The Best Countertop Ice Maker for 2023
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The Best Countertop Ice Maker for 2023

Sep 22, 2023

After a new round of testing, we continue to recommend the Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27, and now also recommend the Igloo IGLICEBSC26.

For clear ice, we still like the Luma Comfort IM200SS. For nugget ice, we recommend the GE Profile Opal 2.0.

Check back soon for our fully updated guide.

If you can't get the ice you want from trays or store-bought bags, and a built-in machine (like the one in a fridge) won't cut it, then you might want a countertop ice maker. You can just buy whatever's cheap or looks cool: The most compact and affordable models—which make nine bullet-shaped "cubes" at a time—are likely all the same basic machine made in the same factory, and they work pretty well.

Most countertop ice makers (including this Magic Chef) are likely made by a company called Hicon. We’re highlighting this model in particular because it's usually in stock for a reasonable price at a retailer (Home Depot) that accepts in-person returns.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $138.


One of dozens of nearly identical machines, this Igloo distinguishes itself with a carry handle and a dedicated self-cleaning cycle. We’re not sure they’ll be useful that often, but it won't hurt to have them.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $264.

We’re highlighting the Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27 in particular because it's usually in stock for a reasonable price, at a retailer (Home Depot) that accepts in-person returns. (Shipment-based returns may not always be possible with ice makers.)

Just like any of these smallish portable models, the Magic Chef makes nine bullet-shaped ice cubes every eight minutes (though the exact speed depends on a few factors). Within a half-hour, you’ll have enough ice to chill a few drinks. The reservoir holds enough water to make ice continuously for a few hours at a time, so you won't have to watch it too closely (though the bullets will melt if left in the unrefrigerated storage basket). Although the cloudy bullets aren't exactly gourmet ice, they’ll get your drinks cold, and that's good enough for most of us.

There's evidence that most (if not all) bullet-style portable ice makers sold in the US are manufactured by a single company, Hicon. So pretty much any brand or model of nine-bullet ice maker will work fine, and most of the differences are aesthetic. The Igloo ICEB26HNBK is noteworthy because it's one of the few variants in this size with a dedicated self-cleaning cycle (though we’re not actually sure how much that matters). Bigger sizes are also available, if you really need a lot of ice.

This model produces clear ice cubes, which don't make carbonated drinks fizz and go flat as quickly as cloudy ice. Each batch it makes is about three times as big as that produced by a small bullet-ice maker (though it also takes about three times as long).

*At the time of publishing, the price was $240.

If you drink a lot of sodas or seltzers, or you just want better-looking ice, you could consider a waterfall-style, clear-cube ice maker like the Luma IM200SS or the NewAir Clear Ice 40. Clear ice cubes won't make carbonated drinks fizz as much as cloudy ice does, so your bubbly beverages will taste better for longer. The main downside is that clear-cube makers are bigger and more expensive than the nine-bullet machines we’ve highlighted.

Most countertop ice makers (including this Magic Chef) are likely made by a company called Hicon. We’re highlighting this model in particular because it's usually in stock for a reasonable price at a retailer (Home Depot) that accepts in-person returns.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $138.

One of dozens of nearly identical machines, this Igloo distinguishes itself with a carry handle and a dedicated self-cleaning cycle. We’re not sure they’ll be useful that often, but it won't hurt to have them.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $264.

This model produces clear ice cubes, which don't make carbonated drinks fizz and go flat as quickly as cloudy ice. Each batch it makes is about three times as big as that produced by a small bullet-ice maker (though it also takes about three times as long).

*At the time of publishing, the price was $240.

Since 2013, Liam McCabe has covered appliances for Wirecutter, including microwaves—another category that is semi-secretly dominated by a single manufacturer. Tyler Lynch covered appliances for Wirecutter for three years, including other cold appliances that use compressors.

We looked at more than 50 different models of ice maker for this guide and have tested seven of them since we began reviewing them in 2017. We also heard from representatives from a couple of ice-maker brands, including FirstBuild, NewAir, and Magic Chef. And to answer a question about drinks that get too fizzy, we got in touch with David Reguera, professor in the department of fundamental physics at the University of Barcelona.

If you can't get ice the way you want it from the most common sources—such as the ice maker in a fridge, some other built-in machine, trays, or store-bought bags of ice stored somewhere cold—then it might be worth buying a countertop ice maker.

