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The Best Portable Ice Maker

Updated


We spent over 50 hours measuring pounds of ice, including production and melting times, capacity and taste, and selected the Della – 048-GM-48186 as the best portable ice maker. The Della was the most efficient and user-friendly and lived up to its manufacturer’s claim of making a batch of ice in seven minutes. The Frigidaire – EFIC108 earned our runner-up title for its ice-production speed and clear LED display.

Our Top Choices

Best Overall


Della

048-GM-48186

Runner-up


Frigidaire

EFIC108

We spent over 50 hours measuring pounds of ice, including production and melting times, capacity and taste, and selected the Della – 048-GM-48186 as the best portable ice maker. The Della was the most efficient and user-friendly and lived up to its manufacturer’s claim of making a batch of ice in seven minutes. The Frigidaire – EFIC108 earned our runner-up title for its ice-production speed and clear LED display.

Table of contents

(Editor’s note: In October 2019, we learned that two of the ice makers we tested had been discontinued: Ivation and ThinkGizmos. We checked the manufacturers of the other portable ice makers we reviewed, and although the Frigidaire – EFIC108 is no longer available on the company’s website, many retailers are still selling it. For this update, we tested the Hamilton Beach – 86150, the company’s latest model. See our review below.)

How we selected products to test

We began our research by familiarizing ourselves with how a portable ice maker works. We watched videos online and then turned to the subreddit /r/Frugal, which provided insight into what consumers are actually looking for in a portable ice maker.

Most other review sites don’t actually conduct real testing of products, so we relied heavily on Amazon reviews to determine which portable ice makers consumers considered to be the best.

Finally, we chose highly rated products that were also different from one another. This actually proved to be quite difficult for such a niche product, the reasons for which we discuss in the section below: “Rebranding and knock-off machines.”

Compare the best portable ice makers

ProductPriceL x W x H (inches)Weight (lb)Ice Sizes
1. Della - 048-GM-48186$$$14.5 x 9.8 x 12.820.62
2. Frigidaire - EFIC108$$$14.8 x 11 x 14.720.02
3. NewAir - AI-100BK$$$$15.0 x 11.8 x 14.524.43
4. Hamilton Beach - 86150$$$13.5 x 9.75 x 13.024.02
5. Ivation - Discontinued$$$16.4 x 11.9 x 15.620.42
6. ThinkGizmos - Discontinued$$$16.7 x 13.6 x 16.025.63

Why a portable ice maker?

As every host knows, ice — and plenty of it — is a must-have for any party. Even if you’ve got great beverage containers like those we chose in our insulated tumbler review or insulated water bottle review, ice is essential for keeping any drink as cold as possible. If you’re grilling outside on a hot day, the best lunch boxes and coolers with the best insulation will still need ice to protect uncooked food from entering the bacteria-incubating danger zone.

A portable ice maker makes ice over 20 times faster than a freezer, so you’ll always have it on hand and won’t have to make an ice-run in the middle of a cocktail party. If you buy ice frequently in 10-pound bags at the 7-11, then you’ll be pleased to know that a portable ice maker can make you the same amount for a fraction of the price.

Countertop vs. under counter models

Portable ice maker

Portable (or countertop) ice makers are about the size of a bread maker.  They plug into a standard outlet and require no drainage system or connection to a water line like under-the-counter ice makers. You simply fill them with water, select the size of ice you want and press start. They can store roughly 1 to 2 pounds at a time, depending on the size of its ice tray and how well the ice maker is insulated.

Portable ice makers are  less expensive than under-the-counter ice makers. They’re also quicker at producing ice, and the bullet-shaped pieces of opaque ice they make are smaller and thus melt quicker in your drink.

Under-the-counter ice maker

Under-the-counter ice makers, as the name implies, are installed between kitchen cabinets and need to be hooked up to a water line and a drain. They’re more expensive than portable ice makers, but they have several benefits that portable units don’t have.

First, you won’t need to add water, since it’s added automatically. They also produce double the amount of ice — up to 60 pounds — and the ice stays frozen longer because the under-the-counter ice makers are well insulated. This type of ice maker is ideal for an outdoor bar, an RV or a boat.

Rebranding and knock-off machines

two very similar rebranded machines side by side

There are basically just a couple of models of portable ice makers that are branded under many different names.  Keep this in mind when you’re browsing on Amazon or elsewhere.

Important features to consider

Aesthetic: Although many of the shapes and functions are similar, the overall look of an ice maker is important. The NewAir has several brightly colored models, while Della has a cleaner, sleeker look that might pair better with other kitchen appliances.

Size: Check the dimensions and weight to make sure it will fit on your countertop or whether it can be easily transported from one location to another.

Ice production: A crucial element in a portable ice maker is how quickly ice is produced. For a cocktail party, figure about one pound per person. Our chart below shows the differences in ice produced by the models we tested.

ice production chart by ice size

Storage capacity: Storage capacity is another key component. Generally, portable ice makers produce 1.5 to 2 pounds per hour at which point, the ice tray needs to be emptied for another batch of ice can be made.

