Learning Center7 Tips To Buying A Portable Ice Maker

7 Tips To Buying A Portable Ice Maker

Find the best ice maker, for entertaining or just restocking the ice supply, even outdoors.

portable ice maker

For a new source of refreshing ice whenever and wherever you need it, it’s time to consider a portable ice maker. Of course, if you’re not sure if portable is the way to go, or not sure which ice machine is right for you, then no need to worry. We have collected some of the most common questions and answered your concerns when it comes to buying an at-home ice maker.

What Is A Portable Ice Maker?

White portable ice maker on counter top, cups with ice and lemons.
Portable ice makers work in any size kitchen.

A portable ice maker is a small appliance with the ability to produce a large and steady amount of ice throughout the day, all without requiring a permanent water line or installation. The ice making process is the same as the built-in ice maker in most refrigerator freezers, or the larger undercounter ice machines. Simply add water and the freezing trays get to work quickly creating a ready supply of ice. 

A portable ice maker can be used in a kitchen or den, in tiny homes, RVs or camping trailers, or even follow the family outside to a BBQ if there’s an outdoor kitchen with the appropriate electrical hookups. The portable models can be turned off, unplugged and, like other small kitchen appliances, stored out of the way whenever it’s not needed. 

Portable ice makers also don’t require draining as do their larger counterparts. With a little measuring ahead of time, you can be sure to select the best portable ice maker that can be located anywhere in the kitchen with free countertop space. Make sure to choose a model that has a footprint width and length that will fit on the countertop, as well the appropriate height to fit under upper cabinets.

Advantages of A Portable Ice Maker

If your refrigerator doesn’t have an ice maker built into it, then you may be faced with the hassle of buying bags of ice, or filling up bothersome ice trays. Neither of these are great options for the long-term. A portable ice machine offers a convenient alternative. You can even get a nugget ice maker to crunch on your favorite ice shapes right at home. 

Having a dependable source of ice is also a common problem for RV and boat owners. When you’re out on the water or in the middle of a cross-country road trip, ice may be difficult to come by. Or perhaps you’d like to have some extra ice around the house for entertaining, but don’t have a need for a permanent ice machine. A wet bar ice maker can keep any backyard party well supplied for the kids and family’s drinks.

From camping to tailgating to boating, with only a power source and water, the scenarios in which a portable ice machine can come in handy are nearly endless. These are just a few of the ways a portable ice maker is going to be a good solution.

How Does a Portable Ice Maker Work?

Water being poured into ice maker's storage tank. Full ice storage bin.
Simply fill the reservoir and empty the tray as the ice is done!

Portable ice machines operate at the push of a button. To begin the ice production process with a portable ice maker, you simply plug in the appliance, fill the reservoir with clean, cool, filtered water, and turn it on to let the machine work quietly in the background of your kitchen or office. 

The machines have cooled trays or metal prongs that work to freeze the water into different sizes and shapes of ice. The ice then fills a storage bin that can be emptied into the ice reservoir in a freezer until it’s time to use it. 

The amount of time it takes for a portable ice maker to make ice and fill up the storage tank can vary based on the type of ice maker you choose, the water quality, and the condition of the machine. A single batch of ice may take between 7 and 15 minutes to freeze the cubes and drop into the portable ice maker’s storage tank. On average, portable ice makers can produce up to 35 lbs. of ice every day, as well as store as much as 2 lbs. of ice.

If you’re wondering if you can leave a portable ice maker on, the easy answer is that yes, you can. But keep in mind that the insulation and freezing process on a portable ice maker is not the same as that of a freezer. Once the ice has been moved to the storage bin, it is no longer being kept completely frozen and will start to soften and melt. Most ice machines will recycle that melted water into the next batch of ice, so the water will not be wasted.

 What To Look For When Buying A Portable Ice Maker

So, you’ve decided that a small ice maker is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Now, it’s time to buy the best ice maker for your household or even business. To help determine whether a portable version is a good fit for you, there are a few factors to consider.

1) Ice Production

Person using scooper to fill cocktail glass with ice.

Although most portable ice makers have similar production rates, there will always be some variation between brands and models. The overall production capacity of the ice maker can range from as low as 20 lbs. to 35 lbs. of ice in a 24-hour period. If you know you’ll be using ice frequently, then a machine with a high ice production capacity will be worth considering. 

Keep in mind that the storage capacity of a portable ice maker is going to be different than what it is capable of producing. The smallest portable ice maker may fit perfectly on your countertop, but the smaller size will impact how much ice can be stored, while it might have no impact on the amount of ice that can be produced over the course of the day. A countertop ice maker will require monitoring and frequent emptying every few hours in order to keep the ice from melting and reforming. Check the storage bin size of any portable ice maker you consider.

2) Type of Ice

6 blue illustrations of different ice types.
Choose the ice cube size and shape you prefer.

