Best Portable Ice Maker – Reviews & Comprehensive Buying Guide

​The best portable ice maker for any price in my opinion is the Igloo ICE103. The best option for budget-conscious buyers is the Avalon Bay AB-ICE26S, and the NewAir Al-100R is also a solid choice for a bit more money.

Ice has become such an important part of our lives now, so much so that we cannot even imagine our drinks without it and do not realize that as long as 100 years ago, this was still a luxury. What do you do when you need to make some ice? Fill up an ice tray and wait for it to freeze in your refrigerator, or you have the latest model that automatically dispenses ice. Or, if you do not have the patience for either then you will just get the ice from the nearest store. But, what if you are camping outside, or having a family picnic and need ice to go with your drinks? At that time, you would need a portable ice maker.

Now, portable ice makers are the next best thing for outdoor parties, after mini coolers. They make ice fast, really fast. It takes an average of 6-10 minutes for modern day ice makers to make a new batch of ice. However, they only make ice, they do not keep it frozen so you will need to use it immediately unless you have an ice chest as well. Ice makers have metal prongs which are submerged in the tub of water. These prongs can be electrically cooled or heated. So when they are in the water, they are cooled down and ice starts forming around them. After a specific time, they heat up, just sufficiently to make the ice melt off them and drop in the tray. If you do not use this ice, it will again melt and be turned to the water tub to be reused again.

Best Portable Ice Maker - Our Picks

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Picture

Product

Weight (Pounds)

Class

Price

Editor's Rating

Igloo ICE103

(Our #1 Choice)

25

Low End

Check Here

NewAir Al-100R

24.3

Mid Range

Check Here

Avalon Bay AB-ICE26S

19

Mid Range

Check Here

The Best Ice Makers in the Market

Igloo ICE103 Counter Top Ice Maker

Editor Rating:

Igloo is a name to consider when it comes to a variety of cooling products. And their ICE103 is no exception when it comes to quality and style. Its look is sleek and compact with a very smooth stainless steel body. It stands at 14 X 12 X 16 inches and weighs 25 pounds. 

Though it may seem a bit heavy and you may need a helping hand to carry it round, but its sleek and compact design make for very few hassles in storage, and it looks amazing as a countertop in your kitchen. It can make up to 26 lbs of ice in a day. Believe me, that is a lot of ice. Also, it is one of the fastest ice makers, because it can give you a batch of 8 ice cubes, every 6 minutes so your guests do not have to wait long. It has an ice basket that can also store up to 2.2 lbs of ice at a time which is plenty for average usage. Even if it didn't have one, it makes ice really fast. So, your party won’t be halted due to the sudden shortage of ice.

Another amazing thing about this little beauty is that it gives you the option to choose the size of your ice cubes. The ice cubes can be adjusted into three sizes: small, medium and large. Even though it is the heaviest among the products reviewed here, it still is very easy to move and can be used anywhere where you can find an outlet to plug it in. It uses 120 watts of power to function. Its cooling is done by a compressor and is one of the fastest ice makers in my opinion. The user interface is handled through an electronic control panel and LED indicators. The process is fairly easy, you fill the tub with water, push a couple of buttons, and within 6 minutes, you have your desired size of ice cubes.

If you want an ice maker that can cater to a big bunch of people, works very fast when it comes to producing ice then this product from Igloo is a safe bet. Not only is it a trusted name, but is also very economical when it comes to pricing. And it is an absolute beast when it comes to the quantity of ice that you can make on average.​

NewAir Al-100R 28 Pound Portable Ice Maker

Editor Rating:

New Air is known far and wide for their portable and small appliances. Since 2002 they have been surprising us with products that are not only innovative but also, highly efficient. The AI-100R ice maker from New Air is an absolute delight. 

And let us be honest, wouldn’t you want one of these appealing colors when out on your boat or camping in the sunny outdoors? However, the visual appeal of bright colors is not the only good point that this pretty little thing has to offer. It is one of the sturdiest models when it comes to doling out ice. The unit is capable of producing 28 pounds of ice in a period of 24 hours, highest of the lot reviewed here. It is the perfect balance of Style, Ease of Use and Efficiency.

