There is no fresh drink without nugget ice, and there is no nugget ice without the best nugget ice maker that matches your requirements. Each day we are getting more and more innovative with homemade drinks, cocktails, and desserts. Modern technology allows us to make wonders from the comfort of our kitchen, and that includes nugget, aka sonic ice cubes. One essential ingredient that every enthusiast in such matters needs is – ice. Nugget ice to be exact.
Besides being ideal for cooling drinks, sonic ice is also a favorite treat for a lot of people worldwide. If you belong to the ice-chewing club, you definitely want access to well-made ice nuggets, and the best way to reach that goal is through knowledge about these machines. So, sit back, relax, and let us take you through everything you need to know about the best sonic ice makers. Let’s go!
What Can You Do with Nugget/Sonic Ice?
The short answer is: your imagination is the only limit. But, to avoid the cliché, and now that we know how a nugget is created, let’s see what kind of treats you can make, and how you can best utilize the unique structure of sonic ice.
1. Plain Nugget Ice
Out of all shapes, structures, and sizes that the ice comes in, nugget ice is the only form that actually has chewability. A lot of people claim that, during the summer, chewing on some crushed ice can help alleviate the heat. Due to their cold and wet soft form, ice nuggets tend to break pretty easily. They are never sharp, and they’re definitely not hard enough to damage your teeth in any way. In tropical areas, it is not uncommon to have a large bucket of plain nugget ice out in the open for everyone.
2. Large Cocktail Versatility
Large watery cocktails are fun and refreshing, but only if they keep their cool temperature as long as the glass isn’t empty. This is where nugget ice comes to save the day, or rather chill it. Nugget ice, if poured in larger quantities, keeps its form for hours. In the case of margaritas, mojitos or similar drinks, this feature is more than wanted. No one likes a warm drink, and crushed ice keeps it cold as long as you’re not done with it. And because margaritas are among the most popular cocktails out there, some people even opt-in for the best margarita makers as well.
Flavored ice is an always preferred treat, no matter how old you are. Slushies and other icy sweets are taken to the next level with sonic ice. Imagine eating a sweet colored cube of ice that doesn’t hurt your mouth or teeth. Nugget ice makes that happen if you put the right ingredients on top. There are different recipes all around the internet, so make sure to explore and find your favorite. Just remember, add ingredients into the glass filled with ice, not into the machine.
4. Backyard and Pool Parties
Believe it or not, this is the biggest reason why people opt-in for ice makers. They want to make grill cookouts and pool parties without having to run for ice every couple of hours. Knowing what can it be used for, and how safe it is, sonic ice became quite popular.
It even doesn’t have to be a party that includes alcohol. Kid’s birthday parties are also a great type of event where you can use this type of ice machine, due to the fun and safe side of sonic ice. As long as you’re stocked with colored sweet syrups, every kid will be excited to see rainbow slurries.
Best Sonic Ice Makers Comparison Chart
GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker
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NewAir NIM040SS00 Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
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Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Ice Machine
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Frigidaire EFIC108-SILVER Nugget Ice Maker Machine
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Scotsman N0622A-1 Prodigy Plus
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Best Sonic Ice Maker Reviews (Updated List)
1. GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker
The Opal is one of the most popular nugget ice machines out there. It is a modernly designed appliance, with metal and black, glass finish. The unit is designed to be simple to use and has only a single button/indicator on the side, thus increasing the simplicity and ergonomics. When it comes to the unit’s weight, it is somewhat average with a total weight of 44 pounds.
This countertop nugget ice maker is capable of producing one pound of quality ice per hour, and it can work for a whole day if needed. Even though it weighs over 40 pounds, it is pretty easy to carry, due to the simple rectangular design. This portability, combined with the low electricity consumption, makes this sonic ice machine ideal for camping.
Inside this model, there is 3-pound ice storage, covered with a transparent lid for aesthetic effect. This appliance can be scheduled and started via Bluetooth (by connecting it to a smartphone).
