Ahhh… perfectly crunchy bite-size pieces of chewable ice – is there anything better? For the nugget ice lover who typically has to visit a place like Sonic to get their fix, the answer is a definitive “no!” That’s because there’s nothing quite like it. And as more people become aware of how perfect this ice is – the more people are demanding it.
Nowadays, you can enjoy an endless supply of chewable ice pellets from a sonic ice maker of your own. No longer do you have to wait in line at Sonic or some other fast food joint just to buy another bag of those perfect little morsels to replenish your supply. These days, you can enjoy your own chewable ice whenever you want. The challenge is to figure out which one of the various brands and models available is the best one for your home?
Your Nugget Ice Questions Answered
Well, that’s the purpose of this “Buyer’s Guide”. On this page, we will take a closer look at nugget ice makers – what they are, how they operate, what to look for, how to get the best value from your machine – and so on. Our intention is to help you become a more informed consumer so that you can make a sound choice based on actual research – not advertising.
What Is Chewable, Nugget Ice?
The difference between chewable ice and the typical ice you would make in a freezer – or buy at the local convenience store or gas station – is significant. Chewable ice is much different from traditional ice. It’s softer, more airy and available in smaller, pellet-size pieces instead of large cubes or blocks. Traditional ice is usually super-hard. Nugget ice (also know as sonic, chewable, pellet and good ice) is much softer and easier on the teeth. It’s highly refreshing and makes an excellent addition to any cold beverage.
Homemade solutions to creating a different form of nugget ice include using carbonated water rather than tap water, which helps build a different texture. While carbonation does add something to the ice – it’s not exactly sonic quality nugget ice as we know it.
Solution: A Portable Nugget Ice Maker in Your Home
To create authentic chewable ice requires a nugget ice maker. These compact machines are designed to sit on a kitchen counter or cart and crank out perfect ice nuggets on demand. It used to be that in order to produce these delectable gems of icy goodness at home required a significant investment. In fact, in order to enjoy chewable ice whenever you wanted from the comfort of your home, you had to invest in a large commercial-grade machine.
But thankfully – for nugget ice lovers everywhere – all that has changed. You can now acquire nugget ice maker of your own, in a more compact size, for a lot less money than a commercial model. The lion’s share of sonic ice machines for home use is countertop models. And we’ll share the details (what’s good and what’s not so good) about the best 5 models we discovered. We also uncovered an excellent under-the-counter type of nugget ice maker – and we’re happy to share our findings with you on that one too. Read on for the full scoop.
Advantages of Nugget Ice (vs. conventional ice)
– Light and airy quality
– Easy and safe to chew without hurting your teeth
– Absorbs drink flavors due to its porous nature (liquids flow through it)
– Doesn’t melt as quickly as ice cubes (keeps drinks cooler longer)
– Chills drinks faster than ice cubes (likely due to the increased surface area exposed to the contents of the glass)
– Floats and distributes more evenly in a glass
– Soft and satisfying snack
– Good for treating specific injuries by helping to reduce swelling
Any decent small nugget ice maker can provide delicious, chewable ice like the ice you get at Sonic and other fast food outlets. It’s refreshing, hydrating and fun to chew on. And it makes any good clod drink that much better.
Pellet ice tends to cool your drink faster and it doesn’t dilute your drink the way regular ice does as it melts. It also provides a satisfying bite when you chew nugget ice.
These icy nuggets are great for making delicious:
– Iced Teas
With nugget ice, the texture is lighter and airier. It’s almost like biting into a popsicle – it’s softer than a hard ice cube. And these small nuggets can take on any flavor you add to it.
Nuggets tend to last longer in your glass (compared to ice cubes or crushed ice) and your drink doesn’t get water down as quickly.
Nugget ice is not hard, chunky ice. And it’s not crushed ice either. Crushed ice is essentially ice cubes that of been sized down into smaller components. The process involved in producing nugget ice and the final product is much different from crushed ice. Crushed ice is large cubes or blocks that have been chopped or otherwise broken down into smaller pieces. But it’s still the same hard ice.
Since nugget ice is produced from layering ice formations and freezing them together as they also fill up with tiny pockets of air, it’s not so hard on your teeth. Nuggets are a unique, chewable form of ice that’s enjoyable so many ways.
What Makes Nugget Ice Makers Different?
With traditional solid-as-a-rock ice, all it takes is water and the temperature inside the device to stay below the freezing point. There’s nothing to making regular ice. You simply fill up the ice cube maker and place it in your freezer overnight. By morning, you should have a tray full of ice cubes. But what makes nugget ice making machines different is that they don’t allow the water inside to completely freeze and turn into a solid slab.
Instead, nugget ice is made from many layers of thin ice which accumulates inside and then gets scraped down and compressed. Ultimately, this multi-layered composition is formed into soft, chewable ice – which is then extruded into nugget-size pellets.
