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.
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.
Another type of ice making is when the evaporator comes in metal rods that are cooled and then dipped into water, creating ice on contact. Note that some coolant systems will have vapor, others liquid, and some will use a mix of the two. An ice maker produces ice within 6-10 minutes depending on the size of the ice and power of the unit.
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 taste 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 for dedicated ice making machine 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.
The efficiency and dependability of these machines is the reason why they are used by hotels, motels, restaurants, and bars. Some of these may have to use an industrial ice maker due to high demand. Or, they directly buy bags of ice from the suppliers, but the places that do not deal with high-volume clientele should have an ice maker of their own.
Ice Maker Types
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.
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.
What you will see in our Countertop/Portable ice maker reviews is, they are more about how and where you can transport them, than what type of ice they make. The primary quality of a portable ice maker is that you can use it anywhere where there’s a standard wall plug with 110-120V. They do not use or need a direct water line since you will pour the water into the unit. This makes them an excellent choice for small apartments where you have limited kitchen space, and logically RV’s, mobile homes and boats.
Just like other ice makers, they produce ice in a matter of minutes. But they are usually limited by the shape of ice that they can make. They typically create what is called a bullet type of ice cubes. The reason for this is that they use metal probes that go into the water and ice is formed as it freezes around the round metal poles. You usually have a choice between 2-3 sizes of ice cubes.
Essentially any of the ice makers mentioned in our article can be called a portable ice maker if they can be carried around and you only need a bottle of water and a plug to use them.
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.
How does the clear ice maker work? The secret lies in a slightly different cooling mechanism, where water flows over a cooling mold that allows the ice cubes to form gradually, level by level, and not all at once. This is why air doesn’t get trapped, and the ice seems more like the icicles you find hanging outside, rather than normal white ice cubes. Sure, it costs a bit more, and it will take more time, but with a clear ice maker, you get the best ice possible.
Specially designed for people who have some room to spare in their kitchen, garage or a commercial joint. Best residential 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.
5. 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 a perfectly shaved ice, it’s best for you to read our shaved ice machine reviews.
6. Margarita Maker
Again, this isn’t an ice maker but it’s a machine that styles ice for the delicious margaritas. Margaritas can be served with ice, frozen and straight up without the ice. There are no machines that can make margarita ice directly from water, but there are plenty of margarita machines that will shave, crush and blend your ice to the style you prefer. That basically means that you have to have 2 separate machines if you want chilled margaritas.
Some people like a smooth cloud of ice with their margarita, while others prefer a more granulated texture. The texture you get depends on the quality of ice you are using, and what you are using to blend or crush your ice. Margarita makers have additional features when compared to the ice shavers. They not only shave, but they also blend the ice. You have an automatic mode, where the machine shaves and blends at its own pace, and a manual mode. That one lets you adjust the texture of ice and the level of shaving and blending.
Our margarita machine reviews will show you that these units let you make slushies, daiquiris, iced smoothies, mudslides, various piña coladas, and margarita-styled drinks.
FAQ about Ice Makers
1. What Can I Do When My Ice Maker Stops Making Ice?
When your ice maker stops producing ice, it could be for a number of reasons. You should first check the power cord and outlet to see if something is wrong with the power supply. If that is not the issue and you are using a standalone ice maker, then make sure there is enough water in the tray – not too much, not too little, you need just the right amount.
If the water level is okay, it could be that the water line is filled with debris, or is frozen. In that situation, you need to clean out the whole unit with filters or just adjust the temperature on your ice maker, make it a bit higher so that it will melt the ice. Finally, check for leaks in any part of the machine. If none of this helps, you can check our ice maker troubleshooting methods, and if the situation is not solved, then you are going to need to take the unit to a service center for further actions.
2. What Are the Ice Styles?
There are several popular styles of ice being used today. This includes ice cubes, crescent-shaped ice cubes, nugget/pebble/sonic ice cubes, bullet-shaped ice cubes, clear ice cubes, crushed ice, shaved ice, and margarita ice.
Blenders For Ice
If you’re looking for a perfect multipurpose tool that can help you make icy drinks, whether smoothies or daiquiris, look no further than a good blender that can crush ice.
These machines are designed to withstand chopping up fruits and veggies, but also crush ice to create a slurry that’s an ideal refreshment on a hot summer day. From iced coffee, slushies, margaritas, and so much more, a good blender should truly become a staple in everybody’s kitchen.
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.