The essential guide to countertop ice makers

The essential guide to countertop ice makers

A countertop ice maker is a cost-effective alternative to buying bagged ice and a great party accessory that will make traditional ice trays obsolete. Its excellent portability allows you to carry it around wherever you go. Whether you host a barbecue or go on a camping trip, there will always be plenty of cool, crisp ice cubes to go around.

What is a countertop ice maker?

Also known as a portable ice machine, a countertop ice maker does exactly what its name says: it sits on a countertop and it makes ice. It is an electric unit of reasonable dimensions that you can easily store on the kitchen counter or bring it along to a family outing.

Countertop ice makers do not require connection to a water line. All they need is a decent electric hookup and manually-added fresh water to produce enough ice for a small party. Their portability is almost limitless and they require very little maintenance, which makes them ideal for:

  • Camping trips
  • Picnics
  • House parties
  • Boat cruises
  • Tailgating with friends

Portable ice machines are also a great addition to your collection of kitchen appliances. They are designed to work fast and produce fresh ice in under 10 minutes, which makes them ideal for the hot summer days. There are numerous benefits to having a countertop ice maker, such as:

  • Convenient portability
  • Simple to use
  • Quick ice delivery
  • Large ice production of up to 30lbs
  • Ice comes in different sizes
  • Cost-effective
  • Easy maintenance

Countertop ice makers do not take too much space and they are fairly easy to use. Just plug them in a supporting outlet, or your car’s battery power source using a DC adapter to secure continuous functioning. Add water, set the preferred cub size and in less than 10 minutes you can enjoy a fresh batch of cool, crisp cubes.

How does a countertop ice maker work?

A portable ice machine has a pretty straightforward functioning process. You only need to use it a couple of times to figure out most of its internal mechanisms. Furthermore, if you already own one and you want to upgrade your household’s ice-making apparel, you know which features to look for in the new countertop ice maker. The common ice machine is composed of:

  • A metal case (cover)
  • A reservoir
  • A water filter
  • An internal ice tray
  • A heat exchanger
  • A compressor
  • A condenser
  • An expansion water valve
  • An evaporator
  • Electronic sensors

There is only one essential feature that you need to consider before buying one of these products: a countertop ice maker is not a freezer. This appliance is designed to produce ice quickly and efficiently, and not to keep the cubes or other produce frozen. That being said, here is a general working pattern that most ice makers use:

  1. Adding the water Since these portable machines do not need a water hookup line, you have to add the fresh water manually before starting the ice-making process.
  2. Filling up the ice tray. Almost any countertop ice maker uses a small pump to deliver the incoming water through a filter and into an internal ice tray. Most machines allow the excess water to return to the reservoir if the tray overflows.
  3. Freezing the water.
    The spikes of the heat exchanger automatically enter the water in the ice tray where they start to drop the temperature gradually.
  4. Ice cube formation. Depending on the ice cube size that you select and the capacity of the machine, the first batch of ice cubes will be ready in less than 10 minutes. Most countertop ice makers deliver small-sized cubes in just 6 minutes.
  5. Delivering the ice. Once the ice cubes are ready to be exported, the spikes of the heat exchanger heat up and allow the ice to get its final shape before reaching the outside tray.

Most countertop ice makers use electronic sensors to signal when the reservoir or the ice trays are full or when the system is overheating. It is essential that you read the instruction manual before using the product. The better you know your portable ice machine the longer you will be able to enjoy it.

Important features to consider

If you have decided to buy a countertop ice maker, you should know that there are a few features that you will need to consider. Besides meeting your budget, the future ice machine to provide you with fresh, crisps cubes anytime and anywhere will have to tick important boxes, such as:

Size and looks

One of the most important aspects of a countertop ice maker regards the way it will fit and look. You will want to pick an ice machine that does not take too much space on your kitchen counter or in your truck. Most of them have a cuboid shape, but manufacturers offer a broad range of sizes, colors, and designs that you can choose from.

Production capacity

If you need a large amount of ice on a regular basis, you might want to pick a countertop ice maker that can deliver between 20 lbs. and 30 lbs. of ice cubes per day. Such an ice machine comes at a slightly higher price than regular models, but they become quite convenient during parties and summer camping trips. Otherwise, you can settle for a slightly cheaper ice maker that suits your occasional need for ice cubes.


Most countertop ice makers give you a fresh batch of cubes every 6 minutes. Older models may need between 10 and 15 minutes to fill the tray with crisp bullet-sized ice. You should take speed into consideration depending on how fast you will need to replenish your guests’ drinks.

Ice size

Nowadays, most portable ice machines offer three different sizes of ice cubes: small, medium and large. The bigger they cubes are the longer it will take for the machine to produce it.