How Do These Chewable Ice Makers Work?
Actually, the process begins with water flowing into the chilled cylinder. This creates a thin layer of ice on the sides of the icemaker. When the entire surface of the cylinder is coated with ice, a stainless steel auger goes to work. It churns to scrape down these ice formations as they develop. These formations are essentially shaved ice. They look a lot like the frost that can form on the inside of your freezer, or the thin outer skin on a puddle as the temperature outside begins to drop rapidly.
A built-in piston then moves downward to press the layers of soft ice into compressed form. This phase is which ultimately transforms these paper-thin layers into a container full of firm nuggets. Every ice maker that makes sonic ice then compresses these ice shavings and transfers them to a separate compartment within the machine, known as the freezing tube or chamber before emerging as a bucketful of perfectly formed ice pellets.
That’s essentially how every pellet ice machine (countertop or under-the-counter model) works. Although all 6 models we recommend below differ in specifics such as size, weight, operating temperature, ice making speed, and storage capacity – they all make delicious morsels of ice. And for any fan of nugget ice – having your own ready supply on hand whenever you want – is a beautiful thing indeed.
Sonic Ice on Demand
This is the kind of ice made famous by the Sonic fast food chain. Naturally, Sonic owns the trademark. That’s why manufacturers refer to the product their machines produce as nugget, pellet, crunchy, or chewable ice. We’re using those terms interchangeably here, but we’re taking about the same thing.
Usually you’d have to go to one of Sonic’s fast food outlets, Chick-Fil-A, or another drive-in restaurant to get that satisfying icy goodness that can only come from genuine nugget ice. Some schools and hospitals have added pellet ice makers to their collection of appliances. We’ve also noticed this type of ice being used by restaurants as a base for their salad bars.
Skyrocketing Popularity = Multiple Brands
There are various brands of nugget ice makers on the market today including KB, Frigidaire, GE, Northair, Litboos and Scotsman – the company credited with developing the first nugget ice maker back in the early eighties.
In this helpful buyer’s guide, we will take an in-depth look at the most popular brands and models, so you can decide for yourself which one best meets your needs. Some of the factors that set competing nugget ice makers apart include ice-making speed, storage capacity, overall size, design and extra features such as built-in timers or included ice scoops. Some models also have Bluetooth connectivity, making it easier to monitor nugget ice production – without standing directly in front of the machine.
It’s The Structure That Sets Nugget Ice Apart
Nugget ice is airy and softer. Its structure is far more porous than traditional ice cubes. And it’s this unique characteristic that makes it ideal for drinks of all kinds as the liquid penetrates the ice without changing the consistency of the drink. Surprisingly, it actually cools drinks faster and often stays in its icy form longer than ice cubes that turn into water.
Why Nugget Ice? What Can You Do With It?
Nugget ice can simply be enjoyed a small handful at a time. It falls apart easily creating a cooling sensation in the mouth that feels terrific. It’s refreshing, particularly during the hot summer months. It’s also the runaway favorite type of ice for making cocktails, frappes smoothies, and certain desserts. And when throwing a party, there’s simply nothing better to offer your guests then chewable nugget ice with their beverages.
For ice that can be easily chewed, there’s really no comparison to nugget ice. Standard ice is rock hard. Even a smaller ice cube has to melt somewhat in your mouth before most people can comfortable bite through it without chipping a tooth.
Nugget ice on the other hand is cold, wet, airy and much softer than regular ice. These smaller soft ice formations can break apart quite easily without risking your teeth. It’s a great way to refresh and rehydrate as you beat the heat on a hot summer day. But be forewarned; once you start indulging in nugget ice – you’ll likely want to enjoy it on a regular basis.
Losing Weight Can Be a Hidden Benefit
Some suggest that chewing nugget ice can actually help you lose weight. And when you think about it – it makes perfect sense. Have you ever heard that when you feel hungry between meals – instead of reaching for a fattening snack – you should drink water instead? After consuming a large glass of water, you probably feel less hungry than you were before. And if you’re concerned about your weight, drinking water before a meal can help you eat less food for the same reason.
Easy Way to Consume More Essential Water
Ice can have a similar effect. Since nugget ice is essentially water in its frozen form, by routinely consuming these soft, easy-to-eat ice pellets, you’re getting more of that vital water in your body. Not only can it help alleviate hunger symptoms, it’s an easy way to “drink” more water. Additionally, the act of chewing nugget ice can help satisfy on a different level. It seems more satisfying and satiating than simply drinking your water.
Make Perfect Drinks for Any Occasion
You can make a wide variety of cocktails from chewable nugget ice including Mojitos and Margaritas. It’s also terrific in smoothies, iced teas, and frappes too. Nugget ice tends to chill beverages faster than standard ice cubes. When you add a good amount of ice pellets, your drink can last a considerable time before the ice melts. This means your drinks tend to not get watered down to the same extent as they do with rock-hard ice cubes.
