Whether it’s for entertaining on warm summer nights or just keeping your preferred beverages icy cold, a specialty ice maker can be a fun luxury to have in your home. With the ability to produce custom crafted ice in different shapes and sizes, specialty ice makers allow you to chill drinks in style. Read on to learn more about the wonders of specialty ice and the specialty ice makers that make it possible to enjoy this little luxury at home.
What is Specialty Ice?
Specialty ice refers to ice that is shaped into specific forms beyond traditional cube-shaped ice. Some popular types of specialty ice include:
- Crescent ice – These small, pebble-shaped pieces of ice provide rapid cooling and are often used in soft drinks at fast food restaurants. The small size allows them to cool drinks faster than normal ice cubes.
- Nugget ice – Similar to crescent ice, these small, soft bits of ice melt slowly and are chewable. The chewing texture makes nugget ice popular for cocktails and smoothies.
- Flake ice – Thin, snow-like flakes of ice that keep foods chilled without watering them down. Fish markets and cafeteria-style eateries often use flake ice.
- Gourmet ice cubes – Large, carved cubes in various geometric shapes and designs. These eye-catching blocks add flair to a drink.
- Spears – Thin, pointed cylinders that resemble icicles. Spears add elegance and can easily fit through bottle openings.
- Crushed ice – Small grains of ice crushed into tiny bits, useful for chilling drinks rapidly without diluting them too quickly.
The ability to produce these specialty ice types at home takes drinks from basic to elegant with little effort.
Why Invest in a Specialty Ice Maker?
Here are some of the top reasons to consider a specialty ice maker for your home:
With a variety of ice shapes and sizes to choose from, you can customize drinks to suit the beverage and the occasion. Whiskey stones for a smooth bourbon on the rocks. Flaky ice for keeping sodas chilled to perfection or fruit infused waters cold without getting watered down. Or gourmet cubes for an elegant touch in cocktails served to guests. The options are virtually endless.
A specialty ice maker on your home bar or countertop provides a fun conversation piece when entertaining. Guests will be intrigued watching different shaped ice being produced right before their eyes. And the unique ice it delivers makes for a memorable drink experience.
Avoid Ice Runs
No more running to the store when you run out of ice! With a specialty machine at home you have an unlimited supply of gourmet ice ready anytime inspiration for a chilled drink strikes.
Better Beverage Experience
With specialty ice, drinks stay colder longer and have less risk of being watered down as the ice melts. The slow melt time of dense cubes or crunchy nugget ice avoids dilution while keeping drinks deliciously chilled from first sip to last.
Make Ordinary Drinks Extraordinary
A simple soda, iced tea, or glass of water turns into a treat when served with fun shaped ice like spears, cubes, or crescents. Specialty ice adds a sense of sophistication and can elevate an everyday drink into something special.
Types of Specialty Ice Makers
If you’re ready to start enjoying specialty ice at home, the next step is choosing the right ice maker for your needs. A few key factors to consider are:
What types of shaped specialty ice do you most want to make? The ice shape capabilities of different machines vary, so think about your most desired shapes.
Daily ice output ranges significantly between small countertop models and larger freestanding machines. Decide how much ice you realistically need to determine the appropriate production capacity.
Size & Footprint
The dimensions of the machine and counter/floor space needed are considerations, especially for apartment or small kitchens. Compact countertop models are available.
Higher end machines may offer advanced features like self-cleaning, smartphone connectivity, custom color lighting, and more. Decide which features matter most for your preferences and budget.
Specialty ice makers range from a couple hundred dollars for basic countertop models up to $3,000 or more for sophisticated freestanding machines. Set a budget and look for best value.
With those factors in mind, here is an overview of some top types of specialty ice makers:
Countertop Ice Makers
The most compact option, countertop ice makers can produce a range of specialty ice shapes in small batches. Simple to operate plug-in models start around $150-$200. Higher end countertops with more advanced features run $300 to $500+.
- Small size fits in tight spaces
- Lower cost than larger machines
- Quickly add ice making abilities
- Limited capacity and ice shape options
- Require frequent draining as internal storage bin fills
Undercounter Ice Makers
Slightly larger built-in models designed to tuck away under counters and cabinets while still allowing for a range of ice shapes. Prices start around $400 and up.
