September 10

The Best Nugget Ice Makers (for Sonic Ice at Home)

By trk

Last Updated: September 10, 2021


If you love Sonic ice, also called chewy ice, nugget ice, and sometimes pellet ice, and are thinking about buying an ice maker, then this review is for you. We take a look at the best nugget ice makers, share their pros and cons, and discuss the important features to think about before buying.

The Best Nugget Ice Makers at a Glance

Best Overall: GE Profile Opal

24 lbs of ice per day

3 lb storage capacity

Auto sensor to start/stop ice production

Optional 2.5 qt side tank

No water hookup required

Bluetooth capability

One-touch control

1 year warranty

Weight: 44 lbs


Best Bargain: Raysonics

26 lbs of ice per day

3.3 lb storage capacity

Auto sensor to start/stop ice production

Use hookup or fill manually

Self-cleaning function

1 year warranty + 18 month extension on registration

Weight: 34 lbs



Best Dispenser: KBice

30 lbs of ice per day

2 lb bin capacity

One-button ice dispensing

Water reservoir: 100 fl oz

No scoop--hygienic

R600a refrigerant

Self-cleaning cycle

Needs soft water 

1 year warranty

Weight: 40 lbs

What Is Nugget Ice?

From the edibleoklahomacity.com website (Sonic was founded in Oklahoma in the 1950s):

Pellet ice is made by passing water through a cold metal cylinder. The water freezes on the cylinder, forming a thin sheet, which is scraped off by an auger. This process results in flake ice. The flake ice is then forced through a small tube, which compacts the flakes. As the ice exits the tube, it either breaks off or is cut into small nuggets or pellets.
Sonic ice is likely so popular because of some of the properties of pellet ice. Pellet ice has much more air and has a much greater surface area than a typical ice cube. This matters because the air pockets in pellet ice act as insulation, which allows the ice to melt more slowly. It turns out the air pockets have other benefits. They make the ice much easier to chew, and also allow some of the drink to work its way into the ice nugget. Each piece of Sonic ice is a reminder of the delicious beverage it cooled. 

So, because of how nugget ice is made, it is softer than traditional ice cubes made by simply freezing water. 

Chewy nugget ice has exploded in popularity in recent years because people love the soft texture of it. It's been around commercially since the 1980s, but has been available to home users for less than a decade. As the number of nugget ice makers on the market increases and prices continue to drop, the nugget ice phenomenon continues to grow.

A lot of people are excited at the prospect of having chewy ice available in their own homes; there are apparently a lot of ice chewers out there! 

Nugget Ice Vs. Regular Ice (Pros and Cons)

Magic Chef Portable Ice Maker

This Magic Chef regular ice maker gets good marks from Wirecutter and goes for under $120.

Raysonice Nugget Ice Maker

The Raysonics nugget ice maker, our pick for best bargain maker, goes for about $370.

As with anything, there are pros and cons to nugget ice, but the pros are many and may surprise you. We'll start with the cons because there's really just one.

Cons

The biggest (and maybe only) drawback of nugget ice is that the makers are more expensive than regular ice makers. You can get a decent countertop regular ice maker for around $100, while the lowest we've seen nugget ice makers is $300 (and that's with a coupon). 

Nugget ice makers are probably more expensive because the process requires more complicated machinery: where regular ice is a simple process of freezing water, chewy ice is more like tightly compacted snow. To get this texture, the ice has to be shaved, compacted into nuggets, then extruded into the ice bin.

Though we will probably see a reduction in price of nugget ice makers as market competition increases and makers develop less expensive ways to make the ice, it will probably never come down to the price of regular ice makers.

Pros

Oysters on the Half Shell

Oysters on the half shell on a bed of nugget ice.

Nugget or chewy ice is softer than regular ice so it absorbs the flavor of your beverage and fills a glass more completely than regular ice. Not everyone likes this, but a huge number of people do. 

And you may think that nugget ice would melt faster than regular ice, which is harder, but the many tiny air pockets it contains insulates the pellets, causing them to melt more slowly than regular ice. This makes it great not only for beverages but for coolers, cold food presentations (such as a seafood counter displays or a plate of oysters on the half shell) and any other use where you want your ice to last for a long time. (The white color also looks better under most foods than clear ice.) 