Nugget ice is perfect for Slushies, Snow Cones, Juleps and other flavor-packed icy treats. When you have colored syrups on hand and an ice pellet maker – you have everything you need to make amazing Slushies – a favorite for kids parties. Whatever the occasion – backyard get together with neighbors, pool party, family reunion, or birthday party – nugget ice can help make it an outstanding event.
A Safe Option for Everyone
Nugget ice is safe for people of all ages. What these sonic ice makers do is they compress ice formations into a firm, snow-like consistency. It’s a very different approach to “normal” ice cube making and the end product is very different too.
Keeping Up With Demand
Many of these nugget ice makers are designed to continually produce ice 24 hours a day. The problem is that they do not have built-in freezers, so and they cannot store the ice for you and keep it in perfect (soft and crunchy) pellet form.
Instead, these machines dispense the ice into the accompanying storage receptacle – which is typically insulated (like a cooler) to protect your inventory of fresh nugget ice. But it’s really not meant to be left overnight. When you do that, your bucket of ice will tends to melt at least some. It depends on the temperature in the room and the location you’ve selected for your countertop nugget ice maker.
Faster Ice Creation
Using a nugget ice maker, the first batch of ice typically takes anywhere from five to twenty minutes. All models produce this nugget ice in considerably less time than it takes to make old-fashioned ice cubes. That’s usually an overnight job.
Ice Capacity Can Vary
Most nugget icemakers on average produce up to about 20 pounds of ice a day. We’re talking about nugget ice machines made for the home and not those large commercial units which can produce 600+ pounds per day. Nobody needs that kind of volume at home.
Are you a family of sonic ice lovers? If so, you’ll probably want to choose a nugget ice maker with a larger capacity, instead of a smaller one. But if you’re the only nugget ice consumer, you can certainly be well served by a lower capacity ice maker.
How Much Ice Does A Sonic Ice Maker Typically Store?
One common trait across the board of all nugget ice makers it seems is that their capability to produce ice is greater than their capacity to store the finished product. The main reason for this is that nugget ice is meant to be enjoyed as it is produced.
Smaller units can hold about a pound and a half of pellet ice. And most of the slightly larger pellet ice making models can hold up to about five pounds of crunchy nugget ice. Larger models – like this under-the-counter Scotsman model – can hold up to a whopping 26 pounds. But that one is in a category all by itself.
How Do You Store Leftover Ice Nuggets?
If you notice that your nugget ice maker is producing more ice than you can consume regularly, than you may want to bag any excess pellets and place the bag in your freezer. That way you can then access your nugget ice whenever you need it. But there’s a problem with this approach. And the problem is that any nuggets that come out of the freezer tend to be little bit harder then they are when fresh out of the ice maker.
Sure, freezer nuggets still work in a similar manner. After all, they are essentially the same pellets made from pillowed layers of ice shavings and pockets of air that keep them somewhat softer than hardened ice cubes. But in order to keep those nuggets you cannot use immediately from melting – you need those to store them at below freezing temperatures. Consequently, freezing and storing ice nuggets t tends to add an extra degree of firmness to the pellets.
Is Power Consumption Even An Issue With Nugget Ice Machines?
The larger capacity the nugget ice maker – the more electricity required to operate it. Power consumption typically isn’t a major concern when considering a sonic ice maker that’s designed for the residential market.
It’s when you step up to a larger commercial unit that you’ll notice a difference. Those larger commercial ice makers can weigh 200 pounds or so and burn about 2 kW of power per hour. At the other end of the scale is the countertop nugget ice maker machine for home. These units tend to weigh in at less than 10 pounds and don’t use a lot of electricity. These are the models that we will focus on here since they are the most popular type of chewable ice makers on the market.
If you plan on taking your nugget ice maker in your trailer or RV – or if you’re a long-distance trucker who likes to have nugget ice readily available – proceed with caution. You need to be aware that running your machine continuously means it’s tapping into your vehicle’s battery power. Therefore, you will want to monitor usage so it doesn’t drain your battery.
Hi Tech Nugget Ice Making Advancements
Some of today’s ice makers come equipped with Bluetooth capability. This makes it easy for you to connect your smart phone to your ice maker, in order to monitor its operation. You can set start time and be notified when your ice is ready. Alarm notifications will tell you when it’s time to empty your ice bucket. Keep in mind that as of this writing, those models only feature Bluetooth and not Wi-Fi. So it’s limited in terms of distance.
Getting The Most out of Your Pellet Ice Maker
How often you need to clean your ice maker depends on your frequency of use. If you’re using it every day – it’s a good idea to clean the machine once a week. Any device that uses water is susceptible to scale build-up. You only have to take a look inside your kettle to see its effects.
