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What is your supply of ice like in the height of summer? Are you more likely to struggle with ice cube trays in your freezer or find yourself heading to the store for yet another bag of ice? A better option may be to invest in a countertop ice machine – especially one that can provide sonic ice to keep the whole family happy.
Can you buy a sonic ice maker?
The popularity of “sonic” ice is undeniable. Even the fact that we use this term for any chewable nugget of ice says a lot about the memories that people have of Sonic drinks and the way the term has been imprinted on our minds.
Some people may say that they want “chick-fil-a” ice instead, but the concept is pretty much the same. It is all about finding the right shape and texture for a more pleasurable experience and a better way of cooling your drink.
Traditional ice cubes just aren’t enough once you’ve had “sonic” nuggets. The question is, can you get a machine to make this ice for you at home?
Which countertop ice maker makes sonic ice?
Making nugget ice with a machine at home is a great idea if you have family members that much prefer this softer, chewier ice to the more traditional cubes. There are lots of machines that now make nugget ice instead of traditional cubes. You can look out for products that call themselves nugget ice makers and look at photos of the ice created.
Why choose a nugget ice maker for your home?
Nugget ice makers for sonic ice are a great choice for your home because of the following reasons. They are,
1) appealing to guests at parties
2) able to provide a regular supply of ice for cold drinks over the summer
Ice machines are great for parties in the summer because they eliminate the need to go out and buy big bags of ice and find somewhere to store it all. You can fill the machine up with water – bottled water may go down best – and let the machine produce a steady supply of ice throughout the evening.
It should run out if you remember to top it up and will warn you if it runs low. This means the best chewy pellets of ice for soft drinks and cocktails to keep guests satisfied.
You can also get a machine for your kitchen countertop that provides a similar service. This means a steady supply of ice for the family without relying on ice cube trays in the freezer or worrying about freezer storage.
Why buy bags of ice and take up valuable room for ice cream when you can produce a steady flow of sonic ice. The regular dispensing of nuggets means a reliable ice supply for cooling drinks on a hot afternoon or maybe adding ice to a water bottle for a hike.
What is the best countertop ice maker to buy?
When choosing the best sonic ice maker for your home, you need to think about the following factors:
1) Does it definitely make softer nugget ice?
This is actually a bigger issue than you might imagine, and one that made it difficult to choose the best machines for this guide. You see, there are different opinions on what constitutes “sonic” ice. Ideally, you want it to be softer and better for the drink than a normal cube.
But, some machines make hollow nuggets that are really chewy, like the real thing, while others are more bullet-like. Some users may have no problem with the rounded bullets, while others are dead-set on getting that “sonic” experience.
2) What is the rate of production?
The rate of production of a nugget ice machine has two separate figures. Most companies will state this somewhere in the specification of the machine. The first is the number of nuggets produced in one cycle and the other is the amount that it can produce in a day.
There is an average rate in the best machines of around 9 cubes in 6-8 minutes and then 26 pounds per day. Some will be able to offer a little more depending on their capacity. Always check the specifications and dimensions of a machine before buying.
3) Is it a good size for your countertop?
With that in mind, you can also think about the overall size of the machine and its application in different settings. There are lots of compact machines out there that you can set up on your kitchen counter.
These will offer a steady supply of ice cubes to add to drinks throughout the day. Or, you could set one up in an outdoor area if there is an available power outlet. Be aware that some of the more substantial and reliable machines are a bit bigger and might not be as suitable for smaller spaces.
4) Can you make ice cubes of different sizes?
Size really does matter when it comes to the best ice cube makers. In addition to considering the size of the machine, you can also think about the size of the cubes. Many top nugget ice machines will offer a choice. Typically, this is a small or a large cube – the smaller being better suited for drinks bottles. It should be easy to switch between the two on the control panel. Others will have an extra option.
5) Is it portable for use at parties?
One of the potential benefits of a more compact ice maker like this is the ability to carry it outside for parties, or to take it to a function at someone else’s home. Not all machines are built for this, and there are warnings on some to let the coolant rest for a while before operation if the machine is transported on its side. Still, there are some attractive, smaller machines that have carry handles and are ideal for this situation.
6) Does it make a lot of noise?
Noise is always going to be a concern with any sort of kitchen appliance like this. You don’t want something making continual noise all day if you have kids sleeping just want some peace and quiet on your day off. You also don’t want to have to talk over the noise at a party. Some machines are quieter than others. Check user testimonials to learn more.
7) Does it come with accessories?
There is a common list of accessories that you can get with these nugget ice machines. Most will have an ice tray that is easy to use, as well as a scoop to easily dispense ice into a bowl or drinks container. There may be other add-ons that can help too. But, don’t assume that a machine has a scoop just because it should come as standard. Some cheaper options may discard this to cut costs.
8) Is it easy to use?
Ease of use is essential with these machines. Ideally, you want something so simple that you could even get the kids to loads and retrieve the ice for you. With most of these machines, all you need to do is add the water, choose your settings and wait for the machine to finish the first cycle.
The console should have buttons for sizes and settings that are easy to understand. From there, you should also find a series of indicators that highlight when the water needs refilling or when the ice is ready.
