The Best Countertop Ice Maker (2024)

The research

  • Why you should trust us
  • Who this is for
  • How we picked and tested
  • Our pick: Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27
  • Our pick: Igloo IGLICEBSC26
  • Also great: Luma Comfort IM200
  • Also great: GE Profile Opal 2.0
  • Other good countertop ice makers
  • The competition
  • Care and maintenance
  • What to look forward to

Why you should trust us

Staff writer Andrea Barnes covers large cleaning appliances, including dishwashers, and also provides tips on how to get the most out of your dishwasher and laundry appliances.

Over the years, we have:

  • looked at more than 50 models of ice makers since 2017 and tested 12 in 2023
  • interviewed refrigeration experts, a physics professor, and representatives from several companies that make countertop ice makers, including GE Appliances and Frigidaire
  • read an in-depth report on ice-making processes
  • analyzed thousands of customer reviews using an artificial-intelligence-driven tool called FindOurView

Who this is for

If you dislike lugging bags of ice home from the store or waiting for ice-cube trays to freeze, a countertop ice maker might be a useful alternative. If you’re running out of space in your freezer but love having ice handy for your drinks, these machines can actually be wonderful.

Countertop ice makers are also a good option for use in RVs, campers, boats, or even food trucks. They are, however, meant to be used in a temperature-controlled environment (around 70 °F). So if you have dreams of putting this ice machine outside near a pool, you should invest in a cooler instead.

Although the home ice machines we tested won’t replicate super-trendy artisanal ice, some can produce ice that most trays and built-in ice makers can’t, such as crisp, glassy cubes or crunchy, fluffy nuggets.

Remember, too, that basic maintenance (which can be a pain) is a must, or you run the risk of growing mildew or even having parts of the machine rust.

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How we picked and tested

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (1)

Most countertop ice makers don’t vary much: They’re all roughly the same size and shape and they all make ice in about the same amount of time. In fact, our research over the years has shown that most are made by the same few factories. The biggest difference lies in the kind of ice they make. We tested three types:

Bullet-ice makers: Most bullet-ice models are roughly the same size, taking up about half as much counter space as a small microwave. At room temperature (70 °F), they can crank out a batch of nine bullets about every seven to nine minutes—enough to fill just under a half of a pint-size glass. None of these machines keep the ice frozen after it’s made, so you need to consume it quickly or move it to the freezer for storing.

Speed per batch depends on cube size (most models have two size options, though the diameter differs by only a few millimeters), the model’s capacity (measured in pounds of ice per day, which is usually 26 or 28 pounds), and how long the machine has been running (ice makers tend to slow down a bit after operating for an hour or more).

Clear-ice makers: Clear ice looks prettier and keeps beverages carbonated longer than cloudy ice does. Refrigeration expert Dan Conrad said making clear ice requires water with fewer impurities and avoiding introducing air during the freezing process. Most clear-ice makers form cubes slowly with running water, which prevents air pockets from forming. (Fewer air pockets means fizzier drinks.)

Clear-cube makers (like our also-great pick) take longer to make a batch of ice—about 25 minutes or so. Some of these machines have ice-thickness controls with plus and minus buttons to add or take away freezing time, but we found them to be temperamental. Clear-ice makers produce solid blocks of ice that you often need to break up into individual cubes. They’re also bigger than typical bullet-ice machines and usually more expensive.

Nugget-ice makers: Nugget ice (or pebble ice) is a bunch of flaked ice (the type used in seafood displays) packed together. It has a soft, easy-to-chew texture, and it absorbs the flavor of whatever drink you’ve put it into. It’s particularly excellent for slushies and warm-weather co*cktails, though it makes carbonated drinks go flat pretty quickly. Pebble ice is challenging to make, so it’s no surprise that the pebble-ice machines we tested took the longest to make a reasonable batch of ice—sometimes up to 30 minutes—and are significantly more expensive than bullet- or clear-ice makers.

We evaluated 12 machines in our most recent round of testing: five bullet-ice makers, four clear-ice makers, and three nugget-ice makers. We tested them in series (by type) for several weeks at a time at home. This gave us an idea of how convenient each was to use on a daily basis and allowed us to evaluate the following factors:

Ice quality: For all of the models, we noted the size of the ice and its uniformity. For clear-ice makers, we assessed the clarity of the ice and how easy it was to break apart the ice block into separate cubes. We also evaluated how long it took for the ice to melt—which, for much of the ice made by these machines, can be pretty quick (especially in summer heat).

Ease of cleaning: Countertop ice makers require regular cleaning to avoid mildew and rust. We took into account the location of a machine’s drain plug, if it has a self-cleaning cycle, and how easy it was to lift and carry to the sink.

Reliability: Like many small appliances, countertop ice makers are not built with the kind of durability that larger appliances are. We browsed user reviews for some of the best-selling models, and we found a not-insignificant number of reviews describing machines that broke down within months and even a few complaints about receiving lemons. Countertop ice makers all have one-year warranties, but it seems customer service at some of these companies can be hit or miss.