But the primary use for chewy ice is in beverages for those who enjoy chewing on ice.  If you love the the texture of chewy nugget ice, there really is no substitute

Scotsman: The Original Chewy Ice

This under-counter Scotsman Brilliance is about $4200 and can make up to 80 lbs of ice per day.

Scotsman--see Scotsman ice makers on Amazon--is the original maker and inventor of chewy ice. The company invented the process in 1981. Though you can install a Scotsman in your home, they don't (yet) make a model designed for home use, so they're big, expensive, and can produce more ice than a home user could possibly need in a day. They also require a dedicated water hookup and drain, which makes installation fairly complex (like having a second refrigerator). 

Note: Not all Scotsman ice makers make nugget ice. If you're interested in this brand, be sure the one you buy makes nugget ice. 

Scotsman ice makers are fabulous units. All their models are sturdy stainless steel and commercial quality, and their chewy ice has taken the world by storm. But if you don't want to spend so much or don't want the hassle of a complicated installation, you can now get chewy nugget ice from a number of ice makers designed for the home user.

Below, we review the best three we found.

While we normally love commercial grade products because they're built like tanks and last forever, the Scotsman is probably too over-the-top for most home users.

What to Look for in a Home Nugget Ice Maker

This section discusses the important features to consider buying an ice maker. 

Freestanding or Water Hookup Required?

Most commercial ice makers require a dedicated water connection and a drain, which makes them harder to install; you may have to add a new water supply and drain to your kitchen, or wherever you decide to install the ice maker. 

Most home ice makers work more like coffee makers in that you add water manually and you don't need a drain. Some, like the Raysonics (our pick for best-priced chewy ice maker), offer both options so if you want a dedicated water connection, you can have one. But most ice makers designed for the home market are filled manually. 

There is no right or wrong answer and pros and cons to each design, but filling an ice maker manually works best for most home users. It frees you up to put the ice maker where you want and requires no installation. 

Size and Weight

Most of these countertop chewy ice makers weigh between 30 and 50 pounds and are about the size of a small (college dorm) refrigerator or a very tall microwave. Regular ice makers come in portable sizes, but as far as we know, nugget ice makers do not (yet). 

Most countertop models are too tall to fit underneath an upper cabinet. They also require a fair amount of clearance to operate correctly and not overheat.

Be sure you have a good place to park a nugget ice maker--for best results, out of direct sunlight--before you buy it.

Maximum Amount of Ice per Day

Commercial grade nugget ice makers can produce a minimum of 80 pounds of ice per day, another reason they are overkill for home users. That's more ice than even the best house party in the world could use. 

Nugget ice makers designed for the home make 24-30 pounds of ice per day--a pound or more an hour--which is more than enough for most families. And if you are having a party, need extra ice for some other reason, you can bag up the ice and put it in your freezer. 

With the daily output of ice so similar in home nugget ice makers, it probably isn't the best way to choose a brand (that is, 30 pounds isn't that much more than 24 pounds). We think the more important feature is how long it keeps the ice cold. In our testing, the Opal kept ice cold for the longest time, and is one of the reasons it's our pick for best overall nugget ice maker.

Storage Capacity

How much ice can the ice maker hold at once? Most can hold 2-3 pounds of ice. And while bin capacity is important, these are small differences that don't matter all that much, particularly if the maker automatically recycles the melted ice into more nuggets. The more important factor is whether the maker keeps the bin full. We found that most brands do this satisfactorily, even if the ice melts faster in some makers than in others.

Does It Keep the Ice Cold?

Surprisingly, no chewy ice makers keep the ice cold once it's made. You have to remove the ice from the bin and put it in the freezer or it will melt. 

Melting isn't a big deal, as the water drains back into the reservoir and makes more ice. It's actually an elegant design and should keep your ice bin or dispenser full most of the time, automatically. 

We did find that some brands--the Opal in particular--have a better insulated ice bin, so the ice melts more slowly. The primary advantage of this is that the bottom of the bin isn't constantly covered with wet, slushy ice. (And again, a big reason why we picked the Opal as the best overall pellet ice maker.)

