Elevate the Everyday: Pearl and Nugget Ice Makers Small Enough for Home

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Have you ever glanced down at a new text message while stuck in the afternoon traffic slog? When you’re dead tired and bleary-eyed? Only to learn that your sweetie invited so-and-so over after work to see the new landscaping or whatever. AND, they’ll be sticking around for a cocktail or two. See you soon, babe! Can you pick up some good ice? Smiley face. Heart. Thumbs up.

Now listen, there’s no need to lob your phone overhead into the back seat. Some big, long-established names in the commercial ice industry make beautiful, scaled-down machines for home use. And the ones posted below are compact enough for a small kitchen, beach condo, or pool house.

So whether you crave “Sonic ice” for sodas and mixed drinks, or perfectly clear, slow-melting cubes for craft spirits, there are oh-so-many options to keep your head out of those creepy, rusted-out ice bins at the corner gas station.

THE NUGGET ICE MACHINE REVIEWS

I have been pestering the preternaturally patient staff at a local restaurant supply distributor. They know a thing or three about ice machines. I also read a couple of owner’s manuals cover to cover, and called Scotsman with lingering questions. Here’s what I learned in my own quest to never run out of “good ice” at home again.

#1 The Ice-O-Matic Nugget Ice Machine and Pump Kit

WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY

  • This Ice-O-Matic model produces soft, crunchy, nugget ice. It’s Sonic ice!
  • Perfect for sodas, mixed drinks, cocktails, smoothies, bar carts, buffets, and first aid.
  • Front ventilation, fully-finished cabinet.
  • Built-in or freestanding capable.
  • Pump included, but not installed.
  • One year parts and labor manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Approved for outdoor use.
  • Not Energy Star rated.
  • This is a small commercial machine.

What I Love

Who knew you could actually make this crave-worthy ice at home? And at a rate of 85 lbs. per day!

In the early 1980s, Scotsman invented a machine that produces the soft, crunchy, nugget ice that’s loved the world over.

Though the Scotsman brand is more closely associated with nugget ice even today, the nugget craze has led other manufacturers to market their own models small enough for home use. I chose to research the Ice-O-Matic for this article because it’s available at a lower price point than the comparable Scotsman nugget ice machine.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ice-O-Matic has trademarked their nugget ice under the name Pearl Ice. Scotsman trademarked their nugget ice under the name Brilliance.

Ice-O-Matic boasts quiet operation of this model, though I consider noise tolerance a subjective issue and matter of personal taste.

This is a good option for your home if you want a small commercial machine that produces a practically limitless supply of crunchy, nugget (or Pearl) ice at a lower price than the comparable nugget ice machine by Scotsman.

Ice-O-Matic is a well-established name in the industry.

The door is reversible, and can be made to swing left or right.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Nugget ice is my go-to ice for migraines. It’s drier than cube ice, pleasant to crunch (which seems to relieve muscle tension associated with the headache, at least in my case). And it’s COLD. Also, when added to an ice bag, it conforms better to the contours of the forehead or neck.

How is nugget ice made?

The machine first produces ice shavings in an evaporator tube, then compresses the shavings into frozen cylinders, which are pushed upward by a rotating auger. The frozen cylinders are then separated into little ice nuggets when they reach the top. From there, they fall into the storage bin. Et voilà!

Nugget ice is a drier form of ice, which is why restaurants like it for automatic dispensers—it doesn’t glom up the works. And each nugget has LOTS of little nooks and crannies between all those smashed-together ice shavings, which:

  • keep the ice colder (think cold air pockets)
  • make it slower to melt (cocktails, anyone?)
  • allow it to absorb tiny droplets of your drink (yum!)
  • make it soft and satisfying to crunch (yay!)

No wonder we love nugget ice. It’s pretty amazing.

A Dealbreaker for You?..

When deciding where and how to install your nugget ice machine, consider the following:

  • If you install the ice machine as a built-in, you’ll access the reservoir (for cleaning purposes) by removing the panel at the back of the ice storage bin—the bin you scoop the ice out of when you need ice.
  • If you install the machine as a freestanding unit, you’ll access the reservoir (for cleaning purposes) by removing the machine’s top panel.

This Ice-O-Matic machine is not Energy Star rated. It’s a small commercial machine that you can buy for home use.

The pump is included with this model, but is not installed.

You’ll need a drain line.

Water supply lines are not included, and must be purchased separately. Stainless steel flex or reinforced PVC can be used, but one-quarter inch (outside diameter) copper tubing is recommended.

Cleaning & Maintaining Your Nugget Ice Machine

It’s pretty amazing that you can make nugget ice at home! But to extend the life of your ice maker—yep, you guessed it—you’ll need to clean and maintain it every six months.

