Products featured are independently selected by our editorial team and we may earn a commission from purchases made from our links; the retailer may also receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
If you host parties a lot, don’t have a ton of freezer space, or are tired of waiting for ice trays to freeze overnight, an ice maker is a great small appliance to keep in your kitchen.
A majority of them don’t take up a ton of space, and the most powerful ice makers can create fresh ice in minutes, not hours. Some machines let you change the size of your cubes, so you don’t have to spend time breaking them up for cocktails, and another lets you set it on a schedule via an app on your phone.
Ice makers are one of those practical appliances you may not have considered before, but if you go through ice like crazy, or need it on-hand at a moment’s notice, you’ll really appreciate it. They’re great for snow cones too, and will really impress guests at your next party or work gathering.
How Does An Ice Maker Work?
How It Works: An ice maker creates cubes by using a motor to ingest water from a refillable water tank into an ice tray inside the machine. The motor also begins a refrigeration process at the same time to make the inside of the machine very cold. A set of thin metal prongs, which cool quickly, are submerged into the ice tray.
Water freezes to those prongs (if you’ve ever been to restaurants and wondered why there’s a hole in the middle of your ice, that’s why) and freeze the water. Sensors determine when the ice cubes have reached the correct size, and the machine drops them into a container called an “ice bin” where they’re easy to scoop out.
The process is completely hands-off: Just fill the tank with water, hit a couple of buttons, and you’ll have ice in a matter of minutes. Larger machines work the same way internally, but require you to hook them up to a faucet instead of getting water from a tank.
Size: All of the ice makers in this guide were designed to fit on or under a countertop, but if you live in a city or studio apartment, that space may be very limited. We’re conscious of that, and all the ice makers in this guide are under 20 inches wide, 16 inches deep, and 31 inches tall (most are half that size). Some are portable enough to be taken to gatherings too – you’ll just need an outlet to plug them in.
Capacity: If you’re serving a lot of people, making an ice-heavy beverage like frozen margaritas, or want ice in reserve at all time, you’ll want an ice maker with a large capacity. Each of the choices in this guide can hold at least 1.5 pounds at a time. If you want more, and can spare some freezer space, keep one or two resealable plastic bags of it in reserve.
Speed: You may not keep your ice maker connected at all times, but when you use it, you’ll want it to work quickly. We picked countertop ice makers that can make 26 pounds of ice per hour. For reference, that’s roughly the size of the large bags of ice sold at many convenience stores.
1. Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker
Frigidare describes its ice maker as “compact,” which is the double-edged sword that makes it easy to decide whether or not it’s right for you. At 15 x 14.7 x 11 inches, it’s on the smaller end of the spectrum, but it still produces ice at the same speed (seven to 15 minutes for nine cubes; up to 26 pounds per day), as larger ones.
You can control the machine through LED buttons on the back of the machine, which is also where the water tank is located. This machine has a 2.3qt tank, which should be enough to make the maximum amount of ice cubes per day.
As I said earlier, size is the Frigidare Ice Maker’s biggest strength, but it’s also a weakness. The machine can only store 1.5 pounds of ice at a time, which means you’ll have to unload it somewhat frequently if you want to take advantage of its maximum productivity — 26 pounds of ice per day.
Pros: Its compact size and fast speed allow you to set up and store this ice maker very easily.
Cons: Its low storage capacity means you may have to unload it frequently if you want to make a lot of ice.
2. Euhomy Ice Maker Machine
Euhomy’s ice maker is an ultra-compact ice maker that gives you more control over your ice.
At 12.6 x 12.6 x 9.6 inches, it’s the smallest ice maker in our guide, so it’s the one most likely to stay on your counter at all times. It can make nine ice cubes in eight minutes, and up to 26 pounds of it in 24 hours. The ice maker suffers from the same downside as the Frigidare model we’ve recommended: a 1.5 pound storage basket, but that’s even more forgivable in an ice maker this size.
What helps Ehomy’s ice maker stand out is its control panel, which is located on its front side. You get to choose whether you want it to make small or large cubes (no option for crushed ice), and get alerts when the ice bin is full, or when you need to add water to its 2.3qt tank.
This ice maker’s stainless steel frame is another upside; this is an appliance you’re likely to keep on your countertop at all times, and it looks pretty good. If you do put this ice maker in a cabinet when not in use, Euhomy recommends keeping it upright for at least 24 hours before using it.
Pros: Most portable unit on our list. It’s small enough to keep on your countertop at all times without sacrificing ice-making efficiency, gives you finer control over the size of your ice, and looks great.
Cons: Its low ice bin storage capacity may bother you if you want to make a lot of ice.
3. GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
GE’s Profile Opal is a smart, luxe countertop ice maker with smart features and a larger ice bin.
It’s 15.2 x 14.2 x 17.2 inches, which is a little larger than the ultracompact ice makers in this guide, but not by much. It can make fresh ice in 20 minutes (up to one pound per hour), but instead of cubes it produces smaller “nuggets,” which look roughly one third the size. If you’re used to crushing ice, this will save you a step, but there’s no “cube” setting if you want to change it.
The big drawback of the other smaller ice makers in this guide is the capacity of their ice bin. GE’s Profile Opal holds three pounds of ice — twice as much as other models on our list — and makes up to 24 pounds of it per day. This ice maker has a water tank, so you don’t have to connect it to your faucet, but GE doesn’t specify its capacity.
GE’s Profile Opal app (iOS and Android), gives you a lot of control over the ice machine. It connects to your phone wirelessly over Bluetooth, and allows you to make ice, stop making ice, and set the machine on a schedule. Waking up to fresh ice the day you’re going to host a brunch or backyard BBQ will definitely be a time saver. A “passive” smart feature (you don’t need to set it up within the app) is that water from any melted ice nuggets will automatically drain back into its tank, so it’s ultra efficient.
Pros: It’s compact, but has a large ice bin, and its smart features are actually really useful.
Cons: It only makes ice “nuggets,” and there’s no way to make full-sized cubes.
4. Costzon Commercial Ice Maker
Costzon’s Commercial Ice Maker lives up to its name, and if you have enough space, it’s the clear choice.
It measures 19 x 16 x 31 inches, and that size — especially the tall height — may be a deal breaker depending on whether you can fit the ice maker under your counter, where Costzon recommends it should go.
If there’s enough space, the machine’s specs speak for themselves. It can make 48 ice cubes in between 12 to 18 minutes, 110 pounds of ice in 24 hours, and hold up to 33 pounds of ice in its bin. Instead of a water tank, this ice maker comes with a 10 foot hose, which you can attach to your water faucet. It also has 6.5 foot pipe for water drainage.
Its front control panel lets you set a time, choose how much ice you’d like it to make, and gives you indications when you need to add water, and when the ice bin is full. There’s also a setting that lets you clean the ice maker automatically.
To keep the ice cold, the right-hand side of Costzon’s ice maker is shielded by a thickened panel, food-grade liner, and thick foam layer. The company does recommend putting ice in the freezer if you’re not planning on using it immediately, though.
If you want raw, ice-making power, Costzon’s appliance is right for you, but it will take up more space, and require more DIY work to get going.
Pros: It can make a lot of ice really fast, and is powerful enough to be used for large parties or small businesses. Great for the office too.
Cons: Its large size, and the fact that you need to connect it to a water line to work may make it overkill for standard home use.