Model Type: Countertop, Under Counter, or Stand Alone

All of the models we reviewed are countertop ice makers--they sit on your countertop rather than on the floor, either under your counter or freestanding. They're smaller and tend to require less installation (or none at all), so they are the most convenient design for most home users. 

They are also the least expensive models and the easiest to use. If you want an under counter ice maker, you will almost certainly have to have a dedicated water supply and a drain. This applies primarily to commercial units, which are extremely durable and will make a huge amount of ice, but will also cost up to ten times what you'll pay for a countertop, home-use nugget ice machine.

Speed (How Fast Can It Make Ice?)

We found that several of the ice makers we tested took awhile to get going. The first ice took longer than the stated time, it was small, and only barely recognizable as nugget ice. 

Once up and running, however, most home nugget ice makers can put out a pound of ice, or slightly more, per hour from any machine you buy, with the first pellets coming out in less than 15 minutes. 

So getting going can be a little frustrating, but once running, you should reliably get a pound of ice or slightly more per hour. Considering how long it takes ice cubes to form in your freezer, that's pretty speedy.

If you keep your ice maker on 24/7 and keep it filled with water, you will be rewarded with a full bin of ice most of the time. 

You may be reluctant to keep your ice maker running all the time, but trust us: it is designed for this. You do not need to turn it off at night, and doing so will not result in longer life of the machine.

Shape of Ice

While all nugget ice makers promise Sonic ice, not all deliver. Most are very close, so much so that you won't notice much of a difference. But we found that the Opal was closest in size, shape, and texture to the original Sonic ice put out by the Scotsman ice makers.

All nugget ice is softer and chewier than regular ice, but if you want what's closest to Sonic ice, once again we think the Opal is the best choice.

Noise

When the machinery is running, most home ice makers operate at about 50-60 decibels. This is approximately equal to a running refrigerator compressor (which makes sense), or a normal conversation.

In other words, ice makers shouldn't be terribly loud. However, when they run, you may find them slightly annoying, especially if they're close to the dinner table or other areas of interaction. 

You may also dislike the sound of ice falling into the bin, but we found that this quickly became a background "house sound" that we stopped noticing. If the sounds of a running compressor or of ice falling into a bin is something you think you'll hate, you should probably re-think the whole idea of getting an ice maker.

If your ice maker is loud enough to bother you, the best solution is to find a place out of your main living area to install it. If you have a bar, a recreation room, or even an attached garage with counter space available, your ice maker will be happily out of hearing range, yet close enough to conveniently use and fill.

Overall, we found the normal operating noise of the makers we tested to be quite tolerable. If your ice maker is rattling or making a high-pitched whine or other loud noise (that isn't the normal hum of a compressor running), it most likely needs servicing.

Dispenser

Most home Sonic ice makers have a bin and a scoop, but a few have a dispenser. With a dispenser, you put your glass under the spout and press a button to get ice. 

Dispensers are more hygienic than a bin/scoop system, but they are also more complex machines, and we think they have yet to be perfected for the home market. Our choice, the KBice Nugget Ice Dispenser, is the best model we found at a "home user" price point, but it has a few quirks such as dropping random nuggets of ice to melt on the counter. Not ideal. 

Thus, if you really want a dispenser, you may want to think about going with a higher end model such as the Manitowoc--but they are really high end, as in the few thousand dollar range. It's a great machine, but if you don't want to invest that much, we recommend the KBice machine, or living with a bin and scoop design.

Ease of Operation

Most nugget ice makers are easy to install, operate, and clean. The Opal's one-button operation is the easiest of all the makers we looked at, but not so much better that you'd have any trouble with the other ones.

Some ice makers have options that make them slightly more complicated to use, such as different ice sizes. None of the nugget ice makers we tested had these options, though, so we can't speak to how much harder these would be to use. (But probably not much harder at all.)

Overall, ease of operation should be simple, and probably not a deal breaker on any ice maker--though some are definitely easier to use than others.

Ease of Cleaning

Whatever ice maker you buy, you will have to clean it occasionally. Most makers recommend cleaning every 1-2 weeks, or every 1-2 months if you're using RO or distilled water.

Cleaning is easy on most ice makers, with all of them having an automatic cleaning function. You will have to drain the machine, making sure the drain tubes are running into a sink or bucket, and flush it through several times, first with a small amount of bleach or vinegar diluted in water, then with several rinses of fresh water. 

