Did you know that the best undercounter ice makers can purify water, and produce higher-quality ice cubes? Yes, this question is one of many we will be dealing with in the following guide, so feel free to stay and see whether there is an ice maker that would fit nicely into your home and your lifestyle.
Up until recently, having an ice maker at home was a commodity only. That’s right, having buckets and buckets of top-shelf ice is now a reality thanks to the rise of these ice-making machines. The problem is, there are plenty of brands and models to choose from. This is why we have assembled a list of best residential ice maker machines. Read on and find out what to expect. Let’s begin!
What is an Undercounter Ice Maker and Who Needs One?
Undercounter ice makers are convenient ice-making machines perfect for ice lovers that have limited space. Freezing technology has changed considerably in the last couple of decades, and under-counter ice makers are no exception to this. Before, they had the capacity of making ice and only storing it temporarily.
Now, they can filter the water, make perfect clear cubes, and even store the ice cubes for a long time. These and other features will be discussed in our unbiased buying guide. By being designed to fit under most kitchen counters, you can save a lot of space, and still have a continuous supply of ice on hand.
Thanks to the compact freezing process, you can have fresh ice every 6-10 minutes, depending on a few factors. The shape and size of the ice cubes are usually the determining factors with most ice makers. But the freezing method, or mold being used, can also influence ice cube production speed.
Another useful feature is that these units require a dedicated water line. This feature prevents human contact with the water that is meant for the ice cubes so you cannot bring in any pollutants personally. Some ice makers come with built-in water filters for better hygiene and prevention. This method offers a superior quality of ice cubes and most importantly – these machines readily provide a large volume of ice.
Thanks to their efficiency, these ice makers are used both commercially and residentially. Thanks to their size, you can use them in any kitchen, but also in juice bars, cafes, refreshment stands, coffee shops, and so on.
Best Undercounter Ice Makers Comparison Chart
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Manitowoc SM50A-161 SM50
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Best Undercounter Ice Maker Reviews (Updated List)
1. Whynter UIM-155
Here is another residential model packed in stainless-steel casing, produced by Whynter. This low-volume undercounter ice maker can deliver 12 pounds of crescent-shaped ice cubes in 24 hours. But the tray can only hold about 6 pounds of this ice. That means the machine will turn off so that the ice doesn’t spilling out when you open the door.
You won’t be having any trouble installing this small model since it is only 15 inches wide. On the plus side, this unit doesn’t use a drain because the inside box functions as a freezer that keeps the ice from melting. Also, the doors are reversible so you can install them either way. What you have to keep in mind with this model – you will have to defrost the unit manually because there is no drain.
The simplicity of use is reduced to basically just turning it on and off. That’s it. When you want ice, just press the on button on the front panel that is located at the bottom of the unit, and turn it off when you don’t need it, or want to defrost it. Additionally, you get an ice tray for collecting the ice, an ice scooper, and a 9-foot water line to help with the installation. This unit is covered by a 1-year warranty for use and labor.
2. Manitowoc UY-0310A
Our next model is one made for a large and efficient ice output. This 209-pound ice-making machine can pump out 304 pounds of ice per day. It comes with a storage capacity of 100 pounds. With the width of 30 inches, it is twice larger than a standard residential unit, but the amount it can produce makes up for it.
Thanks to the legs elevating the unit slightly, ventilation and installation of this unit aren’t as difficult as they are for other heavy ice makers. Since this unit does use a gravity drain, you need to place it close to one. In case you need to check out the insides of the machine, or you need to service it, you will be pleased to know that this model has an easy-to-dismantle metal cover.
This is the most expensive model on our list, but it also produces the most ice. This freestanding ice maker is a perfect choice for any business that requires a lot of ice on a daily basis. The machine itself is covered by a 3-year warranty for parts and labor, while the evaporator and a condenser are covered for 5 years each.
3. Scotsman CU50GA-1A
Scotsman has been producing ice makers for years, and the brand is quite reputable on the market. This model is a great choice among undercounter units if you need a clear ice making machine. With this particular unit, you can have restaurant quality ice in your own home. The price of this unit could be an issue, as it is on the luxury side, but you can’t argue with the quality of pristine ice that it makes.
Ice production for this ice maker comes up to 64 pounds per day, and there is a storage capacity of 26 pounds. The slim design makes sure that the machine fits easily into any kitchen, whether you want it for residential or commercial use. The modern stainless-steel door will fit into most contemporary-styled kitchens as well. Always make sure that the unit is leveled so that it will produce ice properly. This is important for the units that have a gravity drain.
