An undercounter ice maker is the ultimate luxury. Say you’re a homeowner who takes pride in their kitchen and loves to entertain at home. There's one key element every good party needs: lots of ice. Therefore, you might be in the market for an appliance that churns out enough for group cocktails and takes up no counter space: an undercounter ice maker.
We run into five types of people who want an undercounter ice maker:
1. The Everything-But Fridge Owner
You bought the best refrigerator on the market. It’s going to last you a decade, its luxe, spacious interior is rivaled only by its elegant exterior, and it’s going to keep your produce perfectly cold and fresh. It has absolutely everything you could possibly want—except an ice maker. (Some high-end fridges don't have integrated ice makers, because they tend to be the first parts to break down.) Now you’re wishing you had one.
2. The Entertainer
You relish throwing dinner parties, brunches, and holiday gatherings. You plan the menu a month in advance, you go to market every day the week of your event for the freshest ingredients, and you’ve handwritten place cards for everyone. Every element of your feast is perfectly planned, except when it comes time to serve water and cocktails. You're tired of asking a friend to run to the grocery store for an extra bag.
3. The Bartender
So you’ve assembled your dream at-home bar. Your wine cooler is state of the art and perfectly temperature controlled, your liquor selection is top shelf, and your Champagne flutes and martini glasses are enviably modern. But you find yourself having to constantly peel yourself away from your guests in order to run to your kitchen to grab ice.
4. The Connoisseur
You love a cool, tall glass of ice water (okay, or soda) that tastes perfectly crisp. You dream of clear, fresh ice on demand, and lots of it. You'd drive out of the way to hit up a Sonic drive-thru for that soft, crunchy pellet ice.
5. The Space Saver
You live in an apartment and have limited countertop space—in fact, it’s your apartment’s most precious real estate! You’d be loath to give up another square inch for a new appliance. If only you could take advantage of the bountiful space below your scarce counters.
Whether you're the Everything-But Fridge Owner, Entertainer, Bartender, Connoisseur, or Space Saver, what you need to improve your home—and drinks situation—is an undercounter ice maker.
What Is an Undercounter Ice Maker?
An undercounter ice maker is an appliance separate from your refrigerator. It's installed underneath your countertop, just like a dishwasher or beverage cooler, and it produces a steady supply of fresh ice.
Types of Undercounter Ice Makers
There are stylistic decisions you’ll have to make when buying an undercounter ice maker:
Built In vs. Freestanding vs. Portable
Built-In ice makers are installed right into your kitchen cabinets, meaning you’ll have a seamless, integrated fit under the counter.
Freestanding ice makers stand on their own and don’t need to be integrated. A freestanding ice maker’s sides tend to be finished, and its front tends to have ventilation.
Portable ice makers tend to be smaller. They can sit wherever you place them—whether that be on or under your counters—as long as they’re near a power source. A con is that you’ll have to refill this ice maker’s water by hand, but a pro is that you won’t have to install any new plumbing to feed the machine.
Bin Style vs. Pan Style vs. Bucket Style
- Bin style ice makers feature removable storage bins.
- Bucket style ice makers store ice in a stainless steel bucket that can be removed.
- Pan style ice makers look like small fridges that you dip into to get ice from, though some also have dispensers.
Indoor vs. Outdoor (some can be both!)
Outdoor ice makers are built to withstand the elements (rain, wind, snow). This means that features like door panels, door hinges, and fan motors may be made from materials that can better survive weather. Furthermore, outdoor ice makers should be able to produce ice at any outdoor temperature, no matter how dramatically it swings, so you won't have to worry about your machine shutting down in a heat wave or snowstorm. Some ice makers, like the True Residential ice maker, can be installed indoors or out.
Reasons You’ll Love an Undercounter Ice Maker
Once you have an undercounter ice maker, you'll never know how you lived without it. Here’s why:
1. Bountiful Ice
An undercounter ice maker provides the volume of ice needed for the whole family, or a host who entertains frequently. If you find yourself constantly refilling ice trays and still finding there’s never enough, an undercounter ice maker is the time-saving machine you’ll fall in love with.
2. Fresh ice
There’s nothing worse than stale ice. The first few sips of your drink are glorious, and then a minute in when your cubes have just begun to melt, you taste the grave error you’ve made by plopping old ice into your drink. With an undercounter ice maker, your ice will always be fresh.
