FirstBuild Opal01 Opal Countertop Nugget Maker
Smart ice making machine
A sleek, elegant ice maker that fits well in your kitchen and is ready to come on your trips.
1 FirstBuild Opal01 Review
The FirstBuild Opal01 is hands-down the best portable ice maker you can find. It’s compact enough to fit on a countertop and plugs into any electrical outlet, so you can easily pair it with a solar generator and give a new meaning to your weekend outings.
Its greatest strength is the Bluetooth connectivity. A dedicated app lets you set up the desired ice making schedule in all convenience so you can find some fresh cubes whenever you want. Just keep in mind that it only pairs with one smart device.
It can also get a bit noisy now and then. Nevertheless, it’s fast and effective, and it produces the first bar-quality ice nuggets in less than 20 minutes.
The actual speed and quantity produced will vary with environmental temperature, but you’ll surely be satisfied with this unit’s performance even in the hottest times.
hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker Machine
Best home ice maker
It produces fancy bullet-shaped ice for either bottled beverages or mixed drinks.
2 hOmeLabs Portable Review
Why settle for standard ice nuggets when you can get fancy ice bullets? All you need is the hOmeLabs Portable Ice Maker to create up to 1.5 pounds of chewable bullet-shaped ice at a time.
Once you’ve filled the reservoir with water, the ice is ready in about 8 minutes; you can even choose from two ice cube sizes. The smaller ones are perfect for your bottles, as for the bigger, they are ideal for cocktails and mixed drinks.
Your stylish ice cubes will be stored in the unit’s basket, and this machine even comes with an ice scoop. It’s perfect to use at events and parties, or on any other circumstances that require instant ice.
Sadly, the unit won’t keep the ice cold for later use, but at least the melted water will return to the tank to be reused. It’s also user-friendly and fairly quiet, just what most homeowners need.
NewAir AI-100S 28-Pound Portable Ice Maker
Best for smaller kitchens
Three ice sizing settings will help you create the perfect ice cubes for any occasion.
3 NewAir AI-100S Review
Next on our list of the best portable ice makers, the NewAir AI-100S is perfect for small kitchens and is highly versatile. It can produce 28 pounds of ice in a day, and it boasts three ice size settings that add convenience.
Compact and lightweight, it fits seamlessly in an RV or boat too, and it can output up to 9 cubes of ice every 15 minutes.
Similar to our best value, it comes with an ice basket and scoop. Some plastic parts may be a tad flimsy, but the unit is durable overall. Another thing we like is the convenient drain plug that lets you drain water quickly in case you want to move or store the unit.
Small enough to fit in tight spaces, fast and versatile, this is another portable ice maker we recommend.
COSTWAY Ice Maker Counter Top Portable Ice Maker Machine
An affordable alternative
Compact portable ice maker has a great yield and it won’t break the bank.
4 COSTWAY Ice Maker Review
If you don’t want to drop a lot of bucks on a portable ice maker and don’t mind a loud appliance, then the COSTWAY Ice Maker could be just right. It’s cheap yet reliable and will make great ice in a short time.
Similar to our best value in terms of ice yield, this appliance can make up to 26 pounds of ice per day. It’s also very compact, similar to our runner-up, and comes in a fantastic selection of vintage and modern colors.
Easy to use thanks to its highly visible touch display, this unit is also fast. It can create chewable ice bullets in 8 minutes on average. It’s ideal to use at home, on camping, or in a bar, and it even comes at an excellent price.
Best Portable Ice Maker 2021 Buying Guide
Ice maker types
Whether you want to throw the perfect cocktail party or to keep your beverage cool on a hot day, ice cubes are essential. You could buy them. Or you could buy an ice maker and make your own cubes at home. Depending on your needs, you can choose one of the following types.
- Under-counter ice makers: Are usually commercial ice makers with a high ice production capacity, but they have to be connected to a waterline. Most under-counter machines can make at least 100 pounds (lbs.) of ice per day. These units have built-in freezers that will keep your ice in great conditions until you want to use it.
- Freestanding ice makers: These countertop ice makers can have a capacity of up to 80 lbs. of ice per day. Depending on their size, they may or may not have freezer capacity, and may or may not require to be connected to a waterline. Freestanding makers are popular among homeowners who don’t care about portability but need a lot of ice.
- Portable ice makers: Are small, compact units with a smaller ice making capacity, usually of under 30 pounds per day. The main advantage of these units is their size and the fact that they don’t require connection to a waterline. You can use them anywhere as long as you have access to an outlet, and because they run on standard 110 or 115V, you can even plug them into the socket of a gas or solar generator. They are ideal to use either at home or in your boat, RV, or when you’re tailgating.
