How To Make Nugget Ice: Bring Some Souls Into Your Drinks By The Simplest Way!

Have you ever dreamed of summer days when you spend most of your time swimming in the cool water and raising your toasts with your friends? Have you ever imagined on endless summer nights you and your fellow guys chill out by the pool and sip some fantastic glasses of soda, cocktail and even ice cream? If you have, then you should think more about nugget ice which magically elevates beverage taste. Nevertheless, not all people can make nugget ice correctly and that is the reason why I, a skilful and passionate bartender, am writing this blog with all of my heart and my practice experience to share with you how to make nugget ice and believe me, even if you know nothing about making ice, you will surely do after this instruction. 

Now, I know many of you would question “don’t you have to literally get an ice maker to make nugget ice?”, “why would making nugget ice that complex?”, “what do we need more than a cheap machine?” etc. Yes, I know that to have a bucket of nugget ice should not be that complicated but trust me it needs more than just a machine to actually create perfect nugget ice. If you think you know enough to make an extremely mind-blowing glass of cocktail, then you do not know enough, no offense, I just want to clearly illustrate my wish  of sharing tips to have beverage taste. I will slowly explain everything and instruct step-by-step right below. 

Before we start, I would like to show you what I will mention and discuss in this blog: 

  • Nugget ice and things you should know about them, including:
    • Definition of nugget ice 
    • The differences between nugget ice and crushed ice 
    • Reasons why people choose Sonic ice over cubes 
    • Occasions in which nugget ice is used 
    • Ice makers: commercial machines and home ice makers 
    • The process of making nugget ice 
    • The necessity of ice makers 
    • Reason why fridges do not have an ice dispenser 
    • Secrets of making nugget ice 
  • How to make nugget ice: tips you never knew before 

Nugget ice and things you should know about them

We would be naked if we entered an area without knowing basic knowledge of it and that explains why I am writing this part. Traditionally, we use nugget ice for merely drinks but in fact, nugget ice is way more useful than that and has multiple purposes. Let us find out what those are and there are still more to investigate. 

Definition of nugget ice

The perfect way to drink your cocktail is with nugget ice, also known as gourmet ice. Because of its chewy, smooth feel, soft ice, also known as nugget ice, has a cult following. It stands out from the crowd because it is airy and thus light. As opposed to cubed ice, it floats on your drink and offers a more even diversion. 

It is very smooth and enjoyable to chew. It absorbs liquids well and adds flavor to beverages. Nugget ice is created in a variety of forms, but it is simply ice that has been scraped into a small pellet, making it less compact than a typical ice cube. Sonic Drive-In has become synonymous with it, including the fact that it is available at a variety of supermarket locations.

Furthermore, this ice does not melt as easily as crushed ice. Rather, remain for a longer period of time, as it grows softer over time. The best part is that it is completely painless for your teeth. It is often eaten and therefore has a pleasing sensation when chewed.

Crushed ice is not nugget ice. Small nuggets of nugget ice are made from flaked ice that has been compacted into small nuggets. Crushed ice, on the other side, is made from crushed ice cubes.

I used to go to the nearby Sonic Drive-In because two of my best friends worked there, the outdoor patio acts as a good hangout spot in a hurry, and their soft crushed ice was delicious. Sonic’s ice, which is well-known in areas where Sonic is common (e.g., the South and Midwest), is more like a cloud layer than a slew of icebergs.

As an adult, I’m more likely to come across crushed ice in Sonic’s signature drink, the Mint Julep. Not that I drink them on a regular basis, but with the Kentucky Derby coming (the race is this Saturday), it seemed like a smart idea to figure out how to get soft crushed ice at home.