3. Different shapes
Cocktail lovers, meet your favorite feature. The beauty of an undercounter ice maker is that you can get fancy with the shapes. Many undercounter ice makers are capable of producing ice in various forms: crescent, crushed, cubed, dimpled, top hat, and nugget ice. Certain shapes are better for certain drinks: Crushed ice cools your drink fast and melts quickly, so a cocktail that benefits from dilution like a mojito would benefit from it. Other drinks, like a whiskey on the rocks, need an ice cube that melts slowly, like a large cube, so the flavor remains consistent as you sip.
4. High-quality, clear ice
The ice you pop out of your normal ice trays tends to be cloudy. Why is that? Well, it’s because of impurities. You can boil your water first to get rid of them, but nobody wants to take the time to do that, then let it cool. Built-in ice makers can make clear ice–that is, ice without impurities that is not only visually pleasing, but also superior tastewise.
5. More freezer room
Ice makers built into freezers take up valuable real estate. With an undercounter ice maker, you can opt for a freezer without an ice maker, thereby freeing up space for more frozen food and supplies.
6. More counter space
If you can’t imagine giving up one more square inch of counter space to yet another appliance, then an undercounter ice maker is the perfectly tucked-away machine for you.
Reasons You Might Not Love a Built In Ice Maker
On the other hand, an undercounter ice maker may not be the right fit for your home. Here are three things to consider:
1. You don’t use that much ice
Undercounter ice makers are for folks who need a great volume of ice on hand, like those with big families and those who entertain frequently. If you find yourself rarely reaching for ice, you likely don’t need to invest in an undercounter ice maker. We'd suggest using that space for something more practical—perhaps a beverage fridge or an auxiliary dishwasher.
2. Your freezer already has an ice maker, it’s just small
You’d like to have a bit more ice on hand, but you’re seeing that undercounter ice makers produce a lot of ice. In this case, you might consider investing in a smaller, portable ice maker that you can store somewhere discreet and use as needed.
3. It requires maintenance
You’re intrigued by built-in ice makers, but the upkeep is a dealbreaker for you. You have to clean an ice maker about once every six months, so you’ll have to decide if the time spent cleaning will be worth the extra fresh ice.
How to Shop for an Undercounter Ice Maker
There are seven factors you should take into account when considering different models of ice makers. Let’s explain each, why it matters, and what questions you should ask yourself as a potential buyer:
1. Size and Capacity
You want an ice maker that fits in your space and can store the volume of ice you desire.
Regarding size: The standard width for ice makers is 15 inches. You’ll need to measure the height and depth of the space you have available beneath your kitchen counters, and make sure the ice maker you’re considering will fit in that space with some room on the sides and top (in order to allow the ice machine proper ventilation).
Regarding capacity: You’ll need to consider both the amount of ice you think you might need in a day and the amount of ice you’d like your machine to be able to store. For example, some machines can produce up to 80 pounds of ice in one day, but can store up to only 30 pounds.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Will this ice maker fit in my space? (Is the width standard? Does it fit the height and depth of my available under-counter space?) How much ice can it make at one time and store?
2. Ice Quality
Ice quality comes down to two factors: ice cube shape and clarity.
Regarding shape: Ice makers can produce various shapes. They include crescent, crushed, cubed, dimpled, "top hat," and nugget ice. You’ll want different shapes for different drinks (for example, nugget ice is best to use in drinks you want to be quickly cooled and diluted). When selecting an ice maker, make sure it produces the shape of your preference, and investigate whether it can produce multiple shapes.
Regarding clarity: You want to buy a clear ice maker. These appliances produce ice without impurities, which looks nicer and tastes better.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Which ice cube shapes can this machine make? Does it produce clear ice?
3. Cooling System
The cooling system is what handles interior heat buildup in an ice maker. You’ll want to know whether you’re looking at an ice maker that uses an air-cooled system or a compressor-based system. An air system, which doesn’t require huge vents to allow heat to escape, tends to work better in hot surrounding temperatures. You’ll also want to confirm that any cooling system runs quietly, especially if it's going in your kitchen.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Is this ice maker’s cooling system air-cooled or compressor-based? Is it noisy?
There are two main drainage options for ice makers: a gravity drain or a drain pump. Your selection of one of the two will be based on the installation location.
Gravity Drain: You should go with a gravity drain if you’ll have a kitchen drain within one to two feet of where you install your ice maker—that way, gravity will be able to do the drainage work.
Drain Pump: If you’ll be installing your ice maker any farther away than that, you should select a drain pump–it'll move the excess water away from your machine and force it down the drain. The drain pump may be built into your ice maker, or you may need to buy an external one.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What type of drainage option does this ice maker come with, gravity drain or drain pump?
5. Water Supply
In order to make ice, you of course need water. Therefore, your under-counter ice makers will need a dedicated water line, so make sure there'll be access to a water line in the spot in your kitchen where you want to install your ice maker.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Do I have access to a dedicated water line for an ice maker in my kitchen?
