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On a hot day, there are very few indulgences as welcome as a cold drink. And when you’re lounging in the back yard with your best friends, nothing can bring the party to a grinding halt like running out of ice.
Ask yourself this: how many times have you had to rip down to the gas station just to grab an overpriced bag of ice? With a portable ice maker, these trips (and the expense!) can be a thing of the past. If you enjoy keeping your beverages cool, an ice maker can pay itself off in no time. But for this to happen, you’ve got to get the right kind.
Do you need to invest in a restaurant grade? Or should you just whip down to Wal-Mart and grab the cheapest thing you can find? For most consumers, neither of these choices is true. The savvy buyer will investigate the features available and find the model that best suits their individual needs.
We’ve gone hands-on with countless models in order to create this guide. In our reviews, we’ll take a look at our top choices and break down each model feature by feature. After, we’ll help you find the best portable ice maker for your specific needs.
Portable or Permanent?
When you first start shopping for an ice maker, this is the first question you’ll have. Should you go for a portable model, or are you better off getting a full-size ice maker?
In most cases, portable is the way to go, especially if buying for your home bar. Full size ice makers are generally only needed in public environments. Restaurants, hotels, and shared accommodations need the higher daily output. What we found is that most portable models produce more than enough ice for even larger gatherings. Outputs start at 20 pounds – roughly the size of a pillow case. If this isn’t enough ice for you, there are still models with higher capacity.
Not only do portable ice makers produce as much ice as most consumers need, but they do it faster than full-size models. Commercial ice makers can take up to 12 hours to produce their first batch. With portable options, you’ll have fresh ice in minutes.
Last, but certainly not least, portable ice makers have almost no maintenance. Just clean them once a week and they’ll keep running for years to come. If the ice maker in your fridge breaks, your only option is an expensive repair or a new fridge.
Portable Ice Maker FAQs
How do portable ice makers work?
Once you fill the ice maker, water enters the ice trays. The machines use a compressor and fan to freeze the water and make ice cubes.
How long does it take to make ice?
Most quality portable ice makers with produce ice in a matter of minutes. No more waiting 2 hours to drop ice into your highball cocktail glass.
Do they still work in a hot room or outdoors?
Yes they will work fine, but may take a little longer to create ice cubes.
All of these features are nice to have, but there is one key reason why most consumers go portable: the price. Portable ice makers are much cheaper than you think. Just a few trips down to the gas station to pick up pre-made ice, and you’ve already invested as much as it would cost to buy your own. With all of this in mind, there has never been a better time to invest in a portable ice maker.
Emerson Portable Ice Maker IM92W
- White Housing
- 10 pcs of Ice per One Cycle
- Ice Shape: Small/Medium/Large Bullet Type
- Ice Basket Capacity: 1.8 lbs
As one of the most well known brands for professional grade Ice-Makers, it would make sense that Emerson has a model available for the home as well. The IM92W might not be the most modern model on our list. It’s age is most evident in the simple white design. But this model has been on the market for a long time, and it’s tried-and-true design ensures that it will last for many years to come.
What we loved most about this ice maker is that it’s fast. If it’s been off for a while, the very first batch of ice will take about 15 minutes. After that, it will be churning out ice like clockwork. You can expect to wait roughly 4 to 5 minutes in between batches.
Unless you’re hosting a busy party, you probably won’t be able to use the ice before it starts melting. What Emerson does is recycle the melted water into the next batch. This speeds up production time, ensuring that you’ve always got fresh cubes in the tray.
Overall, you can expect upwards of 25 pounds of ice every single day. Each cycle produces 10 standard pieces of ice – more than enough for three standard drinks. It’s programmable, so you can select between small, medium, or large cubes. The tray holds up to 1.8 pounds of fresh ice at any given time, so you have time to stock up before your next event.
The design of the ice maker is very simple. It looks great in any kitchen, no matter your décor. This simple design makes it easy to use as well. Just push the button to select your ice size and turn on the power. You don’t need a manual to figure it out, so you can be up and running the second you take it out of the box.
Magic Chef MCIM22R Portable Ice Maker
- Makes ice in as little as 7 minutes
- Makes 9 ice cubes per 1 cycle
- Choice of 2 ice cube sizes
- Makes up to 27 lbs. of ice 24 hours
- Exterior drain and See-thru window
The first thing you’ll notice about this modern ice maker is the stylish exterior. It’s aluminum clad body is anodized with an eye-catching fire-red alloy. Unlike paint, this material won’t scratch or chip away. It’s bonded to the metal, so this ice maker will look great for many years to come. Because it’s protected with aluminum, Magic Chef managed to find the perfect balance between durability and portability. Aluminum is very light weight, so it’s easy to carry around. But when it does inevitably get dinged or scraped, your investment will remain unmarred.
