The Best Ice Makers for Pellet Ice, Clear Ice, and Frozen Drinks (2023)

When it was time to make ice, we cleaned each ice maker according to the manual, then filled the reservoirs to their max capacity with filtered water and watched each machine do its thing. We made note of how long each machine took to start making ice and complete a full batch, we scooped and chewed a ridiculous amount of ice, and we refilled each machine when necessary. Finally, we cleaned each ice maker again.\

Factors we evaluated

Ice production

An ice maker has one job and that is to make ice. So above all else we focused on how quickly and how well the machines produced ice, paying little attention to the listed output for each. Instead of hovering over an ice machine and worrying about which one could theoretically make the most ice under very specific and unrealistic conditions (emptying each batch as its made), we looked at how much ice was continuously and readily available in the ice basket or bin under normal residential conditions (getting ice as needed).

Ice cube quality

Of course, there’s more to ice than quantity so we also looked at the ice cube size, shape, clarity, and texture. Some machines produced bullet-shaped ice cubes and had settings for making small and large ice cubes while others produced just one size. Though we used the same filtered water in each machine, some produced clear ice while others made cloudy ice.

Storage bin insulation

An ice maker’s ice receptacle isn’t a true freezer, but we looked at how well the ice maintained its structural integrity after a few hours in the bin or basket. (Eventually the ice melts and the water goes back into the reservoir to make new cubes.)

Machine size

Perhaps more important than ice size is machine size. Because any appliance that’s going to take up semi-permanent residence on the kitchen counter has to be worth it. Even the smallest ice makers are pretty bulky, though none of the machines we tested were unreasonably large either.


Anything that lives on the counter should look nice enough. We’re partial to clean lines and sleek designs, but understanding that everyone has different preferences, we favored machines that offered more than one color or finish option.

Ease of use

How long did it take to set up the ice maker? Was it a plug-and-play situation or did we have to do a lengthy cleaning cycle first? Is the control panel intuitive? How often is cleaning required and how easy is it to clean? Is there a drain plug on the back that makes it easy to empty?


While we expect any machine to make some noise, we paid attention to the noise level of each while actively making ice and resting.

Price and value

Did the ice makers with higher price points feel as if they were worth the investment?

Other countertop ice makers we tested

Save for the smaller 26-pound Newair nugget ice maker, the countertop ice makers below are all bullet ice makers. And we discovered something very interesting when researching and testing these machines: while they have slightly different exterior housing, they’re all nearly identical in terms of performance, capacity, size, and price. Some even have the exact same control panels. And this was true no matter the brand (we looked at bullet ice makers from Frigidaire, Igloo, Newair, and even some of those random Amazon brands like Silonn, Euhomy, and Aglucky). So if you just want a lot of ice quickly, aren’t particular about the type of ice you’ll get, and you want to spend less than $200, you can choose any of the following machines based on aesthetics and personal preference (or sale price, if you’re lucky) and be satisfied.

Newair 26-Pound Countertop Nugget Ice Maker (NIM044BS00)

This is the smallest nugget ice maker that Newair makes and it produces the same nearly-clear ice nuggets that the 44-pound model does. But instead of the sleek body and front-facing ice drawer with a window, this machine opens on top where you get access to a small-ish plastic basket. At first glance, it would be easy to confuse this with one of the cheaper bullet ice makers below (the body is nearly identical and very similar in size) but instead of bullet-shaped ice, it churns out that crunchy Newair nugget ice. If you just want nugget ice at a low price—and if looks and daily ice output don’t matter much to you—this is the way to go.

The Best Ice Makers for Pellet Ice, Clear Ice, and Frozen Drinks (1)

Newair 26-Pound Countertop Nugget Ice Maker

Frigidaire Compact Ice Maker (EFIC117-SS)

Though it looks much smaller than the Opal, this compact ice maker by Frigidaire is just about the same depth and only two inches narrower (17.8” D x 11” W x 14.9" H) and comes in four finishes, including stainless steel. It can produce (theoretically) up to 26 pounds of bullet ice in 24 hours and after the initial setup, the first batch will drop down from the Evaporator Fingers (yes, that’s what they’re called) into the ice basket within about 10 minutes. Once the basket is full, the machine will stop automatically but will start again once you empty the ice basket—unless the water level is too low, at which point an Add Water indicator illuminates. You can check the ice basket via a viewing window on top of the machine. Cleaning is easy, too; just remove the plug on the front underside of the machine to drain and rinse.