Observation windows can make a big difference too, as you can see the progress of the ice. Some are bigger and better positioned than others.
9) Does it look nice?
The aesthetic quality of an ice cube maker is that important. As long as you get the ice that you want, a nice design is just a bonus. However, with so many different products out there now, it doesn’t hurt to compare some of the more attractive options.
A professional-looking machine with a silver finish and a big window will get more compliments. You might also want to get a colorful one for parties rather than something plain and white.
Also, don’t forget that this could be on display in your kitchen for most of the summer. Choosing a machine that matches other appliances is fine.
10) Is it within budget?
A lot of the best machines for making nugget ice retail around the $100 – $150 mark. This means that you can get a quality item without paying a fortune. Anything cheaper may not have the same functionality or longevity. There are also more expensive options that have a more commercial or professional feel. It is up to you to determine if they are worth the extra cost.
My top pick for the best nugget ice maker.
There are lots of great options out there if you want chewy sonic-style ice or just softer nuggets. A lot of the options below are good enough to make the top of a lot of lists. However, I have chosen the KUPPET Ice Maker Machine. This machine comes top for me not because of any special features or interesting aspects to the design, but because it does little wrong.
It ticks all the right boxes on expected features and performance with a lot of happy users. It is a great portable choice for a first machine. From there, you can always upgrade to something more high-end, such as the GE Profile Opal.
The 9 best nugget ice makers.
1) IKICH Portable Ice Maker Machine for Countertop
The reason that I want to start this guide with this model is that it is one that has pretty much everything that you should look for. There isn’t anything to give it any wow factor. But, you do get all of the essential basic features.
This machine provides 9 pieces of ice in 6 minutes and can make 12kg in 24 hours, within its 2-liter water reservoir. There are the usual 2 ice sizes to choose from and a large window in the top to watch the progress of the ice.
You also get a simple control panel on the top, which includes a warning light when the hopper is full. It also comes with a scoop and a basket.
One of the bigger problems with this machine is that it comes with a Chinese instruction manual. This won’t be a major problem for all those that can figure out the buttons and settings intuitively.
However, a little English-language guidance would be nice for those that need to understand everything in detail. For example, there may be some quirks with the ice-making process or cleaning that aren’t obvious until they happen – and by then you are left reacting to them rather than preparing for them.
2) LITBOOS Portable Ice Makers Countertop
What I like most about this machine is that it provides an extra size of an ice cube. This means that you have some large nuggets to chew on for a while, a more medium-sized one, or a series of much smaller ones for drinks bottles. This simple addition could make a massive difference to a lot of families.
This is also a pretty compact machine, measuring 10.2 x 13 x 13.1 inches, there is also the promise that while there is a powerful motor at 150W, it is also fast cooling for low energy consumption. You should be able to get 10 cubes in 10mins and 26lbs per day. The additional indicator lights and scoop help too.
One thing that I don’t like about this option is that it doesn’t have the observation window that makes so many of these machines so helpful. These observation windows give many users peace of mind that the water is actually turning to ice and the machine isn’t whirring away for anything.
The window also helps kids get more involved with this chore. If you can do without this feature, there is little to worry about here. If you would miss it, it might be worthwhile looking at a different option.
3) KUPPET Ice Maker Machine for Countertop
As I mentioned above when talking about this as my top pick, this machine is a great choice because it offers so many essential features. You can get 9 Ice Cubes in as little as 6min, which is perfect for hot afternoons, and a total of 26 lbs/day.
The machine is also designed to be easy to understand with the combination of the buttons on the console and the bright illumination from the LED warning lights. As with most machines, these are activated once the water needs refilling or the basket is full of ice. The addition of the scoop and the easy-clean durable shell make this a user-friendly option for a lot of people.
It was difficult to find a con to talk about here because this machine is such a box-ticker. Everything that you would look for in a competent ice maker is here, from the ease of use to the reliability of the process.
The biggest complaint could be that you only get two sizes of an ice cube, whereas other models can offer three. But, even then, two is the standard so this isn’t really a cut corner or a loss in any way. There isn’t a wow factor here, but there is enough to ensure that most users will be happy with the results.
4) Deco Gear Rapid Electric Party Ice Maker
One thing that stands out to me about this machine is that you get a choice of colors in the casing. This isn’t that common, as it is easier just to offer a silver finish or a clean white appliance. But, the colors are nice for use during parties.
This is another speedy machine, providing 9 ice cubes in just 6min, and there is again the standard capacity of 26 lbs/day. The free basket and scoop make it easier to use, there are the same indicator lights to keep things running smoothly, and you can see the progress of the ice through the adequate observation window.
This is one of those models that have a fan on the side to stop the machine from overheating. This is a great idea because you need the coolant at just the right temperature and the machine to run smoothly.
However, there is a risk that the fan will stop any “silent” operation. In the case of this machine, there are additional complaints about noise from some of the inner workings – few could pinpoint the cause exactly. So, this might not be the best choice if you want a machine that will sit there unnoticed during a party.
