An absolutely brilliant invention, nugget ice has gained an incredible following. While many inventions have a fleeting popularity, we don't think sonic ice is going anywhere. Ice is used by millions of households all over the world, but it has one major downfall...
It's hard as rock. Nugget ice completely alleviates this problem and yet provides all the cooling qualities of traditional ice. But with such a new invention, technology is still in its infancy. It's important to take the time to find a nugget ice machine that will provide the right amount of nugget ice for your particular needs.
Below we've outlined the 9 best sonic and nugget ice makers of 2020. We placed them in the order of their ice production, starting at 25 pounds of nugget ice per day, to 315 pounds of nugget ice per day.
Top Rated Products
1) GE Profile Opal Countertop Nugget Ice Maker(Amazon) - Best Countertop Unit Overall (24 Lbs a day)
3) KBIce Self Dispensing Countertop Nugget Ice Maker (Amazon) - Best Countertop Self-Dispensing Ice Maker (24 Lbs a day)
2) NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker (Amazon) - 40 Lbs of Nugget Ice a Day (24 Lbs a day)
4) GE Built-in Freestanding Nugget Ice Maker (Home Depot) - 56 Lbs or Nugget Ice a Day
5) Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Freestanding Nugget Ice Maker (Amazon) - 85 Lbs of Nugget Ice a Day
6) Snooker Freestanding Nugget Ice Machine (Amazon) - 155 Lbs of Nugget Ice a Day
7) Scotsman UN1520A-1 Undercounter Nugget Ice Maker (Amazon) - 167 Lbs of Nugget Ice a Day
8) Snooker Freestanding Nugget Ice Maker (Home Depot) - 256 Lbs Nugget Ice a Day
9) Manitowoc CNF-0201A-L Nugget Ice Maker and Water Dispenser (Amazon) - 315 Lbs Nugget Ice a Day
What is Nugget Ice?
First off, what's all the hype about? Why do people so adamantly prefer nugget ice over traditional cubed? Well, most of us love all the perks of ice, right? The lasting cooling effect it creates. But what's the one quality about cubed ice that makes it inferior?
It's teeth shatteringly hard!
Unless you have teeth of steel, chewing into solid ice is cringe-worthy, not to mention damaging to your teeth. Well, nugget ice offers all the perks of ice without the downsides. It is a simple, yet ingenious way of making ice more approachable.
How it's Made
Regular, cubed ice is created using an extremely simple process. Water is dispensed into cubes, the refrigeration system cools the water to freezing, and dumps the resulting ice into a bin.
Nugget ice has a completely different process:
Step 1: Water is funneled into a cylinder-like structure, where it's cooled down to freezing temperatures. This results in thin sheets of ice that begin protruding from the cylinder.
Step 2: The resulting sheets are pushed through an auger and shaven down to flaked ice. Flaked ice is tiny fragments of ice (think fresh fish and how they're preserved when shipped). Not quite shaven, but far from cubed.
Step 3: The flaked ice is then compressed to form larger, nugget-like cubes that retain their structure when cold but easily break down when exposed to the warmth of a mouth.
9 Best Nugget Ice Makers
1) GE Profile Opal Countertop
Nugget Ice Maker
The GE Opal Profile Nugget Ice Maker is our #1, best all around nugget ice maker. It received this honor for one simple reason...
It has the highest review count with the highest average rating.
After over 2200 Amazon reviews, this model has sustained a 4.5 / 5 star rating (as of 10/15/2020).
Measuring 15.5 x 14.25 x 17.2 inches, it's small, sleek design makes it a perfect household fit. Not to mention it's one of the very few household ice makers that offers true nugget ice.
It boasts production of up to 24 Lbs a day and the ice bin holds 3 lbs of nugget ice. Each cycle takes approximately 20 minutes and can be activated physically or through bluetooth (with an installed app).
Even with the high ratings, there were some very conflicting reviews on Amazon. The most common complaints from the 1 star reviewers were "loud noises" or "stopped working". Both of these complaints reflect a machine that is not working properly (obviously), and should be returned.
GE offers a 1 year warranty on this ice machine. If you decide to go this route, immediately register your product through the GE website. That way, if anything were to go wrong, you're covered.
2) KBIce Self Dispensing Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
As the first self-dispensing nugget ice machine, the KBIce Nugget Ice Maker is perfect for those who want simple, on-the-go ice.
3 buttons make this the most user friendly ice maker on our list:
1) Clean Button
2) Dispense Nuggets Button
3) Make Nuggets Button
You really can't ask for a more straight forward ice machine. It's also easily transportable and requires no water hookup. Pour your distilled water into the reservoir and press the "make nuggets" button.