In order to maintain your ice maker, you'll have to clean it at least once every six months. You should check out the website of the manufacturer of your ice maker for model-specific cleaning instructions. But, we have included six general steps for cleaning your ice maker in the FAQs below.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: Do I have to buy special cleaners to maintain this ice maker? How often does it require cleaning, and is it complicated?
7. Customization options
Many ice makers come with custom finish options. A panel-ready option means you can take advantage of the beauty of a built-in ice maker, and design it so that it matches and blends into your surrounding cabinetry. However, some ice makers may just come with a standard stainless steel option, so if your heart is set on customizations, you’ll want to make sure your model has them available before you purchase.
QUESTIONS TO ASK: What options does this ice maker have for finishes and colors? Is there a panel ready option, or just stainless steel?
Our Top 5 Undercounter Ice Makers
1. Sub Zero Ice Makers
The Sub-Zero UC15I is a 15-inch built-in ice maker. It produces up to 50 pounds of clear octagonal ice cubes per day and can store 25. This ice maker has automatic defrost, water filtration, an LED bin light, and a custom panel-ready finish. You can select your desired type of drainage, gravity pump or drain pump (UC15IP).
The Sub-Zero UC15IO is the outdoor model of this ice maker.
2. XO Appliances
The XO XOUIM1565OP is a 15-inch, built-in ice maker that can produce up to 65 pounds of crystal-clear cubes daily. The machine has a 25 pound of storage capacity, a zero clearance hinge, and front venting. You have some decisions to make when it comes to style customization (fingerprint resistant stainless steel or a panel-ready finish) and drainage (gravity drain or drain pump).
3. Perlick Ice Makers
The Perlick H50IMSR is a 15-inch built-in ice maker that can be installed indoors or outdoors. It can produce up to 55 pounds of clear, top-hat-shape ice cubes per day, and it has a 27 pound storage capacity. This ice maker is front vented and has a forced air refrigeration system. For finish options, you can select stainless steel with either a right hand door hinge or left hand door hinge (H50IMSL), or an option requiring a custom panel (H50IMW). There's also an ADA height version of this model (H50IMSADR).
The H80CIMSADL is Perlick’s cubelet ice maker. It produces up to 80 pounds of chewable, nugget-shaped ice per day, and has the capacity to store 22 pounds. You can select a stainless steel or panel-ready (H80CIMWAD) finish. This ice maker is also ADA compliant.
4. Scotsman Ice Makers
The Scotsman DCE33PA1SSD Cuber Series is rated as one of our best ice makers. It produces crystal-clear, taste-free, odorless, slow-melting ice. The secret is Scotsman’s unique ice cube shape resembling a top-hat that won’t overly dilute your drinks. This 15-inch machine can produce up to 30 pounds of ice daily and stores 26 pounds. It has an auto shut-off feature for safety. For drainage, you can select a gravity drain or drain pump. For finish options, it comes with a stainless steel cabinet and aluminum door, but the door panel can easily be replaced with a custom panel.
We sell two Scotsman ice makers in the Brilliance Series. The first is the SCCG30MA1SS Clear Ice Machine. It produces Scotsman’s signature top-hat-shaped ice that's clear and won’t dilute your drinks. This ice maker produces up to 30 pounds of ice daily, and can store up to 26 pounds of ice. It has a self-closing door and interior light to help reduce energy consumption. On its control panel, an LED indicator light signals when the unit is on, when water is present, and when the unit needs to be cleaned. For finish options, you can cover it with a custom panel or select a stainless steel door. And for drainage options, you can select a gravity drain or drain pump.
The next ice maker we sell in the Brilliance Series is the SCN60PA1SS Nugget Ice Machine. Ranked as one of our best ice makers, this 15-inch appliance produces up to 80 pounds of chewable, nugget-shaped ice cubes per day. The rest of its features are the same as the SCCG30MA1SS Clear Ice Machine, so if you’re set on a Brilliance ice maker, it really comes down to which ice cube shape you prefer (top hat or nugget), and how much ice you want your machine to produce daily (30 pounds or 80 pounds).
The Scotsman SCCG50MB-1SU is a 15-inch under-counter ice maker with a LED indicator light. It can produce up to 65 pounds of ice per day and store up to 26. This machine produces Scotsman’s unique top-hat-shaped ice that won’t dilute your drinks. It also has a water-quality sensor that detects hard water conditions and a control system that purges mineral-laden water with every harvest cycle, which helps extend time between cleanings. The SCCG50MB-1SU has a lighted bin and self-closing door, both of which make access easy. Finally, its control panel is user-friendly; it informs you as to whether the power is on and reminds you when it’s time to clean. It has a custom panel/handle, and a stainless steel cabinet. This ice maker also comes in an outdoor version, the SCCG50MB-1SS, which has a stainless steel finish.
