We spent over 50 hours measuring every batch of ice, including production times, melting times and much more, and found the Della – 048-GM-48186 to be the best portable ice maker. A lot of the models were very similar to each other but all things considered the Della was the most efficient, was easy to use and lived up to the manufacturer’s claims (making its first batch of ice in seven minutes). Della produced the most ice the quickest, lived up to its manufacturer’s claims and had a very easy-to-use drainage system.
Opening the freezer only to find no ice is one of the worst realizations! If that’s ever happened to you, imagine instead being able to make ice in about seven minutes to cool down that lemonade or iced-tea. Portable ice makers can be lifesavers in times of need. Running out of ice at a party? Fill with water, press a button and wait a few minutes for ice with the Avalon Bay – AB-ICE26S.
Sometimes you’re going to want to make ice and not have to worry about emptying the tray every hour so it can continue cranking out cubes. In that case, the NewAir – AI-100BK holds up to 2.2 pounds of ice on its large setting before stopping automatically. This proves to be a handy feature, as most of us want our ice to be made for us with the least amount of effort possible.
Top Pick: Della - 048-GM-48186
After many batches of ice, the Della - 048-GM-48186 pulled ahead by actually living up to its advertised 26 lb of ice per day, letting you chill your drink after only seven minutes.
Table of contents
- How we selected products to test
- The five best portable ice makers
- Rebranding and knock-off machines
- Important features to consider
- How we tested
- The best portable ice maker overall: Della
- The runner up: Avalon Bay
- Another good option: NewAir
- Other finalists we tested
- The bottom line
How we selected products to test
Researching to find the best product can be difficult and overwhelming. In this case we began with viewing a quick video to become familiar with the product and how it works. After we had a better understanding of how the product worked, we explored further by reading threads on reddit like this one in the subreddit /r/Frugal which provided insight into what consumers are actually looking for.
Once we really understood what people wanted out of a portable ice maker (and that they are all very similar products), we analyzed the bestseller list on Amazon and read through the comments. Because most of the other review sites out there don’t provide any real testing, we relied heavily on user reviews. From here we picked highly rated products while striving to make them as different as possible–which was very tough to do in such a niche, as you’ll see in the section below “Rebranding and knock-off machines”.
The five best portable ice makers
|Product||Price||L x W x H (inches)||Weight (lb)||Ice Sizes|
|1. Della - 048-GM-48186||$$||14.5 x 9.8 x 12.8||20.6||2|
|2. Avalon Bay - AB-ICE26S||$$$||14.8 x 11 x 14.7||20.0||2|
|3. NewAir - AI-100BK||$$$$||15.0 x 11.8 x 14.5||24.4||3|
|4. Ivation - IVAICECLEARTOPS||$$$||16.4 x 11.9 x 15.6||20.4||2|
|5. ThinkGizmos - TG22||$$$||16.7 x 13.6 x 16.0||25.6||3|
Why a portable ice maker?
Ice makers can keep life in the party by keeping drinks cold, ice in the chest and your car in the garage so you don’t have to make an ice-run in the middle of hosting. On top of that, we all know freezer space is some of the most sought after real-estate in your kitchen. Keeping ice in the freezer can take up more space than you want to spare when considering the space you have to use to make ice from trays.
You can keep an ice maker on your counter or in a cupboard where you can make ice over twenty times faster compared to making them in a standard tray in your freezer–which takes roughly three hours. And if you are someone who uses ice frequently, an ice maker can save you loads as it is less than five percent of buying bags in a supermarket.
Portable ice makers are the quickest and easiest way you can possibly make ice. It’s like magic, put water in, press the button and wait less than 10 minutes. Cold drink anyone? We like to call this magic “ice on-demand” because it is the most instantaneous ice we’ve ever seen. And the best part is their portability, inside the kitchen or outside, by the table or bar area, ice makers can produce up to 26 lb of ice per day (and the Della did!).
Have ice on-demand to cool your drink in several minutes as opposed to hours.
Free up much needed space in your freezer.
Save money on ice by not having to buy three dollar bags at the store.
Get rid of old ice trays and free up drawer space when they’re not in use.
Portable ice makers vs. under counter
Portable ice maker
Portable ice makers are about the size of a microwave and typically go on your kitchen counter. They plug into a standard outlet and require no drainage system or connection to a water line (and no installation!) like the under the counter ice makers. You just fill them with water, select the size of ice you want and press start. They can store a decent amount of ice (roughly one to two pounds), though depending on the “brand” the quality storage differs, meaning that sometimes some of the ice melts.
