NewAir AI-200 Ice Maker Review by Irwin Mehserle
The NewAir AI-200 portable ice cube maker is a terrific tool for anyone needing ice cubes on the go, or just to supplement the home freezer. It’s quick, makes a ton in one day, and is ultra easy to clean.
Form and Function, Solid
The AI-200 measures 16″ H x 14″ W x 16″ D and weighs a hefty 46 pounds. That makes it portable, but not easily. That portability is reduced somewhat as well by the need to plug the unit in to a standard 110V outlet.
The upside is that at such a relatively high weight you won’t have to worry about the unit tipping over even when empty. I don’t know about you but I have more than once accidentally kicked over a piece of equipment on a camping trip. Nice to know that won’t happen with my ice maker.
Better still, this unit is a solid ice cube maker that will last through hundreds of ice-making cycles. The stainless steel outer finish is durable, a great partner to the solid frame inside.
The interior is a highly crack-resistant plastic that will stand up to a metal ice scoop without breaking. A decent plastic one comes with the unit. That’s important since you’ll not likely be removing the cubes with your hands. It also suggests the shell will last a good long time.
Because of the materials it’s made from you can use this model inside or outside with equal effectiveness. Stainless steel stands up well to all kinds of contaminants in the air, whether city or country.
The quality plastic inside makes it easy to clean, too. That’s true of the stainless steel exterior as well, but not quite to the same degree. You’ll certainly want to do that before you start using the AI-200 to make ice cubes.
Needs a Break-In Period
Like all portable ice cube makers, a new unit will often have a kind of plasticky smell and the AI-200 is no exception. It’s the result of outgassing – the odors given off by the material for a while after manufacture. That vapor isn’t allowed to dissipate efficiently when the machine is wrapped in plastic and housed in a cardboard box during warehousing.
That gas can infuse ice cubes the first few times you use it. The chemical is harmless but unpleasant tasting. Be prepared to throw away the first half dozen runs. After that, it should be clean sailing (provided you use good water of course).
Ample Supply, Quickly and Continuously
The built-in 1-gallon reservoir means you have plenty of water onboard to get started. A gallon of water makes about eight pounds of ice. Water weighs almost exactly the same liquid or frozen. That’s roughly three dozen ice cubes. The number varies a bit because the unit makes small, medium, or large cubes, as you prefer.
Just as beneficial, the AI-200 makes a considerable amount of ice in short order. It can produce 35 pounds per day. If you can use that much (apart from the occasional party), more power to you. That’s far more than even a good-sized family is likely to need even during summer.
Equally smile-inducing is the fact that it can produce them very fast. The unit pumps out a dozen ice cubes in every cycle, which takes about 7-13 minutes to complete. Initial water temperature, air pressure, and other variables affect the exact rate.
For the coup de grace, it’s very pleasant that it can keep that pace up hour after hour, day in and day out. Since manufacturing quality varies slightly, it is possible to get a unit that requires a ‘breather’ of a few hours every day or so. But that will also vary with environmental conditions.
In any case, most users won’t need such an ample or continuous supply. Discussing it is mostly a way of pointing out how the unit operates at the extremes. That’s a rough and ready way of measuring how robust is the build quality of this particular portable ice maker.
Ease of Use, First Rate
Fortunately, the no-drip design of the NewAir AI-200 ensures that you won’t have to struggle to empty any unused water at the end of the day. The removable water bin makes it a breeze. There is a side-mounted drain, too, if you want to use it.
It’s not a bad idea to empty it at the end of the day, if the unit is powered off and the water will sit. Just pour out any excess and let it air out. That will keep any chance of mildew forming inside to a minimum.
The unit holds up to 2.5 lbs and will keep the ice nicely frozen as long as it has power. The manufacturer says “for a limited time” but that’s chiefly because of ‘ice creep’, explained below, and if you switch off the unit daily as instructed in the owner’s manual.
Keep in mind that ambient air (from opening the lid and tiny air leaks) along with temperature changes will eventually cause the cubes to merge together along their surfaces. Even a high-quality kitchen freezer will do this. Let your ice maker create a bunch, then let the cubes sit for a couple of weeks to test it for yourself.
There is an “Ice Basket Full” indicator, so you never have to open the lid, making it easy to keep that effect to a minimum. There is also an “Empty Water Reservoir” indicator so you know when to refill without looking, too.
The AI-200 couldn’t be easier to use. Plug it in and hit POWER on the front control panel. The green LED will blink about once every five seconds to confirm it’s on. Then, select the size cube you want (S, M, or L; medium is the default). Remove the basket and pour water up to the easy-to-see line then replace. When a cycle completes, the ice is dumped into the holder automatically. Hit POWER again to stop the unit. Done!
The NewAir AI-200 portable ice cube maker – like any model – has some limitations. But for anyone looking for a fast, reliable, long-lasting unit it’s probably one of the better ice makers around.