Portables make a lot of sense in an RV, a camper, a boat, or even a food truck. But plenty of people find them useful in their homes to supplement (or even replace) the ice-making capabilities of their freezers.

One problem with countertop models is that they don't seem to be very durable. We browsed user reviews for some of the best-selling models, and we found a not-insignificant number that said the ice makers arrived broken or stopped working properly after a few weeks or months. Portables all have one-year warranties, as far as we’re aware, and customer service at these brands can be hit or miss. We also found a few reviews written by people who claim to have owned several ice makers that each broke down after a couple years of regular use. And if you don't do the basic maintenance (which can be a pain), countertop ice makers can grow mildew, form mineral scales, or even get rusty.

If you’re planning to use an ice maker by the pool or in the bed of your truck on a hot day, it's probably not going to work very well. They’re meant for indoor use, preferably at a comfortable room temperature of around 70 °F. The performance drops off quickly when it's hotter than that, and most models’ manuals don't recommend using ice makers at all in direct sunlight or above 90 °F.

It's too dramatic to say that countertop ice makers should be your last resort, because even the affordable models work well (until they break), and the higher-end ones can make nice ice that's hard to get at home otherwise. It's more like they’re an imperfect solution to a problem that most people don't have.

We found more than 50 listings for countertop ice makers from a couple dozen brands. But on closer inspection, there are only a handful of unique designs, built by just two manufacturers, as far as we can tell.

Since there's relatively little competition in this category, and every option is both uniquely appealing and seriously flawed, this guide doesn't really pinpoint the "best" model or even type of portable ice maker. But it does identify your options and their relative pros and cons.

The king of cheap ice makers seems to be Hicon. Only one brand (Magic Chef) would confirm that Hicon manufactures its machines. Curtis International (which sells Igloo and Frigidaire ice makers), Whynter, and Hicon itself did not reply to our request for comment. But it looks to us like Hicon does make models for Frigidaire, Igloo, and NewAir, and possibly for Whynter, Della, Costway, and other brands, too.

The most obvious clues are that the overwhelming majority of ice makers look alike and have similar specs.

We also checked public import records and found that many of the brands we listed had received shipments of ice makers from Hicon over the past year. Although some brands’ import records were unavailable, the machines they sell have nearly the same specs and a similar look as the ones from the confirmed Hicon customers.

The seller page for Hicon on Alibaba (a popular business-to-business marketplace) has dozens of listings for unbranded portable ice makers that are identical to the branded models that appear at retailers in the US.

And we found a promotional video made by Alibaba with footage from the Hicon factory, where several popular variants of these portable ice makers are being assembled or packaged, or just sitting on display.

Hicon makes a few different sizes of bullet-ice makers, plus a clear-cube maker, and a combination water-and-ice dispenser.

Hicon's best-selling style, and the best-selling style overall, is its small bullet-ice maker. These are the quickest, most compact, and lowest-priced machines available. The ice itself is fine. We spent most of our time looking into these models. Hicon also makes larger variants of these bullet-ice machines, as well as a clear-cube maker, which is worth considering if you drink a lot of carbonated beverages or post glamour shots of your iced coffees on Instagram.

There are a handful of other companies that appear to manufacture countertop bullet-ice makers, including Belly, Aquart, and Geshini. It's possible that they supply certain brands, or at least certain models to some brands. But we couldn't find any records that they’ve exported any ice makers to the US. Either way, most of these models have specs and designs similar to those built by Hicon.

The other notable manufacturer is FirstBuild, which is a subsidiary of GE Appliances (itself a subsidiary of Haier). It builds upscale, specialty-ice machines, now sometimes sold under the GE Profile brand.

We tested several of the popular small, nine-bullet models, including the Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27, Frigidaire EFIC108, and Della Premium Ice Maker; a large, 12-bullet model, the NewAir AI-215; the FirstBuild Opal nugget-ice maker (also sold under the GE Profile brand); and a clear-cube, waterfall-style model, the Luma Comfort IM200SS.

The most valuable testing we did for this guide was just using each machine at home for a few days, icing up our drinks with their cubes, and draining and drying the machines at the end of the day.

We also did some timed head-to-head testing, and we measured the surface temperature of the ice at points, too, but neither had much influence on our recommendations. Any spec that was alike or different on paper was predictably alike or different in the real world, and any tiny performance variations we measured among similar models are inconsequential.

