If you’re an iced drinks person, then you know: ice cube trays don’t make a lot of ice. Enter the countertop ice maker, which is capable of producing a a whole lot of ice in a relatively short amount of time.
Before you set your sights on a particular ice maker, consider how much space you have, how often you need ice, and what you’ll be using the ice for. Your answers will help determine the type of ice maker that’s best for you. If you pile ice into your drinks all day long, you might want a high-yield, nugget ice maker. If you’re a passionate home mixologist who wants ice for serving cocktails, then slow-melting, clear ice is better-suited to your needs. If you’re just looking to chill drinks without making a major investment, a compact bullet ice machine will do the trick.
Endless ice is an appealing promise, but it’s better to know what you’re getting before you invest the money (and counter space). So, to find the best ice maker, we tested eight models, ranging in price from $90 to $575.
The Winners, at a Glance
The Best Nugget Ice Maker: GE Profile Opal 2.0 Nugget Ice Maker
This was a sleek ice maker that yielded soft, crunchy pellet ice, affectionately known as “the good ice” in certain circles. It produced ice quickly and consistently. The detachable side reservoir made refilling the machine easy, and the automatic cleaning cycle simplified cleanup. WiFi connectivity gives users the option to turn this machine on remotely and come home to a batch of fresh ice.
The Best Ice Maker For Cocktails: Luma Comfort Clear Ice Cube Maker Machine
The Luma ice machine made large batches of slow-melting, clear ice. This dense ice is ideal for cocktails, because the slower melting time prevents excessive drink dilution. This model featured a convenient side spout for drainage, so there’s no need to lift a heavy machine over your sink when it’s time for cleanup.
The Best Less-Expensive Ice Maker: Magic Chef 27-Lb. Portable Silver Countertop Ice Maker
The Magic Chef ice maker is a sturdy and reliable machine for everyday use. This model was among the fastest machines to begin producing ice, and over the course of an hour it churned out almost 1-pound of cubes. This model strikes a good balance between speed, quality, and price.
- Speed Test: We filled and ran each ice maker according to manufacturer instructions, timing how long it took to produce a batch of ice.
- Production Test: To evaluate yield, we ran each ice maker for one hour. Then, we weighed the ice that accumulated in the machine.
- Durability Test: We ran our favorite ice makers through five, one-hour cycles to evaluate how well performance held up with repeated use.
- Cleaning Test: We cleaned each ice machine according to manufacturer instructions, running the automatic cleaning cycle where applicable.
- Usability Test: Throughout our testing, we noted if the machines were easy and intuitive to set up and use.
What We Learned
Don’t Call It a Cube
The ice makers we tested produced three different types of ice: bullet ice, nugget ice, and clear ice. These shapes aren’t just a stylistic choice, they actually have different textures and melting times. Nugget ice, the type produced by the GE Opal and Gevi ice makers, is made from small layers of flaked ice that have been caked together, almost like a snowball. This gives the ice a soft and chewy texture. Since each individual ice flake is small, this ice melts quickly, giving drinks a slushy-like quality. The majority of the machines we tested (including our pick from MagicChef ) produce bullet ice, a rounded ice with a hole in the center that formed around a super chilled prong submerged in water. These quick-forming cubes are medium-soft. The hole in the center creates more surface area, which speeds up melting time. Clear ice, like the kind produced by the Luma Comfort, has the lowest air content and is the densest and slowest-melting ice.
Faster Wasn’t Always Better
Bullet ice makers, like the MagicChef and Silonn, were the fastest machines, producing their first batches of ice in just eight minutes. However, after an hour of ice production, they had accumulated less ice than the slower (21 minutes per batch) Luma ice machine.
This is partially because bullet ice cubes melt more quickly than clear ice, so by the time the hour was complete, the first batches of ice from the bullet ice machines were well on their way to melting.
Air Bubbles in Ice Affected Melting Speed
Water naturally has tiny air bubbles in it. When it freezes quickly, these little air bubbles become trapped in the ice. Imagine the difference between a pile of shaved ice and an icicle. The small pieces of shaved ice melt more quickly than the dense, solid icicle. Quick forming bullet ice has visible air bubbles trapped in it. These lower the density and increase the melting speed. Clear ice is clear because it doesn’t have many (if any) bubbles trapped in it. This dense ice takes longer to form, but lasts longer in the machine and in your glass.
Air bubbles aren’t necessarily good or bad—ice texture is a personal preference—but in some applications, slow-melting ice is preferable. For stirring and serving cocktails, slow-melting ice (read: less bubbles in it) won’t dilute the drink as quickly as bullet ice. Straight spirits and spirit-heavy cocktails are beloved partially for their smooth texture and are usually sipped. Dense ice that melts slowly allows you to enjoy a strong cocktail without watering down the last sip.
Cleaning Was Key
Ice on command is extremely convenient, but safely maintaining a countertop ice maker takes a bit of effort. Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, so if your ice maker isn’t running constantly, there’s a good chance that any water left in the machine will grow some slimy gunk. High-end models like the GE and Gevi nugget ice makers featured automatic cleaning cycles that can be run with a mixture of water and bleach, but most of the ice makers we tested needed to be cleaned (and drained) by hand. The Silonn, FrigidAire, and Igloo models featured drain spouts on the bottom of the machine, which meant they had to be lifted and placed over the sink to empty the water. Ice makers are heavy, and completely draining the water from these machines was difficult. The smaller AGLucky ice maker was easy to lift, but it was difficult to reach inside its small reservoir to wipe the corners clean. Although it doesn’t feature an automatic cleaning cycle, the Luma Comfort was the only machine with a side drainage spout. Compared to bottom-draining models, this was significantly easier to use.
