If you've ever hosted a party that has run out of ice, you will have seen the look of disappointment on a lot of people's faces. No-one wants their favorite cocktail without ice, and what good is a whiskey on the rocks without the rocks?
Ice makers are valuable pieces of kitchen equipment that can come to the rescue in a matter of minutes. Turning bottled water into crunchy ice with little effort is the purpose of ice makers, however, this doesn't come without some noise nuisance.
Newer models (both counter-top and commercial) know and understand this problem and look for ways to combat noise.
Quiet Ice Makers
1. FirstBuild Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
The Opal ice maker is perfect for any home kitchen scenario as its small footprint allows it to sit comfortably on any countertop. It is sturdily made from stainless steel with accents of black that give it a sleek, modern style. It will enhance any setting.
It doesn't need to be plumbed into a water source, all that it requires is a 120v power outlet and it's good to go. The user should fill the 2.5qt reservoir with potable water and press the power button, it couldn't be simpler to operate.
Within 20-minutes the first 3lb batch of ice is ready. The machine is capable of 24lbs of ice each day, and not random, misshapes, instead, small nuggets of ice. It is crunchy yet soft, like tiny snowballs to keep your chosen beverage cool. There is a scoop provided to make the transfer to the glass a breeze.
Our favorite feature has to be the FirstBuild app. The machine has Bluetooth connectivity enabling the user to link it to their phone and program it remotely. As long as there is water in the reservoir you can switch the machine on and have ice ready in 20-minutes. The inbuilt smart sensor knows when the collection tray is empty and switches off automatically.
You also don't need to worry about ice melting and overflowing either, the water runs directly back to the reservoir, ready to begin the process again.
Although the machine isn't as quiet as the gentle hum of the freezer, it is one of the quietest ice machines available.
Opal supplies many accessories, including a side tank to increase productivity and a full cleaning system to ensure the ice is always in peak condition.
2. Frigidaire Ice Maker
The Frigidaire ice maker is a heavy-duty machine that isn't much larger than a toaster, enabling it to sit snugly on a countertop. It is made from brushed stainless steel which is not only durable but also very easy on the eye. It is available in several colors, including red, black, silver, and copper, that will complement any kitchen décor.
As it doesn't need to be hooked up to the water source, it is completely portable. Fill the reservoir to the fill line, plug it in, set the ice maker to fast ice, and leave it to operate. You will be rewarded with 9-ice cubes every 6-7minutes. If you let the machine run for a full cycle, the ice collector basket will be full of 1qt of ice. This means that in 24 hours the machine is capable of making 26lbs of ice.
It is perfectly safe to leave the machine running without supervision, a sensor switches the machine off automatically when the water runs out. Water doesn't overflow but gets recycled back to the tank. The drain plug in the base ensures the machine is hygienically clean at all times.
Compressor cooling uses no chemical refrigerants and ensures the ice maker runs smoothly and exceptionally quietly. It emits around 38dB of sound, which is equivalent to walking into a library, very quiet indeed.
We love that you can choose the size of ice you'd like, either small or large ice cups. The ice maker ensures each piece of ice is glass-like, not cloudy and opaque like other models.
3. Brightown Counter-top Ice Maker
If you're looking to make ice quickly and with no fuss, the Brightown countertop machine is worthy of serious consideration.
Its compact design ensures it takes up little counter space and tucks comfortably beneath wall cabinets.
Once it is plugged in and filled with water, all you have to do is decide if you would prefer small or large ice bullets, press the button and sit back. The machine will continue making ice until the basket is full, and then switch off automatically. The enclosed ice will stay insulated, but if any thaws, the melted water is fed directly back to the reservoir to be reused.
Similarly, if the machine senses that the water tank is empty it will power down to prevent short-circuiting.
Once the sensor detects the ice has dropped below the sensor line, it will automatically start working again.
The bullet-shaped ice is hollow which enables it to float attractively in your drinks. The small size has a diameter of around 22mm and slots easily into the neck of a water bottle. The larger bullets are 30-33mm and are ideal for a multitude of cooling tasks, both food, and drink.
