Ah nugget ice. Possibly the best texture, temperature, crunch factor, and taste all mixed into one tiny piece of ice. Cubes are out, nuggets are in. Commonly known as Sonic ice (named after the famous fast food chain), nugget ice is highly popular. People will travel far and wide to the restaurant just to purchase a large bag of this solid liquid gold to have at home. The trend has become so intense that people actually crave it! You’ve probably heard it from a friend at some point in time: “Oh my gosh look! This gas station has that Sonic nugget ice stuff” It sounds completely ridiculous when you read it out loud, but you know that it’s the real deal.
In this article we are going to take a look at sonic nugget ice and how it’s made, what it is, it’s brief history, where to get it, and the best products you can have at home so you can make it yourself!
What’s the deal with nugget ice?
Nugget ice, also known as pellet, chewable, pebble, and Sonic ice, is the type of ice made famous at fast food joints nearly 2 decades ago. Ice chewers are a thing, and it’s almost guaranteed that 99% of them prefer crunching on nugget ice in preference to any other type of ice. Two decades ago, Sonic invented the Scotsman ice machine for their franchise and things really haven’t been the same since. In fact, the franchise has created a cult-like nugget ice following. Don’t believe it? Check this out.
What exactly is it?
After reading through the comments made by avid nugget ice crunchers, it was pretty shocking to learn they have an entire community. What’s not to love about it? But this…this is on a whole different level of love. For starters, these ice lovers consider nugget ice as its own category defying the laws of science and being liquid, air, and frozen all at the same time. But seriously, let’s just get into it. Like previously mentioned, nugget ice was made famous by the Scotsman ice machine provided by Sonic nearly two decades ago. It’s a type of ice that was originally designed to be a bit more “airy” and quite a bit smaller, helping it to not melt as quickly as other types of ice.
This was great for the franchise (Sonic has always been highly favored for their vast amount of alcohol-free cocktail creations with soda and flavors mixed together) because their drinks stayed ice cold for a long amount of time and wouldn’t become watered down. Customers loved it, and I mean loved it. Fast forward a few decades, and you can order just a cup of ice. You can also order nugget ice in bulk to take home with you. Let’s take a closer look at the top three reasons why people say it’s the best:
- It doesn’t melt as fast – science buffs say it has to do with the extra air pockets in the ice that make it stay intact longer compared to ice cubes or crushed ice. Crushed ice gets soft extremely fast. Nugget ice? Not so much. It’s very airy and light.
- The crunch and chew factor – people crunch on ice. It’s just a fact of the matter that millions of people do. Cubed ice and crushed ice simply cannot hold a candle to sonic nugget ice.
- It’s not as easily obtained, making it more desirable – as humans, we always want what we can’t have. Being nearly impossible to DIY (unless you have a nugget ice machine) you have to go to Sonic (coming out at about nine cents a cup), find a gas station that has it, or be creepy and go to a hospital or business that has the machine and sneak some out, but please don’t do that.
How is it different from crushed ice?
It differs in many ways. From the way it’s made to how it feels, crunches, and even the melting process. To begin, crushed ice is cubed ice… just crushed. So, the sizes of crushed ice vary and some melt faster than the others. Not fun. Nugget ice might look like crushed ice, but the machine basically takes shaved ice and packages it into little nugget shapes. The air pockets seemingly help them stay hard for a longer amount of time while crushed ice melts rather fast and leaves your beverage watered down. According to avid nugget ice eaters, everything about crushed ice is different, and should be avoided at all costs.
Nugget ice is not something that you can make in your freezer or make yourself. You need a nugget ice maker. Luckily you literally have hundreds of options to choose from on platforms like Amazon that will deliver directly to your home. Keep reading to learn about the absolute best nugget ice machines on the market today.
Where do I get a nugget ice maker?
