Imagine this: it's a balmy summer's day, and you're hosting a barbeque for your friends and family. The ice bucket that you're storing the beers in has already melted, and the freezer ice tray is depleting faster than you can fill it up.
Your mother-in-law is complaining that her gin and tonic is warm and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Sound familiar? If so, you could probably use an under-counter ice maker.
Undercounter ice makers are machines that pump out ice rapidly so that you never have to go without.
They’re often used in commercial applications in restaurants and stores, but they’re great for home use too - especially if you’re the kind of person that uses a lot of ice.
However, there’s a big difference between a good ice maker and a bad one. That's why we've put together this list of the best undercounter ice makers. We've also prepared an in-depth buying guide with all the need-to-know information about ice makers to go with it. Just read on, and we'll fill you in!
|Manitowoc UYF0190A-161B UYF0190A NEO U-190 Undercounter Ice...||$1,948.00||View Product On Amazon|
|EdgeStar IB450SS 50 Lb. 15 Inch Wide Undercounter Clear Ice...||from $1,199.99||View Product On Amazon|
|Manitowoc UYF-0140A NEO 26" Air Cooled Undercounter Half...||$1,829.00||View Product On Amazon|
|UNDERCOUNTER ICE MAKER STAINLESS STEEL DOOR||$450.00 $306.98||View Product On Amazon|
|Hoshizaki KM-81BAH Undercounter Ice Maker Produces Up To 86...||$3,000.00 $2,387.50||View Product On Amazon|
|Scotsman CU50PA-1A Undercounter Ice Maker, Gourmet Cube, Air...||$2,082.00||View Product On Amazon|
How Do Ice Makers Work & What Are There Benefits?
You might have thought that making ice was simple; you cool down water until it freezes, right? Well, it's a lot more complicated than that.
The highly-complex process of creating ice is carried out by four key components: an evaporator, a condenser, a throttle valve, and a compressor. You probably don’t need to know the intricacies of this process, but here’s a quick overview:
First, the compressor creates high-pressure refrigerant, which is passed on to a condenser. The condenser then changes this vapor into liquid via a process of either air-cooling or water-cooling, depending on the type of under-counter ice maker.
This is then drained into the throttle valve and transformed into a low-pressure liquid. Finally, the evaporator changes the liquid into ice, ready for you to use.
Here are just three of the many benefits of using an ice maker:
- 1They can save you money
It makes little sense to pay more than you need to for bags of ice when you can make your own.
- 2Higher production capacity
You can make a lot more ice a lot quicker than you could by using your freezer’s ice tray.
- 3More hygienic
Ice maker’s usually empty the tray and replenish the ice regularly, so you don’t have to worry about your ice going stagnant over time.
Factors to Consider When Buying an Undercounter Ice Maker
Before we jump into the list of the best undercounter ice makers, here are a few factors you should look out for:
Carefully consider the space you have available and choose an ice maker that will fit where you want it to go. Some ice makers are designed to be freestanding, whereas others are built-in. Some machines also require additional space to allow for ventilation.
If you’re planning on storing your ice maker outside, you need to make sure to choose a model designed for outdoor use. These types of ice makers have to be more durable and have a more powerful cooling mechanism to offset environmental factors.
Type of Ice
Another vital factor to consider is the type of ice that the ice maker makes. Ice comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes, from shaved ice to large cubes.
Different types of ice are best suited to various tasks. For example, flake ice is excellent for snow cones, but not so good at cooling beverages.
We'll talk more about the different types of ice and their uses later on in this guide.
The production rate refers to how much ice an ice maker can create in a given timeframe. We usually talk about production rate in terms of days.
For example, some high-capacity machines can produce up to and over 100 kilos of ice per day. Other, smaller devices produce substantially less than that. Think about how much ice you'll realistically need and choose an ice maker with a suitable production rate.
Another factor worth considering is the size. For example, portable ice makers tend to be smaller and more lightweight, which makes them easier to use. Think about where you plan on storing your ice maker and choose one with the right dimensions.
Naturally, price is an essential factor too. Ice makers can cost anywhere between $300 and $10,000, but the best value-for-money machines tend to come with a price tag between $1,000 and $2,000. The most expensive machines will be the most powerful with the highest production rates.
Usually, ice machines need to be plumbed into a drain line. This is because the ice they create eventually melts and is continuously replaced by new ice. The water from the melted ice needs somewhere to drain out.
However, some types of ice makers double-up as a kind of freezer and keep the ice frozen. These types of icemakers don't require a drain line.
