The 10 Best Portable Ice Makers
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Nothing causes a gathering to grind to a halt like running out of ice. Your refrigerator may or may not have an icemaker, and commercial ice machines are too bulky to bring to a tailgate or beach party. However, with one of these portable ice makers, you'll gain the ability to put forth a steady stream of cubes so your event can keep on going for as long as you want it to. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 06, 2020:
One important thing to note about these portable ice makers is that they all need to be plugged in, so you'll have to have a generator or wall outlet if you're planning to use them outdoors. Another thing to note is that these are ice makers, not freezers. They're designed for those who want to use the ice right away, and if you don't, you'll need to transfer it to a colder container to keep it from melting. That's true of all these models, and is inherent in the category.
There's generally a tradeoff between the size (and therefore the portability) of the machine and its capacity. The Kealive Clear is a big machine that can make a lot of ice, while the Igloo Automatic and Crownful Ready take up less space and are easier to carry, but fill up quickly.
The Dreamiracle Bullet tops the list this time around because it looks great, it's quiet, and it has competitive features: it can make a batch in seven minutes, boasts a 2.8-liter reservoir, can store 3.3 pounds, and can make 33 pounds in a day. Any machine with better specs in one of those areas likely has a deficiency in another. Best of all, the Dreamiracle Bullet isn't too heavy, making it the all-around best choice.
November 30, 2019:
During this update, we had to remove a lot of previously recommended models due to longevity issues. For example, there were many complaints of the Think Gizmos TG22, Avalon Bay AB-ICE26S, and Ivation IVA-ICEM25WH dying in less than a year with just periodic use.
Another thing we noticed about our previous selection is that they all had pretty much the same ice-producing capabilities — 26 or 27 pounds in a 24-hour period. While this is probably more than enough for the average consumer, we realize that some people may have a need for more ice than that, especially those who often throw parties. To suit those individuals, we have included the Gladwell Countertop, NewAir ClearIce40,Costway 23346, and Northair HZB-18F/S, which make 50, 40, and 48 pounds, respectively.
Another thing we noticed about our previous selections is that nearly every one made opaque, bullet-shaped cubes with a hole in the center, usually in at least two different sizes. To ensure there was a cube type to meet every preference, we made sure to include models like the NewAir ClearIce40 and Northair HZB-18F/S, both of which makes clear, square cubes; and the Opal Nugget, which makes small chunks of ice like you might get from some commercial machines.
Kold Draft KD-50 Though not as lightweight as the items on our list, the KD-50 is Kold Draft's smallest ice machine, capable of producing up to 50 pounds per day. Most importantly, it can store 26.5 pounds of ice at one time, so if you're running an outdoor bar or catering event where you're going to need a lot of cubes at the ready, this is a solid solution. kold-draft.com
Simplicity On Your Counter Top
Otherwise, the ice will melt and then recycle back into the reservoir to make more ice.
A portable ice maker is a machine that contains an independent ice generator that will form and freeze ice cubes.
While large, commercial ice makers often require a connection to a water line, a portable ice maker simply needs to have water deposited into its reservoir. The portable ice maker only needs to be plugged in to operate, and it will even keep the ice frozen for a certain period of time before you transfer it to a drink, cooler, or freezer.
The portable ice maker is a variation of the standard ice maker that can be found inside some home freezers or industrial-sized machines. When someone refers to an "ice machine," however, they generally mean a stand alone appliance intended specifically for making ice.
Your average portable ice maker has to be small enough to fit on a counter top. They are the smallest ice makers that you can purchase on the market, and they produce ice faster than the average ice maker built into a home refrigerator. Most produce their first batch of ice within an average of ten minutes.
All you have to do is fill the designated reservoir with water, plug in the machine, and turn it on. The water pumps into a tub that has metal pegs equipped with a heating and cooling system. The cooling system causes the water to freeze around the rings, and the heating system warms up just enough to cause the ice to drop off from the rings once the ice is fully formed in a bullet shape.
Unfortunately, they don't keep your ice frozen indefinitely, so you have to transfer the ice into your freezer, drink, or cooler once the bin is full. Otherwise, the ice will melt and then recycle back into the reservoir to make more ice.
The Portable Ice Maker Advantage
There are not a lot of individual factors to consider when choosing the best portable ice maker to suit your needs. Once you have taken into account your plans for its use, what size you need, and what style you like best, you are well on your way to portable ice maker heaven.
If you are still on the fence about whether or not you need a portable ice maker at all, take a moment to consider all of the advantages that come with owning one of these machines.
They are simple to clean and often recycle the water from unused ice that was melted.
The first and most obvious advantage is its portability. (It's right in the name!) You can easily transport your chosen machine to whatever place is most convenient for you. If you enjoy boating, camping, or throwing outdoor parties, your portable ice maker can go wherever you go.
Secondly, portable ice makers work fast. Even if you forgot to put ice in the freezer for your drink with tonight's dinner, all you have to do is fill the reservoir, turn it on, and you will have your ice in ten minutes or less. You don't have to fill ice trays and wait for your freezer to do its job.
The third advantage to owning a portable ice maker is that it requires very little maintenance. They are simple to clean and often recycle the water from unused ice that was melted. To keep it clean, you only need to wipe it out and occasionally send some lemon juice or vinegar through the drain.
Last, but not least, a portable ice maker is convenient. You barely need to read the instructions (although we still recommend that you do) because the operating system for each portable ice maker is so straightforward. No matter what you plan to use it for, you can't go wrong with a purchase of a high-quality portable ice maker to save you time and money and keep you cool year-round.
History of the Portable Ice Maker
Up until the mid-19th century, ice was a precious summer commodity, especially in the southern parts of the United States. People often had to import ice from northern states, and obviously not everyone could afford to do that.
Even that didn't last long thanks to a mix of war, bad weather, and family monetary issues.
Even during the 1800s, the idea of having ice to cool down on hot days was hard to sell. Case in point, Frederic Tudor of Boston. Tudor, along with his brother, came up with the genius idea to harvest ice from their estate's pond, and sell it in the stifling West Indies. After spending a great deal, including five thousand alone to ship the ice via boat, Tudor arrived in the Caribbean, and no one wanted to buy the ice.
It took Tudor 10 years to see any profit. Even that didn't last long thanks to a mix of war, bad weather, and family monetary issues. By 1813, Tudor found himself in debtor's prison three times, and tried his best to allude the sheriff for years to follow. He eventually found success, however, and Tudor died an old man with a net worth of 12 million in today's currency.
On July 14, 1850, Dr. John Gorrie threw a party in Florida and served his guests trays of ice - the first to ever be produced by a machine. His medical practice had led him to pursue cooling solutions to keep his patients with tropical diseases more comfortable.
He gave up his practice in 1845 and made refrigeration experiments a full time pursuit. He improved on the inventions of men that had attempted the same things before him. His original machine now resides in the Gorrie Museum in Apalachicola, Florida. Not only was he a pioneer in modern ice making, but he helped pave the way for modern air conditioning systems as well.
He perfected the process of "vapor compression refrigeration" that resulted in mechanically produced ice. Modern ice makers use a refrigerant (such as Freon) to aid in the cooling and compression system. Because portable ice makers require a much simpler form of this process, they are the fastest way to produce ice.