Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Best Countertop Ice Makers for Fancy Cocktails and Chilled Drinks

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Dimensions: 10″ W X 17″ D x 17″ H
Ice production: Up to 44 pounds of nugget ice in 24 hours

If you want to save even more money, you can get a smaller (slightly less good looking, in my opinion) version of Newair’s nugget ice maker. This machine opens on top and resembles cheaper bullet ice makers, but it still produces Newair’s crunchy pellety nugget ice.

Newair 26-Pound Nugget Countertop Ice Maker Machine

Dimensions: 11.3″ W X 8.7″ D x 12.7″ H
Ice production: Up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours


What to buy if you just need lots of extra ice: Get a bullet ice maker

One interesting thing I learned diving deep into the world of countertop ice makers: If you’re not buying a specialty ice machine that makes nuggets or clear ice cubes, the rest are all pretty much the same. They’re all compact bullet ice makers with the same ice-making capabilities, nearly identical body styles, and they all cost less than $200—and often less than $100.

These are truly portable ice makers: small and light enough to pack in the car for a weekend at the lake and to tuck away in a closet until your next party. They also work quickly by freezing water around little metal prongs and can start producing bullet-shaped ice cubes within 10 minutes of setup.

While bullet ice, which is generally a bit bigger, less symmetrical, and somewhat harder than nugget ice, has never gotten the online adulation of the latter, it is pretty soft and chewy compared to what you get from an ice cube tray because it’s made quickly and not frozen solid. So if you just want to make sure you always have enough ice for cooling your drinks, and you’re not picky about what type of ice it is, these machines are all so similar that you really can just choose one based on color or finish. That said, they’re all slightly different sizes (all noted below) so if you’re super short on space, go for the Newair, which is the smallest of the three recommended below.

Frigidaire Compact Ice Maker

Middle of the road in terms of size, this one from Frigidaire allows you to check how much ice you have via a clear door on top of the machine. It’s easy to use and easy to clean; you simply remove a plug on the bottom of the machine to drain and rinse the water reservoir.

Frigidaire Compact Ice Maker in Stainless Steel

Dimensions: 11” W x 17.8” D x 14.9″ H
Ice production: Up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours

Newair Portable Countertop Ice Maker

If you simply want the most compact countertop ice maker, choose this bullet ice maker from Newair, which is the smallest one I’ve tested. It has a footprint of 8.74” x 12.32” and it’s just over a foot tall.

Newair Portable Countertop Ice Maker

Dimensions: 8.74” W x 12.32” D x 12.6″ H
Ice production capability: Up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours

Igloo Automatic Portable Electric Countertop Ice Maker Machine

This is the biggest of the three bullet ice makers I tested, but if you’re looking for an affordable countertop ice maker with a little retro flair, you might prefer this retro bullet ice maker from Igloo.

Igloo Automatic Portable Electric Countertop Ice Maker Machine

Dimensions: 12.25″ W, 17.25″ D, and 14.75″ H
Ice production capability: Up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours


Are there any good clear ice makers?

The clear ice cubes you get in nice bars and restaurants typically come from giant, prohibitively expensive machines like Clinebells. Anything you have at home will be a compromise in quality compared to that, but you could consider this more diminutive clear ice maker from Newair. All clear ice machines work by building the ice cubes in layers to prevent air bubbles. Those bubbles are what make other ice cloudy, but also chompable. So clear ice, while beautiful, isn’t as fun (or safe) to chew as nugget ice or bullet ice. But if you’re more concerned with aesthetics than texture, I thought the ice clarity from Newair’s clear ice cube maker (formerly called the Luma Comfort) was quite good.

Newair Portable Countertop Clear Ice Maker

Dimensions: 12.25″ W, 17.25″ D, and 14.75″ H
Ice production capability: Up to 45 pounds ice in 24 hours


Should you care about how many pounds of ice your ice maker can produce?

If you’ve browsed countertop ice makers at all, you’ve likely noticed that each product description claims a number of pounds of ice that the machine can make. Unless you’re trying to keep a body on ice or you’ve turned your spare bedroom into a speakeasy, you don’t need to worry about this number. That’s because all it tells you is what the machine could, theoretically, produce in 24 hours. And that kind of ice production would only be possible if you completely emptied the machine as soon as a batch of ice was ready and ensured the water reservoir was constantly filled. The chances you will ever bother with all that are basically zero, so it shouldn’t matter if you have a 24-pound ice machine or a 26-pound ice machine.


How we selected and tested countertop ice makers

I mainly focused here on the two most popular types of countertop ice makers: nugget ice makers and bullet ice makers. Financially speaking, that translates to expensive ice makers and cheap ice makers—because the type of ice you get from a countertop ice maker is directly related to how much you’re willing to spend. And after thoroughly testing ice makers for Epicurious in 2023, I learned that while all bullet ice makers are created almost too equally (more on that below), the same cannot be said for nugget ice makers.



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