Newair Portable Countertop Ice Maker (NIM026MS00)

This portable ice maker from Newair does everything the Frigidaire does with all the same features, but it’s more compact. In fact, it’s the smallest ice maker we tested. It has a footprint of 8.74” x 12.32” and stands just over a foot tall. You can choose a stainless steel or matte black body and purchase an extended warranty if you buy directly from Newair. Like the other machines in this style, the lid has a viewing window into the ice basket and a drain plug on the front underside makes it easy to empty and clean.

The Best Ice Makers for Pellet Ice, Clear Ice, and Frozen Drinks (3)

NewAir Portable Countertop Ice Maker

Igloo Automatic Portable Electric Countertop Ice Maker Machine (ICEB26RR)

Igloo is perhaps best known for its portable coolers, so a portable ice maker isn’t really a stretch. Like the Frigidaire and Newair, this affordable compact countertop ice maker makes two sizes of ice (albeit cloudy ice) in a bullet shape. It has (just barely) the biggest footprint of the three lower-priced ice makers we tested, at 12.25'' wide, 17.25" deep, and 14.75 inches tall, and it’s packaged in a retro-inspired metallic red body. The included ice basket can hold up to two pounds of ice at a time and there’s a drain plug on the front underside of the machine for easy draining and cleaning.

The Best Ice Makers for Pellet Ice, Clear Ice, and Frozen Drinks (4)

Igloo Automatic Portable Electric Countertop Ice Maker Machine

The takeaway

If you have the counter space and the cash, we recommend splurging for the GE Profile Opal 2.0 Nugget Ice Maker with Side Tank because it provides a constant supply of perfectly chewable ice nuggets. For a more budget-friendly alternative, consider New Air’s 44-Pound Nugget Ice Maker; it’s nearly as sleek as the Opal but its ice nuggets are more crunchy than chewy. If you prefer restaurant-quality clear ice, opt for the Newair Countertop Clear Ice Maker; it produces crystal-clear ice in the shape of an actual cube.


Do countertop ice makers make clear ice? ›

The best countertop ice maker for clear ice: Newair Countertop Clear Ice Maker. If it's clear ice cubes you're after, we recommend the Newair Countertop Clear Ice Maker. As countertop ice makers go, it's compact and nondescript, and it's the only machine we tested that produced ice in a shape actually resembling a cube ...

Do any countertop ice makers keep the ice frozen? ›

No, most portable ice makers are not designed to keep ice cold and frozen. They do not have the insulation to keep the ice from melting. Any unused or remaining ice cubes will slowly melt over time and replenish water back into the bottom water reservoir.

Is clear ice better than cloudy ice for drinks? ›

Ultimately, clear ice tastes better than cloudy ice. Clear ice cubes or ice balls will also thaw more slowly and evenly whereas cloudy ice that contains air pockets will thaw more quickly, leaving your drinks diluted and watered down much faster than those made with clear ice.

Is it worth it to get a countertop ice maker? ›

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.

Why does the ice in my countertop ice maker taste bad? ›

A dirty water filter

An ice filter is essential to purify the water that makes your ice cubes, but if you're experiencing cloudy ice or a poor taste, this is a telltale sign that it might be time to change your filter.

Can I leave my countertop ice maker on all the time? ›

If you leave it running, the ice will gradually melt and be recycled into the water reservoir. While this is not problematic, the ice will form a clump and become less convenient to serve. I prefer to make as much ice as I need, storing some in my freezer, then I turn the unit off until I need ice again.

What is the best water to use in a countertop ice maker? ›

Use distilled or filtered water. This makes your ice taste better and also keeps your machine operating well for longer. Some units specify that they can work with soft tap water, too.

How long should a countertop ice maker last? ›

Factors such as how much it's used and how well it's maintained affect how long a machine lasts. Seldom, though, will an ice machine last longer than 10 years if it is used everyday. A safe estimate would be roughly 4 to 5 years, or within the warranty of the machine.