Finally, we have the Scotsman SCCP50MB1, which is a clear ice maker that can produce up to 65 pounds of ice daily and store 26. It shares all of the features of the SCCG50MB-1SU discussed above, except this model has a built-in drain pump assist to maximize convenience for cleaning. The Scotsman SCCP50MB1 comes in a panel ready option (SCCP50MB1SU) or stainless steel option (SCCP50MB1SS) that's approved for outdoor use.
5. True Residential
The True Residential TUI15RSSD is a 15-inch clear ice maker with a built-in filter and drain pump. You can install it indoors or out—either way, it can make 28 pounds of ice a day and store up to 70 at once—making it our pick with the largest storage capacity. We love that you can adjust its lighting to 14 different settings and that it's Energy Star certified. This particular one has a stainless steel finish.
How to Install an Undercounter Ice Maker
Ice maker installation can be tricky, so we recommend bringing in a professional licensed plumber or contractor. But, if you’d like to install it yourself, here are some dos and don’ts:
DO: Level your spot
Your ice maker will work best if it’s level, which means you need to install it on level ground. Measure to make sure your kitchen floor is level beforehand, and if it’s not be sure to use leveling legs.
DO: Leave space for ventilation
In order to prevent your ice maker from overheating, you’ll need to leave some space on all sides of the machine (including the front and back). Reference the instruction manual to determine the necessary amount of space.
DON’T: Install near heat sources
What is the mortal enemy of ice? Heat! Don’t expose your ice maker to any extra heat from appliances like grills, dishwashers, and ovens.
DON’T: Install an indoor ice maker outdoors
Indoor ice makers aren’t designed to withstand the elements (rain, snow, wind, extreme heat or cold). So buy an outdoor ice maker if you’re intent on installing it outdoors.
We’ve gone over the world of built-in ice makers from top to bottom in this article. We started out by discussing the people who'd benefit most from a built-in ice maker—the everything-but fridge owner, the entertainer, the bartender, the connoisseur, and the space saver—to help you decide if this appliance is really worth investing in.
You should also have a good sense of the different types of these appliances, what they're capable of doing, and how to buy one that suits your space and your needs. The bottom line is: If you're someone who loves cocktails and entertaining (or is obsessed with ice), these machines could make hosting a whole lot easier.
Why are undercounter ice makers so expensive?
Any good, sturdy, long-lasting appliance is going to have a higher price tag. With undercounter ice makers in particular, you’re buying a very powerful machine in comparison to its compact size. Some factors that may be contributing to your ice maker’s lofty price tag in particular are: size, capacity, brand name, water filter, and the ability to produce nugget ice.
How long do undercounter ice machines last?
A good rule of thumb is five years, though some ice makers will last beyond a decade.
Does an undercounter ice maker need a drain?
Undercounter ice makers absolutely need a way to drain. You have two drainage options when you’re selecting a model—a gravity drain or a drain pump—and your selection of one of the two will be based on installation location.
You should go with a gravity drain option if you’ll have a kitchen drain within one to two feet of where you place your ice maker—this way, gravity will be able to do the drainage work. If you’ll be installing your ice maker any farther away than that, you should select a drain pump–this will move the excess water away from your machine and force it down your kitchen drain. For the drain pump option, it may be built into your ice maker, or you may need to buy an external one.
How far can ice maker be from sink?
That depends on the drain type. As we mentioned above, an ice maker with a gravity drain should be installed no more than 2 feet than two feet away.
Are undercounter icemakers portable?
Some undercounter ice makers are portable but not all. The model you're considering should specify whether it is portable in its description.
How to clean undercounter ice maker?
You should check out the website of the manufacturer of your ice maker for model-specific cleaning instructions. But, here are six general steps for cleaning your ice maker:
- Unplug your ice machine.
- Empty your ice bin and wash it with dish soap.
- Turn off the ice maker’s water supply, remove the drain cap, and allow the water pan to drain into an empty container. Once drained, replace the drain cap. Then fill the water pan with one part ice machine cleaner and two parts water.
- Replace the ice bin, plug the ice maker back in, and run a cleaning cycle.
- Dump the first batch of ice. Then refill with clean water and run another cycle.
- Dump that batch of ice, then reattach the water supply.
You should clean your ice maker at least once every six months.