Water use
If you don’t want to waste a single cube of ice, you can opt for a countertop ice maker that recycles the melted cubes and uses them to make fresh, new ice. Again, this is a feature that will ask you to pay an extra buck, but which will keep your water consumption to a decent level in the long run.


Some countertop ice makers have the self-cleaning option. This remarkable feature enables the machine to clean up after itself and leave very little maintenance work on your side.

Automatic timer

This feature allows you to program the ice maker to start functioning at a certain time. It is a great option that comes in handy during crowded parties when you can spend more time with your guests and still have fresh cubes when you need them.

Ice scoop

Some countertop ice makers come readily equipped with ice scoops. These small utensils are made from metal or plastic and prevent you from spending more money on an additional scoop.


Last, but not least, one of the most advantageous features of countertop ice makers is their affordability. Most portable ice machines cost between $100 and $250. Their price varies depending on the brand, warranty and particular features.

What is the best countertop ice maker?

Picking the right countertop ice maker is not an easy task. There are numerous brands out there with remarkably good products that come in different colors and each of them with distinctive features. The good news is that many other consumers have already tried these appliances and tested their ice-making abilities. Here are some of the most popular ice machines out there, according to user reviews and comments:

Igloo ICE103Newair ai-100rEdgestar IP210TIWhynter IMC-270MS
The Igloo ICE103 is the type of gadget that you want to have at any party, whether indoors or outdoors. This portable ice machine with slick design and stylish features can refill your ice bucket in less than six minutes. It provides ice cubes in three different sizes, and can produce up to 26lbs. of fresh, crisp ice per day.

Igloo is renowned for its easy-to-use ice machines. The ICE103 boasts simple features and a convenient cuboid shape that allow you to store it anywhere on your kitchen countertop. It weighs just 25 pounds and measures 14*12*15 inches, which means that you can easily take it with you to a party or an outdoor picnic.

Despite the fact that it lacks an ice cooler to keep the cubes frozen, the Igloo ICE103 still impresses with features like:

  • Storage capacity of up to 2.2lbs
  • 3 Ice cube sizes
  • 6-minute wait for fresh ice
    The Newair ai-100r ice machine is a reliable kitchen appliance that can easily replace the need for traditional ice bags. Its square form and rounded corners give it a robust look that is amplified by the blazing red glow – the only color that it comes in. The white control panel on the front side is a stylish feature that also shows this product’s ease of use.

    When developing the ai-100r, the engineers at Newair opted for capacity instead of speed. This countertop ice maker can produce as much as 28 pounds of cubes in just 24 hours. The downside is that you have to wait no less than 15 minutes for the first batch to hit the tray.

    Weighing in at 24.3 lbs. and measuring 14.5 by 11.8 by 15 inches, the Newair ai-100r has remarkable traits, such as:

    • Easy-to-use control panel
    • Silent functioning
    • Comes with an ice scoop

    If you are looking for a reliable countertop ice maker, you cannot go wrong with the titanium-polished IP210TI from Edgestar. This ice machine boasts a slick design and a cool digital display on the front side that lets you choose between three different sizes of cubes that may amount to almost 20 lbs. of ice per day.

    One of the best features of EdgeStar IP210TI is its recycling water function. This countertop ice maker does not let a single drop go to waste. Through a simple push of a button, you can transform the melted ice cubes into new ones as the water from the tray reenters the machine and goes back to freezing temperatures.

    The Edgestar IP210TI weighs just 31lbs. and measures 14.5”x 11.75”x1 4.5”. Some of its most impressive features include:

    • Titanium case
    • Water recycling function
    • Intuitive control panel
    Whynter IMC-270MS is a fast, quiet ice maker that can easily meet your need for daily ice cubes. It comes in a highly compact size and weighs no more than 19 lbs. With a storage capacity of 1.5 lbs. and an average production time of 6 minutes for every new batch this machine can make as much as 27 pounds of ice every 24 hours.
    If you choose the Whynter IMC-270MS, you will have to settle for only two sizes of ice cubes and a noisy ice basket. Nevertheless, this countertop ice maker makes up for its shortcomings with a user-friendly control panel, high-quality pieces, and automatic overflow protection. Other noteworthy features include:

    • Easy to install and use right away
    • Light indicators for various functions
    • Auto shut-off when ice bin is full

    Our conclusion about countertop ice makers

    Countertop ice makers are convenient home appliances that will save you a lot of money in the long term if you consume ice regularly. These ice-making machines are ideal to store, simple to use and easy to clean. Once you buy it, a portable ice maker can quickly become an irreplaceable presence in your kitchen, your office or even your car for seasonal camping trips.

    • Updated April 17, 2018
    • Ice
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