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A key ingredient to some of our favorite, most refreshing drinks is ice. Nugget ice, also commonly referred to as Sonic ice or “the good ice,” has a cult-like following for its crunchy, chewy texture and the way it melts at a slower speed without diluting a drink’s contents. It differs from cubed or crushed ice in that it's made of compressed ice flakes, which results in semi-soft pellets that form air pockets that help absorb the flavor of your beverage. People will go to great lengths to track down this type of ice, but NewAir’s latest nugget ice maker makes it easy to enjoy “the good ice” at home.
NewAir touts its new launch as one of the fastest machines on the market, making its first batch within 5 minutes. I received a sample and tested it out to see if it lives up to the hype.
Makes nugget ice quickly
Easy to use
Ice storage isn't refrigerated
Buy on Amazon, $499
Setup and Performance: Some patience required
Before I could fill my cocktail shaker with nugget ice, I had to wait 24 hours after placing the ice maker to let the refrigerant settle. It was the perfect time to give the ice maker a quick wipe-down for any dust that accumulated since production. I also recommend running a quick, self-clean cycle before using it for the first time for crystal clear ice. Running the machine is as simple as filling the tank to the fill line, adding the plastic ice bucket, and pressing the power button. Water promptly starts cycling through the machine, until it gets cold enough to freeze.
Note that the machine makes a monotonous hum as it produces ice. It’s not necessarily loud, but I wouldn’t want to be sitting in the room while it produces ice.
The first batch resulted in small watery, little pellets, and while it definitely took longer than five minutes, the machine produced thicker, heartier ice nuggets as the cycles wore on. However, the first time I ran the ice, as the water cycled through to form ice again, the water promptly melted the existing ice nuggets.
But patience. It took about 45 minutes to get a usable collection of ice, and a little over two hours for the ice bucket to fill (approximately 2 pounds of ice). It has a high-power cooling process to make it more efficient and faster than any other model on the market, so you can rapidly have a buildup of ice.
After a few hours of ice-making, I was able to chill several beverages. The ice produced by this machine made for some seriously enjoyable and refreshing beverages—from a simple glass of water to a cocktail served on-the-rocks. It’s especially convenient for building cocktails right in the glass, like a Screwdriver or a Mint Julep. Plus, this ice would make the perfect frozen margarita or smoothie, as softer and smaller ice nuggets are easier for a blender to crush through.
Keep in mind that once the ice bucket is full or runs out of water, the machine will automatically stop producing ice. So, if you’re planning to make bulk amounts of ice—or the 40 pounds a day that it can produce—be sure to have an extra vessel or cooler on hand.
I chose to put the extras in a large bowl and place it in my freezer. Note that it’s best to serve this ice “fresh” because the next morning, I was greeted with an ice block in my freezer.
Design: Sleek but not slight
Measuring 16.5 x 10.6 x 16.3 inches, this ice maker is described as compact, but for my tiny New York apartment kitchen, the size feels a little overwhelming for my counter space. Still, the stainless steel exterior (be wary of fingerprints) offers a sleek look that fits right in with my chrome appliances.
In addition, no matter what glass I tried, the accompanying ice scooper was just too wide to pour all the ice into my glass without spilling any extra pellets. Though not a big issue, it's definitely inconvenient as you have to wipe off melted ice from your countertops.
While the unit keeps ice solid longer than if it was sitting out, it is not refrigerated, and the ice will eventually melt and drip back into the water tank if not used.
Price: A worthy investment for the home bartender
This nugget ice maker is available directly from NewAir and at Amazon with an MSRP of $549.95. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a one-year warranty, but customers can choose to purchase an extended one-, two- or three-year warranty as well.
For the price point and size, you’ll want to be a dedicated ice user to make the most of your purchase. So, whether you are operating your own bar, love to entertain, and don’t want to wait hours to freeze ice with an ice tray, this is a worthy appliance to consider.
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