If your maker hooks up to a dedicated water supply, this process is largely automatic; if not, you will have to do it manually.

Cleaning an ice maker can be a bit of a pain, but it is imperative to the health and longevity of the machine. Be sure you understand the cleaning process before you buy.

Adjustable Ice Size

Regular ice makers can have adjustable ice sizes--either small and large or small, medium and large--but none of the nugget ice makers we looked at had this feature. 

If you want adjustable ice size, you will probably have to buy a regular ice maker. 

Power Consumption

While power consumption varies by unit, usage, and other factors (commercial units like Scotsmen will use more power), the Find Any Answer website says this about ice makers:

Ice maker energy use is around 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) in a month—at a typical rate of $0.06 per kWh, that would cost around $21 a month.

This amount of power assumes you leave the ice maker on all the time (as you should, unless you're going away for more than a few days). It is not a small amount of electricity, so you may want to compare it to buying ice or using the ice your refrigerator makes (or even the old fashioned ice cube tray method). 

Extra Features

Extra features on nugget ice makers aren't terribly impressive, but they don't need to be, as the biggest draw is the nugget ice itself. 

The Opal has a Bluetooth control feature, but it doesn't do a lot: you can use an app to start and stop the ice maker, change the lighting, and that's about it. The new Opal 2.0, available at the GE website (see the Opal review below for a link), also has WiFi and voice control features that do the same things and add about $80 to the price. 

Some nugget ice makers dispense the ice, like the KBice machine we review below. Others, like this Frigidaire model that gets dismal reviews, dispense nugget ice, crushed ice, and water. Note that the water may or may not be cold; in many cases, water is room temperature as it comes from the water supply before it goes to the ice-making area.

Some regular ice makers can make different sized cubes, but we haven't seen any nugget ice makers that do (not that they couldn't be out there). 

Overall, we don't recommend buying a nugget ice maker because of its extra features. An ice maker largely works automatically--just add water--so fancy controls don't get you a lot more functionality. 

Instead, look for good reviews: dependability, good build quality, and great nugget ice: all the reasons we pick the Opal as the best home nugget ice maker.

Warranty

Most nugget ice makers come with a one year warranty, which you may be able to extend if you buy from the company website or with a special offer from the manufacturer. We strongly recommend not buying an ice maker with less than a one-year warranty. If you can extend the warranty, we recommend you do that, as well.

Though we stand by our recommendations, we also caution you that these ice makers are made in China, and customer service gets mixed reviews on all the models, even our favorite pick, the Opal. Warranties will help with this, but they aren't foolproof. 

Bottom line: read reviews carefully and decide if you're willing to take a chance on an imported ice maker. We think our choices are solid, but there have been instances of poor customer service and companies not honoring warranties. 

Pros and Cons of Nugget Ice

Pros
  • Soft and fluffy
  • Fun (and safe) to chew
  • Air pockets cause it to melt more slowly than regular ice (even though it's softer)
  • Absorbs the flavor of your beverage
  • Makes great slushy drinks
  • Fills a whole glass (because the nuggets are smaller than regular ice).
Cons
  • Nugget ice makers are more expensive
  • Most nugget ice makers for home use are made in China, so customer service may be hard to get.


Nugget Ice Maker FAQs

Why Are Nugget Ice Makers So Much More Expensive than Other Ice Makers?

We're not sure, but we think it's because it's a more complicated process to make nugget ice. Regular ice is just frozen water. Nugget ice must be shaved, compacted, and extruded to get that fluffy, chewy ice texture.

As nugget ice becomes more popular and more makers flood the market, we may see prices come down. But nugget ice makers are probably always going to sell at a price point higher than standard ice makers.

Why Are They Called Sonic Ice Makers?

The Sonic restaurant chain was the first company to use chewy ice. It is the place where most people are introduced to chewy ice.  Thus, "Sonic ice" is synonymous with nugget ice, chewy ice, and pellet ice: they all mean the same thing.

Do You Need to Use Filtered Water?

Most makers do not require filtered, soft, or distilled water. Even so, we strongly recommend that you use some type of filtered water. Our preference is reverse osmosis (RO) water, as the RO process removes the highest number of contaminants from your drinking water, as we discuss in our article The Best Water Filters to Buy (And Why You Need One).

