History of Ice Making
From the bigger-picture perspective, ice is pretty much as old as the Earth itself. Commercially speaking, its practical benefits only date back a little more than 200 years. Even before electricity was made available to homes and businesses around the world, people could purchase ice; of course, back then, it was a very different commodity.
In those early days, you ordered a sizable block of ice. Once it arrived at your door, you lugged it across the kitchen and hoisted it up into ye olde icebox. There, it would keep the butter firm and the meat from spoiling for a few days until it melted, and the process began again. Along came the power of electricity and as if by magic, things changed.
Fridges no longer needed a block of ice to function; in fact, with the use of a metal tray, you had the power to make your own smaller cubes to be used in warm drinks. A short time later, even ice trays became obsolete with the onset of automatic ice makers. Now, most home fridges come equipped with the ability to intuitively produce ice as your family uses it.
So clearly the ice industry has come a long way from those days of having to beat, bang and chip away at a big block to get a cold drink. You can now have a machine in your home dedicated to the sole purpose of giving you the wonderful, soft, enduring nuggets once only available at a handful of public venues. In light of the choices now gracing the ice maker market, you may want to treat yourself to one for your home as well as one for the road.
The Problem with Conventional Ice Makers
Automatic ice makers now found in almost all refrigerator/freezer models could be considered the best thing since sliced bread. Nobody has to remember to fill any empty trays, and today’s generation never has to know the struggle of twisting those plastic devils to break the cubes loose, ultimately chasing them across the kitchen floor and having to start all over again. Still, there’s a small problem with this little invention.
Common ice makers give you two options: cubed and crushed. Cubes melt too quickly, leave you with a watered down drink and aren’t much fun to munch on once your beverage is gone. Punch the crushed button, and you get cubes sent violently through an auger on their way to your cup resulting in a heavily diluted drink with nothing left in the end but emptiness. Plenty of people have said there must be a better way; fortunately, several engineers agreed with that sentiment over the years and came up with one.
Little Nuggets of Pure Inspiration
Any ice aficionado can tell you nugget ice belongs in a category all by itself, and some less opinionated on the matter simply understand not all ice is created equal. If you’ve ever served time in a hospital, nugget ice makers produce the lovely little bits you get in those giant complimentary cups when you’re not allowed any real food. They’re also what you’ll find in certain convenience store and restaurant chains throughout this great nation of ours. These will remain nameless, but if you’re a die-hard fan of nugget ice, you don’t need a map to find them.
Nugget ice gives people a level of satisfaction you just won’t find with cubes in whole or mutilated form. Many find themselves rushing to those anonymous venues to purchase bags or cups to bring home, only to have it melt before they get there. Well, technology happens to have taken yet another turn. You can now get a nugget ice maker for home or on-the-go, bringing the dream right into your own kitchen, campsite or perfect spot on the beach.
How Does a Nugget Ice Machine Work?
Whether in rectangular prism, crescent, star, heart or other cute shape, traditional ice cubes are nothing more than solid lumps of frozen water. Commercial and residential nugget ice machines operate on an entirely different level. For starters, they create smaller pieces, but this is just a surface element.
You’re probably well aware of the signature texture of nugget ice. It’s softer partially because of the molds involved. They leave minuscule spaces throughout each piece, which take in trace amounts of beverage. This distinctive molding process also freezes each nugget in an unusual manner. Though they’re thoroughly frozen for the most part, they also contain tiny amounts of water brought to temperatures just above the freezing point.
The result is clear. Nugget ice machine home versions give you little pieces of partially frozen delight taking up more space in the cup, so your sodas, fruity beverages and even filtered water may not disappear as quickly as with mundane cubes. Despite cooling drinks more efficiently thanks to their slightly unfrozen droplets of water inside, nuggets actually melt less quickly than other types of ice. This leaves everyone with something tasty, fun and far less painful to snack on post-drink.
Bringing a New Nugget Ice Machine Home
If you’re looking to enjoy nugget ice anytime you want without having to venture out of your house, a number of manufacturers are ready to cater to your desires. Obviously, not all of them are the same. Some certainly stand out amongst the crowd of available options, so consider the following popular models before placing an order.
Scotsman Brilliance 60 lb. Nugget Ice Machine, Door Finish: Stainless Steel
Scotsman has emerged as a leader in the custom ice industry, and their Brilliance 60 lb. model carries on the tradition with a 4.3 out of 5 star customer rating. The “60 pounds” portion of its description refers to ice-making capacity, but it’s capable of storing up to 26 pounds of ice until you’re ready to use it. Its stainless steel finish offers the sleek appearance growing increasingly popular in modern household kitchens while a self-closing door helps keep your expectations from inadvertently going down the drain.
At 139 pounds, and requiring electricity as well as a permanent drainage connection, this model won’t be coming along on your next vacation. It is, however, designed to fit snugly in your kitchen without taking up a lot of much-needed space. Current owners praise this Scotsman ice machine’s functionality and quiet operation as compared to other brands.