You can easily control the unit with the control panel, which becomes visible once you open the door. There are some helpful indicators as well; they will tell you if the water isn’t flowing, or when it is time for the ice maker to be cleaned. This model has a warranty period of 1 year.
4. EdgeStar IB450SS
Our next ice maker has an extra feature or two that makes it an interesting choice for those who love top quality ice. First off, this unit produces clear ice, and while the price tag may be a bit high, it is probably the best deal you can find for entry-level undercounter ice makers.
While it is true that this model is a bit cheaper than the other undercounter ice makers on our list, the production capacity is quite satisfactory – 45 pounds per day. The storage bin can only manage 25 pounds of ice though. Also, the design of the mold for this unit makes the ice come out in sheets so you will need to break them up before using them.
To control this ice maker, you have a handy control panel at the bottom of the unit. You will also notice that there is a wash function, which helps with maintaining and cleaning the unit. This ice maker is covered for parts and labor for 1 year by the manufacturer.
5. Manitowoc SM50A-161 SM50
Next, we have another top-quality stand alone ice maker from Manitowoc. This undercounter ice maker has a built-in filter and scale inhibitor, meaning it offers a purer taste of ice cubes than your standard ice maker. But that also comes with a higher price tag of the unit. You can get 53 pounds of clear ice cubes in 24 hours, but you can only store 25 pounds inside.
This luxury model comes with a few bells and whistles. You can set the machine to work on a time delay with an auto-start feature. There is also an indicator that tells you when you need to change the filter. Finally, this unit has a patented cleaning and sanitization features.
When it comes to excess water, you can use the gravity drain method. But the manufacturer has also left enough space in unit’s case that lets you install a drain pump if you want it. The machine is covered by a 1-year limited warranty for residential use and a 3-year warranty for parts and labor.
6. EdgeStar IB120SS
First up, in our list of undercounter ice makers, we have a budget-friendly model meant for an average household. The EdgeStar model has a height of 25.25” and is only 15” wide, meaning it can fit into under most kitchen counters with ease.
Suitable for low-intensity work, this unit can produce up to 12 pounds of crescent-shaped ice cubes per day. Installing this unit is slightly easier compared to other units because it doesn’t use a drain. The ice maker also works as a freezer so that the ice you make doesn’t melt right away. Once plugged in, the ice will form and fall automatically into the bin. Plus, you also get an ice scooper with the unit.
The bin can only store 6 pounds of ice, and once it is full, the ice maker will automatically shut off. Because of the compact design, and lack of drainage, you could fit this unit into your garage, boat, RV, or any other place as long as you have water and electric line available. The unit has a limited warranty period of 1 year.
7. SPT IM-600US
Finding an undercounter ice maker without spending at least 4 digits of cash isn’t an easy task, which is why we were excited to test out this unit. This affordable ice maker can produce 50 pounds of clear ice per day. But you can’t fit that much ice into the machine since the removable ice bin can only hold 25 pounds of ice.
The ice itself comes out connected in sheets, so once it is made, you need to break it up before use. The unit itself doesn’t have a filter system, so if you are using unfiltered water for it, you may have to clean it once a week to get rid of any minerals or bacteria from the water.
Because this unit doesn’t come with a drain pump, you need to make sure to place it near a drain so that the gravity drain hose actually does its job. While the ON/OFF switch is located in the front, together with the ‘wash’ button, the computerized controls are on the rear of the unit, which isn’t accessible if you do place it under the counter.
If anything does go wrong, you are covered for 1 year by the warranty policy issued by the manufacturer.
8. Hoshizaki AM-50BAJ
The last on our list is Hoshizaki, a premium quality crescent-styled ice cubes. These little top hats are also made to be clear ice cubes, which always comes with an equally premium price tag. The unit produces 55 pounds of top hat style full cubes, but you can only store 22 pounds of them in the built-in storage bin.
Designers at Hoshizaki took into account the installation process of this model and made it easy by using their front in/front out airflow system for the condenser. This means you don’t have to leave extra space on the sides or in the rear, for ventilation. The water circuit was also designed with the user in mind since the manufacturer has made it accessible and easy to disassemble for cleaning.
You can order the standard model with the stainless-steel door, or you can go for one of the other front panel choices made by the manufacturer. This comes in different wood styles with various colors if you want the ice maker to fit in better with the rest of the kitchen. The machine is covered by a 2-year part and labor warranty.