Price: Cost definitely plays a role. Check out the energy efficiency of each ice maker to see which produces ice at the smallest cost to you (most units make ice at less than two cents per pound).

Noise: Another thing to keep in mind, as with all machines, is how much noise it makes while making ice. Naturally, the quieter the better, and most of the models we tested were at about the same noise level.

How to make ice in a portable ice maker

Making ice in a portable ice maker is a simple process. Once you’ve plugged it in:

  • Open the lid, remove the ice tray and fill the tank with filtered water to the “Max” line, about 8-10 cups depending on the model.
  • Put the ice tray back in, and close the lid.
  • Push the “ON” button, and select the size of ice you’d like. The default is “large,” but we found that to be the slowest for ice production.

Portable ice makers have very few options beyond “on” and off” and size selections. Other LED notifications are “Add water” and “Full ice,” which will light up when it’s time to add water or empty the ice tray.

Similarities between ice makers

  • Watts used (energy)
  • Decibels created (noise)
  • No waterline required
  • Nine bullet-shaped ice pieces per batch
  • On/Off buttons
  • Size settings
  • Partially clear top

Differences between ice makers

  • Weight, size and color
  • Medium size setting on some machines
  • Placement of buttons
  • Water reservoir size
  • Ice tray storage capacity
  • Drainage system (side/bottom and plug/screw cap)

How we tested

Features

feature comparison chart

Ice making ability: The ice makers we tested were supposed to be able to produce 26 pounds of ice per day (28 pounds for the NewAir)  We compared the actual production by adding 8 cups of water to each ice maker and timed how long it took to make both large and small ice capsules.

We transferred the ice to a container and let it melt completely. We then measured out the water and used its volume to calculate its weight (1 milliliter of water is equal to 1 gram). This gave us the total mass of the ice produced. So depending on the time it took to make and how much was made, we were able to calculate the amount of ice that each machine could produce in 24 hours.

Insulation and temperature: We indirectly measured the insulation of each machine by how well the ice stayed frozen until the tray was full. This was a major variable, as some ice makers, like the Ivation, had insufficient isolation, and the ice began to melt before the cycle was completed.

Storage: We tested how much water each machine could hold and how much ice it would produce. Generally the total amount of water exceeded the ice storage capacity.

Size and portability: We measured and weighed each unit to see if they matched the manufacturer’s specs.  We also noted how easy or not it was to transport the ice maker from place to place. There actually wasn’t much difference between the units, varying by approximately 5 pounds.

Energy and sound: We checked each manufacturer’s claim of the amount of energy each ice maker actually used and also measured its noise level in decibels.

The ice

closeup of ice from the Della

We measured how quickly ice was made and how long it took to fill the ice tray. We then made rudimentary calculations to compare the ice to a 10-pound bag from the supermarket.

ice production data chart

Melting time: The first melting measurement also took into consideration the size and thickness of the ice and the thickness of the unit’s insulation. We also timed how long one and two batches of ice took to melt in a glass with 12 ounces of water.

Ice size and cooling speed: This test worked in tandem with the melting time as we looked at how much the temperature of the 12-ounce glass of water changed once all of the ice melted.

Taste: This depends largely on the water used (we recommend filtered water). In some reviews consumers complained that the ice had a “taste.” We found that any off-taste was gone after a first full run and a thorough cleaning of the machine.

Best overall: Della – 048-GM-48186

the Della being filled with water

The Della – 048-GM-48186 is the best overall portable ice maker simply because it made the most ice the quickest and with the most consistency. The Della outperformed its competitors on both the large (26 pounds/day) and small (19 pounds/day) settings. Though the Frigidaire was a close second, averaging about a third of a pound less per day on both settings, the Della flat out won.

Top Pick: Della - 048-GM-48186

The Della - 048-GM-48186 makes 26 pounds of ice per day and chills down your drink in only 7 minutes. The Della made ice the fastest and with the most consistency, and it's markedly less expensive than other ice makers.

On average, ice production on the small setting yielded almost 7 pounds more per day than the large setting.  In general, the ice sizes differed only a little, but it had more to do with the amount of time the machine had been running rather than the size selected.

Key takeaways:

  • The Della – 048-GM-48186 was the most effective and affordable portable ice maker we tested and made 26 pounds a day.
  • After seven minutes the Della produces enough ice to cool a glass of water by almost 15 degrees. After 15 minutes it can cool a 12-ounce drink to 53 °F.
  • It has a clean and simple design, easy-to-read programming and a large, clear lid for viewing the ice as it’s being made.

Runner-up: Frigidaire – EFIC108

Frigidaire machine solo

(Editors note: The unit we tested by Frigidaire seems to have been discontinued, but there are multiple identical rebrands available (just different color options). We’ve updated the article to reflect this with Frigidaire’s product.)

Coming in a very close second is the Frigidaire – EFIC108, which yielded 25.6 pounds per day on its best setting (small ice cubes), and between it large and small settings, it averaged 22.5 pounds per day overall.

