You know the situation where you just want to put some ice in your coke or whiskey, and it ended up tasting like the food from the freezer? Probably some leftover meat grandma made with love ended up spoiling your drink, and a moment of relaxation.
Tainted ice cubes from the freezer are sadly quite common. Did you know that thanks to tap water contaminants, your ice could harbor chloroform, mold, and harmful bacteria?
While it is true that a good shot of whiskey can kill most of the bacteria – most aren’t all. If you want perfect, bacteria, and residue-free ice in your drinks, perhaps you should invest in a standalone ice maker. It’s a small machine that can quickly deliver ice cubes in different shapes and sizes. We will do our best to provide you with all the information you need to get your very own ice maker.
What is an Ice Maker?
An ice maker is a machine that creates perfect ice cubes, or ice in a variety of shapes and sizes. It’s a very basic but also very useful machine. All you need to do is put the liquid in, turn the machine on, and soon after that, you can enjoy ice-cold drinks. But that’s the simple explanation – let’s delve into how these machines really work.
How Do Ice Makers Work?
The ways of making ice differ according to the size and type of the freezing unit. The basic principle of ice making requires the unit to use four essential components: a compressor, a condenser, an inlet valve, and an evaporator.
There can’t be any ice without the liquids, so the first step is to fill the machine, naturally. If we are talking about the portable ice maker, you have to pour the water in. If the machine isn’t portable, it will draw water from the dedicated water line. Once you hit the switch, the compressor fires up and compresses low-pressure vapor into high-pressure vapor, which is then delivered to the condenser. Next, the condenser will take that high-pressure vapor, route it into its coiled pipes which are near the unit or on its exterior. This will dissipate the heat as the high-pressure vapor transforms into high water pressure.
At this point, an inlet valve will release the pressure of the high-pressure coolant, creating vapor again. Following this, the refrigerant moves to the evaporator where the heat exchange happens. An evaporator is usually a metal rod that is cooled by the low-pressure coolant which then makes the interior of the machine cold.
Who Needs an Ice Maker?
Ice makers are a great thing to have, especially when you have friends over. Just about anyone who enjoys a cold drink will find an ice maker to be a useful appliance. These units are perfect for people who want to avoid serving drinks with odd tastes or contaminated ice. You could have mold, bacteria, nitrates, or chloroform, and it can make you sick without you even knowing it. Thankfully, many high-percentage alcohols can kill most of the bacteria, and a healthy immune system can take care of other pollutants in the tap water, but this isn’t the case if you are serving non-alcoholic drinks.
The producers of newer ice makers have considered this and have added water filters to their products to protect the customers from these potential health concerns. Another reason people tend to opt out of dedicated ice-making machines is for the sake of sheer convenience.
Whether you are having an after-work drink by yourself, or you are into making healthy smoothies that you want perfectly chilled before going to work, having ready-made ice whenever you want it is quite handy. Not to mention the situation where you have some friends over and you don’t have the fridge capacity to keep it all chilled. An empty ice tray when you need it the most can ruin your day. An ice maker can produce ice within a few minutes while filling and chilling a small tray of ice could take what probably feels like ages.
Types Of Ice Makers
In the following section, we will go over the most popular types of ice makers on the market, and how they vary between one another.
1. Nugget/Sonic Ice Makers
The nugget ice maker is a very popular choice in fast-food joints and on the nightclub scene. This type of unit creates ice by first producing ice flakes, and then it scrapes them, allowing them to freeze some more. After that, the machine breaks them up into individual pieces. All of that is done in one freezing cycle. The ice that comes out is small and very chewable, probably because of the trapped air inside of the ice.
Because of their small size, they are called nuggets, which is where the machine gets its name from, but they are also called sonic or pebble ice machines. This type of ice is popular because it provides a satisfying crunch when you eat it, and ice nuggets melt slower than crushed ice. That is one of the main reasons why commercial places love these ice makers. It’s a great choice for hot or cold cocktails, as well as soft drinks. Also, they look good in a glass, adding to the visual appeal of drinks.