Despite the added durability, this model is priced competitively with most entry-level ice makers. Unlike some models that trade one feature for another, Magic Chef didn’t skimp on the basics. After a brief warm up time, it produces a batch of 9 cubes every seven minutes. You can select between two different sizes – either small or large cubes. Overall, you can expect a daily output of 27 pounds. For the money, this isn’t anything to scoff at!
Magic Chef also has a few key features that help it stand out. Most importantly – your ice will last longer. There is a drain on the bottom that pulls water away from your fresh cubes. Nothing melts ice quicker than sitting in a bath of warm water, so draining it away is very important to ensure that your ice isn’t wasted.
To top it off, you also get a handy window on the top. This lets you know how your ice supply is doing, so you can turn it on or off as needed.
To give you a little more control over the function of the ice maker, Magic Chef gave you a digital control panel. This includes a compact display that shows its current status. Is the tray too full? The display will let you know that it needs to be emptied. Just turned it on? During the initial cool-down cycle, your first batch will take a little longer. Just cast your eyes at the display, and you’ll instantly know when it’s down to temperature.
With the ability to store 1.9 lbs of ice, you won’t need to empty the hopper all that much. But if you’re stocking up for a large gathering, migrating it to your freezer will help you reach the maximum daily capacity.
Igloo Portable Countertop Ice Maker ICE103
- Portable Stainless Steel Ice Maker
- Over-sized Ice bucket holds 2.2 lbs of ice
- Choice of 3 Ice Cube Sizes (small, medium and large)
- Enjoy a batch of ice in as little as 6 minutes
- Produces 26 lbs of ice per day. No drain required, making it ideal in any room or at the office
If you’re looking for a bargain, this is the ice maker for you. Although it may not be the cheapest on the market, all of the lower-priced models came with some serious compromises. In our eyes, that makes this the absolute best bang for your buck.
What do you get for your money? Almost everything you’ll find in a higher end model. The aluminum exterior protects against bumps and scratches, and helps it keep up with the modern appearance of most newer kitchens.
The simple control panel only has two buttons: power and size. Once you hit the power button, the ice maker will go through a 20-minute cool-off procedure. This is a little longer than some options, but once it’s up to speed it will produce ice in six minute intervals. Overall, the impact on speed is minimal.
There are three size settings. From small little nuggets to nice big cubes, this ice maker can be modified to suit any situation.
There are two key differences between this model and the standard choices. The first is daily capacity. At 26 pounds per day, this model produces a little less ice than some. But overall, we’re talking about less than 5% loss. For most users, this won’t even be noticeable.
What you will notice is the extra large ice bucket. It stores up to 2.2 pounds, and the removable tray makes it easy to transport. For this reason, we’d recommend this ice maker for casual users. If you want a regular, daily supply of ice you’ll find better options. But if you just want a way to prepare some extra ice for a large event, the high speed and large tray make this a top choice.
Edgestar IP210SS1 Portable Ice Maker
- Easy to use electronic controls; Stores up to 2 pounds of ice at a time
- Stainless steel wrapped body with matching silver lid, 3 different ice cube sizes
- 1 gallon water reservoir; Use tap or bottled water
- No drain required, Produces ice in under 10 minutes
- Perfect for your RV, boat, or small kitchen
If you’ve got a flexible budget, spending a little more can be worthwhile. But at first glance, you might not see what all the hype is about with this Edgestar model.
The specifications are very much in line with the previous models we looked at. The metal wrapped body offers durability, and the 10-minute cycle seems slightly lower than other models. The two-pound capacity is slightly above average, as is the 28 pounds per day production rating.
But there are two key improvements with this model which aren’t immediately obvious from the specifications.
The main advantage is the insulation. In warm climates your ice will melt quickly. Draining the water away from the hopper is a simple solution, but it’s not always the best. What EdgeStar did was use a much higher quality insulation than other models. This insulation keeps heat out and allows your ice to stay frozen for longer. In our test, we found it to last almost 40% longer than competing models!
What does this mean for you? If you’re filling up the hopper and using it quickly, you won’t see much benefit from the extra insulation. But if you’re looking for a way to keep ice on hand all day long, this model will ensure that much less of it is wasted.
The next thing that impressed us was the durability. The metal enclosure is stainless steel, not aluminum like other models. Steel is significantly more durable than aluminum – adding a layer of structural integrity on top of the protection from bumps and scratches. But the durability goes much deeper than just the surface. All of the internal components are reinforced, so it can handle motion a lot better. If you’re running an ice maker in a boat or RV, you’ll definitely want this model.