How Noisy Were the Ice Makers?
All countertop ice makers generate some noise. Some models we tested produced the low hum of a white noise machine, while others replicated the buzzing rumble of a refrigerator in need of repair. During testing, we found that ice makers with a consistent noise output were less disruptive than those that warbled. Most machines were about as loud as an overloaded laptop being asked to open one more tab. The worst offender was the FrigidAire compact ice maker, which produced an irregular whirring that was difficult to tune out.
The Criteria: What to Look for In a Countertop Ice Maker
Choose an ice maker that fits on your countertop and produces your favorite kind of ice (be it bullet, clear, or nugget ice). Look for a model with a cleaning cycle and/or easy drainage. Proper hygiene is important, and an easy-to-clean appliance will make this habit more attainable.
The Best Nugget Ice Maker: GE Profile Opal 2.0 Nugget Ice Maker
What we liked: This ice maker makes and stores oodles of ice. During testing, this machine made just over a pound of ice in an hour, and the storage bin has a stated capacity of three pounds. Start this machine a few hours ahead of time, and you’ll have enough ice to last you through a dinner party. The nugget ice it produces is soft and crunchy and really great. The machine itself is large, but you don’t have to worry about lifting the whole thing to fill it—refilling the reservoir is made easy by the detachable side tank. The self-cleaning cycle is also easy to run, and if you follow manufacturer guidance by running the cleaning cycle with diluted bleach water once a week, this should suffice for cleanup.
What we didn’t like: Good ice comes at a cost. Weighing-in at a whopping 38 pounds, this was one of the largest, heaviest, and most expensive machines we tested. Because of the size and weight, it’s difficult to move this machine around. This model also takes more setup and makes a little more noise than a simple bullet ice maker.
Price at time of publish: $630.
- Weight: 38 lbs
- Dimensions: 14.8 x 11.3 x 14.1 inches
- Production: 1.09 lbs per hour
The Best Ice Maker for Cocktails: Luma Comfort Clear Ice Cube Maker Machine
What we liked: The Luma Comfort ice maker churns out high-quality, clear ice. This machine yielded a lot, too, making 1.3 pounds of ice over the course of an hour. The Luma also comes with an extra mode: restart the machine and hold down the power button for five seconds to make even thicker ice cubes. This was the only model with a side drainage spout, making it easy to empty the water from this machine—just place it near a sink, and watch the water drain away.
What we didn’t like: This model takes a slightly longer time to start producing ice; the first batch took 21 minutes to freeze. While running, this machine creates a consistent white noise-like hum, but the dense ice cubes make a bit of a racket when they drop into the tray. This machine also lacks a self-cleaning cycle, and it should be drained and wiped clean by hand once a week.
Price at time of publish: $340.
- Weight: 25.5 lbs
- Dimensions: 14.8 x 11.3 x 14.1 inches
- Production: 1.3 lbs per hour
The Best Less-Expensive Ice Maker: Magic Chef Portable Silver Countertop Ice Maker
What we liked: This speedy machine was the top yielding bullet ice maker, producing 374 grams of ice in one hour. It was simple to use, and it began producing ice within eight minutes. Plus, compared to our other winners, this is the smallest and most affordable option.
What we didn’t like: This model lost points during cleanup. It lacks the cleaning cycle of the GE Opal and, unlike the Luma, its drainage spout is located on the bottom. So, to drain it, you have to place it over a sink to remove excess water.
Price at time of publish: $144.
- Weight: 21 lbs
- Dimensions: 15.4 x 11.7 x 15.7 inches
- Production: .82 lbs per hour
- Silonn Ice Makers Countertop: The Silonn ice maker ranked just about in the middle of the models that we tested. It was easy to set up and produced ice within eight minutes. The drainage spout for this model is on the bottom, so it needs to be picked up and positioned over the sink to empty it before cleaning.
- Gevi Household Nugget Ice Maker: Compared to the GE model, this ice maker took longer to start and produced less ice per hour (442 grams compared to 496 grams). It lacked a detachable side compartment, so filling it with water was cumbersome.
- AGLUCKY Countertop Ice Maker Machine: This model had the second lowest yield after an hour of production. The smaller size offers some countertop convenience, but it also made it harder to clean—it was difficult to reach the bottom of the reservoir with a damp rag.
- FRIGIDAIRE EFIC189-Silver Compact Ice Maker: Of the bullet ice machines, this model took the longest time to produce a batch of ice. While running, it made an inconsistent whirring sound that didn’t fade easily into the background.
- Igloo Automatic Ice Maker: This ice maker had the lowest yield after one hour. The small ice cubes melted quickly, and by the time several batches had been produced, the first batch had melted substantially.
Do countertop ice makers keep ice cold?
After a batch is produced, countertop ice makers hold the newly formed ice in a basket or dedicated compartment. The models we tested will hold ice for a brief period of time, but they don’t have a freezer/refrigerated component to them. Instead, countertop ice makers are designed to work continuously. As the ice melts, it drips back into the reservoir where it can be refrozen into fresh cubes.
What are the benefits of having a countertop ice maker?
Countertop ice makers produce ice more quickly than ice cube trays, and free up space in your freezer. They also offer an opportunity to make different kinds of ice. There’s no ice cube tray in the world (that we know of) that can produce soft, chewable nugget ice.
Do you need to clean a countertop ice maker?
This is a definitive yes. Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. If your ice maker isn’t in constant use, it will likely have some amount of water resting in it. To prevent mold and bacterial growth, ice makers should be cleaned following manufacturer instructions, either by running a self-cleaning cycle or by wiping clean with a solution of soap and water. Some ice makers also need to be descaled after several uses. Descaling is a process that prevents mineral buildup in the interior of the machine.