How Do Undercounter Ice Makers Work?
The working principle for undercounter ice makers is pretty much the same for all ice making machines. The system functions thanks to four essential parts, needing an electric line, a water line, and a drain. Be warned, higher-end ice makers require a dedicated circuit breaker, due to their electrical demands.
So, how exactly undercounter ice makers work? First, the water makes its way inside the unit through the water line, entering the area where there is a mold or some other cooling element. At the same time, the compressor turns on, and it starts compressing low-pressure coolant vapor into the high-pressure coolant vapor. This coolant is then delivered to the condenser.
At this point, the condenser takes the high-pressure coolant vapor and gets rid of heat from the compressor phase, by routing the coolant through the coiled pipes. These pipes are usually placed near the unit, on the back. Once this is done, the high-pressure vapor turns into the high water pressure.
The pressurized coolant will move on to the inlet valve. The inlet valve releases the pressure from the coolant transforming back to vapor, but at a lower temperature. Finally, the refrigerant will move to the evaporator. Here is where the heat exchange happens.
The coolant comes into contact with a mold where the water will freeze upon contact, or via another cooling element. Once the mold is full, the ice will fall out into the tray where it will stay until you need it. Note that this is just one very common way of making ice, and some undercounter ice makers may work differently depending on the compressor and the condenser.
Any water that is created by condensation, along with the melting ice, goes into the drain via the outlet hose.
Undercounter vs. Portable Ice Makers?
When you are doing your research about ice makers, you may consider opting-out for a portable unit, instead of an undercounter model. People think that the portable machine is just a smaller version of the undercounter unit, but it’s not. In the following section, we will talk about the differences between the two.
These machines have their own uses and are solutions for different situations. Let’s begin with the first obvious difference – the size. When it comes to kitchen machines and appliances, size indicates power. Portable machines are much smaller, and therefore have a lower ice cube production capacity than undercounter ice makers.
Your average portable ice maker can make up to around 30 pounds of ice per day. Whereas, an undercounter unit can make as much as a portable unit, or twice the amount. There is, however, one benefit to the size of portable units. Since they are smaller, portable units can easily fit on most counters, and in various places where space is an issue.
From an installation point of view, most of the time you don’t have to do anything except assembling a portable unit. Some units are preassembled so that you only have to turn them on. You can also store these units away when you don’t need them. Undercounter models are installed once and then used as permanent fixtures in homes, offices, coffee shops, and so on. Also, you may need a dedicated circuit breaker for some undercounter models, as well as a water line and a drain.
Next, you need to consider the ice storage. Here, undercounter ice makers have a clear advantage as they can hold various amounts of ice in a tray, and keep it chilled until you need it. But portable models generally lack any storage capability as it would make them bigger and less portable.
Pure ice making capacity is probably the most important factor to consider when comparing these machines.
The wrong types and insufficient capacities are the most important things to avoid when choosing your ice maker.
Undercounter Ice Maker Buying Guide
If you want to get the right unit from the start, you can save yourself from making the wrong decision simply by reading our buying guide. We have condensed hours of research into one reading material. By knowing what to look for, you can get a unit that best suits your needs. In the following section, we will go over the seven characteristics that you need to take into consideration.
As we have said before, when it comes to kitchen appliances, size can play a vital role. Because undercounter ice makers are made to specific dimensions, you need to be sure that it can fit into the place that you have imagined for it. Take extra precaution when measuring your space, and factor in that you will have some wires and tubes going out of the machine when you are installing it.
Fitting the freezer into an enclosed space is just one side of the coin though. The other side is how much storage space is inside the unit. When the ice is made, it usually goes to some type of insulated tray where it is kept nice and chilled. How much ice can be put in the tray varies from unit to unit.
Smaller undercounter ice makers generally have a 1 to 1 ratio, meaning they can store as much ice as the machine can produce in a 24hour period. The bigger models, however, are not so lucky as they can only hold half, or less of their total capacity, especially if they produce around 60 pounds of ice a day or more. Thankfully these more powerful models do offer an automatic shut-off feature when the ice tray gets full.
The size of one standard ice maker that makes about 20 pounds of ice per day, can fit neatly into a space smaller than your average dishwasher, depending on the brand. This would be enough for a family of four, plus a small group of friends. That means you can enjoy chilled drinks all day long.
2. Ice Quality
The quality of ice depends on the quality of water and the machine you are using. When water comes into contact with air, surfaces or human skin, it picks up impurities and bacteria. Because of this, you get the ice that isn’t see-through, and usually has some kind of opaque look. Undercounter ice makers come with the option of having a water filter to help you purify the water, remove sediment and other pollutants.