2. NewAir NIM040SS00 Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
NewAir has had their fair share of models in the ice maker game. This particular unit has speed as its strong suit, all at the expense of some ice nugget size. The overall design is similar to other NewAir ice makers – a box-shaped body with a lid on top. The controls are on the front side, and the lid has a little see-through panel so you can track how much is already in there.
When it comes to performance, it can get you a batch of fresh nugget ice in just over 5 minutes. The daily capacity of this sonic ice maker is about 40 lbs. of ice per day, which is a nice volume for a regular household.
Lastly, you will be happy to know that this ice maker model has a self-cleaning feature, and all the plastics inside the unit are BPA-free.
Read More: NewAir NIM040SS00
3. Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Ice Machine
Every now and then, an undercounter nugget ice maker pops out, and this Ice-O-Matic is a great example. It looks like a small fridge on the outside, and it offers a large ice storage space on the inside (22 pounds). Due to its bulky design and large storage, it weighs a total of 133 pounds, which is considered above average.
The unit itself has an ice production capacity of 85 pounds per 24 hours. This will help you cover any type of party/dinner, and in case you have unexpected guests, you can store large amounts of nugget ice in its spacious storage compartment.
One exceptional feature that this sonic ice maker has is its environment versatility. The device is optimized to work both inside and outside, so pool parties are a fair game. Besides being well-suited for outdoor operations, this model has sound-muffling modules installed, and it is quieter than the average ice maker.
Read More: Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Ice Machine Review
4. Frigidaire EFIC108-SILVER Nugget Ice Maker Machine
This Frigidaire ice machine can offer much more than just producing ice nuggets, and it found a place on our list due to its versatility. It has a silver finish and is compact enough to be used as a countertop appliance. Combined with its total weight of just under 20 pounds, this ice maker will prove a worthy companion on camping trips and as a part of your RV kitchen.
When it comes to the ice production capacity that this small nugget ice maker can achieve, we are talking about 26 pounds of ice per day. But this is not just crushed ice. It can also produce standard ice cubes with a rate of 6 minutes per batch. To make ice nuggets, you need to select the small ice mode on the control panel on top of the ice maker.
Inside the package, you will also find an ice shovel, which we found more than useful on several occasions. It is designed to exactly fit the ice container of the unit.
5. Scotsman N0622A-1 Prodigy Plus
The Scotsman ice maker is made for people who need a lot of ice. It is designed to represent a cube, with a metallic finish, and smoothened edges. This is the champion when it comes to nugget ice production, and it weighs a hefty total of 172 pounds, so carrying it around the premises should be done only if absolutely necessary.
Now, with a model this heavy, it is only logical to include a huge ice capacity feature. This nugget ice maker produces a total of 643 pounds of ice per day. Yes, you have read that well. It is considered as one of the most powerful nugget ice makers out there, with commercial capabilities as well as residential.
This unit has the AutoAlert monitoring system that gives you the info on current operations and ice production details, live. It also has sensors that warn you when the time for cleaning and/or maintenance comes.
Read More: Scotsman N0622A-1 Prodigy Plus Review
6.NewAir AI-215SS Review
This NewAir is a well-balanced ice making machine, with possibilities to make 3 types of ice cubes. The unit is rectangularly designed, with silver sides and a black lid with a glass window on top. Even though this ice machine weighs about 38 pounds, it is still quite portable due to its design.
Despite its smaller frame, this multi-functional ice machine can produce up to 50 pounds of ice per day, which is considered double the average amount. Additionally, it can produce a classic ice cube (in large and medium sizes), and in the small cube mode, it produces crushed ice. The container can hold up to 2 pounds of ice, and the window on the lid helps you track the ice production process.
On the front side, there is a control panel with a small screen that allows you to pick the ice production mode. One great additional feature is the self-cleaning mode which, when activated, automatically cleans the water pipes inside the unit.
Read More: NewAir AI-215SS Review
What is Nugget Ice?