For the purists, I know that a julep tastes great with regular crushed ice, which isn’t the same as soft crushed ice—the latter is just my pick. So, before I go any further, let me describe some words (that I’ve coined) to differentiate between ices:

  • Strong ice is what you see when you pull something out of the freezer that is straight through and rock-hard before it melts. Depending on the tray you choose, they come in a range of shapes and sizes. When only the slowest of melts is needed (see: whisky on the rocks(s)), large cubes of hard ice are beneficial. 
  • Crushed ice: Tiny shard-shaped or pebbly-looking fragments of hard ice that are solid enough to crunch but thin enough to melt away easily. In a julep, this is how it’s done. It can be made with a crushed ice machine, a Lewis Bag, or a muddler or mallet from hard ice. 
  • Slushie ice is what the frozen margarita, kale smoothie, and Slurpee are made of. Slushie ice can be made by blending any drink with plenty of hard ice before the system works smoothly.
  • Soft ice: Medium-sized pellets aerated with several tiny gaps, giving them a cube-like appearance while still being quickly smashed by chompers. The longer it sits in a beverage, the softer it becomes.

In addition to this, here is what makes nugget ice distinctive / stronger than other ice choices, according to Sonic ice fans:

1. It floats at the top of the drink and distributes more equally than cubed ice because it’s light and airy. (Please remember that all ice floats, but… yeah.)

2. It retains its shape for longer than crushed ice, being thinner over time but not melting as easily. (Armchair scientists theorize that the air pockets double as insulation.)

3. Chewing on it is (apparently) very rewarding. It hasn’t been compared to eating on a cloud, because it doesn’t damage your mouth.

The differences between nugget ice and crushed ice

I know that I have pointed out the differences between the ice options but people usually mixed up nugget ice and crushed ice so I feel that I have a strong urge to continue discussing factors which stand out of the two mentioned options. 

Nugget ice seems to be similar to crushed ice at first sight. However, a closer inspection shows that nugget ice comes in small “nuggets” (ahem, no surprise), but crushed ice does not. That’s because crushed ice is made from crushed big blocks, while nugget ice is made from flaked ice compacted into small “nuggets” (or chips, or pebbles…).

As a result, the ice “pellets” contain a significant amount of warmth. These air pockets not only make it crunchy and chewy, but they also allow your drink’s liquid to enter the cube. Apparently this makes them more attractive to ice-eaters, but it also raises the surface area of the ice that comes into contact with the drink, allowing it to melt even faster than a cube. However, since nugget ice is compacted into small “cubes,” it has a smaller surface area than crushed ice, allowing it to melt more slowly.’

Crush ice

In hospitals, chewy ice is popular. A few LNP/LancasterOnline readers vote on the best ice at Lancaster General Hospital and Lancaster Women & Babies Hospital.

Reasons why people choose Sonic ice over cubes

It’s hard to come by in cocktail bars, pubs, and, most notably, at home. Nugget ice, also known as “Pebble,” “Pellet,” “Chewable,” and even “Sonic” ice, has a cult following.

Sonic (the fast food chain) invested in Scotsman ice machines two decades ago, and ice chewers all over the country have been addicted to the chewy, airy ice.  It is also known as “Sonic ice” because it’s available at Sonic drive-thrus, like those near Tanger Outlets, Ephrata, and Mount Joy. According to manager Mauricio Hernandez, small and medium cups of ice are free at the Mount Joy venue. A ten-pound bag costs $1.99 and is very common, particularly on weekends during the summer.

Sonic ice is super easy for people to chew. Basically, it does not hurt our teeth while vibing our fun. Furthermore, nugget ice has an additively crunchy feeling which hypnotizes you completely. Seriously, who would not love something crunchy and chewy in their mouths?

Occasions in which nugget ice is used

When is it appropriate to use nugget ice in your cocktails? That is an excellent issue to dig into. 

  •  If there would be a lot of juleps and broken ice drinks served

There is no Mint Julep like a nugget Ice Julep, according to sonic ice lovers. The drink absorbs the cold, making it even more soothing and calming.

  •  If the temperature is very hot

Crunching on nugget ice is known to be very soothing, so serving drinks with it will keep the customers cold on a hot summer day.

  • In the event that your town has a lot of nugget ice fanatics

Apart from that, Sonic ice has a cult-like following, and a reputation for getting nugget ice might be great publicity for your bar.

Ice makers: commercial machines or home ice makers?

Speaking about making nugget ice, it would be a huge mistake if we do not talk about machines. However, to decide between commercial machines and homemakers would be a difficult task for any customers who are currently looking for a marvelous yet satisfying product. Let us distinguish them now. 