Installation & Maintenance
It’s important to consider the installation and maintenance requirements of your ice maker before you make any purchases. How easy is it to install? How often are you going to need to perform maintenance? And how easy and effortless are the components to clean?
Pro tip: Water filters extend the lifespan of your machine and help reduce any build-up of minerals, dirt, and debris, thus reducing maintenance needs. If easy maintenance is a priority, choose an ice maker with a built-in water filter.
Look & Style
Ice makers come in different colors, materials, and finishes. Oftentimes they feature minimalist designs like white, black, and stainless steel finishes, but you can also get some models in brighter colors/alternative materials like wood. You can choose an ice maker that suits the overall aesthetic of the room you plan on keeping it in.
If you're an eco-conscious consumer, or you want to cut down on your electricity bill, you'll want to consider the energy efficiency of your ice maker too. How energy efficient a model depends on things like how big it is, the material used in the evaporator plate, and more.
When you’re shopping around, look out for the Energy Star rating. Energy star rated ice makers tend to be the most energy efficient and can save up to 15% on your electricity usage compared to other similar products.
6 Best Undercounter Ice Makers Reviewed
1. Manitowoc UYF0190A-16
Best Undercounter Ice Maker
Storage Bin Capacity
140 lbs per 24 hours
Type of Cube
Half Dice Cube
26"W x 28"D x 38.5"H
3-5 Year Part Warranty
This unit from Manitowoc is our number one pick for the overall best undercounter ice maker. With a production rate of 140 lbs per 24 hours, it’s able to produce more ice than you’d ever realistically need for residential use, and probably more than enough for most commercial applications too!
It’s a cleverly-designed machine with a bunch of handy features that you wouldn't expect considering the reasonable price tag. For example, the storage bin slides forward for easy access - you don't need to move the machine to get your ice, you can leave it tucked under the counter.
It also has service indicators to let you know when the bin is full, and a delay function so that you can pause the machine whenever you don’t plan on using it. This is especially useful if you plan on using it in a store and want to pause it while you’re closed.
Part of the reason you’re getting such good value for money with this ice maker is that it’s air cooled. Air cooled units tend to be cheaper than their water-cooled counterparts. Unfortunately, the tradeoff is that air cooled units are also noisier, which seems to be accurate here.
That being said, it automatically shuts off the fan once it's full, so it's only noisy when it's filling up. Still, I'd recommend keeping it somewhere where you're not too concerned about noise.
It's not cooled, but it's super well-insulated, so the ice is kept frozen for a long time. It hardly melts or needs to be replenished at all if you’re using it indoors. As it’s not cooled, though, it’s not well-suited for outdoor use. It works best with 70-degree air and 50-degree water. Anything substantially over that and the production rate will slow.
It produces half dice cubes that are ⅜" x 1-⅛" x ⅞." These are the right shape and size for cooling drinks, so if that's what you're looking for, this is the way to go.
"This ice machine is working out great for our small cafe and smoothie business. I really like the option to put it in sleep mode just by pressing a button on the front panel. It has been running well for nearly 2 years." - Happy customer Lisa S.
2. EdgeStar IB450SS
Best Undercounter Ice Maker For Home
Storage Bin Capacity
45 lbs per 24 hours
Type of Cube
15" W x 23.6" D x 32.8" H
Next up, we have the EdgeStar IB450SS Ice Maker - the best home use undercounter clear ice maker on the market.
It doesn’t have quite as high production rate as our number one spot, but it can still make a respectable 45 lbs per day. That’s the perfect amount for home use and works great for hosting large dinner parties. The ice is cubed, but it comes out in sheets so you'll need to break it up yourself using the ice scoop.
Two things that I love about this product are the adjustable door and the digital control. The door can either swing to the right or to the left, which means you can be a lot more flexible with where you install it. If you can't fit it under your counter, it can be also be used freestanding.
The stainless steel door is excellent, too - both in terms of durability and aesthetics. It looks great in pretty much any interior and is of commercial-grade quality.
The only potential problem is that it’s a gravity-drain only ice maker. That means you’ll need a nearby floor drain. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to purchase a condensate pump separately to pump the wastewater to the drain.
One review on Build.com says, "Works great ,we put it through it paces,makes ice real fast,quiet working,good looker in our new cabinets."
3. Manitowoc UYF-0140A NEO
Best rated undercounter ice maker
Storage Bin Capacity
132 lbs per 24 hours
Type of Cube
Half dice cubes
26”W x 28"D x 38.50"H (on 6" legs)
3/5 year part warranty
The UYF-0140A NEO is another fantastic ice maker from Manitowoc, a brand known for making great commercial-grade ice cube makers.