What is the difference between an ice maker and an ice machine? ›

Ice makers produce a moderate volume of ice cubes, and are generally perfect for most families. An ice machine, on the other hand, is a smaller version of a full-scale machine you'd see at a restaurant or in a hotel. They do not attach to a fridge or freezer, rather standing alone and existing only to make ice cubes.

Is it cheaper to make or buy ice? ›

Conclusion. When it comes to making vs buying, purchasing quality ice from your favorite retailer (like Walmart, Kroger, or CVS), wins hands down. On the surface it might appear that homemade ice production is inexpensive and user-friendly but it falls short on quality, taste, as well as scale.

How do you make 100% clear ice? ›

Fill a small cooler with 5-6 inches of water and place it in a freezer with the lid off. After 20-24 hours, there will be a 3-4 inch ice block with water under the ice. All the air and impurities will be in the unfrozen water leaving crystal-clear ice cubes.

Why is restaurant ice clear? ›

The cleanest, purest water freezes, and the minerals, impurities and air bubbles continue moving along. So the clear ice cubes made by commercial ice makers are simply made of the purest water. That's why they're clear!

Why do bartenders use clear ice? ›

Drinks Are Cool, Not Watery

Because of this, drinks stay cool longer and don't get watered down as easily. Clear cubes also have more ice in them. Though that sounds impossible, it's not. Think of it - where there could be air bubbles, there is instead more ice.

What are the disadvantages of ice maker? ›

A commercial ice machine can be a beneficial investment for businesses in the food and beverage industry. They offer convenience, consistency, customization, and efficiency. However, they also have their disadvantages, including maintenance, cost, space, noise, and repair.

Why is Chick Fil A ice so good? ›

What Makes Chick-Fil-A Ice So Good? Many customers agree that the Chick-Fil-A ice is superior in texture to regular ice. CFA ice is also known as pebble ice or nugget ice which is a softer and chewier type of ice that soaks up the sweet flavor from the drinks.

Can you leave water in a countertop ice maker? ›

Tip #1: Keep Your Water Clean

If you have a portable ice maker, you may not realize that the water you leave in the machine becomes recycled to make other ice cubes if it doesn't get used.

Do countertop ice makers get moldy? ›

Keep Your Portable Ice Maker Clean Longer

Water provides a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, so if your ice maker is dry, it's less likely to require deep cleaning.

Why does my ice maker ice taste like metal? ›

The Two Reasons Icemakers Make Bad-Tasting Ice

The first is odor contamination. This is when smells and flavors from the food in your fridge somehow mingle with the ice and infuse it with fridge-smell. The second is that your ice is not being made with clean water through the fridge intake.

How often do you change the water in an ice maker? ›

Luckily, cleaning your water and ice filter is not a weekly or even monthly project. Most refrigerator brands recommend changing the water and ice filter once every 6 to 12 months.

Where should I put my ice maker in my kitchen? ›

Keep the machine close to cold water.

Above all, ice machine placement shouldn't hinder employee productivity. Take a bartender as an example. The machine should be close to her taps and bottles. She shouldn't have to run to the kitchen every time she mixes a drink.

Do countertop ice makers use a lot of electricity? ›

Ice maker energy use is around 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) in a month—at a typical rate of $0.06 per kWh, that would cost around $21 a month. The best commercial ice makers will handle a much larger volume than one meant for the home. It's not unusual for a commercial ice maker to make 500 pounds of ice in a single day.

What kind of water is best for crystal clear ice? ›

Distilled water will give you slightly more clear ice, but any clean water should work. Put it in the freezer, leaving the lid off or removed. Check it after about 12–14 hours. If you've timed it right, you can get the ice out just before the cloud of bubbles starts forming at the bottom.

What kind of water is best for clear ice cubes? ›

To make clear ice we recommend using distilled water, boiled water, or water that comes out of a reverse-osmosis (RO) system. It may not come out perfectly clear but at least the ice will not appear cloudy. If you are looking to making clear ice it is more about the method of freezing than the water.