The unit stands at 14.5 X 11.75 X 15 inches and weighs about 24 pounds. It is easy to move and carry and would be perfect in all its glory in any setting, be it your kitchen, boat or camping site. The ice cube settings available are the same as the Igloo, that is - small, medium and large. However, the production time for a new batch of ice is comparatively very high when compared to the other two. It takes nearly 15 minutes to convert water into ice. But, you also need to keep in mind that its production capacity too is higher than the other two. 2 pounds of ice is all the difference when you realize that the number of people that you are hosting is higher than what you expected.

Technologically, this one is the most advanced of the three, as I’ve said, New Air believes in innovation and they prove it, time and again. They have an LED display and easy to use buttons that allow you greater ease when operating along with indicator lights and overflow warning. There is also a side-mounted drain for quickly cleaning the unit without any hassles. It is also very durable and would serve you for many parties and picnics in the long run.

Avalon Bay AB-ICE26S Portable Ice Maker

Editor Rating:

Avalon Bay is another personal favorite for all cooling needs. The AB-ICE26S is another fast machine which can give you a fresh batch of ice in as less as 6 minutes. If used to maximum power, it will give you 26 pounds of ice in a 24 hour period. Another compact and lightweight solution if you want to keep a large supply of ice on hand for your picnics or parties. Unlike the Igloo ICE103, it has the option of only 2 ice sizes - small and large.

It can produce up to 9 ice cubes in 6-13 minutes and also has the option of Automatic overflow protection indicator, and is very easy to clean with a bottom drain. The best part is that it has ‘Add Water’ and ‘Ice Full’ warning indicators so that you won’t have to worry about checking it again and again and can enjoy your party with peace. As and when your unit gets full or is in need to be filled again a light will start blinking that will get your attention.

It is fairly easy to use with a push button control, again you just need to manually fill the reservoir with water and select an ice setting, small or large. That’s it. Your job ends here, the unit will automatically make the ice and then you simply have to fill up your glass using the scoop provided.

Its super sleek and stylish silver body can blend in any place, whether you use it in your kitchen or poolside or in your next camping trip. The design is compact and can be easily moved around. As mentioned before, it is very low maintenance, even comes with a drain at the bottom which makes cleaning an easier task. Not to mention the included ice scoop and basket that make serving super easy.

So far, this is the tiniest and the lightest of the lot and therefore, is a good option if you need an ice maker keeping in mind lots of outdoor activities. You would need a smaller unit when you go out camping in your RV, smaller compared to the one you’ll need while having a party in your backyard. Since it is very light and does not take up much space, it would be the best suited for camping and outdoor activities.​

Benefits of Portable Ice Makers

Just in case you are still wondering whether you absolutely have to have one such unit or not, here are a few pointers that should help you decide:

  • Even if you are not much of an outdoor person, a portable ice maker can come in handy even at home. If you have limited freezer space then you can free up considerable space by taking out ice trays that take ages to freeze.
  • It can also be used in office spaces alongside beverage refrigerators or water coolers so that the employees can get ice at hand for their refreshment without the hassle of a full refrigerator unit just for making ice.
  • Supplemental ice for hosting family gatherings or birthday parties: There can be quite a few occasions when you are hosting a bunch of people at your home and you would need more ice than your usual consumption. Portable ice makers are a far better option than the hassle of stocking up on extra ice trays whenever you are hoping to have people around.
  • Great for pool parties/boat/RV camping and such occasions when you want to enjoy the great outdoors but cannot do without the luxury of having a cold beer by your side. These are perfect for such occasions because of their light weight and compact size.​

Why Do You Need an Ice Maker

Pros

  • The convenient and compact design makes it easier to carry it around anywhere as long you have electricity, whether indoors or outdoors.
  • On an average, it takes 10-15 minutes to produce one batch of ice, saving you the trouble of going to the store to buy or having to wait over an hour for the refrigerator to do its work.
  • Very pocket friendly, considering the one time investment instead of spending for ice each time you want some.
  • Shape, size, consistency as well as quality are maintained throughout.
  • Size and amount to be produced is under control.
  • Very efficient regarding electricity consumption when compared to the refrigerator.

Cons

  • May seem like an unnecessary expense to those who do not usually require much ice.
  • Although most models are less noisy or even silent, but some are very loud.
  • Usually require a running water systems, though now many models have been made which can use both tap as well as bottled water.
  • There is not much difference in the ice block sizes.

How Does a Portable Ice Maker Work?

Although, different devices work in different ways, in general, a portable ice maker cools and freezes water by lowering the temperature of the metal chamber of the machine; or by lowering a metallic prong in the water, which, in turn, freezes the water. Since the machine is really compact, it is easier to remove the heat from the chamber and directly start the freezing process. This is why; these appliances take such a less time in producing ice than refrigerators and freezers.