Another important factor to consider is the quality of water you feed into your nugget ice maker. Tap water varies dramatically in terms of quality. Some areas have hard water that contains a lot of minerals and minerals can create a blockage in your machine, preventing it from functioning as it should. What seems to work best in ice makers is either distilled water or reverse-osmosis filtered water.
Some manufacturers offer cleaning agents for their ice makers. But you can also use watered-down bleach and vinegar to de-scale your machine and keep it in top form.
Small Portable and Affordable Options
There are plenty of stellar options and we will look at the best of the best ones here.
Countertop nugget ice maker models are the preferred option for most households because they are smaller, more compact, readily accessible and reasonably priced. But keep in mind that they don’t have much in terms of storage capacity.
Under counter ice maker models are often much larger. Made for more professional installations like restaurants and are more expensive. The one home ice maker we recommend that fits under the counter is this model by Scotsman.
Most nuggets icemakers produce ice until the ice storage basket is full. If the basket has limited capacity you’ll need to regularly remove the ice from the basket to keep the machine functioning and producing more ice.
Nugget icemakers make would make a great addition to any kitchen, although they are somewhat expensive compared to other countertop appliances. But the more pellet ice you require on a regular basis, the more you’ll need to invest in a machine that will keep up the demand of your household.
Making an Informed Choice Increases Your Odds of Satisfaction
Owning a quality nugget ice maker can be a worthwhile investment – especially for anyone who already loves Sonic-style ice nuggets. But choosing the right brand and model for you and your family can be a challenging task. We’re here to help simplify that task for you. This way, you’ll learn (in a matter of minutes) what took a team of two people countless weeks of research to uncover.
Nugget Ice Maker Products
#1: GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
This much loved (4.5 stars from over 13,000 actual customer ratings) nugget ice maker from GE can produce up to 24 pounds of ice per day. That’s a substantial amount. It features a stainless steel finish, three-pound ice storage bin and standard three prong outlet suitable for any grounded 120 V electrical supply.
When the ice supply gets low, this machine powers on automatically – so you’re never without perfect nuggets – icy cylinders about ¼ inch in diameter by about ½ inch long.
Design wise, the Opal features a stainless steel wrap with gray accents and sharp LED lighting which makes it a visual standout in a relatively compact 10.5 inches x 15.5 inches 17.75 inches size. It weighs in at 47 pounds – so it’s not something you want to move around all the time. Also included in the package is in ice scoop, side tank and drip tray.
Although the storage container isn’t like an enclosed freezer, it is well insulated. So even on those warm summer nights – no more than about a quarter of the ice will melt overnight – leaving you with plenty of ice in the morning. It’s like storing your ice in a camping cooler. Some of it is gong to melt. That’s just the way it is with all of these countertop nugget ice makers.
Bluetooth connectivity via a smart phone app allows you to schedule your fresh ice production. It also allows you to monitor the ice maker’s status easily, without standing in front of it. Being able to schedule your ice production to be ready for the party is a nice feature of the Bluetooth connected app. But it’s not something every buyer needs – or would even use.
Figure on the GE Opal producing about one pound of ice per hour. So it can go for about 3 hours before the ice storage bin fills up. By the way, that three pound capacity equates to about 2.5 quarts.
Can You Get Perfect Ice At Home?
While traditional ice makers turn water into rock-hard ice cubes, this GE brand ice maker produces deliciously soft nuggets formed from ice flakes on the inside surface of the chilled cylinder inside. These flakes are then compressed and extruded through a round hole in the machine producing chewable nuggets that resemble miniature snowballs in texture. The light chewable every texture of these nuggets is perfect for any beverage including iced teas and party cocktails.
With this or any other pellet ice maker, the best countertop location is away from sunlight. It’s also important to allow for adequate ventilation around the machine and to ensure that all vents are unobstructed and there’s a free flow of air.
For the best-tasting ice – use the best quality water you can find. Pure distilled water generally produces the best results. And one gallon of purified water produces about a storage bin full of ice pellets.
Start With the Best Water and Routine Cleaning
If you use a better quality of water like distilled water, you can probably get away with less cleaning of the machine. Every ice making machine should be cleaned periodically to keep it at its best. But the purity of distilled water helps the device operate optimally, with less cleaning in between.
If you use good quality distilled water, you may be able to go three or four months before your ice maker needs a thorough cleaning again. In fact, if you give it a good cleaning with vinegar and bleach every three to six months.
But if you fail to maintain your machine through routine cleaning, you’ll notice that the ice production gradually slows as scale builds up inside. Vinegar can actually dissolve any scale quickly. The built-in cleaning function helps ensure that your system stays clean and fully productive – without any mold growth – thanks to the bleach.
Any kind of water filtration system, including the popular Brita water filters, can help expand use between cleanings. But keep in mind that most water filters are designed to remove certain impurities only.
Keep the system clean and it will work flawlessly – producing glorious ice nuggets day after day.
What About The Noise Factor?