Not only is filtered water a much healthier choice--all of your drinking water should be filtered--it will also help your ice maker go longer between cleanings, and last longer in general because there are fewer contaminants to muck up its machinery. 

Your ice will also taste better, particularly if you have an RO system that adds minerals back into the water; you can also do this manually with a few drops of remineralization additive or just a tiny pinch of sea salt.

For some makers, like the KBice model we review below, filtered--or at least soft--water is mandatory. 

Are Chewy Ice Makers Noisy?

They can be, depending on your sensitivity to noise. When they run, most operate between 50-60 decibels, about the level of a refrigerator or normal conversation.

Ice falling into the bin can also be a bit noisy. 

We don't have issues with any of the ice makers we tested, but if you are sensitive to noise, we recommend you park your ice maker in an out-of-the-way spot rather than next to your kitchen table. 

If the ice maker is whining, rattling, or otherwise making loud noises that aren't those of a compressor running, it probably isn't working right.

How Often Do You Have to Clean a Nugget Ice Maker?

Cleaning frequency depends on several factors. Many instruction manuals recommend weekly cleanings, but we've found that if you use filtered water, you can get away with cleaning about every two months. 

You'll know your ice maker needs cleaning if ice production slows down (indicating the parts are clogged with gunk from your water), or if your ice tastes musty (indicating your ice maker is growing mold or mildew somewhere).

Where Is the Best Place to Buy a Nugget Ice Maker?

Today you can find nugget ice makers at several retail stores including Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and of course, Amazon. You can also usually buy ice makers directly from manufacturer sites.

We think retailers are the way to go because it gives you an extra level of protection: even if a manufacturer doesn't honor the warranty, the retail outlet will. We like Amazon because they're great to deal with, have a huge selection of options, and have the greatest number of customer reviews, which are a gold mine of useful information. 

If you have Amazon Prime, that makes Amazon an even more attractive option.

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Best Chewy Ice Maker Overall: GE Profile Opal

GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker

See the GE Profile Opal Nugget Ice Maker on Amazon

The GE Profile Opal is the premium nugget ice maker on the market--you will pay more for it compared to other nugget ice makers designed for home use, but compared to any Scotsman--the original, commercial grade chewy ice maker--it's a bargain at about $500 without the tank and $550 with it (which we highly recommend getting; it increases the amount of ice the Opal can make by about 3 times without having to fill the reservoir).

The Opal was first made by FirstBuild, a subsidiary of GE. (Whether FirstBuild was acquired by GE or GE created it, we don't know.) Older models have a "FirstBuild" logo, and newer models have the GE logo. As we know from our induction cooktop research, the "Profile" brand is one of GE's higher end, more expensive line of appliances, designed for the modern, streamlined kitchen. The Opal certainly fits that category. 

The Opal is currently the nugget ice maker to have. It has the best reviews, the greatest longevity (though many of these are too new for a fair comparison), the simplest user experience (one button operation! automatic start/stop ice making 24/7!) and also--though we haven't tested every single nugget ice maker so we can't say with 100% certainty--it keeps the ice cold for the longest period before melting back into the reservoir.

The reason for this is smart and simple: it has a triple-walled ice bin with air insulation between the walls that keeps the ice cold for a long time (kind of like a thermos). It's an elegant design, both inexpensive and highly effective. It's not refrigerated, so as with all of these nugget ice makers the ice will eventually melt back into the reservoir and get recycled into new ice. But if you go to bed and leave it on with enough water in the tank, you should have a full bin of ice when you get up in the morning. 

Sure, other nugget ice makers can do this, too, but the Opal does it the most elegantly.

The Opal was super easy to set up and get operational: you just set it up on a level surface, plug it in, flush it for 5 minutes in the "Clean" position, and it's ready to go (the "Clean" mode is a switch on the back of the ice maker). Fill the reservoir (or preferably the side tank), press the button (there's only one), and you will start getting ice within 15 minutes. 