Now, depending on the model, it is either an automatic machine that would take water only through attached hose with the tap or it is a manual type that you can pour water into by using any container, as per your need. Once, the water is up to the level marked in it, and you plug it in, the cooling process begins. The water is sucked up from the reservoir into a molding tray. Now, depending upon the size of the cube you opted for, the tray would change. An internal timer gets activate and alerts the machine once the ice blocks are frozen, which makes it pour the ice into the basin or the removable ice tray, as provided.

Generally, it is advised that, when using for the very first time, you should throw the first batch of ice out, since it may stink or have a metallic tang to its taste. But this is not compulsory; many devices are good to go from the first start. Being exclusively designed to do this job quicker; this appliance produces just one batch of ice within a time range of 6-15 minutes, and can produce 26-28 pounds of ice per day depending upon the device quality.

Things to Keep in Mind before Buying a Portable Ice Maker

As you can deduce from this article, there are a variety of products available in the market, each with their own advantages or disadvantages for particular situations. You need to find out the extent of your need and accordingly choose one that best fits your wants. Here are a few parameters that you can take in account to judge what is best for you.

  • Mobility: There are a variety of different products, some heavier than the others. If you need an ice maker for outdoor camping trips than you can go for the lighter ones. However, if your main aim is to use it as a kitchen top, while hosting house parties, the heavier ones would work just fine and might even be better for you.
  • Production Capacity: It depends on upon the number of people you plan on hosting or the amount of ice you would need. If your needs are not much, you can go for one of the less expensive products available and it would work just fine for you. However, if you want a large unit then it is highly advised that you choose a unit that can produce more, even though it may not be on the cheaper side of the scale.
  • Time Taken: Different products take a different amount of time to produce ice. The fastest of them can give you a fresh batch of ice within 6 minutes while others can take up to 15 minutes. You need to decide what would work best for you. However, all ice makers can boast of a good time span as compared to the traditional method where it takes a minimum of 30-40 minutes on the best days for a tray of ice to be frozen.

How to Choose the Best Portable Ice Maker

Just like everything else, these appliances too are manufactured by tons of companies and brands. But how will you select the one that suits you best? Here are some tips to help you narrow down your search.

There are a certain number of factors you have to consider before investing in a portable ice maker. First and foremost, you have to decide upon your budget, then the device’s design, efficiency, ease of operating, capacity of ice production, time taken for one single batch, the power consumption, water intake facility, the weight and size of the device that would fit in your kitchen, etc. Also, apart from these, you may have a particularly preferred brand or model.

Most of the choice depends first upon how much ice do you require per day. Next, you have to consider the storage. Portable ice makers are meant to produce, not store it. So if you want the process to run smoothly, either keep emptying the ice tray or let it melt there; in almost all the portable ice makers, this melted ice water is used up to produce the next batch of ice, thus it saves water wasting too, along with saving you electricity. The next to consider is whether you need different sized ice cubes or any one size would suffice.

Generally, portable ice makers offer two to three different sizes of ice cubes you could choose from. The last but not the least, you have to think about its maintenance. Well, good news is, these appliances need very little and very basic maintenance. Just remember to drain excess water after every use and swipe the inside once with a clean, damp towel.

Also you could you lemon or vinegar to wipe it once in a while to keep any bacteria or other stuff from growing inside due to the forever damp environment of the reservoir. In addition, while buying the product, you should check out the warranty offered and whether replacement parts are available in the market. Compare your choice to other good products to make your final purchase and you are good to go.

Conclusion - My Assessment 

After an extensive research, I found that the three products I mentioned above are the best portable ice makers in the market. These have been repeatedly reviewed and recommended by users and experts alike. There are, of course, numerous other brands and models that you can choose from. Just keep in mind your preferences and requirements out of the product, its efficiency, durability and maintenance. And if you are buying it online, do not forget to check the specifications of the product you choose and compare it with others.

Portable ice makers are a great idea because they do not require a water line and hence, can be taken anywhere that you desire. Mini coolers can keep your ice solid for some amount of time but there is nothing like getting a fresh batch of ice, within every few minutes as you desire. They are great for outdoors and work equally well for home as well with their sleek and compact designs. Hope this guide helps you in choosing the best ice maker for you and keeping the heat at bay.​

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  • Updated November 30, 2016