The starting price is around a hundred bucks, which is much less expensive than the under the counter ice makers. The portables ones are also quicker at producing ice than the under the counter machines. And the ice “cubes”, which are really bullet-shaped pieces of opaque ice, tend to be smaller and thus melt quicker in your drink (but that means it makes your drink colder, quicker!).
Under the counter ice maker
These tend to be larger and are meant to go under the counter, usually between the cabinets. Under the counter ice makers are usually more expensive than portable ice makers (the start around a couple hundred and go all the way up to thousands of dollars). They also require being hooked up to a water line and drain, which requires installation that can be a bit pricey in itself.
The upside is, however, that they produce ice without you having to add the water manually. They can also produce more ice, sometimes up to 60 lb per day. Another upside is that the under the counter ice makers are usually better at keeping the ice that has already been made frozen. So these are going to be a better choice if you have the extra cash for installation in your outdoor bar, RV or boat.
Rebranding and knock-off machines
Just like many products out there, the ice maker market seems to have come to some sort of manufacturing monopoly (like Luxottica with sunglasses). Though there are many different names, almost all of them seem to be manufactured in a similar way.
Here is a quick list of some look-a-likes if you’re interested:
Della – 048-GM-48186
Rosewill – RHIM-15002
Avalon Bay – AB-ICE26S
RCA / Igloo – ICE101
Hamilton Beach – PIM-1-2A
Magic Chef – MCIM22ST
Dometic – HZB-12A
NewAir – AI-100BK
Edgestar – IP210SS1
Ivation – IVAICECLEARTOPS
MRP US – IC605
ThinkGizmos – TG22
RCA / Igloo – ICE103
Note: the Newair and ThinkGizmos have very similar builds as well, the only aesthetic difference is the placement of the buttons.
Important features to consider
Aesthetic: Although many of the shapes and functions are similar, the overall look of your ice maker is crucial in the purchasing process. Some of you are going to love the orange option for the NewAir and others are going to prefer the clean looking Della that may not “pop”, but will match the style of your other kitchen appliances.
Size: You may want to know the dimensions and weight so you can see where it will go on your countertop and whether it can be easily transported from one location to another.
Ice production: A crucial element in a portable ice maker is how quickly the ice is produced. There are a few things that go into the speed of your ice production, so we’ve created a chart for you below.
Side note: If you are wondering how much ice you need, the rule of thumb for a party is about one pound per person. Aside from that, the amount you’ll need depends on preference.
Storage capacity: Hand in hand with the production capacity, and another key component, is the storage capacity of the ice maker. The two different options are one and a half pounds and just over two pounds. If you don’t want to empty the tray or aren’t using ice every hour then the NewAir may be a better choice for you.
Price: Although you may want a portable ice maker for various reasons, 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 (note: they all produce ice incredibly cheaply at less than two cents per pound)
Noise: Another thing to keep in mind, as with all machines, is its noise production. Of course, the quieter the better, though they were all more or less the same in this respect.
How they operate and their similarities
For those of you who are unfamiliar with how portable ice makers work, here is a step-by-step process:
- Plug the ice maker into an outlet.
- Open the lid, take out the removable ice tray and fill the tank with filtered water to the “Max” line inside (which is about 8-10 cups depending on the model).
- Put the ice tray back in and close the lid.
- There are only a few buttons to press on every ice maker, which are “ON” or “OFF” and the different size selections. 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, [click here] to see the graph which shows how each model performed depending on the size selected).
Side note: The other LED notifications are “Add water” and “Full ice” which will light up red if you need to add more water or if the ice tray is full and needs to be emptied.
- Watts used (energy)
- Decibels created (noise)
- No waterline required
- Nine bullet-shaped ice pieces per batch
- ON/OFF buttons
- SMALL/LARGE size settings
- Partially clear top
- Motor looks the same
- Weight, size and color
- Medium size setting on some
- Placement of buttons
- Water reservoir size
- Ice tray storage capacity
- Drainage system (side/bottom and plug/screw cap)
- Production claims
How we tested
Ice making ability: The ice makers we tested all claimed to be able to make about 26 lb of ice in one day (the NewAir claimed 28 lb). So we compared the actual production by adding eight cups of water to each ice maker and recording the minute that each new batch of ice was produced until the tray was full and the ice maker shut off automatically. We tested each one with every size of ice, which was either two or three depending on the machine.
We then put the ice into a container until it melted completely. From here, we measured the water out and used its volume to get its weight (one milliliter of water is equal to one 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 (both the Della and NewAir were able to produce 26 lb per day).