Sure it produces some noise – as all icemakers and refrigerators do. But the noise level is worth putting up with for the quality of the nugget this GE Opal Ice Maker produces.
Actual noise level from the GE profile Opal nugget ice maker is measured at 53 dB. That’s not quiet, but it’s not excessively loud either – as far as ice makers go. But due to the noise it generates, some people prefer to locate their ice maker in the laundry room. It’s actually suitable for any countertop location and should be able to fit under standard height upper cabinets.
Find a Good Location
Where’s the best place to locate your GE Opal nugget ice maker? You can set it up in any open counter area with ready access. Make sure you leave lots of space around the unit on all sides – including the back.
Set up couldn’t be easier. You simply unbox the ice maker and clean it thoroughly as directed. Once leaned, fill it with water and plug the machine in. There’s no real installation involved, so no need to hire someone to set it up for you.
Pellet Ice Makers Aren’t Cheap
If you’re looking for a cheap nugget ice maker, this isn’t it. GE’s Opal nugget ice maker is not inexpensive. No quality ice making machine is. But it does score top marks in terms of functionality as well as it’s aesthetically pleasing design from well-known brand. Invariably, the best thing about the Opal ice maker is that it makes that perfect sonic ice we’ve all come to love. That means the end result is soft, chewable, delicious nuggets.
It’s perfect for any kitchen or home bar. It also makes an excellent option for any outdoor cooking area. Just be sure to protect your Opal ice maker from the elements. If the quality of ice an ice maker produces is important to you, you’ll definitely want to check this one out.
Naturally, if you don’t enjoy the experience of soft nugget ice it’s probably not a worthwhile investment for you. But frankly, the ice produced by this machine is superior. Regular ice just doesn’t measure up to the quality nuggets you get from the Opal.
– Makes clear, succulent ice nuggets
– Recycles melted ice so nothing is wasted
– Produces plenty of ice (3 pounds) before requiring refilling
– Creates perfectly wet – almost slushy – ice
– Easy-to-use (one button turn on and off)
– Good customer service from GE
– Has a built-in cleaning cycle make it making it easier to clean
– Good build quality
– Comes with app and Bluetooth capability
– Looks great on your countertop particularly if you have other stainless steel appliances
– Relatively portable (though heavy)
– Quick to produce ice (you can be enjoying soft nugget ice in as little as 20 minutes)
– Easy to set up (no installation and no waterline connection required)
– Low energy cost (about 70 Watts while making ice and 1e Watt on standby)
– Relatively easy to clean (although it is time-consuming)
– Ice bucket does not attach to the machine
– Generates a moderate amount of noise
– It’s expensive
– Needs to be cleaned regularly (as any water-using appliance does)
– It is kind of heavy making it more difficult to move around, particularly for cleaning
#2: Kitchen Basics (KB Ice) Self Dispensing Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
Good ice production is one thing (and a very important thing at that). But if you’ve got many hands grabbing hold of the ice scoop to grab ice, it cannot be the cleanest or most sanitary way to go. So what does Kitchen Basics Ice do? They come along with this wonderful self-dispensing nugget ice maker. Talk about looking at a market and spotting a competitive advantage. And on that count, KB Ice hit the ball out of the park.
This pellet ice machine (countertop) is constructed of all BPA-free components and comes loaded with R600 – what is apparently an environmentally-friendly refrigerant. One simple button controls its operation and there’s a built-in cleaning cycle to help your machine run more efficiently.
According to Kitchen Basics, it is possible to use bottled, reverse osmosis, purified, or distilled water in the KB ice nugget ice maker. And in as little as 25 minutes, you can count on soft, chewable and crunchy ice – just like the kind you get from your favorite drive-in restaurant. At Sonic, their nugget ice became so popular that they began offering those chewable delights by the bag – and put it on the menu. Now you can enjoy the same sensation at home with this thing.
As for the overall size, the KB ice unit measures 12 inches wide by 16 inches deep by 17.5 inches high – so it is perfect for most countertops. You should be able to tuck it under your upper cabinets – if the industry standard 18 inches of clearance (from countertop to the bottom of the uppers) exists in your kitchen.
Wherever you set this ice maker up, it’s important to allow at least 4 inches on both sides, 2 inches at the back, and ½ inch on top. These are the minimum requirements and it is never a bad idea to allow for more space, if you have it. Allowing for proper air flow is critical to the operation of any nugget ice machine – KB Ice included.
Setup is easy, since there’s no water hook up involved, although some buyers would prefer to have that kind of functionality. The challenge is (even if a direct hookup was available) is that you’ve be using tap water. Without the best, state-of-the-art filtration and sterilization – that kind of water would likely cause problems sooner rather than later. Remember, it is recommended that you use reverse osmosis, purified, or distilled water – otherwise your icemaker is going to bog down. And it probably wouldn’t last as long either.