Now, before we get technical and start talking about machines and expectations, it is time to answer a question that, believe it or not, puzzles a lot of people. What exactly is nugget ice? This type of ice certainly comes in several forms, and it is known by many names. Nugget, sonic, pellet, pebble, chewlet, chewy, chewable, crunchy. These are the most popular out there but do not be surprised if you hear another local name for this specific type of ice. So, if we use some of the terms interchangeably, do not be afraid, it is all the same. However, “nugget” is the most popular name by far.
At its core, nugget ice isn’t technically ice. If you compare it to other ice types, the main difference is that nugget consists of millions of frozen snowflakes. Yep, nugget ice is snow, technically speaking. These compressed snowflakes make a nearly solid nugget (hence the name) that acts like ice in terms of temperature but has slightly different physical properties. And those properties are the reason why nugget ice is so good.
It might come off as strange, but sonic ice feels really great when you chew it. You do not have to, of course, but it really makes a special sensation once you put it in your mouth. You would be surprised by how many people like this type of ice just because it is chewable.
2. Fast Cooling and Snow Melting
The two best possible features ice could have. Because of its porous structure, nugget ice has a small special, one could say hidden, talent. It lets the liquid penetrate into the ice and lets it out on the other side, while not changing the drink consistency. This is ideal for cocktail enthusiasts out there who want to master the art of mixing drinks.
Besides having the ability to cool drinks fast by letting them through, nugget ice tends to stay in its icy form for a long time, comparing it to the regular ice, that is. This longevity is what makes pebble ice great for parties and hangouts, especially if we are talking about summer. Pool parties are also a fair game, in case you have a good ice container, because nothing beats the Sun, no matter how good the ice is.
If you have a toddler running around the household, you have surely established some ground rules around ice consumption. Ice can be tricky, it can be hard, and it can hurt your throat, especially if you are inexperienced with it. This goes double for kids, and so do the rules.
Nugget ice, however, is much safer to consume, even on its own, without the drink. Let’s be real, at least three names for this type of ice are there because of this feature. It is chewable and accessible to everyone without extra rules or precautions. Some parents even use it instead of other ice cream alternatives, for summer snacks and desserts.
How Do Nugget Ice Makers Work?
Ok, now that we know what nugget ice is, and how friendly it generally is, it is time to dive into how its made. Nugget ice makers are pretty unusual, and to some degree exotic when compared to standard ice cube makers. Some ingenious engineering is involved, and for everyone’s sake, we will try to keep the technicalities to the minimum.
So, we have mentioned that sonic ice isn’t technically ice and that it is essentially compressed snow, made inside a machine. Chewy ice makers need 3 crucial parts in order to make the soft, chewable ice that everyone likes.
1. The Cooling Chamber
Also known as the freezer tube or a freezing chamber, this part of the ice maker is where the water changes its phase, and turns into ice. It consists of a main tube and refrigerant tubing around it. The insides of the main tube contain the ice, while the refrigerant tubing surrounds the tube’s outside surface in a spiral fashion. A thin layer of water gets frozen and it’s stuck on the insides of the tube almost instantaneously. When the whole inside surface is covered with ice, the auger starts spinning.
2. The Auger
This is the part of the system that must never fail, and a lot of models have it made out of stainless steel, for durability and resistance purposes of course. So, the extra-thin ice is stuck on the inner sides of the tube, and the auger helps push it to the compression chamber. The auger’s speed can often determine the consistency of nugget ice so it would be best to let it work on default programming.
Some models utilize different pushing systems when it comes to transporting snowy ice into the compression chamber, but the auger is proven to be most effective, and cost-efficient.
Sometimes, in smaller ice machine models, there will be no need for an auger so the machine will utilize a more standard cylinder model.
3. The Compressing Chamber
After the auger pushes the thin snowflake layer up, it is time for it to get compressed into a firm nugget. This is done in a separate (compressing) chamber which is usually located on top. All the thin snowflake shavings from a batch are pushed inside, and the chamber is briefly closed until the batch is done.
A piston or a press comes down and presses the ice into aggregated nuggets that are ready to fall through the other side, usually into some kind of container.