Insulation and temperature: We indirectly measured the insulation of each machine by looking at the amount of ice that was produced and stayed frozen until the tray was full. This was one of the bigger variables among the ice makers (the Ivation’s lid was not thick like the others’ so it lost more ice to melting).
Storage: We tested how much total water each machine could take at one time and how much ice that would produce. The total amount of water exceeds the ice storage capacity, which we measured as well to give an amount of ice created per full water fill up.
Size and portability: We started by measuring the dimensions of each portable ice maker and weighing each one to make sure their specs were as claimed by the manufacturer. As part of these results we looked at the more subjective matter of portability (though there was not too much difference as the shapes were all the same and the weights only differed by five pounds).
Energy and sound: Another check on the manufacturers’ claims was the energy usage (measured in Watts) and the noise (measured in decibels). The amount of watts used gave us half of the information needed to determine the most energy efficient ice maker (the Della), the other half came from our testing of the ice.
Time for ice: We measured how quickly ice could be made and how long it took to fill up the removable ice tray inside. We then conducted some rudimentary calculations (so you don’t have to) to compare it to the 10 lb bag at the supermarket.
Melting time: The first melting measurement we did relies on the above two as it takes into account the size and thickness of the ice as well as the insulation of the machine. We also conducted tests to see 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 using both one and two batches of ice.
Taste: This depends largely on the water you use (we recommend using filtered water for the best tasting ice). In some of the initial reviews we read in our research we found that some people complained about the “taste” of their ice. We found that after the first full run and a thorough clean, if any off-taste was there to begin with, it was gone. (ThinkGizmos tasted a little bit off in the beginning, though not bad, and it went away after a full cycle).
The best portable ice maker overall: Della
There were very objective measuring standards so it wasn’t so much a choice as it was the clear winner: the Della – 048-GM-48186 is the best overall ice maker simply because it made the most ice the quickest and with the most consistency. The Della was able to outperform its competitors on both the large and small settings (19 lb/day on large and 26 lb/day on small). Though the Avalon Bay was a close second, averaging about a third of a pound less per day on both settings, the Della flat out won.
Della - 048-GM-48186
As one of the most widespread brands of ice makers, the Della not only outperformed its competitors (it made ice the fastest), but it did so for markedly less expensive.
Oh yea, and it was the most affordable model at just over $100, which is incredible considering they can get upwards of $500. Something worth mentioning is that the maximum production of ice occurred when the small size was chosen as opposed to the large ice (note: the “medium” yield on the NewAir tied the 26 lb per day maximum, which falls just short of its claimed 28 lb). Aside from this strange fact, there is nothing to complain about with the Della.
On average, ice production on the small setting yielded almost seven pounds more per day when compared to the large setting. That means about seven less people per party! (if you don’t get that joke, feel free to reference the what to look for section. In general, the sizes of ice did differ a little bit, although it had more to do with the amount of time the machine had been running as opposed to the selected size. The ice would be thickest once the machines had been through their first cycle or two (as you can see in this graph).
- The Della – 048-GM-48186 was the most effective and affordable portable ice maker we tested and was spot on with the amount of production it claimed (26 lb 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 your 12 ounce drink to a refreshing 53 °F.
- It has a clean and simple design that will go nicely in the kitchen as well as a big clear lid that allows you to see in easily.
The runner up: Avalon Bay
Coming in a very close second is the Avalon Bay – AB-ICE26S, which yielded 25.6 lb per day on its best setting (small ice cubes). It averaged 22.5 lb per day between its two settings, which put it in a clear second place. And if you recall, the average ice per person for a party is about one pound, so you will be able to comfortably host a get together with the Avalon Bay.
Similar to all the ice makers we tested, the Avalon uses about 100 Watts, spiking at around 140 for a few seconds here and there, which gives us a production cost of less than two cents per pound. If we compare that to the three dollar 10 lb bag of ice it is over 20 times cheaper to use this ice maker after the initial investment.
The Avalon’s display was clearer than that of the Della as it used words instead of symbols. Of course, the symbols on the Della are easily understood, but there is no way to misinterpret the Avalon. There is three color options for this ice maker: black, red or a light gray or silver which is nice so you have a little variety when choosing.
Avalon Bay - AB-ICE26S
Producing 25.6 lb of ice per day at its best, the Avalon Bay ice maker gets your beverage sweating so you don’t have to (it’s a condensation joke, get it?).
The lid has a thickness of about an inch and a half, which allowed for the machine to keep the ice relatively cold while it continued production. The ice tray claims to hold a pound and a half of ice, though it will shut off automatically at just over a pound of production–which takes about an hour on the small setting.