Set it up. Plug it in and let your KB Ice making machine do its thing. This one keeps going, producing tasty nuggets of ice until it runs out of water – or the storage bin fills up.
If you’re a heavy ice user, you’ll probably want your ice maker to stay on 24 hours a day. Of course, that means your KB Ice system will be dropping ice pellets at all hours of the day and night. The issue is that some these pellets miss the bucket – and end up on your counter or floor, which can add to the noise factor and leave a mess for you to clean up in the morning. The bottom lines is this (or most any other) ice maker needs somewhat frequent attention if you’re a heavier ice consuming family.
– Built-in dispenser makes it way easier and more hygienic than scoop type machines (huge advantage over most competing models of pellet ice makers)
– Amazing (and personal) customer service
– Does a great job of supplying all the nugget ice you need (and it will leave a surprising amount of freshly produced ice nuggets in the bucket in the morning)
– Easy operate – just add pure water and let the machine do its thing
– Sleek and stylish design (black and silver look) fits perfectly in many kitchens
– Easy to fill – Comes with the funnel, making refilling much easier
– Relatively easy to clean
– Produces restaurant-quality ice nuggets that remain frozen for a longer period of time
– Relatively quiet compared to some brands (no ice maker is silent)
– Ice falls out constantly, so you need to keep a towel under the drip tray
– Placement can be a challenge due to the required clearance for venting
– It’s heavy, so it may not be suitable for everyone
– Randomly drops ice
– Sounds about the same as a dishwasher running
– Funnel refill system is a bit slow and can overflow (supplied funnel is straight (if it was angled upwards slightly, it would help prevent spills)
#3: Frigidaire Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
If the sheer volume of ice your machine is capable of producing is your primary requirement, than you’ll definitely want to look at this high-capacity Frigidaire model. This one produces a whopping 44 pounds of ice every day.
Frigidaire has been one of the best-known names in kitchen appliances for decades. So there’s no doubt in our minds that they manufacture good quality ice makers too. Not surprisingly, their nugget ice maker features an attractive and stylish design.
This one measures 12 inches long by 17 inches wide by 19 inches high – so it’s quite similar to other brands. But the height can be an issue if you’re considering placing your ice maker below your upper kitchen cabinets. In this case, it may be a bit big at 19 inches high. So it’s always best to measure your space first before you buy.
However, if you can find the room – and you need a lot of ice – this one may be your best bet.
Even though this Frigidaire nugget ice maker is capable of producing such a huge volume of ice every day, the ice storage bin itself only holds 3 pounds at a time. So as with other nugget ice makers, you’ll need to monitor it and empty the bin when it’s full – in order to keep that ice production up.
It’s quite powerful and requires no water hookup. So in as little as 10 minutes, you could be enjoying crunchy ice nuggets from your own kitchen ice maker. It features a standard, three prong plug that fits any regular outlet. It’s small enough to take in your RV to a tailgating party, or to move to the backyard patio whenever you’re hosting a larger get-together. It’s also suitable to take camping.
According to Frigidaire, tap water is acceptable to use. But in our experience, you’ll have way less maintenance and in general, your nugget ice maker will perform better if you use some form of purified water.
One cool feature about this icemaker is the removable reservoir you fill with water. The problem (as is the case with many of these portable ice makers) is that the reservoir lifts out from the top. Since the unit is already fairly large to begin with (approximately 19 inches high) you may not be able to lift the container out while the unit is sitting under upper kitchen cabinets, unless they are installed higher on the wall. It may not be an ideal fit in this case, simply due to the height of the unit and its operational design.
But if you’ve got an open area, it’s a breeze to access and refill the reservoir as needed. In fact, the best place to locate your Frigidaire nugget ice maker is on a storage cart that fits inside your kitchen. It’s a good spot that seems to work for a lot of people thanks to the ready access and plenty of ventilation.
Once your ice maker arrives, it’s always a good idea to unpack it and let it sit upright for three or four days – without using it. This way, if the unit has been sitting on its back or sides for months on a shipping container or warehouse, it allows the refrigerant to flow the way it’s supposed to. It’s also important to clean out your Frigidaire nugget ice maker regularly to eliminate that hard water, as well as any accumulated dirt.
One added advantage of having such a large capacity nugget ice maker is that you’ll tend to use more ice. In effect, this means you will be consuming more water overall. And that’s never a bad thing.
– Generates amazing Sonic-like ice in minutes
– Produces ice quickly and in greater volume
– Affordable for many
– Easy to operate
– Delivers just the right size and shape of ice nuggets
– Easy to set up and clean
– Nice looking machine
– Has an automatic shut off when the ice bin is full
– Built-in UV sterilizer helps stop any bacteria from forming in the water tank (a huge plus)
– For best results you need a good quality filtered water
– This unit does not recycle water from melted ice (like some others do)
– It can seem rather noisy
– Will not fit under standard height upper cabinets
#4: Northair Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
If you’re looking to generate a high volume of pellet ice on a frequent basis, the Northair Nugget Ice maker is worth checking out. Just like the Frigidaire – this ice maker is capable of producing as much as 44 pounds of ice every day.
