reservoir. Make sure the unit is completely empty before you begin cleaning it.
  • Take apart the unit. Use the manual to figure out which parts can be removed. For most, you can easily remove the storage tray or bucket.
  • Soak a soft cloth in water with some vinegar in it and wipe down the inside the ice maker. This will help remove any impurities stuck on the internal components. Check that there is no buildup clogging the insides.
  • Pay special attention to the tray, scrubbing it down until all impurities have been wiped off. Once clean, put the tray back into the unit.
  • Plug back the unit and fill the reservoir with clean water mixed with some vinegar and lemon juice. You can also just mix water and ice machine cleaner. Make a batch of ice cubes and discard them. Make another batch using the same vinegar and water mixture and discard them too.

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. 

  • Add clean warm water (without anything added to it) and run a final cycle to remove the taste of vinegar or ice machine cleaner.
  • Unplug the unit and finish the cleaning process by wiping down the exterior. Use warm water ideally with some vinegar. Some ice makers tend to attract a lot of dust. A good scrub will get them looking brand new.

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.


How We Rate Them

Portable ice makers how we rate them

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.

1. Overall Capacity

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.

2. Ease of use

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.

3. Portability

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.

4. Durability

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.

Conclusion

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. 


Frequently Asked Questions about Portable Ice Makers

How does a portable ice machine work?

When you turn on the ice maker, water in the reservoir is pumped to an ice tray. There, metal prongs that have been super-cooled are plunged into the water.

The water begins to freeze around the metal prongs quickly. The longer the prongs are left in the water, the thicker the ice cubes get.

After the desired thickness is achieved, the metal prongs are heated just enough so that the ice cubes slide off them and into the ice bin.

This process results in bullet-shaped ice cubes with holes in the middle where the prongs were.

The ice bin has a sensor that detects when it’s full and keeps the machine from making more ice until it is emptied.

How long do ice machines last?

This will depend on the quality of the machine, how frequently you use it and how well you maintain it.

If you make ice every day, expect it to last between 3-5 years.

Most ice machines, especially portable ones, come with 1-year warranties. Beyond that, there is no guarantee how long it will last.

Make sure you clean the ice machine as instructed in the manual and use the right kind of water.

Most manufacturers advise against adding hard and unfiltered water to the reservoir to avoid build-up on the inside which reduces the machine’s longevity.

Which ice machine makes Sonic ice?

The GE Opal nugget ice maker mentioned in our reviews above is the best portable sonic ice machine.

For other top recommendations, read our sonic nugget ice machine buying guide and reviews.

What is Sonic ice made of?

It’s made from the water just like normal ice cubes. But the process of making them is a bit different.

Instead of an ice tray, the water in a sonic machine is frozen in a cylindrical container. The cylinder is quickly cooled by a liquid refrigerant, causing water to freeze on the walls.

A slowly rotating auger scraps the ice off the wall and moves it to an ice bin.

You can read more about how sonic ice is made in this blog post. 

How long does it take for an ice maker to make ice?

Most portable ice makers take between 6-12 minutes to make a single batch of ice. Sonic ice makers take longer.

The exact time will depend on the environment. The hotter it is, the slower the ice machine.

That’s why it is important to use it in a cool area.

How do I clean my ice machine?

You should clean the ice machine when you get it before you make any ice and at least once a week after that.

This keeps the ice tasting and smelling fresh.

Refer to your manual for specific instructions on how to disassemble and clean your ice machine.

For portable machines, many manufacturers recommend running two cleaning cycles using a solution of water and vinegar. Then run a final cycle using water only. Discard all the ice made in those cycles.

Read my blog post on basic ice machine care and troubleshooting. 

Why is my ice maker not making ice?

There could be some reasons.

Start by checking that the machine is receiving power, that it is turned on and that there’s enough water in the reservoir.

Also, check whether the ice basket is full as that could be preventing the machine from making more ice.  

The problem could also be a fault ejector mechanism or another mechanical or electrical problem inside the machine.

See our ice machine troubleshooting guide for tips on quick fixes to common ice maker problems. 

Can mold grow in an ice machine?

Yes, mold can definitely grow in the ice machine and contaminate the ice cubes. That’s why it is very important to clean the ice machine regularly.

How much power is consumed by an ice machine?

This will depend on what kind of ice machine you have, its energy efficiency and how long you use it every day.

The best way to determine an ice machine’s power consumption is by looking at the wattage. This will be included somewhere on the label or manual.

If it’s rated at 120 watts like the hOmeLabs portable countertop ice machine, that means it consumes 0.12 kilowatts per hour (divide 120W by 1000 to change to kilowatts).  

If you run it for around 5 hours per day, that’s 0.6kWh per day. To find out how much it will cost you to run per day, multiply the final figure by the number of cents you pay per kilowatt hour.

If it’s 10, you’ll spend 6 cents a day to run the ice machine. That comes to less than $2 per month.


Is the bucket compartment cool enough to keep the ice it makes?

Only for a few hours.

The ice bucket is only insulated, not refrigerated. So the ice will begin melting in a few hours if you don’t scoop it out.

Where To Get The Best Deal

You can get a good portable ice maker at your local big box retailer or electronics store. You can see exactly how big the ice maker is and how heavy/light it feels.

On the downside, you’ll miss out on a huge variety of countertop ice makers to choose from as well as good deals available online.

Online retailers like Amazon carry dozens of brands and types of portable ice makers, usually priced lower than those in physical stores.

You can get the exact ice machine you are looking for at a great price.  

That’s why I recommend buying your next countertop pellet or sonic ice maker online.

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