This product has a lot in common with our number one spot with only a few minor differences. It has a 132lbs/day production rate with a 90 lbs storage capacity, which is suitable for commercial use.
It creates half-dice ice cubes which are ideal for self-serve beverages as they'll fill the cup right to the top. It comes with a very reasonable warranty period of 3 years on the main machine and five years on the parts, so you'll have peace of mind knowing that you’re covered in case it breaks down.
"In no time after I had the water hooked up and the machine plugged in, it was making ice. Really nice and quiet and makes ice super fast." - Denae S. on the Webstaurant Store
Also, it’s Energy Star rated. That means you can be sure that it checks out when it comes to efficiency, so you’ll waste less energy and water. All that for a very reasonable mid-range price tag - not bad!
4. Sunpentown IM-150US Stainless Steel
Best Budget Undercounter Ice Maker
Storage Bin Capacity
12 lbs per 24 hours
Type of Cube
Crescent ice cubes
15” W x 18” D x 25” H
This Sunpentown IM-150US stainless steel ice maker is an excellent option for anyone looking for something a little more affordable, or that doesn't require a drain.
It only has a 12 lbs/day production capacity and can only hold up to 6 lbs of ice at a time, so it’s not suitable for commercial use. However, it should be enough for regular home use.
The main reason this product stands out though is that it, unlike the other ice makers we've talked about so far, it doubles up as a freezer. I'd go as far as to say that, in terms of value, it's the best undercounter ice maker with a freezer you can get.
Rather than constantly replenish the ice and drain the water, it just fills up once and then keeps the ice frozen. The great thing about this is that you'll use up less water and don't have to worry about drainage.
It produces lovely half-moon (crescent) ice cubes with no air pockets. These kinds of ice cubes are shaped in a way that minimizes splashing when you pour a drink over them. They're also very solid and won't melt quickly, which makes them ideal for chilling beverages in large glasses. As they're big and hard ice cubes, they're not the best choice for blending.
One thing that should be noted is that Sunpentown says, "No drain required, but installation by a licensed plumber is required."
5. Hoshizaki KM-61BAH
best commercial undercounter ice maker
Storage Bin Capacity
71 lbs per 24 hours
Type of Cube
Crescent ice cubes
24.2” x 17.8” x 39”
3/5 Year Part Warranty
If you like the thought of crescent ice cubes, but you want something with a higher production rate than the Sunpentown model above, look no further than the Hoshizaki KM-61BAH undercounter ice maker.
With a high production capacity of 71lbs/day, it’s the perfect solution for anyone looking for crescent ice cube maker suitable for commercial use. It’s also ADA compliant, energy certified, and carries all appropriate commercial use certifications (such as ETL and NSF).
That's not to say it can't be used at home too. You could use this as a residential undercounter ice maker, bear in mind that it has petty long legs so it might not fully fit under your countertop. You could leave it freestanding instead.
It's also gravity drained, which means you'll need a floor drain directly underneath or you can purchase and attach a drain pump separately.
6. Scotsman CU50PA-1A
best undercounter clear ice maker
Storage Bin Capacity
65 lbs per 24hours
Type of Cube
14.9"W x 22"D x 34.4"H
Last but certainly not least, we have the Scotsman CU50PA-1A. This is a fantastic high-end ice cube maker that brings a lot to the table.
Three things in particular make this ice maker stand out from the others we've talked about so far.
Firstly, it’s approved for outdoor use. That means it’s powerful enough to keep ice cool even in outdoor climates and durable enough to hold up against the weather.
Secondly, it’s the first product on this list to include a pump drain. That means you don’t have to place it next to a floor drain. You can use the included pump drain cable to pump the water wastage away instead.
Finally, it creates gourmet ice cubes. These are the fanciest of all the ice cubes. They're hard, impurity-free, pretty, and don’t stick together. This makes them ideal for use in restaurants and anywhere else where you’re trying to add a little luxury to your beverages.
Another great thing about this ice maker is the easy maintenance thanks to the in-built alert system that notifies you when it needs cleaning.
Additional Features of Ice Makers
In addition to the primary consideration factors we talked about earlier, there are some other features of ice makers that are worth taking into account too. Here are a few of them.
Water Filter (or not?)
Some ice makers have in-built water filters. These filters make sure that the water coming in from your supply line gets cleaned and filtered before turned into ice. There are two main benefits to this:
On the other hand, ice cube makers with water filters tend to be pricier than those without.