Despite having a filter system, you still may not get perfect ice cubes, and there are reasons for that, which we will cover in our FAQ section. But first, what is a good ice cube? You know you have top quality ice if you have a pristinely clear ice cube that disappears if you put it in a cup. Like with diamonds, clarity is the key to quality.
The next thing to keep in mind is that these clear ice cubes should be so strong that you cannot bite into them. Also, the taste should be better than tap water since clear ice cube makers are generally more expensive, and usually come with a water filter. The last thing to remember is that they will melt slower, and keep your drink cold for twice as long your average ice cube.
The shape of the ice cube purely depends on the mold, or evaporator that the machine uses. This is why top-quality ice cubes are called ‘clear ice cubes,’ but that doesn’t define their shape. If we are talking about shape, the ice cube can have a bullet shape, standard cube shape, crescent moon shape, nugget shape, or some specific style created by an ice machine manufacturer.
The only real role that ice shape plays in drinks is when we are talking about crushed ice(see our top-rated blenders for crushing ice article), shaved ice, or crunchable ice – which is specifically used for various soft drinks and some cocktails. Smaller ice cubes will chill your drink faster, but they will also dilute the drink just as fast, and in this way slightly change the overall taste.
3. Cooling System
Cooling systems for ice makers are defined by what type of condenser is used to manipulate the coolant. The two main systems used for ice makers are air and water-based systems. Firstly, let’s talk about the air-based system.
An air-cooled condenser relies on the ambient temperature around the machine to be cooler than the condenser’s hot coils. Fans or vents are used to suck in the cool air, and circulate air through the condenser, thereby cooling it. To ensure they work properly, these condensers need to be unobstructed by anything when they are working. Also, they can produce some extra noise due to their fans.
Moving on to the water-cooled condensers. These types of condensers use an additional water line to provide cold running water which would be used to cool down the coils of the condenser. However, this method is less practical, so most manufacturers chose the air-cooled condenser system for undercounter ice makers.
In the process of making ice cubes, you will always have some left-over water. That is evidence for the inefficiency of ice makers in water consumption. But you can’t have that water just sitting there because bacteria can develop and contaminate it. Most undercounter ice makers are equipped with one of two possible solutions for their drain needs, while some models don’t use drains at all, and require periodic defrosting.
The simplest option is what is known as a ‘gravity drain’. If your ice maker is close to a standard drain, around 2 feet, and if you can hook up the drain hose so that it goes down towards the drain, then this gravity drain is a great choice. Because of the height difference, the excess water or condensate will move to the drain by the sole power of gravity.
Now, if you find yourself in the position where the drain is not near enough, or you can’t make the hose go downward from the machine to the drain, you are going to need a pump. An ice maker with a drain pump solves this problem easily. This pump pushes the excess water from the unit, through the drain tube, and into the drain.
Undercounter ice makers with drain pumps are a common sight, but they aren’t present in every model. So, you need to check this beforehand and make sure what drainage system the unit uses. Depending on your specific situation, you may be put into the position of buying an external drain pump if the model you want doesn’t have one, and you can’t freely access the nearest drain.
5. Water Supply
The one thing you cannot do without is water, logically. Undercounter ice makers require a dedicated water line. You can connect this ice maker water line pretty quickly with the tubes that most manufacturers give with the ice making unit. But if you don’t feel confident about installing it, you can always contact a professional plumber.
These tubes are usually smaller than your average water line. Because of its size, you have to be sure to secure it and make certain it won’t get scratched or ripped when you are moving the unit into its allocated space. Thanks to having a dedicated water line, you eliminate most of the household contaminants that can reach your ice.
Most ice makers can operate with a water supply that isn’t under 45°F or over 85°F year-round. The water pressure needs to be at a minimum of at least 15 PSI, but some ice makers can be more demanding with a minimum of 30 PSI. Also, the water pressure shouldn’t exceed 80 PSI for most undercounter ice makers, for safety reasons.
When it comes to undercounter ice makers, maintenance is mostly done for the sake of prevention. It generally boils down to inspection and cleaning. First off, you need to take an active role in inspecting the inside parts of the machine. These areas can come into contact with bacteria through the air, or by your hands.