- Larger capacity than countertops
- Out of sight integrated design
- Drain connects to sink, no manual draining
- Requires dedicated cabinet space for installation
- Limited to ice shapes the model offers
Freestanding Ice Makers
Offering the widest range of specialty ice production capacities, shapes, and advanced features. Prices range from $500 for starter models up to $2500-$3000 for professional machines.
- Largest ice shape variety and quantities
- Commercial grade durability
- Insulated storage bin keeps ice longer
- Many options for customization
- Large footprint requires floor space
- Most expensive option
Within each category, look for a machine that best matches your household’s ice needs, preferred shapes, and budget. Read customer reviews to help choose a model with a track record of performance and durability.
Key Features to Look For
Beyond just the type and size of a specialty ice maker, there are a few key features to look for to maximize convenience, versatility, and durability:
- Self-cleaning – Takes the hassle out of maintenance by automatically cleaning and descaling the machine on a periodic basis.
- Smart home connectivity – Allows monitoring ice levels and controlling the machine from your smartphone or smart speaker.
- Max Ice Mode – Produces ice at the machine’s fastest rate for times when you need to maximize output.
- Built-in storage bin – Insulated bin stores several pounds of ice, keeping it frozen longer without melting.
- Removable ice basket – Allows easy transfer of ice to coolers or serving containers.
- Interior light – Illuminates the bin interior when the lid is lifted so you can clearly see the ice.
- Replaceable air filter – Keeps the internal workings dust-free for optimal performance.
- Quiet operation – Well-insulated machines minimize noise pollution in your kitchen.
- Digital display – Makes monitoring and adjusting settings easy.
- Drain pump – Eliminates manual draining by pumping away melted ice water.
Setting Up Your Specialty Ice Maker
Once you’ve selected the perfect specialty ice maker for your needs, proper setup is important for smooth operation. Here are some tips:
Allow adequate ventilation space around the unit for air circulation. Avoid placing in confined spaces or near heat sources like ovens that could impact performance.
Machines will require a nearby water line connection. A ice maker hookup kit allows easy DIY connection. If no water line is accessible, you can manually fill using gallons of distilled water to prevent mineral buildup.
Proper leveling minimizes vibration and avoids issues like uneven ice cubes. Use the adjustable feet to level on uneven floors.
Install Drain Line
For built-in models, attach the external drain line and run it to a sink drain or floor drain outlet.
Wipe down all internal surfaces with a food safe cleaner and rinse thoroughly prior to first use to remove any residues from manufacturing.
Once setup is complete, customize the settings to your preferred ice shapes and sizes. Then just choose recipes to chill with your new specialty ice maker and enjoy the wonders of customized gourmet ice at home!
Frequently Asked Questions About Specialty Ice Makers
- What should you not put in a specialty ice maker? Avoid putting anything besides water in a specialty ice maker. Food particles, juices, coffee and other beverages can clog the inner workings. Stick to pure water, ideally filtered, for best results.
- How much electricity do specialty ice makers use? Energy usage varies by model, but most specialty machines use 200 to 300 Watts while operating. For context, that’s less than a traditional refrigerator. Higher production commercial models use more energy.
- Where should you put a specialty ice maker? The ideal location is in your kitchen on a sturdy countertop or cabinet near a water line for convenient connection. Allow proper ventilation space around the unit.
- How often do you need to clean a specialty ice maker? Every 1-2 months is ideal to keep your machine fresh. Cleaning frequency depends on usage levels. More frequent cleaning is needed for high volume ice production.
- How long do specialty ice makers last? With proper care and maintenance, most specialty ice makers have a lifespan of 5-8 years. Higher end models with metal parts can function well for 10+ years.
- How do you drain a countertop ice maker? Countertop models will have a manual drain that must be emptied periodically as the ice bin fills up and melts. Simply remove any ice cubes and drain out the melted water as prompted.
- What is the cost to install an undercounter ice maker? Installation costs typically run $100-$200. This covers connections for the water supply line, drainage, and any needed electrical or cabinet modifications.
Enjoy Cool Drinks with Specialty Ice
A specialty ice maker provides the opportunity to take your home beverages to the next level. With the proper machine for your lifestyle, you’ll never be left thirsting for cool, creative ice shapes and customized drinks. Specialty ice is an affordable luxury that adds a touch of sophistication, convenience, and fun to everyday life. Simply chill your favorite glasses, mix the perfect cocktails, and enjoy this little luxury that makes a big difference in drinks for any occasion.