5) Frigidaire Countertop Portable Nugget Ice Maker Machine
This could have easily been a top pick for me because there is so much about this machine to appreciate. All of the important features are functions are there, allowing for the speedy and effective production of ice that buyers are after. However, there are questions about the ice that mean that there is a bit of asterisk after the entry.
Starting with the plus points, you get the choice of two sizes of ice, with the machine producing 9 cubes every 7-15 minutes within the 2.3-quart reservoir. The digital control panel has easy-to-use buttons and indicator lights and you get the usual shovel for the ice.
This machine is where we see some of the debates over the type of ice created. There are two issues to look out for here. You can have companies with pictures of sonic ice but the capabilities for normal ice.
Or, you can have those talking about nugget ice but offering the less chewy bullet kind. I decided to include this machine in this guide because even though some say it is more bullet than nugget, and therefore not the ice they asked for, it shows the variety in products out there. If you are insistent on soft sonic ice, this isn’t for you.
6) GE Profile Opal | Countertop Nugget Ice Maker
The most interesting thing about this larger machine is that there is built-in Bluetooth connectivity for remote controls. The importance of this will depend on how much you appreciate smart-devices and app-controlled tech.
There are features here that could help as you can monitor the machine and schedule the ice from another room. Potentially, you could tell the machine to get to work as you leave the office and have ice waiting for you when you get home.
The machine can produce 24 lbs per day and there is still that all-important observation window to watch the progress in-person if you want to. The whole machine looks great and more professional than some portable models. This is thanks to the silver finish and the nice dispenser on the side.
The downside of such a large and professional approach is that you will lose out on some applications. You aren’t going to be able to bring this outside or take it to parties as you would some of the other options here.
Inside, this is purely for use in the kitchen for that regular supply of ice for your drinks. Also, be aware that this flashier system comes at a higher price. There is value here for what you get, but make sure it is still within your budget.
7) Igloo ICEB26HNAQ Automatic Self-Cleaning Portable Electric Countertop Ice Maker Machine
What I like most about this option is that you have a model that is truly portable. The term portable is too common for any machine that is compact and that can be lifted by hand. This one is different because of the size and the use of the carry handle over the top. You should be able to set this up outside or in another home with ease. The blue and white design just adds to that appeal for use at parties.
The machine can create 26 pounds of ice in 24 hour period, with either 9 small or large nugget ice cubes produced in just 7 minutes. Many users will also appreciate the automatic cleaning function, which can save you a lot of time. There are also the usual user-friendly features of the console and the indicator lights for a full basket or changing the water.
Unfortunately, this is another option where there have been some negative comments about the noise created. The product description for this machine talks about a “silent” operation – something many companies mention as an additional selling point. However, there is a distinctive hum from the motor.
Users also say that you can hear the ice drop, with one doing so from their bedroom above. This could be annoying after a while.
8) SMETA Portable Compact Ice Maker Machine Countertop
The main selling points here are the capacity and production rate. The average amount of ice made per day in a nugget ice maker is 24 pounds. This one can create 26 pounds within its 9.5 x 12.9 x 14.1, and also store up to 1.5 pounds. This is ideal for larger families that know that they will get through a lot of ice over the summer.
Then there is the fact that this is sold as a quick and quiet option. There could be some concerns that the large machine and impressive rate could lead to a noisy process. But, users are impressed with what they see, and more importantly what they can’t hear. Add in the user-friendly features and this is a great tool for the kitchen.
There is a warning in the product listing for this machine that highlights an important consideration with ice makers. Portability is always restricted by the need to keep the machine upright at all times. Any deviation from this position can have a negative effect on the coolant and function of the machine.
Here, the recommendation is to let the machine settle for 24 hours after moving it before making ice. This is much longer than other machines and no good for those relocating the device for a party that night.
9) Igloo ICEB33SL 33-Pound Automatic Portable Countertop Ice Maker Machine
This final model has the best rate of production yet. To start with, you can get a choice of either small or large nuggets at a rate of 9 in just 7 minutes. From there, it will create around 33 pounds of ice in just 24 hours. That is a significant jump from some of the more compact and portable items in this guide.
Additional benefits here include the bonus accessories and the observation window. There is a good-sized transparent window to help you see the progress of all that ice and you can remove it with ease thanks to the scoop and the basket.
There isn’t much else to this machine to make it stand out against the competition. But, that might not be a bad thing if you are looking for a simple first-time model.
Again, there are issues with portability when using this machine. The word portable is there in the name, suggesting that users can carry between locations and set it up with ease. However, you have to take that larger size into consideration.
This is not the same shape or weight as other portable options and isn’t as suitable for use on social occasions. Instead, this is better suited to a permanent position on the counter where you can get as much ice as you need throughout the day.
Choosing the best nugget ice machine for your needs.
In the end, your choice comes down to your reasons for purchasing this sonic ice maker in the first place. Are you more concerned with a steady flow of ice for cold drinks in the summer or for supplying guests at occasional parties?
The portable options with the reliable drop rate and simple controls are great for the latter. The more substantial machines with bigger capacities, clean designs, and observation windows may be better for use in the kitchen. Take your time to compare your options and see which is the right fit for you.