If the model allows it, you will be able to change the pressure which the piston is putting on the ice pile. This will probably be marked as wet or dry, but it all depends on the model. In order to make nuggets of the same size and texture, all three parts (the freezer tube, the auger, and the compressor) need to work in unison, and that is where the intricacy of these machines lies.
Sonic Ice Maker For Home Buying Guide
Now that we went through the mechanism of making nugget ice, and the ways in which you can utilize a nugget ice maker, we can help you select the right machine. After getting to know the intricacies of these useful appliances, it is time to talk about all the details you should know before opting in for a chewable ice maker.
Because of the fact that no two models are the same, and that there are some hybrid models that make other types of ice, it would be best to make a list of parts and features you should be aware of.
Due to the simplicity of these machines (on the user side at least), the characteristics you need to be mindful of are simple as well. Size, weight, power consumption and operating temperature are maybe not that important with other appliances, but being that we are talking about machines that rely on physics to work, these features are pretty important.
1. Speed of Nugget Ice Making
The very first thing you should get to know about the model you got your eyes on is – how fast (or slow) does it take to make a batch of nugget ice. Sure, different models have different results, but an ice machine is useless if it takes ages to deliver nugget ice.
The time needed to make the first batch is usually a bit longer since the machine needs to achieve an initial temperature drop. After the starter batch, every next one should take between 6 and 20 minutes to make consecutive nugget ice deliveries. Even though this sounds like a big gap between batches, keep in mind that there are other factors that play a role in nugget ice machine speed. Which takes us to the next important point.
2. Nugget Ice Machine Capacity
The ice capacity is somewhat of a deal-breaker if you are trying to find a machine that can withstand a party or a dinner with 10+ guests. The majority of pebble ice makers tend to be big in this department, but that is not always the ideal way to go.
When it comes to the capacity of nugget ice production, you must bear in mind that once the ice batch is in the making, the machine cannot be stopped, and it will have to finish the ice cycle. We are stressing this out because the hassle of getting rid of extra ice you cannot use is painful. That’s why you should plan accordingly, and think about the capacity before you decide.
To put things in perspective: an average ice maker can go from 20 pounds of sonic ice a day, to astonishing 600+ pounds/24 hours. The bigger the capacity the more ice you get, but also the more ice you need to get out of the ice maker.
3. Nugget Ice Storage Capacity
The amount of ice that a machine can make means nothing if the storage compartment can’t follow. It would be ridiculous to ask for a model that has the same ice production and ice storage capacity, but getting a machine with bigger ice trays inside is crucial. The larger model can hold up to 5 pounds of nugget ice, while smaller ones store up to a pound.
No matter the model you want to get, aim for a machine that can keep the ice from melting for a longer period of time. The rule of thumb is: the more ice a machine can store, the slower it will melt (due to the lower temperatures of the ice storage).
4. Surrounding Temperature And Power Consumption
What a lot of people tend to miss while hunting for a nugget ice machine is its surrounding temperature while it’s working. This does sound a bit irrelevant at first, but you will save a lot of trouble if you think about it in advance, especially if you plan on using an ice maker inside your household. For example, if the ice machine is placed next to, or near a refrigerator/freezer, you should think about getting a model with a lower surrounding temperature. Bigger pebble ice makers radiate a substantial amount of heat into the environment, and that can mess up the cooling/freezing cycles of other appliances inside our kitchen.
The other less-mentioned specification of ice machines is power consumption. Why is this important? Well, as it turns out, a lot of people like to have access to freshly made ice on camping trips and inside their RVs. If that’s also the case with you, consider getting a smaller ice machine model, because the “the bigger it is, the more juice it needs” rule applies here perfectly. Large sonic ice makers can drain up to a few kilowatts of power per hour, which is definitely not a desired feature if your electricity supply is limited.
5. Size Of Nugget Ice Makers
Generally, these units can be divided into two major groups: small machines and big top-rated undercounter ice makers. So, the logic implies that you can either get a smaller model, that is portable and consumes less energy or a large model that can deliver as much ice as you need.
There are sonic ice maker models out there that weigh under 10 pounds, but they do not deliver a lot, so parties are off the table. These are more suitable for carrying around and even used in an RV.