Do countertop ice makers need a drain? ›

No, you don't. Portable ice makers do not require a drain or dedicated drain line. Portable units reuse melted ice to then make more ice. If you wish the unit of water completely, there is a plug located near the bottom of the reservoir, much like a travel cooler, intended to make emptying easy and hassle-free.

How often do you clean a countertop ice maker? ›

Your ice machine works hard, but over time things like mineral deposits and even bacteria can build up inside, leading to ice that tastes less than fresh. Experts say ice machines should be cleaned about once every 9 months, or more frequently if you live in an area with hard water or high humidity.

Should you turn off your ice maker when you go on vacation? ›

If your icemaker will not be used for some time (vacation, storage, etc.), we recommend that you shut off the water supply to the refrigerator and turn off the icemaker. If you turn off the water supply, make sure you also turn off the icemaker.

Why are countertop nugget ice makers so expensive? ›

Most of the pellet ice makers on the market are made for commercial settings like restaurants and gas stations. As such, they have to produce enough ice to satisfy hundreds of customers a day. That kind of capacity calls for a large, heavy, well-insulated machine, which imposes a substantial materials' cost.

Is copper or plastic better for ice maker? ›

Plastic. Copper and plastic are two of the most common materials when it comes to ice maker water lines. Copper lines are durable and can withstand all of the pressure from the water. They also last much longer and are resistant to corrosion and can be easily managed.

What are the two basic types of ice makers? ›

Water cooled systems have an advantage if you need ice in a very hot environment, since they can work at a higher temperature range. Air cooled machines use less water, but are higher in overall energy cost and require certain ambient temperature ranges around the unit.

What size ice maker do I need? ›

A good rule of thumb is to select an ice maker that produces about 20% more ice than your daily needs. So if your operation needs 500 pounds of ice per day, purchase a 600 lb ice maker. Once your needs exceed 1000 lbs per day, then 10% additional output should suffice.

Can an ice maker make too much ice? ›

If the sensor is blocked or dirty it could cause the ice maker to stop ice production or make too much ice. Check the following: It is important to make sure that the bin sensor is not blocked by the ice scoop or any other items that may be in the bin.

Why buy portable ice maker? ›

Ice takes a lot of time to form in conventional ice trays. A portable ice maker produces ice in 6 minutes, so you can have it almost as soon as you need it. And, if you don't use the whole batch of ice, the ice will gradually melt and the machine will reuse the water to make more ice.

How long do Whirlpool ice makers last? ›

Refrigerator ice makers generally last three to 10 years, with their longevity often determined by how much they're used and the quality of water used in them. If you're looking to do some troubleshooting for your Whirlpool refrigerator ice maker, we will walk you through ways to address different common issues.

Does an ice maker increase water bill? ›

If you have a refrigerator with an automatic ice maker, there is a chance that the increase in your water bill could be caused from that. Your refrigerator uses a water line to make ice, and sometimes automatic ice makers can draw too much water if it is malfunctioning.

What is a good price for ice? ›

Where to Buy Ice at Fast-Food Restaurants
  • $0.10/lb: Arby's. If you have an Arby's in your area, make them your go-to for ice. ...
  • $0.14/lb: Burger King. ...
  • $0.15/lb: McDonald's. ...
  • $0.19/lb: Wendy's. ...
  • $0.32/lb: Chick-fil-A. ...
  • $0.35/lb: Sonic Drive-In. ...
  • $1/lb: Dairy Queen. ...
  • $0.11+/lb: Costco.
May 5, 2023

Can I put bagged ice in my ice maker? ›

I would be careful to ensure that there are no large chunks of ice as it could possibly overload it. You could always do it the old fashioned way and just keep the bag in the freezer until your well is back in service.

How do you make ultra clear ice? ›

Make ice with a directional freezing ice tray to get crystal clear cubes with minimal effort. Boil regular tap water twice to remove minerals and freeze it to make semi-clear ice. Fill a plastic, hard-shelled cooler with water and place it in your freezer to directionally freeze it and cut the ice into cubes.

Does clear ice taste better? ›

Whether you use distilled or tap water, clear ice tastes better. Because it's pure water without the extra air, it's essentially tasteless and doesn't pick up any “other” flavors from your home freezer.