Online, of course. But in all seriousness, there are hundreds of outlets online that sell nugget ice machines and deliver them straight to your home. Some countertop size, others the size of an oven – the choice is yours and how much money you’re willing to dish out for daily nugget ice. The answer to that question should be any price, especially if you’re an avid nugget ice eater like many others. Let’s take a look at the most popular nugget ice machines on the market right now (price ranging from low to high):
Della Portable Ice Maker With Easy Touch ($143 on Amazon)
At a very reasonable price and with very good reviews (most are 5 stars with an average rating of 4 stars via Amazon results), the Della is a great option for you if you want a solid, long-lasting nugget ice machine that sits on your countertop and looks good. Though there are a few negative reviews, it’s still a great piece of equipment especially if you won’t be catering to a large party. It’s more of a solo ice machine and still can yield roughly 25 pounds of nugget ice in one day. That’s a lot of nugget ice!
Costzon Commercial Ice Maker ($395 on Amazon)
This one is a bit different, simply because it is a commercial style product. However, it can still fit in your home if you really want it. One downside to this product is that it requires a direct connection to a water source, so it’s a bit more difficult than the other countertop nugget ice makers on the list. It’s also larger, so it will require a bit more maintenance and upkeep. The Costzon ice maker is free-standing and weighs about 60lbs, and it holds about 35lbs of ice! It produces a lot more ice than others on the list and many customers have given it a 5-star review because it really is that great. It comes with an installation kit and an ice shovel, as well as everything you need to set it up in your home or outside on a patio (with adjustable feet to place it easily wherever you want.
The FirstBuild Opal Nugget Ice Machine ($409 on Amazon)
The Opal is hands down probably the most popular nugget ice maker on the market. It is not overwhelmingly expensive, but it is not dirt cheap. On top of that, the Amazon reviews are on fire with 5 stars. It is one of the best reviewed ice makers on the world wide web, so take that into account if you decide to buy it. The Opal is a countertop nugget ice machine that is very compact (about the same size as a large Keurig). In addition, it has a clear chamber where you can see your ice being made, which accumulates roughly 1 pound in only an hour! The sleek design, fair price, size, and short amount of time it takes to make nugget ice makes the Opal a huge competitor to other ice machines.
Scotsman Brilliance ($3,950 on Amazon)
Back to the OG of nugget ice makers, the Scotsman. The big daddy that started it all. The original cult creation for Sonic ice lovers. If you’re going to get a nugget ice maker that produces the actual ice that Sonic makes… here it is! This is obviously the most expensive choice on the list, but it is powerful, and it creates tons of nugget ice on a daily basis. This is perfect for businesses and is a relatively cheap investment (that will pay itself off). This is one of the best nugget ice machines in terms of easiness to use and top-quality ice. You operate it by using a five button LED panel on the front of the machine and it produces upwards of 100lbs. Being one of the most reliable and heavily marketed name-brands for nugget ice, this is one of the best of the bests.
Size Matters – What’s Best for You?
Nugget ice makers tend to come in three standard sizes – countertop, under the counter, and large standing unit. It’s optimal to find the best fit for your living space. So, before you jump to buying the largest and most expensive ice maker, figure out your placement first.
- Countertop nugget ice makers are the best for traveling. Well, they are the only ones made for traveling. You can’t haul a free-standing unit or under the counter unit with you in your RV or to your friend’s house. Consider this before buying one of the XL nugget ice makers.
- Look around your house and pick a spot. If you live in cramped living quarters, one of the XL styles might not be for you either. If you have the space, check out the dimensions online and measure the space where you’re trying to place it.
- Consider how much ice you want and need. If you live alone and don’t really have many visitors over, a countertop nugget ice maker will be perfect for your nightly cocktails or morning iced coffee. On the contrary, if you’re a small business owner (a bar, coffee shop, cafe, etc.) you will benefit hugely from a large free-standing unit.
- Always, always, always keep your budget in mind. Think of it this way – the bigger the ice machine the higher the price. By all means, if you’re ready to drop a lot of money, do it! But consider the bullets listed above as well before spending. Under the counter and free-standing units will be more of an investment than smaller countertop ice makers.