Newair AI-215SS Portable Ice Maker
- Large output ice maker is perfect for parties and special events where you need consistent ice at a rapid pace; Operating Cycle: 7 minutes
- Powerful compressor produces 50 pounds of ice a day so you never have to run to the store for a bag of ice again.Frequency: 60 Hz
- Simple, hassle-free ice dispenser requires no installation - just plug in, add water and wait up to 15 minutes to enjoy your first batch of fresh ice
- Bullet shaped ice is created as frequently as every 7 minutes so you don't have to wait long to chill your drink
- Indicator lights let you know if water needs to be added or if the ice basket is full, so you can ensure a nonstop flow of ice
How much ice do you really need? Most of these ice makers produce 20 to 30 pounds. That’s roughly the size of a standard bed pillow. But if you’re having a lot of friends over for drinks or trying to pack enough coolers for several days in the bush, this just won’t cut it.
This is where the Newair AI-215SS portable ice maker comes in. It produces up to 50 pounds of ice in just 24 hours! Take the pillow sized supply you get from another cooler, and add two full-size shoe boxes to it. For the consumer market, this is one of the highest capacities available.
With a black top and brushed steel enclosure, this is one of the most professional looking ice makers we’ve come across. But if that clean corporate look doesn’t do it for you, an anodized red version is also available.
You do pay a little more for this option, but you get a lot for your money. You’ll be required to clean and perform basic maintenance on some models, but this model is virtually zero-maintenance. It’s got a self-cleaning feature. Just run this once per week and you’ll never have to worry about a clogged machine again. This is especially useful for anyone with hard water. The minerals can really do a number on these kinds of appliances, so having one that self-cleans will make your life a lot easier.
This unit is fully self contained. Both the water supply and the drain pan are enclosed, so it can be used in an RV or in your back yard. Indicator lights on the front tell you when to add water or drain the pan, so you’ll never have to worry about running out or overflowing.
There is one major disadvantage to having such a high capacity ice maker. It’s not easy to transport all that ice! To make this process simple, both the bucket and the scoop are removable. You can take out the entire hopper, dump it into your freezer or cooler, and throw it right back in. You’ll be ready for your next batch in a matter of seconds.
Which Portable Ice Maker is Right for Me?
As with any kitchen appliance, there is one “one size fits all” option. These models can’t simply be ranked from “best” to “worst.” You can, however, still find the model that best suits your needs.
After testing a number of different models, we selected ones that we thought would be best for a variety of circumstances. By finding the environment that is the closest to your specific application, you’ll be able to select the model that is the best fit.
The Best Portable Ice Maker for Parties: Emerson IM92W
Need a quick, easy, and affordable way to produce more ice? When ice-cube trays wont’ cut it, the IM92W is the next best choice. There are a few key reasons that his models stands out for occasional, moderate-volume users. It’s smaller ice cube size is great for drinks, and it’s got a quick ice making cycle. The hopper is a little smaller, but when you’re using it quickly this doesn’t matter. Most importantly: it can last a long time. This model has been on the market for quite some time, so you know it’s not going to wear out after a few short summers of use.
The Best Looking Portable Ice Maker: Magic Chef MCIM22R
If you’re looking for something that will see daily use in your kitchen, you’ll want to leave it out on the counter. When you’ve spent time and money building the kitchen of your dreams, the last thing you want to do is clutter it up with an unattractive appliance. The Magic Chef MCIM22R has one of the most eye-catching designs we’ve come across, and it’s sure to earn a few comments from visitors.
The Best Ice Maker for Hot Climates: Edgestar IP210SS1
If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, the year-round summer temperatures provide plenty of opportunity for relaxing on the back porch with a cold drink. But where ice makers are concerned, this brings in additional problems. Warmer temperatures means ice melts faster. In some cases, you’ll waste most of the ice produced.
With this Edgestar model, you won’t have to worry about melting. It’s got some of the best insulation on the market, so your ice will stay frozen for longer periods of time.
Cheapest Portable Ice Maker: Igloo ICE103
Sure, there are lots of affordable options on the market. But very few provide you what Igloo does. With a durable enclosure, a removable ice hopper, and a large capacity, there is very little to nitpick. It does run a little slower than some, but the real world difference is minimal. What you gain is unbeatable value.
Highest Capacity Ice Maker: Newair AI-215SS
When you think of high capacity, most consumers look towards standalone options. But the Newair AI-2155SS gives you unparalleled capacity in a package that is still fully portable. Whether you’re setting it up in your kitchen or throwing it on the deck, this high volume model gives you as much ice as you can handle – wherever you want.