Custom Door Panel
Some ice maker manufacturers offer customization options. You may be able to customize the door panel to make it better match your interior. Again, this is likely to come with a hefty price tag, so it's only really worth the cost if the look of your ice maker is critical to you.
Air Cooled/Water Cooled
There are two types of condenser cooling mechanisms used in ice makers: air-cooling and water-cooling. Air cooled units tend to noisier, and require ventilation to emit warm exhaust air.
Water-cooled units don't have any of these problems, but they cost a lot more. You'll also use more water (obviously), so they can be less economical if your water rates are high.
ADA stands for the Americans With Disabilities Act - a set of guidelines regarding accessible product design. If you plan on using your ice maker in a commercial environment, you’ll want to choose a model that is ADA compliant.
Ice makers don’t come cheap. The last thing you want to happen is to spend thousands of dollars on a new ice maker, only for it to break down a couple of months later.
Fortunately, that’s what warranties are for.
Most ice makers will include a warranty that ensures the manufacturer will fix it or send replacement parts if it breaks. Different ice makers will come with different warranty periods, so consider this carefully when you're shopping around.
Types of Ice Produced from Undercounter Ice Makers
It’s also helpful to think about the kind of ice you want to make before choosing an ice maker. Here’s a quick guide to the different types of ice and their usage:
And that isn't even all of the different types out there. You can find a complete list here. If you want to get even more technical about it, you should also think about the different sizes of ice and how to pair these with your drinks. This guide can help with that.
Undercounter Vs. Countertop Ice Makers
Undercounter ice makers are permanent appliances. They’re bigger, bulkier, and more powerful than countertop (portable) ice makers.
As such, they have much higher production rates and can produce a continuous supply of ice and store it. They also usually need to be plumbed into a constant supply of water and a drain line.
Countertop ice makers, on the other hand, are portable appliances. They’re usually much smaller and can be moved from place to place.
The advantage of these is that they don’t need to be installed permanently (and take up valuable counter space) or plumbed in. Instead, you usually fill them up with water and wait for it to turn into ice as needed, then empty them and turn them off when you're not using them.
On the other hand, they also can’t produce large volumes of ice quickly. Their production rate is substantially slower, and their storage capacity is limited.
Undercounter ice makers are best suited for people that use a lot of ice and commercial usage. Countertop ice makers are better suited for people that only use a little ice on occasion.
Installation and Maintenance: Undercounter Ice Maker
Different undercounter ice makers come with various installation and maintenance instructions. The best way to figure out how to install and maintain your ice maker is to consult the manufacturer's instructions, which should have come with the product.
That being said, the basic steps usually look like this:
As undercounter ice makers need to be plumbed in, you may want to consider consulting a plumber who knows what they’re doing instead of doing it yourself.
You'll also need to carry out regular maintenance by checking and cleaning all of the significant components, such as the:
Cleaning is done using a specially-designed cleaning solution for ice machines. Any removable parts can usually be brushed clean. Again, make sure to follow your manufacturer’s instructions when carrying out maintenance.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do built-in ice makers typically last?
A reasonable estimate would be to assume it will last 4-5 years. However, it will largely depend on the durability of the ice maker and the frequency of use.
How do I install the water line?
Installing a water line is a process best left to a qualified plumber. However, if you want to try and do it yourself, I’d recommend consulting an in-depth guide or following a YouTube tutorial like this.
Do I need a drain pump for my ice maker?
A drain pump will ensure that your ice maker functions better, is easier to install, and less likely to develop leaks. If your ice maker doesn’t come with one, you’d need to install a gravity drain system.
What accessories do I need when installing an undercounter ice maker?
Most ice makers will come with everything you need for installation. However, you may want to consider additional purchases such as a water filter to improve your ice maker.
How much water does an ice maker consume?
It depends on how much ice you make and the water efficiency rating of your product. On average, water-cooled ice makers tend to use up around 100 gallons of water to create 100 lbs of ice.
What common problems will I encounter if I have an undercounter ice machine?
Some common ice maker problems include irregularities in the shape or size of ice cubes, ice cubes getting stuck in the evaporator plate, and leaky valves. All of these problems can be fixed (and often avoided entirely) through performing routine maintenance tasks. If they persist, get in touch with a plumber to help fix the problem.
Congratulations - you now know pretty much all there is to know about undercounter ice makers. All that’s left to do now is to purchase one!
If you’re still undecided about which product is right for you, I'd recommend that you buy the Manitowoc UYF0190A-16 Undercounter Ice Cube Machine. It's excellent all across the board so you really can't go wrong.
Once you’ve bought it, go ahead and enjoy a nice scotch on the rocks with the help of your new machine. Enjoy!
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