A Quick Buyer’s Guide
It’s always important to use filtered water for the best looking (and tasting) nugget ice. If you use unfiltered water, your machine may become damaged or clogged due to all the crud that comes out of faucet water. For the best results, clean your machine as instructed per each machine’s guidelines (find more info in the buyer’s pamphlet). Also, while it might seem like a great idea, adding anything other than water to your machine will reduce the machine’s life and potentially damage it the first time you try to add something fun.
Using your nugget ice machine should be a fun and exciting (and very rewarding experience). With that being said, make sure you follow the installation instructions 100%. Your machine will come with instructions, but there’s always a few things you need to know. For example, don’t put anything in the way of the vent. Not only is it a safety hazard, but your machine may become damaged. Also, if you plan to use it outside on your bar area or patio, make sure you bring your unit back inside when the party’s over. Can you imagine spending up to $1000 or more on an ice maker for it to get rained on and ruined? Just don’t.
What to Do with A Nugget Ice Machine + More Benefits
Are you sold yet? Also known as ‘that good ice,’ what do you do with all the nugget ice you can make now? If you decided to purchase a large nugget ice machine or that sleek countertop ice machine (The Opal), then keep reading because this is for you.
So, you have your machine producing your nugget ice, but now you’re not using it as much as you would like to be. Maybe you don’t have enough people over to show it off… don’t you want to be known as that person in the neighborhood with the good ice? All jokes aside, let’s look at a few things you can do with your nugget, pellet, Sonic, good ice machine and the benefits that come with having one.
- Cocktails, cocktails, and more cocktails. For those of you 21 years and older, this part is for you. Though you might have broken the bank a little bit on the nugget ice machine, imagine all of the different cocktails you can make now. Though nugget ice isn’t the perfect ice for every cocktail, it works so well in tons of boozy beverages. Specifically, all that fruity stuff. I might be breaking my own rule here…but a fruity red sangria over nugget ice, then crunching the ice that has absorbed all the excess sangria? That sounds absolutely heavenly.
- Having anyone over to show it off to. “So, this is my home, these are my wonderful dogs, my kids are very pleased to meet you, but most importantly…come to the kitchen for the goods.” This is where you show off your nugget ice machine to your guests. They might be looking at you like you’re crazy by now, but do you think they are going to actually decline a drink filled with nugget ice? Nope, never. Having a nugget ice machine truly makes any social gathering much more cheerful.
- The cheaper ones never have to leave your side. If you’ve opted to buy one of those Sonic-style machines (upwards price of $2000-$5000) you probably have a big house and a lot of cash to burn. But honestly, the smaller ones (running anywhere from $200-$500) are super great because they are easy to move. Who really needs an ice machine the size of a washing machine unless you’re a big business? The smaller ones can go with you anywhere, they are portable, and very easy to take care of.
- Travel with it! If you decide to purchase a countertop nugget ice maker, you can take it wherever you go so long as you have an electrical outlet. For example, your RV camping trip just got that much more crowd-pleasing when you bring out the nugget ice. You might only be invited to parties because you have the ‘good ice’. Who knows? Basically, all I’m saying is that these countertop ice machines are simple and portable, and everything will be better if you have it with you.
- The point I’m trying to make is that you now have nugget ice and you don’t have to drive or walk anywhere to get it. Simple enough.
Absolutely dozens of benefits to having your own nugget ice machine in your home or in your business could be listed, but let’s keep this simple. Ultimately, everyone knows that your livelihood will be made so much better and you will have tons of fun and many uses for it on a daily basis. Iced coffee, anyone?
It is 100% worth it to make yourself or a loved one happy by purchasing a nugget ice maker. Honestly, it will probably be a trophy item in your house that you will be using a lot more than you think, so just take the leap already. Maybe not on an ice machine that’s $5000, but the cheaper ones will do more than enough for a family household.
The above list is a great guide for purchasing the nugget ice machine that you or your business will benefit from the most (no, I didn’t forget about you business owners). Also, we think local coffee shops would benefit from one of these ice machines, especially if you want to boost popularity, but that’s just our own fancy opinion. If you’re ready to take your drinks (and life) to the next level, get to shopping and bask in the result of endless nugget ice!