  • Commercial machines: There are many brands available today, but the Scotsman is the one that gave Sonic its name for tasty chewable ice. Ice-o-Matic (bonus points for originality) and Manitowoc are two other brands I’ve used. See what your favorite restaurant or bar supplies shop has to sell.

A word of caution: if you haven’t heard, this type of ice has no single “industry norm” tag. Multiple manufacturers have different names for it: Ice-o-Matic calls it “Pearl Ice,” while Hoshizaki calls it “Cubelet.” However, the most popular name I’ve come across is “Nugget.”

  • Home ice makers: What an exciting time to be alive! Two (you hear me right, two) nugget ice makers are now available for home ice chewing enthusiasts.

Got $500 to spend? Check out the Opal Nugget Ice Maker. Opal Nugget Ice Maker is a wonderful choice. It’s designed for use on a countertop and can produce 1 pound of ice every hour.

The price tag for the Brilliance® Nugget Ice Machine is conspicuously absent from the website, indicating that this choice might be a little expensive. But it’s made by the same firm that produces Sonic ice machines, and authenticity counts, right?

There are more machines to discover, just click here and get yourself one! 

The process of making nugget ice

In general, water is run over an ice cold metal plate (known as an evaporator plate) in most commercial ice makers until the water freezes into a solid cube. The ice machine then begins a harvest period, during which the cubes fall off the plate and into a storage jar. Inside the industry, these ice devices are referred to as “cubers.”

The cubes are usually very hard and transparent. Modern ice cubes are pretty to look at, but biting on them is not recommended.

Sonic ice makers create ice using an auger mechanism rather than an evaporator pad. A big metal cylinder with an auger is used in this method (imagine a large drill head). The cylinder’s walls turn ice-cold as the unit works.

If we stop the process here, we’ll have flake ice, which is common for food displays and has a snow-like consistency. Commercial nugget ice machines take it a step further by producing nuggets.

The ice is compressed together and collected into the industrial ice bin as it extrudes into the auger system. What’s left is Sonic ice, a smooth, brittle nugget of deeply impacted flake ice. 

Going into details: inside the machine

Though the process continues with the production of flake ice, nugget ice begins in a slightly different manner than its cubic relatives.

Water is run into a metal cylinder that is cooled by the refrigeration mechanism of a traditional Sonic ice machine.

The water starts to pool in thin sheets that protrude from the cylinder’s side due to the extreme temperature. Around the same time, an auger spins, scratching the cylinder’s interior sides. As it does so, the emerging ice spikes are removed and pushed to the top of the auger. 

We would name the final product flake ice, which is usually used in fresh seafood and produce shows, if this was the end of the process. A residential nugget ice maker, on the other hand, takes it a little further by compressing the ice flakes in a narrow container.

An extruder tip is located at the tube’s edge, where the ice either splits up automatically into smaller fragments or is lopped into rather uniform parts by a cutter.

Let’s dig deeper: component factors


Nugget ice, like every other form of ice, starts with pure water. The kind of water you use will have a big impact on the consistency of the ice you create.

Filtered water, for example, makes the ice less cloudy and results in much harder nuggets. Since there is less compressed air in the bath, pre-boiled water may also yield finer nuggets.

The most critical elements are the flavor and texture. A long as the water is safe to drink, you should be fine.

Depending on the kind of unit you have, the water is supplied to the ice maker in a different way. If it’s compact, you’ll fill a tank of water.

If it’s an under-counter or standalone device, it’ll almost definitely need a working water line.

If your unit uses a water tube, make sure it’s fitted with a filter. If you don’t have one, make one. The consistency of water quality is important.

Filtering the water also extracts the majority of minerals that can affect the structure of the ice and clog the ice machine. 

The process of freezing 

The very cold part of the trip starts as the water enters a Sonic ice maker. This is where a nugget ice maker and a conventional cube ice maker diverge.

Water is passed over a tray with multiple cubic molds on it when producing typical ice cubes. The water in the molds is frozen into ice by a refrigeration device.

The tray is then heated to unstick the ice cubes and allow them to fall into the ice bin, where they can be scooped by the user.

A sonic ice machine, unlike a conventional ice cube manufacturer, does not use an ice tray. Instead, it employs a cylindrical conduit containing a revolving auger. It uses a liquid refrigerant to freeze the water, much like a typical ice maker.