Our pick: Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (2)

Our pick

Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27

A classic countertop ice maker

This ice maker is one of many clones available, but it stands out for its value, availability, and customer service.

Buying Options

$134 from Walmart

$129 from Home Depot

$126 from Wayfair

The Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27 is a variant of the classic bullet-ice machine, but it has some functional details we appreciate and tends to be widely available and easier to return.

It makes ice reliably. The Magic Chef ice maker makes nine bullet-shaped pieces of ice in about eight minutes using cold tap water. (Chilled water can speed that up a bit.) In warmer temperatures, it took about 12 minutes per batch, and the first few batches were misleadingly small and clear because the ice wasn’t fully formed, but that’s typical.

The Magic Chef ice maker’s ice is a little cloudy (standard for bullet-ice machines), and although it melts faster in carbonated beverages than clear ice, it still gets the job done. The reservoir holds enough water to make ice continuously for a few hours at a time, so you don’t have to watch it too closely. It can make 27 pounds of ice per day.

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (4)

It’s simple to use. Plug it in, pour water in the reservoir, and turn it on. Its user-friendly controls have easy-to-read notifications and a simple select button for choosing ice size.

It’s easier to return than its competitors. If you purchase this model through Home Depot or Walmart, in-store returns should be painless. A few owner-reviews for other models complained about refused or slow-rolled returns, but these instances seem to be uncommon.

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (5)

It’s as reliable as these machines can be. The Magic Chef ice maker has been around for a while, so we don’t expect many surprises. Reviews of it are slightly better than other ice machines, averaging around 4.4 stars on Home Depot’s website.

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Our pick: Igloo IGLICEBSC26

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (6)

Our pick

Igloo IGLICEBSC26

Same capabilities, more compact

This bullet-ice maker is compact and has a self-cleaning mode. But because of its slightly smaller size, you need to refill it a bit more frequently.

Buying Options

$110 from Amazon

$110 from Home Depot

$120 from Wayfair

The Igloo IGLICEBSC26 works similarly to our pick from Magic Chef and gets a special mention because of its compact size and easy-to-use self-cleaning cycle.

It has a space-saving design. Standing at less than a foot tall and 8.5 inches deep, this Igloo ice maker takes up less counter space compared with others (including our other pick). Its lighter weight makes it ideal for seasonal storage.

It makes plenty of ice reliably. It makes the same amount of ice, at about the same pace, as our other pick. The reservoir is a bit smaller, so you need to refill it slightly more often.

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (8)

Its controls are clear and straight-forward. The Igloo IGLICEBSC26’s controls are intuitive, including buttons for two sizes of ice. And unlike our pick from Magic Chef, it has a self-cleaning mode—not a necessity, but nice to have.

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (9)

Flaws but not dealbreakers

  • The ice is cloudy. All bullet-ice makers produce cloudy ice due to trapped air during the freezing process. It doesn’t affect taste, but it makes carbonated drinks go flat faster than clear ice.
  • These machines aren’t particularly durable. All the ice makers we tested come with standard one-year warranties, and user reviews suggest they aren’t particularly durable.

Also great: Luma Comfort IM200

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (10)

Also great

Luma Comfort IM200

Clear cubes, great for fizzy drinks

This model produces clear ice—which keeps carbonated drinks fizzy for longer—in much bigger batches than our other picks. But the machine takes up more space.

Buying Options

Buy from Amazon

$250 from Home Depot

If cloudy ice isn’t for you or if you want to keep fizzy drinks cold without them going flat, consider a clear-ice maker such as the Luma Comfort IM200. Clear ice keeps beverages carbonated longer than bullet ice does. In a side-by-side test, a soda with clear cubes from the Luma Comfort IM200 fizzed much less in a glass and tasted bubbly and sharp, while a soda with cloudy cubes quickly tasted flat.

It makes consistently clear ice that breaks apart easily. Like most clear-ice machines we tested, the Luma Comfort ice maker’s ice is crystal clear and forms slowly with running water, resulting in a rectangular block that breaks apart into clear ice cubes. During testing, the ice block was well formed and easier to break apart than the block made by other machines.

You can adjust the thickness of the ice. Like the other clear-ice machines we tested, the Luma Comfort ice maker has an option to increase the thickness of the ice, though it isn’t obvious (you need to hold down the power button for 5 seconds). The manual recommends using this mode if you’ll be using the ice maker in warmer temperatures (above 70 °F, basically) to ensure that the ice forms completely. (If you use the thicker setting in a cooler space, however, the block may be too dense to break easily.) Other clear ice makers we tested had specific buttons for ice-thickness control, but they required the same amount of trial and error to adjust thickness as the Luma Comfort ice maker.

But it takes longer than bullet-ice makers. The Luma Comfort ice maker usually took 20 to 25 minutes to complete each batch of ice at room temperature and more like 30 minutes in warmer environments. (Our bullet-ice-maker picks generate nine pieces in roughly eight minutes.) That said, it makes about three times as much ice per batch, so it works out to be roughly equivalent over time.

