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Which portable ice maker is best?

A portable ice maker is practical and easy to use, letting you grab some ice whenever you need it without a lot of planning. While some refrigerators come with built-in ice makers, the ones that don’t force you to make ice the old-fashioned way, in molds. You have to wait for them to freeze, then break them out to use them.

A portable ice maker does most of this work for you, saving time and energy on busy days. Check out the New Air Portable Countertop Ice Maker for a compact machine that makes a lot of ice.

What to know before you buy a portable ice maker

How it works

A portable ice maker is similar to the built-in ice makers in refrigerators, only making ice is its sole function and it doesn’t require a water line, just an electrical outlet. To make ice, just fill the machine’s reservoir and press a button. The machine releases the water in trays on its own and freezes the water before dumping finished ice cubes into a bin. It works in five to 15 minutes, whereas putting a tray of water in a freezer to make ice cubes takes hours.

Remember that this machine needs to remain plugged in at all times, even when you’re not using it.

Not a freezer

A portable ice maker is insulated, but it’s not a freezer and can’t be used as one. It makes ice cubes but is not designed to keep those ice cubes cold for long periods of time once they are released into the bin. Make ice when you’re ready to use it, not in advance, as ice cubes sitting around in the bin will eventually begin to melt.

Care instructions

The exterior of a portable ice maker can be wiped clean with a towel as needed. The interior should be cleaned regularly every two to six months to prevent mold and bacteria buildup.

To clean it:

  1. Unplug the ice maker and empty all water before wiping down the walls with a mild cleaning solution.
  2. Rinse with warm water and leave it to air dry fully before resuming use.
  3. Throw away the first batch of ice you make after cleaning the machine to avoid getting soap residue in your ice. 

What to look for in a quality portable ice maker


A good portable ice maker can produce about nine to 12 ice cubes in a few minutes and 20-50 pounds of ice in a 24-hour span. However, the storage bin only holds 1.5-3 pounds of ice at a time. You can either bag extra ice and put it in the freezer or use a cooler for outdoor ice storage throughout the day.   

Ice cube shapes

Ice makers produce a few types of ice, the shape and melting time serving as key differences among them.

  • Cubed: With its squared shape, this is large but classic and fashionable ice popular for parties and cocktails.
  • Bullet: This is hard, cylindrical ice that’s easy to add to water bottles or a thermos because of its leaner shape. It’s the most common type of ice made by ice machines and takes longer to melt than nugget ice.
  • Nugget: Loosely cylindrical, this type of ice cube is easiest to chew on and soaks up flavor nicely. The pieces are smaller and tend to cool a drink faster than bullet ice.

Convenient extras

The best portable ice makers include extra features or design elements that make using them a breeze. This can mean an included ice scooper, a clear lid so you can always see how much ice is left before you have to make more, or a self-cleaning function that can save you time and energy keeping your machine bacteria-free. Some offer the ability to make ice cubes in two or three sizes, a great extra when it comes to parties and mixed drinks.

How much you can expect to spend on a portable ice maker

A portable ice maker usually costs around $90-$300, though a few cost up to $500. 

Portable ice maker FAQ

How big is a portable ice maker?

A. It’s about 12-15 inches wide, fitting on a countertop or beneath it like a mini fridge. It weighs around 20-80 pounds.

Can a portable ice maker be used outside?

A. Yes, as well as on boats and in travel trailers. As long as there is an outlet, you can plug it in and make ice wherever you want. But don’t leave it outdoors in rain or extreme heat — this can lead to damage. 

What’s the best portable ice maker to buy?

Top portable ice maker

New Air Portable Countertop Ice Maker

New Air Portable Countertop Ice Maker 

What you need to know: This black 14-inch-wide portable ice maker produces 12 pieces of ice in under 15 minutes and 50 pounds in a day.

What you’ll love: It’s compact, self-cleaning and comes with its own ice scooper. It makes bullet ice in three sizes and features an 18-hour programmable timer. It comes in stainless steel and red.

What you should consider: Some reviewers said it should be more durable long-term for the price tag.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Top portable ice maker for the money

Crownful Countertop Ice Maker

Crownful Countertop Ice Maker

What you need to know: This 9.8-inch-wide portable ice maker produces nine piece of ice in eight minutes and 26 pounds in a day.

What you’ll love: It’s small and convenient with a transparent lid. A sensor lets you know when the basket is full. It makes bullet ice in two sizes.

What you should consider: It’s not self-cleaning.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Wayfair

Worth checking out

Frigidaire Stainless Steel Ice Maker

Frigidaire Stainless Steel Ice Maker

What you need to know: This 11-inch wide portable ice maker produces nine pieces of ice in  seven to 15 minutes and 26 pounds of ice in a day.

What you’ll love: It has a clear lid for easy visibility and comes with an ice shovel. There’s a drain plug and it makes bullet ice in two sizes. It’s easy to use and comes in black, red, copper or silver stainless steel.

What you should consider: It doesn’t last as long as some ice makers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Emily Verona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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