The ice bin is a bit small (only holds 1 Lb of ice) but no reviewers described this as a negative feature. The customer reviews only reflect how ecstatic people were that they could have nugget ice on demand.
Another important quality to mention is the positive remarks regarding customer service. Even people who were unhappy with the product, said the company and customer service were awesome.
This unit offers a 1 year parts and labor warranty as well as a 30 day hassle free return policy. A few perks to put your mind at ease.
Dimensions: 12”W x 16”D x 17.5H inches
3) NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
The NewAir Countertop Nugget Ice Machine is fast and simple to use (yes, just look at the pros section above :)). I'm restating this fact because these 2 qualities are what makes this unit stand out from the others.
While the review count is low, the most common customer response was how quick this machine was capable of making nugget ice. It has a similar size of the opal ice maker above, but is capable of making 15 Lbs more ice a day (a total of 40 Lbs of ice per day).
By simple design, we mean it acts like a regular household ice maker, with the exception that it makes nugget ice. The ice is created, and then dumped into a reservoir where you can directly scoop the ice as you please.
The parts are BPA free and it has a self cleaning function that will no doubt extend the life of the machine. The thick walls create great insulation and help keep the ice stable for longer.
With a 1 year warranty and a 30 day hassle free product return, this unit may be the perfect fit. With that said, contact the seller to make sure the warranty stands. Amazon currently has the "Available from these sellers" only option and these promises aren't always fulfilled by 3rd party distributors.
Dimensions: 16.5 x 10.5 x 16.3 inches
4) GE Built-In 56 Lbs Freestanding
Nugget Ice Maker
The GE Built-in Freestanding Nugget Ice Maker is definitely a step up in ice production and price. That being said, people were extremely happy with the results.
There's just one catch, it doesn't come with the front door panel. Unfortunately, you have to pay extra for this. The vast majority of the 1 star reviewers were very upset to receive their ice maker without a door panel.
The rest of the reviews were predominantly 5 stars because people loved the fast production of the ice, and the quality of the ice itself.
This GE ice machine also makes up to 56 Lbs of ice a day with a storage bin of 26 Lbs. This should have no problem fulfilling any household ice needs. It's indoor and outdoor compatible which leaves you with options its placement.
Based on research, here's our take on this model...
If you have the money, it's a superior ice machine. Just know that you'll have to cough up the extra $300 or so for the door panel. Once the unit was complete (door panel and all), people were very happy with the result.
5) Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Pearl
The Ice-O-Matic is a great option for those who are looking for a lot of daily nugget ice. The company website states it can make a solid 85 Lbs of nugget ice a day.
Its stainless steel design makes it versatile in that it will visually fit wherever you need it to (granted it fits the space). Not like some of the eye sores below (that are really only suitable in commercial or industrial settings).
The majority of the negative reviews were customers that were unhappy with the company repair costs or the dinged up box that showed up on their front step.
As far as company repair costs, this is an expensive product and it will require an expensive repair (if warranted) past the warranty period (1 year). This is the same gamble you take when you buy any heavy duty appliance (fridge, freezer, oven, etc).
As far as the dinged up boxes, this is another gamble you take. I recommend buying the ice maker through the company website, at least, that's what other customers recommended. This might ensure a better shipping experience.
People loved this ice machine. The look, the output and the high quality nugget ice make it an attractive piece. Weigh out the pros and cons and see if this it he model for you.
6) Snooker 155 Lb Freestanding
Nugget Ice Maker
It appears Snooker is somewhat of a new company (for the U.S.). Based out of Shanghai, China, this ice maker company opened in 2008. Based on the small number of customer reviews, it's difficult to decipher how dependable these machines are.
The only reassuring quality I can relay to you is that they've been open for longer than a decade, and the customer reviews that are available, are predominantly positive. I recommend creating a list of questions related to your needs and sending them an email.
7) Scotsman UN1520A-1 Under-Counter Nugget Ice Maker
As the inventor of Nugget Ice, it shouldn't be surprising that Scotsman made their way on our list. "Sonic ice" received it's name because it was the first known place where nugget ice was sold on a large scale. Sonic invested in Scotsman nugget ice machines most likely because Scotsman is the oldest known manufacturer of nugget ice.
With that being said, Scotsman has has some serious time to perfect their nugget ice. Let's dive into some of the advantages of this ice machine.
At 20" wide, the Scotsman nugget ice machine can be stored under the counter with little spacial investment. It also requires no side clearance due to the front breathing design.