To avoid the bacteria spreading and forming scales on the metal cooling elements, you are advised to use a cleaning solution(even homemade) and wipe down the exposed parts. Cleaning instructions like what cleaner you can use, and how much, are specified in the guides of each unit and should be followed rigidly. Once you clean the insides, make sure to thoroughly rinse the ice maker with water. Some models have a built-in ‘wash’ function just for this purpose.
Besides the exposed areas, you also need to check electric connections, to see if any wires are dangling, not connected, or are simply fried. If any of the above is true, contact an electrician or an authorized serviceman, and don’t use the ice maker if you are facing electrical problems.
The condenser and its grill need to stay clean from dust, grease, and anything else that can prevent them from doing their job. This can be done with a non-corrosive cleaner. You can use a fine comb or a brush to get rid of any tough grime. If the ice maker uses water filters, these need to be periodically cleaned or replaced, depending on the instructions given by the manufacturer.
All ice makers aren’t created equal. They are tailored to have different characteristics so that they can fit various needs. Undercounter ice makers can make a set number of ice cubes per cycle. The number of ice cubes that can be made at the same time and the length of the creation cycle lets us calculate the total capacity of an ice maker.
The total capacity is measured in the amount of ice created in 24 hours. The smaller units can make around 12 pounds of ice a day. But the higher-end models can push out approximately 80 pounds of ice a day. Any more than that, and we enter the realm of big standalone ice makers.
The type and shape of ice do factor in a bit. Cheaper ice makers are usually faster and produce more ice cubes per cycle. More expensive models sometimes produce fewer ice cubes per cycle, but the trade-off is a superior quality of ice cubes that don’t melt as fast, so you would need fewer of them anyway.
FAQ about Undercounter Ice Makers
We have compiled a list of the most frequent questions and interesting answers you need to know about ice makers.
1. The machine is working, but no ice is coming out, what do I do?
If you have correctly installed your ice maker and yet no ice is being produced, try and check the following. First, see if the water line is hooked up properly, and that there are no leaks. You also want to make sure the inlet water isn’t too hot, thus preventing the machine from making ice.
Next, you want to check the compressor to make sure it is running, and there are no ruptures for the coolant or refrigerant where they could leak. Finally, check the water filter for any possible blockages. If none of the above is helpful, contact an authorized serviceman to take a more in-depth look.
2. Why is the machine making half or incomplete cubes?
When an undercounter ice maker creates unfinished ice in the time of a normal creation cycle, you need to check a few things. First, the machine may not be level – if it is not level, then the water inside the machine won’t be either, preventing the ice cubes to form normally.
It can also be a problem with the wrong water pressure. Make sure that your ice makers water pressure fits the parameters specified by the manufacturer in the manual. Other reasons for this include poor water filtration, or possibly a faulty ice thickness switch that needs to be repaired or replaced.
3. Ice production capacity suddenly drops, what is the cause?
If ice cube production suddenly slows down, first you check the temperature and pressure of your incoming water. If both of those are fine, then you may want to check the condenser. Condensers won’t work well if they are dirty, or are physically obstructed by objects blocking their fans.
4. Why is my ice cloudy when it used to be clear?
Undercounter units do sometimes come with filter systems to help get that top-shelf clear ice. These filters can become dirty or blocked over time, and require cleaning or replacement. If everything is fine with the filter, then your machine could need a thorough cleaning to get rid of any invisible bacteria that has spread inside of it.
If you are periodically cleaning your residential ice machine and its filter, but you still get cloudy ice, you may need to check your water supply. The water quality directly affects the clarity of ice and it can cause your ice to be cloudy.
5. Do I need to defrost or drain my ice maker?
Most of the time, the answer is no. Undercounter ice makers are usually equipped with some kind of drain system that gets rid of any excess water, be it a gravity drain, or a drain pump. However, there are models that don’t have this feature and act as a freezer when they are full of ice, not letting the ice melt and eliminating the need for a drain.
But if you notice an ice buildup, then you should unfreeze the ice maker regardless of them having a drain or not.
Ice makers were once a convenience that regular people could only dream off, but now you can have luxury ice made in your very own home. Thanks to modern cooling technology and refrigerants, every home, coffee shop, office, or bar can have perfect ice on-demand, 24/7. What makes the best residential ice maker depends on the needs of the person using it.
By reading this buying guide, you are now armed with the knowledge that will allow you to choose the best undercounter ice maker for your needs. If there are any unanswered questions left, feel free to leave a message in the comments section, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Bonus blog: Why Do Ice Makers Make a Knocking Sound?
Bonus guide: best ice maker refrigerators