EdgeStar 12 Built-In Ice Maker – Stainless Steel Door
Whereas Scotsman’s contribution to the lineup is solely a free-standing unit, the EdgeStar 12 model can stand on its own or be built into a cabinet or installed under your kitchen counter. Generating up to 12 pounds of ice daily, it doesn’t offer the same volume as some other models, but if you’re not blessed with a houseful of teenagers or entertaining a number of guests on a regular basis, it should be more than capable of keeping your family supplied with nugget ice.
This model features reversible door attachment to fit your own preferences or accommodate the current layout of your kitchen. Defrosting is manual, which could be considered either a benefit or a disadvantage. While it doesn’t require an established drainage connection, cleanup after a defrosting cycle may require a bit of work.
The EdgeStar 12 should work off your standard household circuit, so you don’t need a panel upgrade for it. Having it installed by a professional plumber is recommended, though. A 25 ft., ¼ inch water intake line is included with purchase.
Sunpentown IM-150US Stainless Steel Undercounter Ice Maker with Freezer
Sunpentown focuses on energy efficiency, and this is a function they’ve built into their IM-150US residential nugget ice machine. An under-counter model featuring a stainless steel door and black casing, this model is among those designed to blend well with most modern kitchen appliances while leaving you plenty of space to continue with your daily routines. Like the previously detailed option, this one lets you choose which direction for the door to swing and can produce up to 12 pounds of ice per day. It can also store up to six pounds for you to use when the need arises.
You can plug this home nugget ice maker into a standard outlet without concern. It works as a free-standing unit or built into your kitchen setup. Home-based critics are giving this model a 4.1 overall rating.
Sunpentown IM-101S Portable Ice Maker with LCD with Stainless Steel Body
Also created by Sunpentown, the IM 101S model is a bit different. Unlike the others making the cut, this one is portable, so you actually can take it with you for a day at the lake or a weekend getaway at your favorite campground. Though it’s capable of giving you 35 pounds of ice in a day, it’s also said to produce about 12 cubes in 10 minutes. You may want to give it a running start before filling up your cups.
Weighing in at 50 pounds, it’s a little on the heavy side. Many current owners say the ability to make three different sizes of ice cubes makes toting it around well worthwhile. It features an LCD display to let you know what it’s thinking, so you won’t have to worry about any surprises.
Ivation Portable High Capacity Countertop Ice Maker
While this countertop nugget ice maker fits nicely in a home, camper, small apartment or dorm room, it can also be tucked neatly into the trunk of your car for on-the-go ice. Like Sunpentown’s portable model, this one can make three different sizes for you and your guests to enjoy. It stores 2.8 liters of water and makes up to 26.5 pounds of ice per day. It’s also quite a bit lighter than the previous portable option at 25 pounds.
Ivation’s answer to portable ice machines recycles melted ice for fewer fill-ups. Its built-in control panel lets you choose which ice you’d like; at the same time, it clues you in on when the reservoir needs to be refilled or the ice machine emptied. You’ll also be digitally notified if the unit isn’t working as it should.
Portable Ice Maker AB-ICE26S, Color Silver, By Avalon Bay
Avalon Bay’s portable ice maker can also be a great vacation buddy while serving your beverage needs at home. This one has the capacity to generate up to 26 pounds of ice in 24 hours in your choice of small or large cubes. Indicators let you know when it’s time to empty out fresh ice or refill the unit’s reservoir.
It’s a little lighter than both the other portable models mentioned here, weighing only 20 pounds. It’s said to put out nine cubes in as little as six minutes, making it somewhat faster than its Sunpentown counterpart. This unit does need electricity to work, so you’ll need to be close to an outlet to enjoy its refreshing benefits.
Our Final Thoughts on Nugget Ice Maker Home Versions
In the portable nugget ice maker category, the Sunpentown IM-101S is the most expensive of the three models. It’s also the heaviest and has the smallest reservoir at just over a gallon, but it has the highest output capacity. If you’re looking for a lot of ice, this one may be your best bet.
Ivation’s take-along model comes in on the lower end of the price spectrum, but it’s been deemed fully capable of keeping up with the demand of a smaller crowd. Avalon Bay gives you a lighter mid-priced version only slightly more costly than Ivation, but it only offers two size options where cubes are concerned. Still, it generates those cubes a little faster than the other models.
Looking at your choices in the nugget ice machine for home use realm, Scotsman’s Brilliance 60-pound model offers the highest capacity, but with this power comes the heftiest price tag of the bunch. EdgeStar and Sunpentown each generate 12 pounds of highly-coveted nugget ice per day. Both models share similar features and can essentially fit in your location of choice. Sunpentown’s answer to the growing home nugget ice demand is the least expensive in this class.
Your primary considerations should be how much of your budget can safely be allotted to a nugget ice maker for home as well as just how much ice you expect to need on a regular basis. Also take into account whether or not you want to take your unit along when you’re on the go. The most popular residential models aren’t portable by any means. Portable models could potentially be used in your home kitchen, but they may not meet the demands of everyday life.