Most countertop ice makers (including this Magic Chef) are likely made by a company called Hicon. We’re highlighting this model in particular because it's usually in stock for a reasonable price at a retailer (Home Depot) that accepts in-person returns.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $138.

If you’re looking for a countertop ice maker that makes a lot of ice quickly, doesn't cost too much, and isn't too big, pick from one of the dozens of variants of the smallish, nine-bullet models that are probably manufactured by the same company, Hicon. There are hardly any important differences among these machines (with a few exceptions), so you can pick whatever is cheap and available and suits your tastes.

We’re highlighting the Magic Chef MCIM22/HNIM27 here because it tends to be one of the most affordable models that's consistently in stock. And since it's sold through Home Depot, in-store returns should be easy (a few owners of various models have written that retailers either refused or slow-rolled returns via shipment, though these instances seem to be uncommon).

The Igloo ICEB26HNBK also gets a special mention, because it's one of the few models in this size with a self-cleaning cycle. We aren't convinced that this cycle does anything special or even useful, but it's there if you want it.

All the nine-bullet models are roughly the same size, taking up about half as much counter space as a small microwave oven. They’re louder than a fridge but quieter than an air conditioner, so you won't have to raise your voice while they’re running. They do sometimes crackle and thump when freshly made ice falls off of the freezing rods and into the ice basket.

Each batch of ice is enough to fill more than a third (but less than a half) of a pint-size glass. That's enough to cool a drink pretty quickly.

At a room temperature of around 70 °F, nine-bullet ice makers can be expected to crank out a batch of bullets roughly every seven to nine minutes. The speed per batch depends on the cube size (most models have two options, though the diameter differs by only a few millimeters), the model's capacity (measured in pounds of ice per day in the best-case scenario—usually 26 or 28 pounds, so it's a small difference), and how long the machine has been running (the first batch is a bit slow, and we also noticed that the machines tend to slow down a bit after they’ve been running for an hour or more).

For example, we found that the Magic Chef (a 27-pounds-per-day model) made batches of large bullets roughly every eight minutes at room temperature, using cold water from the tap. Pre-chilled water can speed that up a bit, and a warmer room slows it down. At a balmy 80 °F, it took about 12 minutes per batch, and the first few batches were composed of cubes that were not fully formed.

If the ice makers we’ve highlighted so far are sold out, or if the price seems unusually high on the day you want to buy one, you can choose any other nine-bullet model with a 26- or 28-pound maximum daily output and expect a similar experience. Some of these models have aesthetic differences, like the shape of the lid, window size, control panel layout, and finish, but nothing that impacts the performance or user experience enough to be noticeable. It's the same basic machine wrapped up in a slightly different package. There is nothing particularly better or worse about our "picks" than the myriad clones from brands like Frigidaire, Whynter, NewAir, Della, or Costway, among at least a dozen others that come and go.

We summed up most of the general problems with countertop ice makers earlier in the guide. But one unique complaint about bullet-ice makers is that the ice is more cloudy than some people prefer. It's true that bullet ice is not very photogenic. Carbonated drinks fizz more and go flat faster with cloudy ice. And it also melts pretty quickly for its size, compared with clearer ice. If those are dealbreakers, you’ll want a different type of ice maker. But if ice is all the same to you as long as it gets your drinks cold, the bullets will do just fine.

It's also worth pointing out that owner ratings for nine-bullet ice makers are pretty low in general. At Home Depot, for example, a great small appliance (like this Shark vacuum) can often carry an average rating of 4.6 stars or higher. But the highest-rated portable ice makers are lucky to earn 4.2 stars, and many models earn less than 4 stars.

But we wouldn't put too much stock in models that have above-average ratings, particularly at Amazon. Fraudulent reviews have become prevalent there. When we first published this guide in 2017, it was hard to find an ice maker with an average rating better than 3.8 stars. Today, with no actual improvements to the products and no important differences between models, it's common to find ratings of 4.3 stars. That's pretty suspicious.

For our part, we’ve tried to highlight models without many out-of-the-ordinary complaints in the user reviews.

A few other styles of bullet-ice machines are also available in the US.

