Commercial Ice Machine Buying Guide: What Type of Ice Cubes Do I Need?

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Three questions for you: when you go shopping, do you just have a general idea of what you would like or what you need? Do you strongly dislike searching through 250 options to find the right product? When you get to the store and you see all of the options are you quickly overwhelmed? (seriously do I need a self-cleaning, self-timing, computer chip equipped toaster that tells me the density of the bread and the time in china? I just want something that works). If this is you then raise your hand….okay now put it down, I can’t see it anyway. But seriously there are a lot of options out there when you are looking to buy a commercial ice machine. And as frustrating as it is, there is not just one ice machine out there that will work for everyone. However, by answering a few common questions, and explaining some of the options, we will relieve a lot of that frustration and help you become an ice maker guru.

flow chart on how to buy a commercial ice machine

Over the next several blog posts we are going to be following this massive commercial ice machine buying guide flow chart in an effort to take the confusion out of the buying process. Today we will look at the different kinds of ice that are available for you to choose from and highlight some of the most common uses for each type of ice.

So here we go, there are different kinds of ice for you to choose from:

  • “Shaved” or “Flake” ice
  • “Nugget” also known as: “Pearl”, “Cubelets”, “Soft Ice”, or “Sonic Ice”
  • Half Cube ice
  • Full Cube ice
  • “Gourmet” or “Top Hat” ice
picture of flaked ice

Shaved Ice:

Shaved or flake ice is a great way to cool a product down quickly. The large surface area created by shaving off flecks of ice from a large block, allows for the ice to be molded, packed, and shaped around whatever it is that you are trying to cool down. The down side is that it also melts fairly quickly in comparison to cube forms of ice. However, this is a perfect choice for applications where the ice needs to be molded around something (therapeutic applications), quickly cool a product (meat and seafood, blended cocktails), or where the ice will be eaten (it is soft and doesn’t damage teeth like munching on cubes can). Check out the Manitowoc RF-0266A for a great example.

Shaved ice is a great choice for :

  • Produce, Seafood, or Meat Displays
  • Blended cocktails
  • Salad bars
  • Hospitals and Nursing Homes
  • Other therapeutic uses
picture of nugget ice

Nugget Ice:

Nugget ice goes by a lot of names: pearl, cubelets, soft ice, and sonic ice might all be terms that are used to refer to this type of ice. Basically this is shaved ice which has been molded into compact, random sized “nuggets”. Nugget ice is fun to chew, cools drinks quickly without foaming, and does not stick together. The ever-popular GEMU090 serves as a perfect example for a nugget ice machine.

Nugget ice is a great choice for:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Blended cocktails
  • Salad bars
  • Produce Displays
  • Hospitals and Nursing Homes
  • Other therapeutic uses
picture of half dice ice

Half Cube:

Half cube and full cube ice is the type of ice you typically think about when the topic of ice comes up over the dinner table (you all do talk about ice at the dinner table right?). Half cube ice is great because it melts slowly compared to nugget and shaved ice, thus keeping a drink cool for a long period of time without watering it down. And due to its smaller size (as compare to full or gourmet ice) more ice can fit into a glass which displaces more liquid meaning that less of the expensive product can fit into the glass. i.e. More ice in the glass = less tea, soft drinks, lemonade, or other liquid. Manitowoc's UY-0140A is a great representative of a half cube ice machine.

Half cube is a perfect choice for:

  • Mixed drinks
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Ice retailing
  • Ice dispensing
picture of full dice ice

Full Cube:

Like its cousin, the half cube, full cube ice is very common and cheap to make. Full cubes melt very slowly due to the small surface area to cube size ratio. See the UD-0140A for a perfect full cube model.

Full cube ice is perfect for:

  • Ice retailing
  • Banquet services
  • Ice displays
  • Ice dispensing
  • Mixed drinks
picture of gourmet ice

Gourmet Cubes:

"Pretty" and "ice cubes" are not two things you would normally associate together. However, when it comes to gourmet cubes and how they stack up against the previous options, "pretty" might just be an appropriate descriptor. The fancy look of Gourmet Cubes make this ice feel right at home in elegant restaurants and events such as weddings and banquets. The slow melt time, non-stick characteristics, and attractive appearance makes these cubes ideal for long, fancy events.

Gourmet cubes are perfect for:

  • Bar use
  • Upscale restaurants
  • Banquet services
  • Wedding and special events
  • Waitress stations

I hope that helps demystify all of the options that you have when it comes to choosing the right type of ice for your needs. Next week we will look at how much ice you will need to make each day to meet the needs of your guests and the correct type of commercial ice maker and size of bin you should look at purchasing.

Got any questions on ice makers? Leave us a note in the comments.

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no them machine cost to much i have pica i been eating ice since i was 5 now i am 45 u buy a blender blend your ice on crush puree keep doing it till it gets like cursh snow then get spoon as u take ice out blender dry it drain water off it eatch time u scoop it out put it in cup it soft it chewy they want money try it u fall inlove

chick fil a's nugget ice is the BEST

Hey Snowflake's Mom, Since you're an ice muncher, it sounds to us like you need to be chewing on nugget ice, or as it is sometimes called, pearl ice. Nugget ice can usually be found at restaurants like Sonic, or at hospitals. If you want nugget ice of your own, check out this small undercounter Nugget/Pearl Ice Machine from Ice-O-Matic. Happy ice hunting!

I believe I have PICA and love ice over many things and I also think it keeps me from munching on extra food. The problem is the ice from my refrigerator or my husband brings home the wrong type and I crack my teeth. Thank God for the noted differences. I like ice that appears to be crushed but comes out of the dispenser in small tubes that look like the things that come out of the ground during aeration. Any idea what type of ice I should be using,

Shella, we're glad someone else is as happy about ice as us! I hope you are able to properly educate your friends on all the wonderful varieties of ice. Just so you know, many of our residential customers purchase the Pearl Ice Machine from Ice-O-Matic. Always feel free to ask any questions. We'll talk with you later, have a good day!

I was pretty happy when i came acrross this page. I have argued with so many people over the shapes of ice and what not i always get told theres no diffrence in ice but now i have proof to back me up and even have the correct names.I guess u could say im ADDICTED to eating ice ever since i lost my kidneys in 2001. I was put on a strict fluid restriction so instead of drinking fluids i eat ice but out through the years i have became addicted and very picky with the ice i eat . I drive over 20 min away at least 3 times a week just to get ice ,i usually get in between 6-8 bags at a time and that lasts me maybe 3 days, the place i buy my ice from has there own machine and bag it there. So now im looking into investing into an ice machine but i need to find a machine like theres, i wish it was as simple as they would just sell me theres. So now i start my hunt. THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME AND POSTING THIS POST ON THE DIFFRENT SHAPES OF ICE THAT EACH DIFFRENT MACHINE MAKES.

Thanks for the feedback. We are glad that you found the information useful. Cheers!

Thanks so much, this blog really helped me decide which ice type that I need for my carbonated drinks!

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