That’s not the only similarity to Frigidaire. Northair is also a comparable in size with this machine measuring 9.8 inches x 16.1 inches x 19 inches high. It’s a high capacity appliance to be sure. But you may have a similar challenge in finding the perfect space to set it up in your kitchen.
Ideally, you should locate this ice maker on its own table or countertop area that’s away from any heat source. As with all of these nugget ice makers, the storage bin is not refrigerated. This of course, is part of the nugget ice making process for the best chewy ice. If you do freeze the extra pellets, they become harder in texture – not as hard as regular ice though.
After un-boxing, it’s always a good idea to give your ice maker a good cleaning. Once it’s ready, you can then add water manually and get ready to enjoy an abundance of soft yet crunchy nugget style ice – in as little as 15 minutes and from the comfort of your own home.
Unlike the Frigidaire product, as the ice slowly melts as it accumulates in the storage bin, it gets automatically recycled in this Northair pellet ice maker. Recycling makes the most of your water supply by turning melted ice into crunchy ice once again.
Another great feature of the Northair ice maker is that it comes with a large viewing window and build-in indicator light. This makes it easy to keep an eye on the ice bucket and know when it is getting full. Electronic controls make it easy to operate and the LCD lights and digital display make it easy to know at a glance the status of your chewy ice.
When water is running low, an indicator light will turn on reminding you to add more. When the ice bucket is full, the indicator light turns on as a reminder you to empty the bucket, so the machine can keep producing ice for you. By the way, the bin holds up to 3 pounds of ice (about 2 ½ quarts) at any given time.
Bag the excess ice and put it in your freezer. It’s easy to break apart with the handle of a wooden spoon. It may not be the perfect Sonic ice coming from the freezer – but it’s pretty close to it.
The end product is slightly different too. What you get with Northair are square, crunchy nuggets of ice that are easy to bite into. It’s perfect for camping trips, tailgating parties, or backyard birthdays. Press the clean button to automatically engage the cleaning function.
The key to a happy buying experience with this or any other type of nugget ice maker is to understand that it’s a process to make ice. Therefore, you should plan ahead a little bit, so you’re not caught without ice when you need it most.
– Ice melts slowly and the water drains back into the machine, so there’s no waste
– Large water receptacle facilitates one full gallon of pure water (so doesn’t need to be filled as often as some)
– It’s a workhorse that delivers ice – day after day
– Stylish design that fits in anywhere (matches stainless appliances nicely)
– Good build quality (especially where moving parts are involved)
– Easy to clean and maintain
– It’s heavy looks very well-built
– Easy to set up and operate
– Dependable device
– Easy to fill in clean with water
– Makes ice quickly
– Relatively quiet operation
– Produces ice pellets that are the perfect size
– Can be a little loud for some
– Likely has a limited lifespan (works great daily but performances tend to drop off over time)
– May leak water
– Water reservoir is a little awkward to remove and access
– Ice seems to melt faster in this bucket then and others
#5: Litboos Portable Nugget Ice Maker for Countertop
What’s different about the Litboos ice maker is that it produces nuggets in three different sizes. Yes, that’s correct. You choose the size and the machine does the rest. And it can generate about 26 pounds over a 24-hour. You can begin to enjoy your first ice pellets in as little as eight minutes after you turn it on.
This Litboos portable ice maker is a little smaller in size, measuring 10.2 inches x 13inches x 13.1 inches. And it weighs in about 23.3 pounds – so it’s lighter than some of the top competing models. So it’s basically a square unit that sits on top your counter it’s much more compact than competing units. When space limitations are an important factor, you might want to look closely at the Litboos machine.
Since it’s so compact, it can be taken virtually anywhere. This means it’s perfect for camping trips, tailgating parties, or even to the local community center for a larger party. This one seems to work wherever it is deployed. People are buying this not just for their home kitchens or bars; they’re setting it up in their small offices too. It’s also an ideal size for a trailer, cabin, or RV.
Keep in mind that the ideal location should allow a minimum of 5 inches of space all around this ice maker. This allows for proper dissipation of heat and maximum efficiency. Not allowing this space can cause the machine to overheat. It could also shorten the ice maker’s lifespan considerably.
Included with the Litboos Ice maker is a nice basket and scoop to remove the fresh ice as it is produced. An indicator light lets you know when you either need to add water – or empty the basket because it’s full of ice.
Despite the powerful compressor built within, this nugget ice machine does not use a lot of power. It’s designed for efficiency and the Litboos certainly delivers.
As with any new pellet ice maker, it’s important to uncrate the machine and then let it stand upright steadily – on a stable flat surface – for a couple of days before using it.