How does a portable ice maker work?
Portable ice makers are simple machines that work in a fashion similar to the traditional freezer ice makers.
These units have a reservoir you will have to fill with water. The machine then uses an internal pump that sprays the water on a rotating ice tray. A compressor and fan system freezes it, turning it into ice. Depending on the mechanism, you can get either clear or cloudy ice.
Once the ice cube is frozen, a warmer refrigerant releases the cube into a basket from where you can collect it.
Because most portable ice makers don’t have a draining system, the water from melted ice usually returns back into the reservoir; then the cycle begins again.
Cubic vs. bullet-shaped ice
We already mentioned the clear and cloudy ice. What we didn’t tell you is that these types of ice usually come in various shapes. The former is cubic while the latter is bullet-shaped.
- Cubic ice: Is typically clear. There are a few portable ice makers that produce full cubes. Most machines make ice nuggets instead. These are bar-quality nuggets ideal for making cocktails or smoothies and come with a great advantage over the bullet-shape, they melt slower. However, the ice maker also needs more time to produce them, that’s why these portable ice machines have a lower ice production capacity.
- Bullet-shaped ice: Is usually cloudy. Besides the aesthetic considerations related to the clarity of the ice, it also melts faster. Not only it melts faster because the ice is softer, but the bullet shape also has a hole in the middle that allows more liquid to come in contact with the ice, warming it more rapidly. Nevertheless, these ice makers can usually make a batch consisting of 9 cubes in just a few minutes. Bullet-shaped ice is usually ideal for cooling beverages such as sodas or wine.
What water should I use?
A factor that can influence the clarity of your ice cubes, apart from the production process, is the quality of the water. The water quality can also affect the lifespan of your ice maker, so you’d better choose the liquid wisely. You can typically use:
- Tap water: Perhaps the most readily-available solution. However, if you have hard water in your area, mineral buildup can reduce the quality and quantity of the ice produced by obstructing the internal tubes. Hard water is often the cause of cloudy ice in machines designed to produce clear cubes.
- Distilled water: Is less harmful than tap water but also less tasty. Since the ice will eventually melt in your glass, it can greatly influence the overall taste of your beverage. While the lack of minerals will prolong your unit’s lifespan, it may reduce ice production though due to the intricate system that relies on mineral content to determine how much ice to produce.
- Purified water: Whether you have a water filter pitcher or an under-sink water filter, purified water is your best bet. Your machine won’t be damaged by mineral buildup while performance will not be hindered by too low mineral content. Furthermore, your ice will smell and taste nice.
Ice production rate
The ice production rate can make or break the deal, but as a general rule, portable ice makers designed to make ice nuggets or cubes have a lower production rate.
The production rate is usually expressed in the maximum quantity of ice produced per 24 hours. Some of the best portable ice makers can make over 25 lbs. per day, which means over 1 lb. of ice per hour. These units usually make cloudy bullet-shaped ice.
In comparison, clear ice makers rarely exceed 20 lbs. per day, which is less than a pound per hour.
Ice production vs. ice storage capacity
Two separate features that create confusion among buyers are the ice production capacity and the ice storage capacity.
- Ice production capacity: Is the ice production rate described above. To make things easier for you, some of the top-rated bullet-shaped ice makers can make up to 9 ice cubes in less than 10 minutes, whereas nuggets or cubic ice makers may need twice as much time to make the same quantity.
- Ice storage capacity: Refers to how much ice your maker can hold. Most portable ice makers have a storage capacity between 1 and 2 pounds of ice cubes.
What else to consider?
If you want to buy the best portable ice maker for the money, you should also consider the following features.
- Ice size selection: One of the greatest features to look after is the ice size selection. This feature will enable you to make smaller or bigger ice cubes, adding more versatility.
- Insulated storage compartment: Most portable ice makers don’t come with refrigerated or freezer compartments, but some of the best have insulated bins or buckets that will keep your ice cubes frozen for longer.
- Drainage valve: Because these small units don’t require waterline connection, most of them don’t have a drainage valve either. However, having one is important if you want to drain all water quickly when you’re cleaning or transporting the machine.
- Connectivity: In the smart world we live in, for some it only makes sense to have a smart ice maker. Some of them can connect to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, allowing you to schedule ice making sessions or control the unit from a distance.
- Smart ice level sensing: This feature senses when there is too little ice in the bucket or bin and restarts the ice making cycle if there is sufficient water in the reservoir.
- Self-cleaning: Whether you like it or not, you will have to clean and maintain your ice maker. To make it less of a burden, get a unit with self-cleaning function.
- Automatic timer: Another nice thing to have, especially if your machine lacks connectivity, is an automatic timer that allows you to schedule ice making sessions.