On the other hand, big ice machines can weigh up to 200 pounds. These chunky ice makers are able to freeze, compress and deliver over 100 pounds of nuggets per day.
6. Special Features And Extras
We live in the age of technology, and there’s absolutely no reason not to implement the newest tech solutions within nugget ice machines. If you like to utilize the full potential of wireless technology or like to schedule your appliances, keep your eyes open for these features:
- Bluetooth connectivity – Some more modern sonic ice makers utilize Bluetooth and can connect to your phone. The benefits of this connection include delayed start, operation completion notifications, and “assistance needed” alarms. It is a quality of life feature that will be integrated into more and more appliances as time goes by.
- Timers and alarms – Features (not necessarily bound to Bluetooth) which help you plan ice-making cycles and notify you about the state of the ice maker at any given time. Some models have delayed starts, and some even have alarm notifications that tell you when it is time to clean (and which part is the dirtiest). Models with these features usually have some sort of monitoring screen as well.
- Ice scoops and additional gear – Ice buckets, scoops, and even ice picks. Manufacturers tend to include extra gear that will suit the model in the best possible way. Getting a model that offers this kind of additional gear will probably ensure a bit of extra longevity since the gear is made for that exact model.
FAQ About Pellet Ice Makers
1. Can I make sweetened and/or colored ice nuggets by pouring the mix in before freezing?
As much as it sounds logical, this kind of practice should be avoided. Manufacturers have been trying to stress this for a long time now, because not only will everything get sticky almost instantaneously, but you also risk permanently damaging the sonic ice maker.
The reason behind these risks is solid mater accumulation on the sensitive inner parts of the machine. Colors and food additives usually contain a lot of sugar, which will crystallize inside the machine during the cooling process. These crystals aggregate and make a solid obstruction to the auger. So, just to be sure, use only water to make the ice nuggets.
2. How often should I clean my nugget ice machine?
It depends. If you use the machine on a daily basis, once a week is fine, but usage is not the only factor at play here. The biggest effect on the insides of the nugget ice maker is the quality of the water, and the number of minerals dissolved in it.
If you live in an area with hard water which contains a lot of minerals that create sediments, then you can clean the machine more often, using weak acids like vinegar. Some manufacturers offer their own ice machine cleaning agents, which can be a good choice in areas with low water quality. All in all, a good cleaning every week and a water filter should save you the extra trouble.
3. Can I leave my nugget ice maker working overnight?
Any model that has a safety switch installed inside is capable of producing ice until the ice tray is full. Some models even have a timer for delayed operation. Remember that ice machines work incredibly smooth – if maintained properly that is.
So, knowing this, the real question is: Is there a reason to let an ice maker work overnight? The answer is yes only if you have a gigantic commercial model, but even then, an hour or so will be enough to fill up the container beneath.
4. The outside walls of my nugget ice maker are getting warm. Should I be concerned?
In most cases, this is not a bad sign. Because of the process of depressurizing that happens inside the freeze tube, some heat may escape towards the outside walls. If the sonic ice machine gets warm while making ice, you should not be alarmed. However, if this occurs often, and if the sides stay warm even after the machine is done with the ice production, you should unplug it, and call customer support. It will most likely be a problem of electrical nature so it would be best to leave it to certified techs to analyze the problem. After all, you do not want to void the warranty by opening the machine by yourself.
Nugget ice is popular due to its safety, usage variety, and cost-efficiency, there’s no doubt about that. But if you want to get the best nugget ice maker that will meet the requirements of your home, we strongly encourage you to read through our guide and arm yourself with knowledge before deciding.
As you can see, the prices of sonic ice machines vary from entry-level affordable to commercial-grade luxury machines. Assess your sonic ice needs, and factor in everything we talked about before you make a decision. Every little thing counts, especially when you are purchasing an appliance like this.
We hope that we brought this broad topic a little closer to you and that we have managed to explain the Hows and Whys of nugget ice makers. In case you have something to add or ask, feel free to do so in the comment section below, and we will gladly provide an answer.
See also: best clear ice makers