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Also great: GE Profile Opal 2.0

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (12)

Also great

GE Profile Opal 2.0 with Side Tank

Nugget ice, higher price

Nugget ice has a cult following because of its soft, chewable consistency. This model makes it beautifully, but it’s expensive and large.

Buying Options

$514 from Amazon

$405 from Best Buy

GE Profile Opal 2.0

Same excellent ice, no side tank

This cheaper, tankless version makes the same great ice, but you need to refill the water reservoir between batches.

Buying Options

$464 from Amazon

$479 from Lowe's

Buy from Home Depot

The GE Profile Opal 2.0 with Side Tank (also available in a tankless version) is the most prominent countertop ice maker that makes nugget ice, also called pebble ice, or “that ice you get at Sonic.” (Specialty ice has garnered attention of late, and nugget ice has become a star of #icetok.)

Of the three nugget-ice machines we tested, the pricey Opal 2.0 made the most consistently chewable and crunchable ice, turning an everyday soda or an elevated co*cktail into a festive summer drink.

It makes excellent nugget ice. Of the three models we tested, the Opal 2.0 made the highest-quality nugget ice. The ice is chewy, fluffy, and doesn’t clump (the machine keeps the pebbles separated by draining melt water quickly). The Opal 2.0 makes about 1.5 pounds of ice per hour, and the double-pane reservoir holds roughly 3 pounds of ice and prevents it from melting longer than any other ice machine we tried.

It’s sleek and streamlined. The Opal 2.0 has a contemporary, user-friendly design. Its see-through, illuminated reservoir for the ice reminded us of an aquarium. It also has a water tank that attaches easily to the side of the machine via magnets. The tank allows for more ice to be made between refills, but you don’t have to use it. You can buy a slightly cheaper model of the Opal 2.0 that doesn’t include a side tank.

It has extra features not found on other machines. The Opal 2.0 is able to connect to Wi-Fi and can be programmed to respond to voice commands. It also has a UV light for sanitizing, but we haven’t tested its purported antimicrobial properties. You still need to clean the machine regularly.

It has solid satisfaction ratings. Though reviews include some typical small-appliance woes, its overall ratings are strong, ranging from 4.4 stars to 4.6 stars in thousands of verified reviews, placing it among the higher-rated ice makers available. GE offers a 60-day return policy and a one-year warranty for parts and labor.

But it’s large and expensive. The Opal 2.0 is 16.5 inches tall and 17.5 inches deep, and it takes up about the same amount of space on a counter as an espresso machine. It’s also expensive—typically almost five times the price of the bullet-ice makers we recommend. It is available in a tankless version, which makes the same excellent ice but costs less. (You just need to refill the water reservoir between batches.)

Other good countertop ice makers

Nearly all the ice makers we tested were fine and did the job.

The Frigidaire FreeStanding Ice Maker, which is a clone of the other bullet-ice makers we tested, performed well.

If the NewAir NIM045SS00 Portable Countertop Clear Ice Machineor the Frigidaire EFIC452 are the only clear-ice makers you can find, they are fine options. They made clear ice very well and lost points primarily for their less-intuitive controls and because we had to wait a minute or two for their ice to be soft enough to break apart.

The Iceman Nugget Ice Machine did a good job for half the price of the GE Profile Opal 2.0 (our also-great pick), but we don’t know much about the company. We noticed several virtually identical machines under other name brands (like other ice makers we tested), including this model from Mueller. If you really want nugget ice but don’t want to invest in the Opal 2.0, the Iceman model works. But it lacks the years-long track record of the Opal 2.0.

After reading this, maybe you realize you don’t need an ice machine at all. Instead, consider our guide to ice cube trays.

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The competition

We liked the Costway EP24228 bullet-ice maker, which has a matte finish that doesn’t show fingerprints as much as other machines’ surfaces did. However, the machine began to malfunction several months into long-term testing. Costway sent a replacement part and the ice maker was repaired, but the machine stopped working again a few weeks later.

The Humhold Nugget Ice Maker took forever to make ice, dropping just three to four nuggets at a time. It is also a much smaller machine than other nugget-ice machines we tested, so it requires much more frequent refills.

Care and maintenance

Always drain leftover water out of your ice maker after use. This helps prevent mildew and off-tasting ice.

Wipe down the interior of the machine with a soft cloth, warm water, and some diluted dish soap. This gets rid of solid debris, mildew, and mineral scaling.

If you have mineral buildup and your machine has a dedicated self-cleaning cycle, you can use a diluted cleaning solution (such as vinegar, lemon juice, or a premade, nickel-safe ice-maker cleaner) to descale. You can even use a solution of water and bleach to sanitize the interior, which is what GE recommends.

After any sort of cleaning, it’s wise to run a few water-only ice-making cycles to rinse away any residue—and discard the ice, of course.

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What to look forward to

We plan to test two Frigidaire Gallery ice makers: a model that makes spherical ice and a model that makes nugget ice.

Liam McCabe and Tyler Wells Lynch wrote previous versions of this guide, first published in 2017. This article was edited by Ingrid Skjong and Courtney Schley.

The Best Countertop Ice Maker (2024)

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