- The Avalon Bay – AB-ICE26S has incredible production capacity (25.6 lb per day) and like the other ice makers it works best on the small setting.
- The average cost of ice with the Avalon is about 1.3 cents per pound, saving you almost 29 cents every pound of ice when compared to buying it at the supermarket.
- After about seven minutes and a quarter of production you can cool your 12 ounce beverage more than 13 degrees with the first batch of ice.
Another good option: NewAir
The NewAir – AI-100BK is a bit bigger of a machine, and four pounds heavier than the top two. The reason for this difference is two-fold: it claims to produce more ice (28 lb of ice per day as compared to the 26) and there is a bigger carrying capacity in the ice tray. The manufacturer claims it can store 2.2 lb of ice and…oh wait, it actuallydid! This is more than a half pound more than the above two, which allows you to empty the ice tray less often.
Something we thought worth mentioning was the amount of ice stored in relation to the size selected. With the large selection it held 2.25 lb, medium was 2.05 lb, and small held only 1.19 lb before automatically shutting off. Oddly enough, this is the only way we could make any sense of the different selections of ice size. Another difference of this machine was the drainage system, it needs to be unscrewed and pours out the side instead of directly out of the bottom.
NewAir - AI-100BK
The NewAir can hold up to two and a quarter pounds of ice before the tray needs emptying, which is about double the amount of the next best, giving you plenty of time to let the ice pile up before you need to make more.
There is also a difference in selection of the size of ice, though, as mentioned before, the size of the ice is not noticeably different. That said, the medium size on the NewAir was its most effective setting as it produced at a rate of 26 lb a day, which was the best production of any setting (granted it tied with the Della on small setting).
- The NewAir – AI-100BK has three ice cube size options and held very true to its claims of ice tray and production capacity.
- On the medium setting, the NewAir tied the Della and produced ice at the quick rate of 26 lb per day giving you enough ice to host a 26-person party with one day’s production.
- The drainage system is a little cap that has to be unscrewed and pours the excess water out of the side instead of just unplugged and draining from the bottom.
Other finalists we tested
The Ivation – IVAICECLEARTOPS is a bit different aesthetically. It has full visibility with a slight tint so that you can really see the cubes being formed (which is pretty cool, at least the first time). The problem with the lid is that it is very thin so it can’t keep the ice as cold as the other ice makers. Other than that though, the production was quite good, it averaged 23.5 lb per day on the small setting.
This portable ice maker went toe-to-toe with the winner (the Della) in the production of small ice cubes. There were in sync to the minute for almost an hour until their trays got full. The difference here, however, was the thin lid, which made it harder for the Ivation to hold the cold. So about a tenth of a pound more ice melted in the Ivation. Although this is the case, the Ivation has a great production capacity that will allow you to keep the ice comin’ for a party at your place.
Though the upside about all of these is that, because they don’t need to be connected to a water line, they recycle the water used. Any ice that melts just means that the water is already colder and will theoretically be able to produce ice that much faster.
This was the only stainless steel ice maker we tested and man did it give us high hopes for the ThinkGizmos – TG22. Unfortunately it suffered from some inconsistency between its different settings, both how much the ice tray could hold and how quickly the ice was produced. Like the rest, the ThinkGizmos worked best when making small ice cubes and, though it had the least production of all the ice makers, it yielded a respectable 22.4 lb per day.
It did okay on the medium setting, giving us about 19.5 lb per day. This was sad to see because the other bigger ice maker (the NewAir) was the most successful on the medium setting. Nonetheless, the large was by far the worst production we saw as it would have yielded only 11.2 lb in a day.
This was quite surprising to us to see the highest rated ice maker on Amazon and the highest priced ice maker come in a solid last place. Just goes to show you can’t believe everything you see, except for what you’re reading now…and everything else on our site!
The bottom line
For all of you who like your ice on-demand or get a little discontented every time you spend money buying ice, the Della – 048-GM-48186 portable ice maker will solve your problems in minutes. Not only will it cool your beverage in about seven minutes, but it actually produces the amount of ice it claims to: 26 lb of ice in one day!
There were other ice makers that performed valiantly, like the Avalon Bay – AB-ICE26S and NewAir – AI-100BK which were both within a couple pounds of reaching their claimed production at 25.6 lb and 26 lb per day. Although these models are a bit pricier than the Della, they are still well worth the investment if you are an avid ice consumer as they yield a pound of ice for less than two cents. When compared to over 30 cents per pound at the store, that’s one heck of a margin.