At the height of operation, the ice maker only emits a very respectable 48dB of sound. This is courtesy of the built-n spoiler that effectively muffles unwanted noise.
The transparent window on the top of the unit enables the user to watch as the ice is made. It takes just 6-minutes to make the first 9-bullets, if you choose the large size, your first batch will take just 10-minutes. Each batch will take the same amount of time which equates to 26lbs of ice per day.
We love the modern styling of this stainless steel machine. It is compact, robust, high-performing, and best of all, very quiet.
4. hOmeLabs Commercial Ice Maker Machine
The h0melabs ice maker is a free-standing model that is capable of making up to 99lbs of ice every 24 hours. This makes it the ideal machine for smaller commercial premises and large families.
It comes with all of the hoses and connectors to securely attach the 1.2L tank to a portable water source. The basket can store 29lbs of ice and keep it frozen for long periods, the little ice that does melt is naturally drained away through the waste tube.
One cycle takes 11-20 minutes, varying on the thickness of the ice you choose. The thickest setting is +5 which requires the full 20-minutes to supply 45 pieces of ice, set it on the thinnest level and you will be rewarded with 45 pieces in just 7-minutes.
Setting the desired thickness is simple via the intuitive control panel. The small LCD screen also displays the temperature and status of the freezing process.
The clear ice is formed in sheets and breaks into individual cubes as it drops to the collection tray. Any ice that doesn't break requires a gentle tap to separate.
The machine will continue to make ice until it senses that the tray is full. Once some ice is removed it restarts the process.
As the ice maker is front venting, it is suitable to install beneath a cabinet, just ensure all of the pipes are connected first, and that it can be easily pulled out to clean.
It is compressor cooled, not only is this very efficient, but it also ensures quiet operation.
Made from durable stainless steel, it is robust and durable, rust-resistant, and easy to clean.
The h0melabs ice maker is the perfect machine to keep the largest family cooled on the hottest summer day.
5. Northair Commercial Ice Maker
Designed for commercial use, this free-standing ice maker is capable of making 200lbs of clear ice cubes each day.
It is cooled by an efficient compressor that ensures quiet use, quiet enough to stand next to, and have a conversation, without needing to raise your voices.
The machine can be installed safely beneath a countertop due to its front venting design. Ensure it is close to a water source as it connects to the supply for automatic filling. All of the pipework, including drainage tubes and connectors, are supplied. It is simple to connect and should take less than an hour, for those not competent at DIY, it is advisable hire a plumber.
The smart panel with an LCD screen has 4-quick touch buttons for the user to set their desired cube thickness. There are 10-settings, and depending on your choice, it takes between 15 and 20-minutes to freeze the first batch of 66 cubes.
Each sheet drops into the collection basket where they break into individual cubes. If the bin fills to capacity the machine will automatically shut off. The basket is insulated and will keep them frozen for some time, any excess water created empties via the gravity drain. Once it senses the quantity has depleted, the ice maker will kick back in and continue making cubes.
The fast freezing speeds and high-performance capabilities make this stainless steel machine the best ice maker for commercial use. It is efficient and operates smoothly and quietly.
What to Look for in a Quiet Ice Maker
Varying factors will affect your purchasing decision:
On large commercial machines, moving the condenser to an outdoor wall greatly reduces any sound emitted from an ice-making machine. Even the positioning of the machine away from customers can make any noise less bothersome.
If you have no choice but to keep the machine in the kitchen space, consider choosing a water-cooled model if possible. The lack of a fan means less moving parts to create noise. They are more energy efficient but beware, they use large amounts of water.
Some countertop models are marketed as quiet models but often come at a premium price. They should have some kind of integrated sound shield and have sound absorbent materials and insulation around the motor.
Sitting the machine on cork matting should also absorb some unwanted noise (structure-borne).
If all else fails, try to make the ice when things are quiet, bag it, and freeze it.
Calculate the amount of ice that you might need daily before settling on a model. Each product has a limit on how many cubes it can make every 24 hours.
If you are regularly going to create more ice than you can use, the machine is not energy-efficient and you should consider a small model.