The one-button control has a color-coded "display ring" around it, telling you if the Opal is making ice, defrosting, needs more water, is in Cleaning mode, and more. The instruction manual explains all the displays, which are easy to remember:

GE Opal Display Ring and Button

The Opal has no option for a water hookup, which we think is fine because it means you can put it anywhere near an outlet. Filling it is easy, and with the side tank, there's a good possibility you'll only have to fill it once a day or possibly even less. 

The bin tilts out for easy access and makes it easy to scoop out the ice with no spills. We prefer this to the lifted lid on the RaySonics machine (below) because it's easier to see what you're doing. You just have to be careful not to pull the bin all the way out. It took a few tries to get the hang of it but once we did it we found it easy to use.

We highly recommend using filtered (RO) or distilled water to get the greatest longevity from the ice maker, and to go the longest in-between cleanings. 

The single button can be lit up or turned off, and the internal light can be dimmed if you find it too bright.

We did not test the bluetooth function as we found it a bit superfluous for a machine designed to run automatically and manage its ice production 24 hours a day. But this model comes with a bluetooth app you can use to set the lighting and start/stop the unit. 

There is a newer Opal model on the GE site that has a second color option (black stainless) as well as WiFi and voice control features, but it's more expensive and comes without the side tank. As cool as smart appliances can be, we really don't think it's a necessary upgrade in this case. But if you're a techie geek, or really want black stainless, know that the options are there.

Like other ice makers, the Opal is a bit noisy when making ice. If possible, we recommend putting the ice maker away from your main living space, such as in a bar or rec room, if you think the noise will bother you. The only requirements are a flat surface, an outlet, and being out of direct sunlight.

Having said that, the ice maker is quiet most of the time, and when it does run, the sound is about the level of a loud microwave. 

Note that though this is a GE product, the one-year warranty is farmed out to a different company, so you may not get the customer service you'd expect from GE. The reviews from people who needed customer service were mixed, with some disturbingly bad ones. Amazon does not offer an extended warranty on the Opal, either. If you want a longer warranty, the new (more expensive) 2.0 model on the GE site has a free one-year extension, bringing the warranty to two years--but it's hard to say if this is worth the higher cost. You'll have to decide that for yourself. (We think it probably isn't.)

What about the water filter? If you don't have filtered (RO) water or want to use regular tap water, the Opal has an optional water filter you can easily install inside the machine to remove chlorine taste and some other impurities from your tap water. It costs around $20 and should be replaced every 3 months. 

If you're using RO or distilled water, the Opal water filter isn't necessary (you will save money in the long run and have healthier water if you install an RO system on your drinking water).

What about cleaning the Opal? Cleaning is easy: you unplug it and switch to "Clean" mode, put the drain tubes into a sink, and flush the unit out with a very weak bleach solution followed by several flushes with fresh water to remove bleach residue. 

The instruction manual recommends cleaning the Opal once a week, but if you use RO or distilled water, you probably won't have to do it more than every couple of months.

How do you know if your Opal needs cleaning? Ice production will slow down, or the ice may develop a musty flavor. 

Features

24 lbs of ice per day

3 lb storage capacity

Auto sensor to start/stop ice production

Optional 2.5 qt side tank (strongly recommended)

No water hookup required (or possible)

Bluetooth capability (WiFi and voice control on 2.0 model)

One-touch control

Dimensions: 5.5 x 10.5 x 16.5 inches; side tank adds about another 4 inches to the width

Weight: 44 lbs

1 year warranty.


GE Profile Opal Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Easy, fast chewy ice production
  • Closest in size and texture to "Sonic" ice
  • Side tank increases ice production by 3x
  • Keeps ice cold longer than other ice makers
  • Easy to use self-cleaning function
  • Bluetooth functionality (if desired); WiFi and voice control on 2.0 model
  • Filter option if you use tap water
  • Well built, good quality product with the best reviews of all the home-grade chewy ice makers we researched.
Cons
  • A little noisy (no more than others we tested)
  • Farmed-out warranty may not provide a GE level of customer service (mixed reviews on this)
  • Expensive.