The refrigerant that circulates through the tubing removes heat from the vapor, allowing it to freeze into ice flakes.

The flakes stick to the cylinder’s cold wall in a normal way.

The ice flakes are then scraped off the wall and pushed to the top of the cylinder, where they exit into an ice bin, by a slowly spinning auger.

It is worth noting the Sonic ice makers don’t have a boiler. As a result, they consume less energy than conventional ice cube builders.


From auger to ice bin, the final leg of the journey differs from machine to machine.

The flakes are collected and squeezed into a vacuum tube in most Sonic ice builders, where they emerge as nuggets. Gravity leads them to disintegrate spontaneously.

A blade slices the nuggets when they are extruded from the conduit in other units. This results in pellets that are more evenly shaped.

Before the ice is issued, more finesses are performed in more costly ones.

To start, they will compress the nuggets even further to extract excess water.

Sonic nuggets are firmer and marginally tougher than compressed ice nuggets. They aren’t as crunchy as typical ice cubes, but they aren’t as brittle either.

If you want Sonic ice that lasts longer in your cocktail, compressed nuggets are the way to go. They’re particularly well-suited to outdoor bars, pubs, and cafes.

The necessity of ice makers

Is purchasing a nugget ice machine worthwhile? The response will vary from person to person, but if you have the financial means to do so, particularly if you live in a hotter environment, you’ll find it difficult to go back to cubed ice if you get one.

For many factors, a successful pellet ice maker would create better tasting ice:

  • Unlike some other ice producers, the ice can be regularly filtered and kept fresh.
  • Due to the products it shares the freezer with, ice cubes in freezers that share space with other foods can take on a strange flavor.
  • Nugget ice consumes the liquids it is dropped in, making the drinking process more enjoyable.

Reason why fridges do not have an ice dispenser? 

Although I couldn’t find a definitive answer to this question on the internet, I believe the most probable cause is expense. Opal is several hundred dollars except for a modest counter top. Undercounter nugget ice machines can cost just over a thousand dollars, and decent ones can cost several thousand dollars. This alone is comparable to the cost of most high-end refrigerators. I believe the market simply cannot warrant the cost. 

Secrets of making nugget ice 

You will need purified water. Currently, the flavor and overall consistency of your nugget ice is determined by water.

  • Filtered water provides nuggets that are softer and less cloudy.
  • Water that has been pre-boiled creates clear nuggets because boiling removes the air from the water.

Remember that when it comes to nugget ice, only texture and taste are important. To make amazing sonic ice, you’ll need potable water.

The ice maker’s water distribution system is calculated by the model. Water is applied to the tank of compact ice producers. An active water line may be needed for an under-counter or standalone ice machine.

How to make nugget ice: tips you never knew before and ultimate guide 

Step 1: Choose the tray 

Choose an ice cube tray with molds that are medium in dimension. Look for a tray that allows square cubes between 1/2 and 3/4 inches (1.3 and 1.9 cm) wide for the right nugget scale. Ice cube trays, which come in plastic or silicone, can be purchased from a grocery shop, a food store, or an online retailer. If you don’t want to crush the soft ice, a tray that makes fun shapes like stars or hearts can be used instead.

Step 2: Pour the liquid 

Fill full of the molds halfway with club soda and set aside. To make thin, fluffy cubes, carefully pour a bottle of club soda into the tray until each mold is just half full. If you’re using a recently opened bottle of club soda, make sure it’s empty and really carbonated. 

Fill the molds all the way to the brim for bigger ice cubes.

You should also use carbonated water instead of club soda. To add a fruity twist, choose flavored sparkling water, such as lemon sparkling water.

Alternatively, purchase the fizziest bottle you can find (a big 2-liter of club soda would do the trick if you need lots of drinks for a derby party). The more bubbles there are, the stronger.

Step 3: Freeze, freeze, freeze! 

Freeze the tray for at least 6 hours before serving. Set the tray in the freezer after filling it to keep it smooth. To be safe, leave it for at least 6 hours, if not overnight. When the ice is fully frozen, it will be cloudy. 