– Among the quietest icemakers we tested ( a huge plus for some)
– Instructions are actually easy to read and follow along with
– Compact size makes it easy to take to the office
– Produces plenty of beautiful sonic style ice (ice is soft and chewable)
– Controls allow you to start or stop ice production at any time (controls are front mounted too so they’re easy to use
– Shows you what size of nugget is selected
– Ideal for campers and RVs due to its compact size
– Easy to fit into just about any kitchen
– Produces soft chewable ice quickly and in 3 different sizes
– Storage container is a little small for a party environment
– Adding water is a little challenging (you need to remove the ice drawer in order to pour into the water tank under the tray but it’s easy to spill)
– Water tank is fairly small so you have to refill the tank often
– Kind of noisy for some (with the sound of the fan and the dropping of cubes in the drawer)
– Cannot turn off the beeping sound when the ice is full (you need to empty it)
#6: Scotsman 15 Inch Nugget Ice Machine with Gravity Drain
This nugget ice maker is little different in a couple of ways. First and most notably – it’s the only under counter nugget ice maker to make our “best of” list. In fact, Scotsman is the inventor of the nugget ice machine being the first to develop a quality nugget ice machine back in the early 1980s.
Another difference is that this model is significantly larger then all the others on our list. The Scotsman measures 22.75 inches deep by 14.88 inches wide x 33.38 inches tall. It sits on the floor and is almost the size of a small apartment-size under-the-counter dishwasher – though not as wide as a standard model. Always measure your available space, of course. But to get a rough idea, imagine your standard dishwasher and picture an ice maker about half as wide as the dishwasher, in its place. That’s (roughly) the size of the Scotsman pellet ice maker.
It’s a freestanding ice maker that sits on the floor (not a countertop like the others) and stores up to 26 pounds of ice.
If you want a top-of-the-line nugget ice maker – this is it. There’s no question that Scotsman makes a quality product that is built to last. But you need to be a serious user of sonic ice to appreciate the investment owning a Scotsman requires.
Most commonly, the Scotsman under-the-counter icemaker is installed in kitchens. But it can work just as well in a home bar setting – or even an outdoor barbecue area – as long as it’s protected from the elements.
As with any pellet ice machine the better the quality of water it goes into the machine – the better quality of nugget ice it will produce. Just follow directions from the manual and you’ll be happy with your new Scotsman.
Using only pure distilled or reverse-osmosis water is the best way to give you trouble-free operation for years. Scale buildup from mineral heavy water is a real issue with ice makers of all brands and sizes. So the better your water, the better it is for the longevity of the machine and the less maintenance they tend to require.
Despite its size and capability, the Scotsman is relatively quiet. It generates about the same amount as of noise as your typical refrigerator – maybe a little bit more. Regular cleaning is necessary as it is with any ice maker. It only takes about 40 minutes and is a job that anyone can handle. Simply follow along with the instructions and you’re good to go.
There’s no denying it – the Scotsman is a very nice quality well-built nugget ice maker. It’s got some really neat little features that make it stand out like the interior light that comes on when the door opens and the spring-loaded hinges that ooze quality. In fact this one shows quality at every level.
On the downside, it’s expensive. But the price reflects the quality of the Scotsman brand. If you love the pearl-size ice nuggets this machine produces and can justify the investment – this is the ice maker for you.
While most icemakers have a shorter lifespan, this one continues to operate for several years – as though it was new. It produces ice reliably and should continue doing so for quite some time – as long as you maintain the machine accordingly. It always pays to buy quality if you can afford it.
– As an under the counter unit, once installed it has a permanent home and is never in the way
– Large ice making capacity
– Dependable brand of ice maker
– Fairly quite compared to others
– Comes with a 10 year warranty on all major components (nothing else even comes close)
– Top-quality nugget ice maker that works exceptionally well
– You might never need to purchase another nugget ice maker
– Makes ice continuously (so there is always some noise)
– Since it’s always operational and of a significant size, the counter and cabinet nearby can get quite hot
– Expensive to purchase
– Expensive to repair
Nugget ice is becoming increasingly popular. In some ways, you could say that nugget ice has developed an almost cult-like following with its ardent fans. As more people try ice in this form – it quickly becomes their ice of choice. Many have vowed to never go back going back to using regular ice cubes ever again.
It’s a simple thing can make a big difference. It’s one of the more basic pleasures in life being able to enjoy a refreshing drink with chewable ice at the end it’s also a snack in itself. Ice nugget lovers all over enjoy grabbing the sensation of a handful of nuggets melting in their mouth.
Our top pick overall is the GE Opal Nugget Ice maker. If space is your major concern – we highly recommend the Litboos machine, due to its compact size and reliability. And if having a self-dispensing ice maker (and keeping your ice perfectly sanitary) – you just cannot beat the Kitchen Basics pellet ice maker found here.