It’s not astrophysics. But it takes a little time. Basically, it’s a five-step maintenance process:

  1. Remove buildup of mineral scale with the proper dilution of Ice-O-Matic Clear-1 Scale Remover. (You’ll fill the reservoir with diluted scale remover.)*
  2. Check the water seal.
  3. Check the water reservoir.
  4. Check the ice bin drain.
  5. Vacuum the tubes and fins of the air-cooled condenser. I use the smallest vacuum attachment I have with a soft brush on the end, taking care NOT TO DENT the fins.

Here’s a link to the Ice-O-Matic’s Owner’s Manual. The cleaning process begins on page 13. And here’s a link to the Ice-O-Matic nugget (Pearl) ice machine product page, with additional specs and details.

#2 Scotsman Brilliance Nugget Ice Machine – Under-counter Nugget Ice Machine

WHAT’S NOTEWORTHY:

  • This Scotsman nugget ice machine is designed specifically for residential use.
  • Scotsman invented the original nugget ice for the food service industry in the early 1980s.
  • Approved for outdoor use.
  • Compact size at only 15 inches wide.
  • Built-in pump.
  • Lighted ice bin.
  • Self-closing door with robust hinge system to withstand door weight.
  • One year parts and labor manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Designed to be both energy and water efficient.

What I Love

This Scotsman model produces classic nugget ice, and lots of it. It will keep pace with your needs at huge Holiday gatherings, backyard barbecues, birthday parties, and the arrival of unexpected guests. Even the kids won’t outstrip its production capacity of up to 80 lbs. in 24 hours.

Nugget ice works for almost all of your everyday and special occasion needs: sodas, iced tea, lemonade, cocktails, mocktails, punch bowls, champagne buckets, smoothies, blended drinks. And first aid!

Scotsman uses something called AgION®, a silver-based antimicrobial compound that is integrated into some of the machine’s parts. This helps guard against bacterial buildup between the recommended semi-annual cleanings.

This is a good option if you want a residential machine made by the standard in the industry—Scotsman. It’s a small machine that produces large quantities of crunchy “Sonic” ice.

Scotsman claims that this model consumes 40% less energy and uses 50% less water than other “stand-alone, dedicated ice machines.” Personally, I think this would depend on where you set it up—a covered patio or an air-conditioned kitchen?

Scotsman is a very well-established name in ice machines.

The door on this Scotsman ice maker is reversible, and can be made to swing left or right.

This Scotsman model is compact at only 15 inches wide. And it’s designed especially for residential use.

This model is designed, engineered, and assembled in America.

A Dealbreaker for You?..

You’ll need a drain line. I am told that if you’re handy, installation is straightforward (I am not this handy). Otherwise, check with your plumber for an estimate on the setup.

Water supply lines are not included, and must be purchased separately. Stainless steel flex or reinforced PVC can be used, but one-quarter inch (outside diameter) copper tubing is recommended.

An in-line water filter is optional but recommended. You can usually find them at hardware stores.

I read reviewers’ complaints of noise, but this is really a personal thing. It’s a machine—with moving parts that will make noise. Obviously, cubes falling into the storage bin will also make noise. Consider setting it up in a garage, workshop, pool house, or covered patio if it isn’t too hot in there and you’re bothered by noise.

Cleaning & Maintaining Your Nugget Ice Maker

Scotsman strongly recommends cleaning and maintainence every six months.

Here’s a link to the Scotsman nugget ice machine cleaning video on YouTube. It runs just under 10 minutes.

Here is a link to a PDF of the Service Manual. The cleaning process begins on page 13. And here’s a link to the Scotsman Brilliance nugget ice machine product page, with additional specs and details.

SUMMARY – The Key Takeaways

These are both high-quality ice machines, made by two of the biggest names in the industry. The question here is primarily one of budget. The Ice-O-Matic nugget ice machine is available at a lower price point than the comparable Scotsman nugget ice machine.

A QUICK 10-POINT TABLE COMPARING BASIC FEATURES

Ice-O-Matic Nugget Ice MachineScotsman Nugget Ice Machine
1One year parts and labor
manufacturer’s warranty
One year parts and labor
manufacturer’s warranty
2Pump included, but not installedPump installed
3No interior lightingLighted ice bin
4Small commercial ice machineSmall residential ice machine
5Approved for outdoor use
Temperature range 50° – 90° F
Approved for outdoor use
Temperature range 50° – 90° F
6Built-in or freestanding capableBuilt-in only (under-counter)
7Soft, chewable nugget iceThe original chewable nugget ice
8Needs cleaning every 6 monthsNeeds cleaning every 6 months
9Produces up to 85 lbs a dayProduces up to 80 lbs a day
1015W x 23D x 34H inches15W x 23D x 34H inches

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