One variant, probably made by Hicon, can crank out about twice as much ice per day because it makes 12 ice bullets per batch and has faster-working compressors than the nine-bullet models. We tested one of these models, the NewAir AI-215 (which is pretty similar to the Della Stainless Steel Ice Maker 48 lb and the Whynter IMC-490SS, among several others). It performed a lot like the nine-bullet models and is a bit easier to clean, because the crevices throughout the machine aren't as tight.

The downside to the 12-bullet machines is that they’re too big to store on most countertops. They’re also pretty heavy (about 40 pounds), though they do have built-in handles that make them easier to move. Some slower (usually 28 pounds of ice per day) 12-bullet models are also available, but we’re hard pressed to think of a reason to buy one in place of a nine-bullet model that has the same ice-making capacity.

For most people, these big machines are probably overkill. But if you’ve got your eye on one, don't let us talk you out of it—they work fine. A few models can even hook up directly to a water line (so you don't need to manually refill the reservoir), and they will continue to make ice as long as the ice basket isn't full.

There are also a handful of better-looking, faster-working variants of the nine-bullet design, like the Igloo ICEB33SL and the NewAir AI-250W. But owner reviews suggest that some of these, particularly the ones that claim to make 33 pounds of ice per day, suffer from early breakdowns much more often than the "regular" nine-bullet models (with 26 or 28 pounds of ice-making capacity) that we’ve recommended do. We’re not sure why. The aesthetics of these alternative nine-bullet models are also slightly different, and we’re not certain that they’re actually made by Hicon.

This model produces clear ice cubes, which don't make carbonated drinks fizz and go flat as quickly as cloudy ice. Each batch it makes is about three times as big as that produced by a small bullet-ice maker (though it also takes about three times as long).

*At the time of publishing, the price was $240.

If cloudy-looking, fizz-depleting bullets won't cut it, your best (only?) option is a clear-cube ice maker like the Luma Comfort IM200SS, which we tested and liked. Once again, we’re pretty sure that all models in this style sold in the US are made by the same manufacturer (Hicon, though nobody has confirmed that for us) and are very similar to one another, so just pick whatever is available. Many of them, including the NewAir Clear Ice 40, work faster than the Luma, though they tend to cost more as well.

If you drink a lot of soda or seltzer, clear ice will help your drinks taste better for longer because it doesn't cause as much fizzing. The effect was plainly obvious in a side-by-side test: Soda fizzed much less in a glass filled with the Luma's clear cubes than it did in one filled with the Magic Chef's cloudy bullets. The Luma drink tasted bubbly and sharp, while the Magic Chef drink immediately tasted flat (and, without the effervescence to balance out the sugar, sickly sweet).

Clear ice causes less fizzing than cloudy ice because it's smoother and therefore has fewer nucleation sites (crevices from air pockets, in this context) where bubbles can form, according to David Reguera, a professor in the department of fundamental physics at the University of Barcelona. The upshot is that drinks won't go flat as quickly.

As the professor puts it: "A rough ice surface facilitates the heterogeneous nucleation of bubbles of dissolved CO₂. Hence, smooth, crystalline ice without air inclusions will produce less bubbles."

Of course, clear ice also looks better than cloudy ice. That's a fine reason to opt for something like the Luma, even if you’re not too thirsty for a bubbly drink.

Even though it's true in general that clear ice melts more slowly than cloudy ice, that's irrelevant in the context of portable ice makers because, among the models we tested, the clear-cube makers produce smaller cubes than the ice made by the bullet makers. We found that the Luma's small-ish clear cubes melted a bit faster than the Magic Chef's cloudy-but-larger bullets, both sitting in a dry bucket and in a glass of soda.

The Luma (and models like it) can reliably make clear ice because the cubes form slowly, with running water, to prevent air pockets from forming. In our testing, we never got a batch of cloudy ice. And of all the complaints we read about this type of ice maker, cloudy ice was not among them.

The main downside to clear-cube makers like the Luma is that they take longer to make a batch of ice. The Luma usually took 20 to 25 minutes to complete each batch of ice at regular room temperature, and more like 30 minutes in warmer temps. That said, it also makes about three times as much ice per batch, so it works out to be roughly equivalent over time. Plenty of other waterfall-style models claim to work about 40% faster, too.

Although the clear-cube models aren't as enormous as the 12-bullet machines, they’re still bigger than the nine-bullet models, and it might not be practical to store them on a countertop.