Once the cubes are made you need to know that there is a tray large enough to hold them until they're required. Some users prefer to pre-make ice and freeze it. Most countertop models don't keep the ice frozen during storage, they insulate it to slow the thawing process down.
Air-cooled models cannot be built into kitchen units as they need clearance space for the warm air to escape.
Some machines have control pads to adjust the thickness of the ice, others make cubes, half cubes, nuggets, or pearls.
Some machines have auto-fill and need to be plumbed into the water supply, others require manual filling.
There are models with LCD screens and push buttons to provide total control over the finished ice cube.
Smart machines have Bluetooth connectivity and allow the user to program the ice maker from their phone.
Types of Ice Machines
There are 4-main types of ice-making machines, these reviews feature models from the first 2 -styles.
As the name would suggest they are smaller machines that sit comfortably on a home countertop. Ice is frozen and stored for the user to serve themselves. A countertop ice machine typically makes between 20-40lbs per day. The ice is often 'nugget' style, softer and chewier than regular ice cubes.
Larger machines that connect directly to a water source for cooling and refilling. They can be built-in in kitchen units and will typically provide between 75-500lbs. per day.
This style of ice machine is usually used in conjunction with another machine such as a drinks dispenser or storage bin. They are found in large commercial businesses such as fast food stores, cafes, and restaurants, and are capable of making up to 1000lbs of ice per day.
The most hygienic and fastest way to make large quantities of ice. Often seen in busy food-serving establishments, the ice is used almost as quickly as it is made, and therefore, doesn't need to be stored for long. Capable of 75-500lbs per day.
Condensing Styles of Ice Machines
Remote condensers are found in larger businesses as a second room or outdoor space away from the ice making machine is needed. This succeeds in reducing noise nuisance. In countertop and commercial models, there are 2-main types of condenser:
Air-cooled ice-making machines rely on fans to move air around the condenser. This is the method employed by countertop machines as they have vents to expel warm air and need at least 3-inches clearance from surrounding walls
Water-cooled condensers require constant water flow to supply cooling. They don't need any clearance space making them suitable for under-counter installation and use in commercial premises.
Types of Ice
You might be surprised to learn that not all ice from an ice-making machine looks the same. There are variations in size, shape, and color.
Why are Some Ice Cubes Clear and Others are Opaque?
Although it relates somewhat to the clarity of the water, it is mostly to do with water temperature. When filled with room-temperature water, the dissolved impurities are not visible keeping it crystal clear. As the water cools, the impurities cluster together to make the ice cloudier.
Shapes of Ice
Flaked ice almost resembles shavings and often used for keeping foods cold: fish and salad bars.
Half cube and full cube ice are great for bringing down the temperature of a beverage. They take a while to dilute the drink as they are slower to thaw.
Nuggets of ice are often the style made by countertop machines. They are soft yet crunchy and are ideal for cocktails and soft drinks. They cool beverages quickly and are usually the type found in self-service ice dispensers.
Bullets are solid ice tubes that are great for smaller drinks and fit easily into the neck of water bottles to keep your drink cooler, longer.
How Does a Portable Ice Making Machine Work?
Portable machines require the user to manually fill the water tank to the fill line. Once this is done and the machine is turned on, these steps occur:
- Water pumps through a filter via a gap at the base of the reservoir and into the ice tray at the top. Any overspill is directed back into the tank.
- As the refrigeration cycle begins, 1/2” prongs on a heat exchanger dip into the water. As their temperature drastically reduces rapidly, the water gathers on the prongs and turns to ice.
- For small cubes, the cycle lasts around 6-minutes, after around 10-12 minutes the ice will reach its maximum size. This may be affected by how long the machine has been running or the ambient temperature of the space around the machine.
- When the cycle is complete, the excess water is tipped back into the reservoir. The heat exchange reverses causing the prongs to heat sufficiently for the ice to slip off into the waiting bin below.
- A sensor on the bin monitors the amount of ice and powers the system down.
- The whole operation repeats until the bin is full or the user switches off the power supply.
Commercial ice-making machines are notoriously noisy, particularly in the hallways of hotels at 3 am.
More companies have tried to make their product more user-friendly by adding noise-absorbing methods, while still being able to operate efficiently.