If you’re in a hurry:
Which of the many ice makers on the market is best for a budget of $150 or under?
The Frigidaire is good. It’s also quiet. It makes bullet shaped cubes.
Which ice maker is best if your budget is in the $500 to $600 range?
The GE Opal for sure.
The GE Opal Nugget Maker is blue tooth enabled so you can operate it with an app on your phone. And if the ice melts before you move it into the freezer, the melted cubes are used to make more ice.
Countertop Ice Maker Machines
Come back in time with me.
Do you remember family holiday parties where someone was always sent to the store because there wasn't enough ice?
My grandmother, a party girl from way back, would have loved having an ice maker on her countertop. She had one in her fridge, but it wouldn’t keep up with all the ice needed for a big gathering.
My husband is also a party boy from way back. We’ve been married 21 years and dated five years before that. Over those 26 years, every time we’ve gone to the St. Louis International Airport, we run into at least one of his friends if not more. He’s that guy.
So, party boy asked me a few Christmases ago if I wanted a home ice maker for Christmas.
No, I didn’t.
Why would I want a machine taking up counter space when I could make my favorite giant ice balls using an ice mold or go to the store and buy a bag of ice containing lovely, long-lasting clear cubes?
So that was the year he gave me a Kitchen-Aid Stand Mixer, which I desperately wanted but was too cheap to buy for myself.
But then, the pandemic happened and lines to get inside stores, never mind check out, reached proportions unseen in the US in my time (51 years).
And I was starting to think, if we need to be more self-sufficient, perhaps I should have let him buy that ice maker.
Leave it to an American to talk about self-sufficiency and ice maker in the same sentence.
So, we bought a countertop ice machine late last year, which I ended up returning because we weren’t nuts about the type of ice it made or how it tasted despite using bottled water to fill the machine’s reservoir.
Choosing the Best Countertop Ice Maker
Ice cube sizes should be one of your primary considerations before buying a countertop ice maker.
Do you want tiny, pellet ice aka “Sonic” ice so called for the ice that you get if you go to one of those fast food drive throughs?
Or square, clear cubes? Or those half moon shapes? Or totally crushed ice? Or flake ice? Or shaved ice. Or pebble ice.
- Ice sizes and ice type
- Noise level (the Frigidaire model we tried seemed quiet but some models can be loud. Read a few reviews).
- Production volume
- Is a freezing feature necessary? As in will the machine keep the ice cubes it makes frozen or will you need to move the cubes to your freezer? You’ll need to spend more for this function.
- Countertop or undercounter ice machine (most undercounter ice makers require dedicated water lines like a commercial ice maker)
Don’t dilly dally too long. Just buy an ice maker and try it out.
This post has been sitting in the drafts folder of my wordpress dashboard for six months. It was originally called countertop ice makers $100 and under. Those prices are gone.
The nice thing about ice machines that sit on countertops is you generally don’t need a dedicated water line to run them.
These countertop machines have water reservoirs that you fill with water, which the machine then turns into ice. Usually there's a transparent shield so you can check the water level.
Or if the water level gets low, an alarm sounds so you know to refill the reservoir.
The model we tried took a gallon of water. Despite using a gallon of filtered water, the ice cubes themselves turned out cloudy and occluded like when you’re going to need cataract surgery.
So, if clear ice is important to you, as it is to me, you’re going to want a model that touts itself as a clear ice-maker like this one for "gourmet ice."
We had this Frigidaire model, which has a stainless steel exterior, for a brief time until I realized nothing I did would change the cloudiness of the ice cubes produced.
Was it nice to be able to make ice whenever I wanted? Sure. But, that ice is only good if you want to put it in a drink. So back to the store it went.
Most of these models tout the capability of making over 20 pounds of ice in a day. The amount of ice produced will vary of course depending on the model.
However, you’re going to need to be home and basically on ice duty if you’re going to produce more than 20 pounds in a day.
If you need significant amounts of ice, I suspect you'll need to run to a convenience store for a few ten pound bags of ice. The thing with the ice being made by your portable machine is that it melts quicker than bags of ice you'd buy.
The countertop ice makers only have capacity for a few cups of ice. So you’ll be moving ice from the ice maker to the freezer so it doesn’t melt and then refilling the water reservoir at least a few times.
Most models have an indicator light or alarm that alert you when the machine is low on water.
Generally countertop machines are not going to have ice dispensers. These freestanding units will have an ice scoop to help you transfer the ice to an ice chest or to an ice storage bin in your freezer.
Countertop models are good for the occasional small gathering without having to run to a convenience store.
If you want a steady supply of ice, unless you're hanging out at home all day with nothing to do, you're probably better off buying a refrigerator that has an ice maker feature, especially if you have a large household.
A quality ice maker can be a great addition to your line up of kitchen appliances.
Most manufacturers of ice makers offer free standard shipping.
Note the Frigidaire model I tried was roughly the same size as my stand mixer so they don't take up much space.
If you have a large family or need large amounts of ice regularly, I would suggest a more powerful under the counter option or purchasing a fridge with an ice-making feature.
If you’re budget is in the $500 range, think about the GE Opal Countertop Ice Maker, which is blue-tooth enabled so you can control it with an app on your phone.
No need to be home while it’s on to get the ice moved into the freezer. The Opal has a reservoir that refills itself with any melted ice to be made back into ice again.
Tell me your ice stories.
Do you have an ice maker? How well does it work?
More Icy Posts
Ice Cube Molds: 5 to Try This Summer
Three Ingredient Lemon Drop Martini
Do you need more room for your ice maker? Let me help you find a stove top cover aka noodle board.