It also can produce whopping 167 Lbs of ice a day with a 57 Lb storage bin. This is ideal for smaller restaurants, cafes or bars. It's energy star certified and thus will have minimal effects on your electrical bill.
It has a stainless steel evaporator and auger, aluminum side panels, sealed bearings (maintenance free), and 6" adjustments for the legs.
There is a 3 year commercial warranty and a 1 year residential warranty. Here's more information on the Scotsman warranty.
8) Snooker 265 Lb Freestanding
Nugget Ice Maker
Again, Snooker is a company we're having difficulty getting a whole lot of information from. We don't have any reason to think negatively of them (besides the lack of present reviews), but we also don't have a lot information validating the quality of these ice machines. We've included this freestanding ice machine for those rare instances where excessive nugget ice is needed.
9) Manitowoc Water and
Nugget Ice Dispenser
The Manitowoc nugget-style ice maker has a total of 7 amazon ratings (as of 10/20/2020). Yes, not a whole lot of reviews, but not a lot of people are purchasing three thousand dollar equipment online. In spite of this, every single rating if a 5 star rating.
It's also one of the few large ice machine manufacturers who has positive customer service ratings. A very, very attractive feature when your spending this kind of money on an ice maker.
This model also offers the option to serve via the lever arm or touchless activation. The large drain pan allows catches rogue ice cubes and keeps the floor clean.
Katom may have some more information regarding this model. Amazon's description is fairly short.
Consider Before You Buy
Countertop, Freestanding or Under-counter?
There are three basic options for installing a nugget ice machine. We'll start with the simpler options and move on to the more labor-intensive ones.
Countertop: Countertop models are obviously the easiest to install. Most of them don't even require a water hookup. Keep the water reservoir filled, and the plug inserted and have nugget ice at your fingertips. Countertop models are also the most portable and sell for the most reasonable price, ranging from $400-$800.
With this in mind, countertop ice makers also take up precious kitchen counter space and can't produce as much nugget ice as freestanding and under counter models. They're usually limited to 25-40 Lbs of nugget a day (still a decent amount).
Freestanding: Freestanding models offer you more nugget ice while remaining somewhat portable (you'll need to be close enough to a water source). They're much more expensive but can product a large amount of nugget ice, ranging anywhere from 50-300 Lbs of nugget ice/day.
This is convenient for home-bars and commercial applications. Some people think this style is an eye sore, but in the right environment, it can fit right it.
Under-counter: Under-counter nugget ice makers are great for those who have a void space under the counter. There are both permanent (built-in) and impermanent (portable) options which make this the best-looking option for the kitchen. GE sells a built-in option where you can hand pick the cover material, and Ice-O-Matic makes a stainless steel portable option.
These models offer anywhere between 50-150 Lbs of nugget ice.
Per usual, we highly recommend finding a model that boasts a good warranty. Nugget ice machines do not sell cheap (even the countertop models) and so warranty becomes even more important. If you buy from Amazon, confirm the warranty through the seller by sending them a message. This way you have documentation validating the warranty.
If your buying from big name brands like GE, Whirpool or Scotsman, take a look at their warranty policy and see what it covers. A lot of companies offer long term warranties on compressors, but lack considerable warranties on the less critical parts.
Nugget or Cubed Ice?
If you have any experience with nugget ice, you know how ridiculous this question is. People who've experienced nugget ice know that it is undoubtedly a better alternative to the rock hard, teeth-cracking ice cubes we're accustomed to.
Nugget ice is created by shaving the ice down, compressing the shavings, and creating smaller, less cube-like ice nuggets. It provides all the cooling characteristics without the over tough nature of the ice.
How Much Nugget Ice?
Any countertop nugget ice maker will easily supply 1-3 people with daily, chewable ice. The only restrictive factor will be the storage bin. If you have a household of people looking to chew ice all day, you may want to go with one of the bigger, under counter models.
Again, countertop models can make between 25-40 Lbs of nugget ice a day. Under counter and freestanding models will be able to make 50-300 Lbs of nugget ice a day. Consider how many people will be using the machine and always round up for larger events.
There's no way around it. Nugget ice makers are not cheap. Ranging from $500-$4000, there's really no budget option, there's just less expensive options. As the process becomes more efficient and more companies hop on-board, prices will surely drop. In the meantime, know that you're probably gonna cough up at least $500 on a countertop model.
In spite of the high price, people unanimously expressed their love for the nugget ice, and most said the price was well worth it.
We're very happy to know sonic ice is now available to the general public (not just those who eat at sonics). We hope this review was helpful. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment below.
Founder of Robust Kitchen