Why do they give out ice at hotels? ›

With Americans traveling and staying in hotels more frequently in the 1950s, the demand for ice to be brought to the room shot up. Keeping up with demand was pricey for hotels, which is why self-serve ice machines were the perfect solution.

How do bars get clear ice cubes? ›

Clear ice is obtained through a process commonly referred to as directional freezing. Frequently used in biomimetic material design, the concept behind it is controlling the direction in which the liquid solidifies.

Should you reject food with ice crystals? ›

Check for Ice Crystals

A small layer of ice crystals on ice cream or other foods is normal, and probably won't affect the flavor. Large ice crystals or a thick layer of ice are a sign that the food will not taste fresh.

What kind of ice do bartenders use? ›

1. Standard Ice Cubes. Standard sized ice cubes are roughly 1 inch by 1 inch and are the most commonly used type of ice for many bartenders as they fit easily into every type of cocktail glass.

Why do bartenders tap the glass? ›

Some people tap their glass on the bar as a quiet tribute to absent friends and comrades. In Ireland, it was believed that liquor contained spirits that might be harmful if consumed, and tapping the glass dispelled those spirits.

Why do bartenders put so much ice in my drink? ›

Bartenders use “so much” ice in your drink, because it's better for your drink and better for you (in terms of enjoyment and taste). If you don't want ice in your drink then you can always ask for no ice. Please remember, however, that less ice will always mean more mixer, not more liquor.

Why doesn't my ice maker make clear ice? ›

One of the most common reasons is that a home's water has not been properly filtered and purified. In this case, cloudy ice may be caused by contaminants like tannins, minerals, and other dissolved solids.

How do I make sure my ice is clear? ›

The only way to make perfectly clear ice cubes is through directional freezing. Boiled water helps eliminate air and impurities from water and leads to ice that is clearer than standard kitchen ice cubes but is not crystal clear.

What is the difference between white ice and clear ice? ›

Clear Ice Cubes Melt More Slowly

All that trapped air causes white ice to melt faster than clear ice, too. A perfectly solid cube packed with only water molecules can maintain its low temperature longer — unlike cloudy ice, which reaches room temperatures faster thanks to the air bubbles.

Will bottled water make clear ice cubes? ›

Clear ice is easily made using bottled water that had been purified using reverse osmosis or distillation, but you can make clear ice from tap water.

Does boiled water make clear ice? ›

Boil water to make clear ice cubes

Boiling water to obtain clear ice cubes may seem counterproductive, but this trick is highly effective. It is the impurities present in the water that give the ice cubes their opacity and whitish color.

What is the best temperature for clear ice? ›

Turn the temperature on the freezer up (less cold) so that the ice cubes will form slowly and allow oxygen to diffuse out of the water before it freezes. A freezer temperature set just below freezing (32°F) may work the best.

Does clear ice taste different? ›

Whether you use distilled or tap water, clear ice tastes better. Because it's pure water without the extra air, it's essentially tasteless and doesn't pick up any “other” flavors from your home freezer.

What temperature should water be for clear ice? ›

Clear ice refers to a solid precipitation which forms when air temperature is between 0 °C (32 °F) and −3 °C (27 °F) and there are supercooled, relatively large drops of water (from freezing fog).

Is clear ice better for drinks? ›

There are perfectly good reasons to prefer clear ice. Not only does cloudy ice look bad in otherwise attractive drinks, but air bubbles cause ice to melt more quickly and unevenly, potentially spoiling your expensive spirits. Good ice actually makes drinks taste better.

Why do you put clear ice in a drink? ›

One of the most significant is its slower melting rate compared to conventional ice. Because clear ice has a denser structure and contains fewer impurities, it takes longer to melt, allowing you to enjoy your cocktail for longer without the risk of dilution.

What bottled water is best for clear ice? ›

– The Whiskey Ball. What kind of water to use to make clear ice balls? To make clear ice we recommend using distilled water, boiled water, or water that comes out of a reverse-osmosis (RO) system. It may not come out perfectly clear but at least the ice will not appear cloudy.

Is clear ice safe to walk on? ›

As a general rule of thumb, ice is safe to walk on when there is 4 inches or more of clear ice. It is important to understand that different types of ice varying in their strength. Clear blue or black ice is the strongest.


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