By pressing tightly on one of the molds, you will see how the ice is frozen. Keep the ice in the freezer for longer if it breaks or gives in some way.

A medium-sized cube, about a half-inch to 3/4-inch squared, is about the right size for soft crushed ice (fits in mouth comfortably, does not melt too quickly, so you end up with some super-soft ones at the end of your beverage)—but it’s also good to have some small snowier parts floating in between them for those first sips.

Fill standard ice cube trays half or all the way full before going on to the next stage, depending on how big you want your pieces to be. They’ll only take a few hours to set, so if you freeze them today and keep them in the freezer for days, they’ll still be soft on Saturday. They’ll be cloudy when you pop them out.

Step 4: Remove the ice 

Remove the tray from the freezer until the ice is fully frozen. To loosen the cubes from their individual pockets, softly bend the tray back and forth. Place them in glasses or a bowl to put aside. 

If you’re having trouble getting the ice out of the tray, softly tap it on a hard surface.

Step 5: Crush them! 

You can utilize three ways to crush the ice. 

  • A blender: place the ice cubes in tiny pieces in the blender and use the crush button to crush them. Blend until you reach the perfect consistency. You can, though, make sure that the blender will crush ice. Blenders with a glass tub, stainless-steel blades, and at least 400 watts of power should suffice.

If you have a blender that can hold ice, combine the cubes in it. Check the user manual for your blender to see if it’s capable of breaking ice. The blender is definitely ice-friendly if it has a glass tank, stainless steel blades, and a power setting of at least 400 watts. Place the cubes inside and set the blender to smoothie or crumble.

Don’t use a blender with a plastic bowl or blades to crush ice. They could be broken by the cold.

In the mixer, don’t clutter the cubes. Enable them to walk about freely.

  • A Muddler: place a small amount of ice cubes in a glass and muddle them with a muffler until they are smashed. For a quicker and cleaner result, rotate the operation. Repeat 4–6 times more or before the ice is crushed. However, bear in mind that a muffler will only crush a tiny amount of ice. You may also use the end of a wooden spoon instead of a muffler. 

A muddler may be made of metal, plastic, or wood. If you muddle in a plastic drinking glass, it can break.

  • A Lewis bag: if you’re crushing a lot of ice, you should use a lewis bag or a cloth bag. Fill the bag with ice crystals, fold it, and pound it with a heavy tool such as a rolling pin. And sure not to crush any of the ice in the bag while grinding the ice. Ice drinks with small blocks of ice are particularly calming. 

A Lewis bag can be made by fashioning a satchel out of a tea towel and shattering soft ice cubes in it with a mallet, but I went with a muddler and a heavy mug. Rather than crushing the cubes to pieces, giving each one a good whack. It’s not a bad idea to have a few small pellets in the mix. Scoop all into a bottle, top with your favorite cocktail, and slurp away.

Step 6: Remember to leave the chunks 

Crush the ice just enough so there are still chunks left. Avoid over-smashing the ice. Instead of completely grinding the cubes into flakes, stop breaking up the ice once it’s in tiny pieces.

Play around with how much you crush the ice based on the texture you prefer. If you like bigger chunks, for example, crush it less.

Step 7: Serve the ice with your favourite beverage

In a glass, combine the compressed soft ice and the beverage of your choosing. Place the ice in a glass until it has been crushed. Then, over the cold, spill whatever cocktail you desire. Serve as soon as possible until the ice melts.

Since crushed ice is in smaller pieces, it can melt faster than blocks of ice. Soft drinks and some beverages, such as mint juleps and Moscow Mules, are often consumed with crushed soft ice.

All in all, from the bottom of my heart, I have completely shared all of my knowledge and experience of how to make nugget ice

Please tell me if you like my post or not because it is really precious to me. I super appreciate your comments and shares so do it if you can, your friends need to know about this because who doesn’t like to party?! Now you can  see that making nugget ice is not that difficult but it still requires some special knowledge to really issue perfect nugget ice. 

Besides regular and traditional ways of making nugget ice that I have mentioned above, you can adjust the method by using different machines to do the task. Just do not forget to have fun. 

I hope you enjoy the reading and practice as soon as you can. I wish you all the best and see you in my next sharing. 

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