GE Profile Opal Recommendation

If you want chewy ice but don't want to spend the money for a Scotsman or have to hook it up to a dedicated water supply, the GE Profile Opal is the best option out there. You'll pay more for it, but you get excellent chewy ice in fast, in an easy-to-operate, and great looking machine. Spend the extra $50 on the side tank for the easiest filling and ice making.

buy GE Profile Opal Ice Maker on Amazon:

Amazon buy button

Best Budget Model: RaySonics Nugget Ice Maker for Countertop

See the Raysonics Nugget Ice Maker on Amazon

You may have seen this same ice maker with a different brand name (Taotronics). We don't know if Taotronics is the owner of the design or if they, too, are purchasing the product from a (most likely) Chinese manufacturer and putting their logo on it. Either way, this nugget ice maker has a nice design, some good features, and mostly excellent reviews. 

In our testing, we had pretty much the same results as most reviewers: it's easy to hook up and use and the ice is great, but it takes longer than the stated 18 minutes to make a batch: for a whole batch, you'll have to wait 30 minutes or more. 

Once made, the ice melts fairly quickly. This is our biggest complaint about this ice maker. It's good that the melted ice drains back into the reservoir and gets recycled into new ice (like most of these chewy ice makers), but the ice definitely melts faster than it does in the Opal. 

Many people will prefer the hinged lid to the tilt-out bin on the Opal. We were concerned it might fall shut on your hand as you're scooping ice, but it stays open until you close it. It's a pretty good design, but we prefer the tilt-out bin on the Opal, mostly because it's at arm-level and easier to see what you're doing as you scoop ice.

We love that this ice maker can be easily hooked up to a water supply (for automatic ice!) or filled manually. This makes it one of the more versatile units for the home market, especially at this price point. (Some reviewers said they didn't receive the parts to hook it up to a water supply, but we did, although we did not try to hook it up.)

The self-cleaning function works great and is easy to use, especially when hooked up to a water supply.

The Raysonics maker is advertised as being quieter than other nugget ice makers, at 50 decibels, but we found it to be not much quieter than the Opal, if any. They're all somewhat loud when they're making ice, but otherwise quiet; as we said for the Opal, if you have a spot away from the main living area to park it (like a bar or a rec room), that will eliminate any possible noise issues. As some people are more sensitive to noise than others, you will have to decide for yourself if the noise is tolerable. None of our testers had an issue with it.

Some reviewers complained about bad customer service, but we think that's probably to be expected from a machine at this price point and made in China.

Overall, the Raysonics is a nice nugget ice maker, especially for the price (about $370). The faults are totally over-look-able. It doesn't feel quite as solid as the Opal, but it's a nice ice maker, especially if you want one that hooks up to a water source for automatic ice making and easy cleaning.

What about cleaning? Like the Opal, the Raysonics will need fewer cleanings if you use filtered or distilled water; you should probably clean it twice a month if you're using unfiltered water and once every two months if you're using filtered or distilled water. You should also wash the ice bin with a drop of gentle detergent at least once a week.

Features

Makes up to 26 lbs of ice per day

3.3 lb ice bin storage capacity

Auto sensor to start/stop ice production

Can use water hookup for automatic ice making or fill manually

Self-cleaning function 

Dimensions: 10 x 17 x 17 inches

Weight: 34 lbs

Warranty: 1 year warranty + 18 month extension on registration. 


Raysonics Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Excellent price point
  • Can hook up to water supply or fill manually
  • Good self-cleaning function
  • Doesn't require filtered water (but we recommend using it).
Cons
  • Takes longer than the stated 18 minutes to make a batch of ice
  • The ice melts faster than in other models we tested
  • Some complaints about bad customer service.

Recommendation

The Raysonics is a nice nugget ice maker, well worth its price tag, especially if you want to hook your ice maker up to a water supply. Note that the ice will melt considerably faster than it will in the Opal, but even so, the automatic start/stop operation will keep the bin full most of the time.

Raysonice Nugget Ice Maker

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Best Chewy Ice Maker with a Dispenser: KBice 

KBice Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker

See the KBice Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker on Amazon

If you want a chewy ice maker that dispenses ice (rather than using a scoop to get it out of a bin), the KBice Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker is one of the few options available at the less-than-$500 price point that gets good reviews. (Check out this Manitowoc model to see what we mean about price. It's a superb product, but you will pay for all that excellence.) 