This ice making has become so much of a trend that there are dedicated social media pages where users share their experiences with recipes and ice makers, to get their perfect ice blend.
2. Clear Ice Makers
Now we come to the gourmet part of the ice making world. Clear ice makers tend to be more expensive than the regular ones and are the preferred choice by high-end restaurants and nightclubs. The benefits of clear ice don’t just lie in the fact that they have an elegant look in a cocktail filled with ice as clear as the glass. This type of ice is made in a way so that oxidation is avoided, which makes the ice stronger.
With other non-clear ice cubes, you can eat them after they have melted down a bit, but you could seriously injure a tooth on a clear ice cube. Because they have less air inside of them, they melt almost 5 times slower than regular ice. That is why they keep your drink cold without diluting the taste. You can see why drink and cocktail enthusiasts prefer clear ice in their drinks.
3. Undercounter Ice Makers
Specially designed for people who have some room to spare in their kitchen, garage, or a commercial joint. Best undercounter ice makers are stand-alone freezing machines that have a larger ice output. An average ice maker can produce about 28lbs of ice in a day, but undercounter models go up to 70lbs a day, if not more.
This is the reason why they are also a pricier option, but a larger capacity is worth it. As to the type of ice, well, here you get more choices. They can range from crescent-shapes with cloudy coloring to flawlessly clear ice cubes. It depends on the brand and model. However, most undercover (built-in) ice makers that offer clear ice also belong to a higher price range.
4. Shaved Ice Maker
Unlike other machines in our article, this unit styles ice rather than creates it. A shaved ice maker is a specially designed machine for shaving ice. You first need to make or buy the ice and then put it into the shaved ice maker. There are 2 distinct models of shaved ice machines, those that use regular ice cubes and those that come with a mold for a block of ice.
These are generally small, countertop machines but the size will vary depending on the manufacturer and product design. All these units have rotors with stainless steel blades. The ice passes through the blades and ends up in the container. The result is a fluffy, shaved ice that you can drizzle with flavored syrups or fruit juice.
Ice shavers that use blocks of ice tend to produce better and finer ice shavings. This is important if you are considering the aspect of taste, as you should be. You can easily use shaved ice for drinks and cocktails, and not just shaved ice treats, but the quality of taste depends on the quality of the ice shaving. And the feeling in your mouth can go from very small chewable ice bits and ice shavings to eating a flavor-infused cloud.
In case you were wondering, yes, there is a difference between simply blending your ice cubes in a blender and using a shaved ice machine. That difference in texture will affect the taste, so if you truly want perfectly shaved ice, it’s best for you to read our shaved ice machine reviews.
5. Commercial Ice Makers
If you need large volumes of ice in your business, our commercial ice maker reviews can be helpful.
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We have prepared useful blogs about making ice & ice cream.
- Ice maker troubleshooting
- How to clean an ice maker?
- How to install an ice maker?
- Can you leave a portable ice maker on?
- How many watts does a portable ice maker use?
- Do portable ice makers keep ice frozen?
- Why do ice makers make a knocking sound?
- How to make ice cubes without a tray?
- How long does it take to make homemade ice cream?
- How long does it take ice cream to freeze?
- How long does it take for ice to freeze?
- Why are nugget ice makers so expensive?
- Types of ice
The world of ice making has advanced quite a bit and is no longer pure luxury. For quite an affordable price, you could have your very own ice maker perfect for parties and family reunions. You don’t need a group of friends to enjoy a chilled after-work drink. These units are also great for your ‘me-time.’ Depending on what your needs are, there are a few choices out there that should satisfy all of your requirements.
If you spend a little more, you can also get the top-quality clear ice cubes that will satisfy you and impress the guests you are entertaining. If you have any unanswered questions about this topic, please feel free to leave a message in our comments section, and will get back to you as soon as we can.