Insignia ice maker in kitchen

Ice is used for so many tasks in the home, and machines like the Insignia portable nugget ice maker make it easy to produce large amounts quickly. In my home, we use ice for drinks, to cool down soup, chill wine, place in a cooler, put in a cloth to ease a sprain or injury: the list goes on.

Most households have either ice trays or buckets in the freezer. More commonly nowadays, you might also find a refrigerator with a built-in ice maker. But there are occasions where this might not be enough nor possible. I had the chance to review the Insignia portable nugget ice maker. I initially thought I wouldn’t have the need for such a small appliance. But I quickly realized there are so many ways it could come in handy.

Why use a portable ice maker?

Portable ice makers aren’t just for those who don’t have ice trays or refrigerators with built-in ice makers at home. Any time we have summer barbecues, for example, I grab a dozen bags of ice from the grocery store to fill our coolers. This is not only a cumbersome task, it’s also expensive. I’m paying an arm and a leg for frozen water, not to mention plastic waste. Having one of these machines means I could make batches of ice to fill the coolers throughout the day.

pouring ice into a cup

Ever had to empty the fridge to clean it or do repairs? You can fill a cooler with ice from this machine to keep perishable items at a safe temperature until you’re done.

Finally, there’s those times when the refrigerator ice maker just doesn’t produce enough ice to tackle what you need. This might be for shocking Roma tomatoes in an ice bath after boiling them for homemade pasta sauce. Maybe it’s for filling ice buckets to chill wine for a dinner party. Sometimes we have some friends over and want to make pitchers of frozen drinks. Once the limited ice supply is depleted, we have to wait at least an hour until the fridge makes more.

Features on the Insignia nugget ice maker

Insignia ice maker with measuring cup

The Insignia portable nugget ice maker is a small appliance that sits on a counter and plugs into the wall. It uses refrigerant and water to generate up to 3.5 lbs. of small, chewable ice pellets. It has a large reservoir to hold water and a storage tray that captures the ice once made. It also comes with an ice scoop. Scoop ice right into a blender, shaker, or cup to easily make drinks, smoothies, and more.

Front buttons on the machine

It has three buttons at the top for simple operation; make ice, power, clean, and light. The top of the unit is textured, designed for perfectly holding glasses so the machine becomes part of your drink making station. The four rubber feet on the bottom, meanwhile, help keep the machine in place while it works. A drip tray is included to catch water droplets from the front.

Finished in stainless steel and black, it’s an attractive addition to a kitchen, home bar, or even small office.

Unboxing and setting up the Insignia nugget ice maker

Side profile of Insignia ice makerThe first thing you’ll notice when removing the Insignia nugget ice maker from the box is that it isn’t light. This is a large and heavy machine. It’s comparable in size and weight to a typical microwave. You might need a second set of hands to hoist it into the counter or wherever you plan to place it.

Speaking of which, consider its position carefully because cleaning requires draining water from the back of the machine. To run a clean cycle, which is what you need to do first, fill the reservoir with water and tap and hold the clean button for three seconds. Once done, move the machine to the edge of the counter, remove the two drain pipes from the back, and drain the water from them into a large pot or bowl (something large enough to capture the 2.2 litres of water you put in).

Drain pipes on Insignia ice makerThis means being able to not only access the back of the machine but also having room to place or hold a rounded bowl for a few minutes until all the water drains. It’s an important thing to know before deciding where to place it: you can set it up against the wall but will need to twist it around for cleaning. This is recommended to do every three days, or at least weekly, depending on how often you use it.

It needs to be on a strong countertop that can accommodate the weight when it’s full. You should have six inches of space between the back and the sides. Don’t position it near any source of heat or sunlight. It plugs into a standard 110-120V, 60Hz electrical outlet.

Using the Insignia portable nugget ice maker

ice maker with blue lightOnce set up, the machine looks elegant. Turn on the stunning blue LED light in the window to illuminate ice pellets once they’re made if desired.

After you run an initial clean cycle, it’s time to make ice. Fill the reservoir with water, position the ice drawer back inside, turn the machine on, and tap the “Ice” button. That’s it. You should see (and hear) your first ice pellets dropping in 10-12 minutes. The ice pellets, which are about an inch in size, consistently drop after that, little by little until the drawer is full. Compare that to the 2-4 hours it takes ice cubes to freeze in a tray in the freezer.

Textured top of ice makerThe machine is somewhat loud: it sounds like a loud dishwasher running, with a dull but constant hum in the background. It didn’t distract us watching TV in the next room while I had it running in the kitchen, but it could certainly be heard. Sometimes, when ice pellets drop, it’s loud enough to make you jump for a second!

But chances are a machine like this would be used more in a basement bar. You’d probably bring it out for parties, or only run it occasionally, so the noise likely wouldn’t bother you.

Keep in mind that even with the machine plugged in and powered on, the ice will not be kept frozen inside indefinitely. You’ll need to use it that day, or it will melt. By 8 a.m. the next morning after I made a batch at noon (which was completely made by 3 p.m.), there were just a few pellets left. You can also transfer the ice pellets from the drawer to a larger ice bucket in the freezer, a cooler, or other receptacle to keep them frozen.

If leftover ice melts, you’ll need to drain the water from the drain pipes in the back. But you can also run another cycle and it will recirculate the water inside.

If you’re using these for drinks in a home bar, however, you’ll get more than enough to serve everyone. The machine can run continuous cycles to get up to 44 lbs. of ice per day. A full cycle generating 3.5 lbs. of ice took about three hours, and the bin was completely full.

When might you use the Insignia nugget ice maker?

Insignia ice maker with drink

The Insignia nugget ice maker, or any large-sized ice maker, for that matter, isn’t a typical small appliance you’d find in the average kitchen. But many families have a basement or dining room bar with a selection of libations. They usually use this area for serving drinks at parties or gatherings; or even for weekend movie nights.

In such scenarios, a machine like this is useful. It creates ice that can be used in everything from cocktails and mocktails to smoothies, and slushies for the kids. You don’t need to use up valuable freezer space for trays and trays of nice, but you can also quickly refill an ice bucket in the freezer with ice pellets from this machine. Think of it like the tray of ice a bartender might scoop from at a local pub to serve your drink: you can have your very own similar set-up at home.

You might also want to use an ice machine at a cottage, campsite (with available power outlet), or even to refill a small cooler for parties, avoiding the need to spend money on bags and bags of ice to keep drinks cold.

Should you get the Insignia portable nugget ice maker?

Portable ice makers aren’t for everyone. But for those who would make use of them, the Insignia nugget ice maker is a great option. The machine itself is easy to use. The small size of the ice pellets is nice touch (though it would have been nice if the machine had a setting to make large cubes, too). The draining process when cleaning is not cumbersome as long as you have room behind the machine to do it.

Bottom line: if you’re in the market for a solid portable ice maker, the Insignia nugget ice maker is attractive in design, easy to use, and makes tons of ice quickly, which will meet all your needs.

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.