The advantage of a self-dispensing ice maker is that it's more hygienic: you don't have all your family members (and potentially guests) reaching into the ice bin. So if you have kids who can't be trusted to always have clean hands when they scoop their ice, and you can't afford to buy the Manitowoc, the KBice Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker may be a good option for you.

If that's not the case, however, we're not sure we see an advantage to getting this machine. Despite its good reviews, we thought this ice maker had some issues that made it hard to use:

  • You have to remove the front panel and insert a funnel (included) to fill the reservoir.
  • According to several reviews, it randomly drops ice from the dispenser, which melts on your counter. 
  • The all-plastic housing feels a little cheap (though overall the unit seems well made).

The KBice also requires soft or filtered water (water with a hardness of <100ppm) or it won't work. While we recommend using filtered water for everything that goes into your body, some people might find it annoying that you have to use filtered water .

If we didn't like this machine, why do we recommend it? Well, if you want a self-dispensing nugget ice maker for less than $500, this is the best option we found. If you check out this self-dispensing model from Frigidaire, you'll see that the KBice is a huge improvement. 

The KBice maker/dispenser is easy to use, easy to clean, and makes great ice. It's definitely the best self-dispensing nugget ice maker under $500 on the market right now.

Features

Up to 30 lbs of ice per day

100 fl oz water reservoir

2 lb bin capacity (but holds about a pound--less important for a dispensing unit than a bin unit)

One-button ice dispensing

Hygienic self-dispensing feature (no scooping/touching ice)

R600a refrigerant

Self-cleaning cycle

Requires soft water (hardness <100ppm)

1 year warranty

Weight: 40 lbs

Dimensions: 12 x 16 x 17.5 inches

Warranty: 1 year limited manufacturer warranty on parts and labor.


KBice Nugget Ice Maker Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Dispenses ice with the push of a button--easier and cleaner than a scoop
  • Makes up to 30 lbs of ice per day
  • 100 fl oz. water reservoir (about 3 liters)
  • Self-cleaning cycle
  • 1 year warranty.
Cons
  • Water fill port is kind of hard to use (unit comes with a funnel for filling)
  • Slowish to make ice
  • Requires a lot of clearance so as to not overheat 
  • Will occasionally drop ice to melt on the counter 
  • Requires filtered water (which we recommend using anyway)
  • All plastic housing
  • Too tall to fit under most upper cabinets.

KBice Recommendation

The KBice Self Dispensing Countertop Nugget Ice Maker is the best option under $500 that dispenses ice. It has a few issues we didn't like, such as an annoying filling process that needs a funnel, requiring soft water, and dropping the occasional ice nugget on the counter. We also wish the build quality was a little better, though for an all-plastic machine it's pretty good. If you want a dispenser at an Opal price point, this is the one to get.

KBice Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker w:Glass

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Other Nugget Ice Makers We Looked At

Frigidaire: Poor reviews, doesn't last, mineral build-up (filtered water would fix that), poor quality, noisy.

Frigidaire EFIC245 model with dispenser and crushed ice option: poor reviews, loud, doesn't keep ice cold

Manitowoc: Countertop nugget ice maker and water dispenser. Excellent build quality and reviews, but expensive at about $3900. (!)

Northair: Identical to Frigidaire model (no doubt made by the same company in China) with somewhat better reviews. 

NewAir Nugget Ice Maker: Terrible reviews. Big and heavy without making substantially more ice than smaller, lighter models.

Scotsman: Scotsman is the original chewy ice maker and has several models, all commercial grade. If you need a high output ice maker or want a heavy duty model that hooks up to its own water supply, Scotsman is the way to go--you will pay for it, but it will probably last forever. (Will Scotsman make a consumer-grade chewy ice maker in the future? We can only hope so.) 

Final Thoughts

Nugget, chewy, pellet or Sonic ice makers--all mean the same thing--are more of a luxury than a necessity. But chewy ice is a fabulous treat, and if you want it in your home, you now have several options. Our favorite, by far, is the GE Profile Opal, purchased with the side tank so you will only have to fill it once a day to minimize filling. The countertop design is the best fit for most homes, and the Opal is the highest quality and gets the best reviews of all the nugget ice makers we researched. 

Yes, there are dozens of other models to choose from, but most of them get dismal reviews or for other reasons simply aren't worth considering.

Thanks for reading!

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