Portable ice makers make a variety of ice shapes, and proper maintenance of the unit and the use of filtered water keeps the ice clear and refreshing. This ice has the same taste and consistency as the ice made by a traditional freezer ice maker.

Look for ice makers that produce any and all of these ice shapes:

  • Bullet
  • Crescent
  • Cube
  • Half Cube
  • Gourmet
  • Nugget

3) Ice Size

Many machines will allow a variety of shapes with different sizes to choose from as well, from small, to medium and large sized pieces. Look for a unit that offers different ice size options. This isn’t a standard feature for most models, but there are quite a few that offer up to three options for sizes.

4) Look & Style

3 portable ice makers in different finishes. White, black and stainless.

If the home decor of your kitchen is important to you, you’ll want to be sure and choose a unit that flows with your existing style. Portable ice makers feature modern finishes – such as black, stainless steel, white, or bold statement colors like red – that match or update any space. For example, if you have all stainless steel appliances in your home, a stainless steel portable ice maker will harmonize perfectly in your kitchen.

5) Type of Ice Maker

There are different types of ice makers to meet the demand of your household or business. Keep the variety in mind when you’re considering a portable ice maker, that way you can be sure you’re choosing the best ice maker for your purchase.

Woman preparing cocktails. Under-counter ice maker. Outdoor ice maker.
Ice makers can be found for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Built-in / Undercounter Ice Makers - Built-in ice makers fit under the countertop and can blend in with any kitchen theme or design, while offering a larger ice production and storage capacity.
  • Commercial Ice Machines - If you’re looking for restaurant-quality ice, with larger storage capacity, and a wider variety of ice shapes and sizes, look for a commercial ice machine.
  • Outdoor Ice Makers - Outdoor ice makers have a greater insulation capacity and can tolerate slightly higher temperatures to keep the ice cooler longer.
  • Portable Ice Makers - Portable ice makers are good for use on kitchen countertops to keep extra ice on hand, whether for everyday use or for special occasions.

For even more tips on buying the perfect type of ice maker for your space, check out our ice maker buying guide.

6) Insulation and Storage Options

Although these are insulated, portable units are not kept frozen like traditional freezers. If you want the unit to run continuously while you’re away, make sure to choose a portable ice maker that will recycle ice water back to the reservoir. A countertop ice maker will keep ice at the ready to serve, but the ice will slowly melt if it is not used or transferred to a freezer. 

With the right ice maker, the cold water left after melting will go back into the reservoir and be used to make more ice. Be sure to choose an ice storage bin capacity that will sustain the right amount of ice at a time to keep your drinks as cool as you like.

7) Innovative Features:

An innovative feature that may sway your buying decision is an automatic timer function for your portable ice machine. Some portable ice maker models have the option to set ice production to either start or stop at a specific time. Like the water-use design, this also allows you to leave the unit unattended yet still have ice ready to serve at the precise time you need it.

Bar sink filled with nugget shaped ice. Pink cocktails with crescent ice.
Portable ice makers add to the event, anywhere.

Look for an ice maker that offers the advantage of having multiple ice size and shape options to choose from. These will let you choose which ice type to make with each batch at the touch of a button. Some ice makers offer a self-cleaning feature, which can help ensure crystal clear cubes with lots of crunch. Finally, be on the lookout for EnergyStar certified ice makers to help minimize electricity consumption as your ice supply is restocked.

Tips on Using Your Portable Ice Maker

Once you’ve chosen the right portable ice maker, the key is to keep it running perfectly. We’ve gathered a few easy tips to keep your investment working to produce the best quality ice for the lifetime of the product.

Use Filtered Water

Person holding cocktail with clear ice cubes. Black water dispenser faucet.

Filtered water produces the crystal clear ice cubes you expect from an ice machine. Without it, the ice cubes come out soft and clouded from the mineral build up. Portable ice makers do not come with water filters built-in. When you use filtered water in an ice maker, the ice will come out cleaner and be healthier to drink. It will also keep the ice maker cleaner, requiring less maintenance.

Keep It Clean

Illustration of a scrubber, bubbles and clean sparkles.

It’s important to use filtered water in an ice maker for clean water, but also to keep the machine clean. Wipe down the ice bin and water reservoir to keep the inner mechanisms as clean as possible when not in active use. This will prevent any buildup of grime or minerals that could cloud up or soften the ice cubes the machine produces.

Keep It Cool

While portable ice makers have an insulated ice storage bin, they are still sensitive to the temperature of the room they’re kept in. The ambient temperature should be between 50 degrees and 80 degrees fahrenheit for best results. It allows the machine to use less electricity and keeps the ice solid longer.

Ice is one of those commodities that you rarely notice until it’s not there. When finding a reliable source of ice is either a hassle or not thought possible, portable ice makers offer a fast and reliable solution. With guides like these, we hope we can help put ice out of your mind and into your glass. Cheers!