Similar to all the ice makers we tested, the Frigidaire uses about 100 watts, occasionally spiking at 140 watts, which calculates to a production cost of only two cents per pound. Compared to the cost of a store-bought 10-pound bag of ice, the Frigidaire is 20 times less expensive to use.

The Frigidaire’s display was clearer than that of the Della as it used words instead of symbols. Frigidaire is available in black, red, white or brushed silver. As we noted above, it’s available on Amazon and other online retailers, but it’s no longer being sold by Frigidaire.

Runner-up: Frigidaire - EFIC108

Producing 25.6 pounds of ice per day, the Frigidaire is cost-efficient and 20 times less expensive than store-bought ice.

The lid is 1.5 inches thick, which helped keep the ice cold during production. Although the ice tray holds 1.5 pounds of ice, the Frigidaire automatically shuts off when 1 pound of ice is made.

Key takeaways:

  • The Frigidaire – EFIC108 has excellent production capacity (25.6 lb per day) and works best on the small setting.
  • The average cost of ice with the Frigidaire is about 1.3 cents per pound.
  • After about seven minutes, the first batch of ice can cool a 12-ounce beverage by 13 degrees.

Other finalists we tested

Hamilton Beach – 86150

For this update, we tested a new model, Hamilton Beach – 86150, to see how it would compare with the other ice makers we previously reviewed.

Hamilton Beach claims that this ice maker can make 28 pounds of ice per day. However, during our testing, it averaged one pound per hour, totaling approximately 24 pounds of ice.

The Hamilton Beach has a sleek stainless-steel design with black trim, and its clear, flat lid lets you see how much ice has formed. It’s also quiet: You hear just a gentle whirring of its fan, until the next batch of ice is made. The Hamilton Beach makes two sizes of hollow, bullet-shaped ice. We programmed each size separately, but we saw no difference between them. The Hamilton Beach is well insulated, so the ice doesn’t melt, and automatically stops when the tray is full (at about 1 pound).

The Hamilton Beach wasn’t the fastest ice maker we tested, depositing 10 ice capsules every 10 minutes, so if you need ice in a pinch, you’ll need to turn the machine on at least one hour in advance. At $169, it’s a bit expensive, and although it did a good job, we still prefer our top pick, the Della for its speed and the amount of ice it can produce.

NewAir – AI-100BK

Newair machine solo

The NewAir – AI-100BK is a slightly larger unit and 4 pounds heavier than the Della and Frigidaire. Its manufacturer claims that it can produce 18 pounds of ice and has a larger ice tray, storing 2.2 pounds of ice. To our surprise, the NewAir did all that its manufacturer claimed.

However, depending on the size selected, there was considerable variance in how much the ice tray held before the machine automatically shut off: 2.25 pounds for large ice, 2.05 for medium ice, and 1.19 pounds for small ice. That said, the medium size was the most effective setting and produced 26 pounds per day.

Another downside to the NewAir is that it’s difficult to drain. Most portable ice makers drain from the bottom, but the NewAir drains from the side, so we had to tilt the machine to drain out all of the water. The white model that we tested is nearly double the price of the Frigidaire; however, the other available colors are about $100 less.

Ivation – Discontinued

Ivation solo

(Editor’s note: The Ivation model that we tested has been discontinued. An upgraded model is on the Ivation website, but at present it’s unknown when it will be released.)

The Ivation went toe-to-toe with Della in ice production and produced 23.5 pounds per day on the small setting. Its thin lid, however, reduced insulation and resulted in one-tenth of a pound melting. That said, the melted ice was simply recycled into the container and made into ice again.

ThinkGizmos – Discontinued

ThinkGizmos machine solo

(Editor’s note: ThinkGizmos has discontinued this model and is no longer selling portable ice makers.)

Despite its high rating on Amazon, ThinkGizmos – TG22 suffered from inconsistency between its settings, both in how much the ice tray could hold and how quickly the ice was produced. Like the units we tested, the ThinkGizmos worked best when making small ice cubes even though it produced the least amount of ice (22.4 pounds per day). At the large setting, the ThinkGizmos performed the worst, producing a meager 11.2 pounds per day.

The bottom line

If you hate making an ice run in the middle of a party, the Della – 048-GM-48186 portable ice maker is a great option. Not only will it produce 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours, the size of the ice it makes will cool any beverage down in 7 minutes.

Our runner-up, the Frigidaire – EFIC108 and NewAir – AI-100BK were both within a couple of pounds of reaching their manufacturers’ claimed production of 25.6 pounds and 26 pounds per day. NewAir’s white model is nearly twice the price of the Frigidaire, and although the ice it makes is cost-efficient, we recommend looking at other colors for this model, which are substantially less expensive.

Top Pick: Della - 048-GM-48186

With a clean and simple design, the Della is the most consistent and efficient portable ice maker for a great price.

Bryan Vu, Editor

Bryan is our cooking and kitchen expert, with more than 15 years of experience of cooking and testing kitchen products. When outside of the kitchen, he enjoys woodworking, photography, videography and figuring out how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. He thoroughly enjoys discovering the best, whether it’s ingredients or equipment, and finding products that can stand the rigors of daily use.

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