In owner reviews, the most common complaint about the Luma and other clear-cube makers was that the ice comes out in a big solid block. This is basically true, though in our experience the "seams" between the cubes were always easy to break just by jabbing at the block with the plastic scoop that comes with the machine, or picking up the block and dropping it into the basket from 6 inches up.

One possible point of confusion: The so-simple-it's-bad control panel on the Luma has a "hidden" setting that increases the thickness of the cubes if you hold down the power button for 5 seconds. There's no cue on the control panel itself that this mode exists, nor is there any indication that you may have activated this setting. The manual recommends using this mode if you’ll be using the ice maker in warmer temperatures (above standard room temp, basically) to ensure that the ice forms completely. But if you turn this setting on and use it in an air-conditioned den or whatever, the block might come out with seams that are too thick to easily break.

If the models we’ve highlighted are out of stock or suspiciously expensive, plenty of clones are available, including models sold by Euhomy and Sentern.

There's also a slight variation of this design, with a clear reservoir on the front of the machine that looks pretty cool. The Frigidaire EFIC229-VCM is one example of this style. It seems different enough that we’re hesitant to recommend it without testing, especially because the average ratings seem to be lower than those for the "traditional" design.

Nugget ice has a cult following because of its soft, chewable consistency. The Opal is the only countertop model that makes this type.

May be out of stock

*At the time of publishing, the price was $550.

The GE Profile Opal is the most prominent countertop ice maker that makes nugget ice, sometimes known as pebble ice or "that ice you get at Sonic." (As we were getting ready to publish this guide, we found a brand-new nugget-ice maker sold by NewAir, which we’ll look into at a future date.) We tried one and found that the Opal is a sturdy machine that works as advertised, and that the ice has a wonderfully fluffy texture. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether it's worth spending this much money to have nugget ice on demand.

Essentially, nugget 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 cocktails, though it will make carbonated drinks go flat pretty quickly.

Nugget ice is challenging to make, so it's no surprise that the Opal is the slowest ice maker we tested. It's about half as fast as the slowest bullet or clear-cube models.

It's not immune to problems, either, despite its high price. Several Amazon reviews claim that the machine can start making a high-pitched squeal after a few months of use. The Opal also hasn't been available long enough to get an accurate sense of its long-term durability.

Some combo models that make bullet ice and dispense water are available, though we’re not sure who manufactures them, and the reviews tend to be poor.

You might also be interested in our guide to ice cube trays; a Vinepair guide to the preferred types of ice for various cocktails; a Cook's Illustrated guide to specialty ice molds; and a video tutorial on making clear ice without special equipment. We haven't found any great independent guides to built-in ice makers, but some retailers have decent versions, including this one from Compact Appliance.

It's a good idea to clean your ice maker from time to time.

The smartest thing you can do is drain any leftover water out of the machine once you’re done using it, to prevent mildew from growing inside the damp, dark, warm, stagnant interior. Most models have a drain plug on the bottom or side of the body.

Every ice maker manual we’ve read recommends wiping down the interior of the machine (except the evaporator rods) with a soft cloth, warm water, and diluted dish soap. This will get rid of solid debris, mildew, and maybe some mineral scaling.

A few models have dedicated self-cleaning cycles that you can use with a diluted cleaning solution (such as vinegar, lemon, or a pre-made, nickel-safe ice-maker cleaner) to descale the machine (the evaporator rods or grids seem like they’d benefit from this). You can even use bleach, to sanitize the interior. Other models recommend running a regular ice-making cycle with a diluted vinegar solution, instead of water, for descaling, but they don't mention whether other solutions are okay. Many other models, despite being functionally identical products, offer no guidance at all on automatic cleaning cycles or cleaning solutions. No brands responded to our request for clarification on this point.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.

We are currently testing the Costway EP24228, a classic bullet-ice maker that is available in several fun colors; the Humhold CounterTop Ice Maker and the Frigidaire EFIC452, both of which make clear ice; and the GE Profile Opal 2.0 nugget ice maker, an updated model of the original GE Profile Opal that is self-cleaning and has Wi-Fi connectivity. We will report our findings soon.

Tyler Wells Lynch

Liam McCabe

Liam McCabe is a former senior staff writer for Wirecutter, and has covered the wild world of appliances since 2011. After testing dozens of robot vacuums, he is neither worried about AI nor holding his breath for self-driving cars. He enjoys visiting factories and learning about regulatory loopholes, and has flooded our testing area only three times.

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