Types of Ice Makers Explained

Ice is no longer a one size fits all product. It has changed from simple cubes produced at home in silver or white freezer trays to frozen pieces of many varieties.

The varieties of ice today include:

  1. Crushed — used mostly in beverage dispensers.
  2. Flake — used to hold delicate foods without damaging them, beneficial for beverage presentation.
  3. Gourmet — Crystal type appearance, octagonal in shape.
  4. Nugget — Softer, more chewable.
  5. Dice Cube — Clear cube with a rhomboid shape.
  6. Regular Cube — traditional ice cube.

Those who enjoy different types of ice often wonder what types of ice makers are used to produce them. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of ice makers that are available to you today.

Commercial Ice Makers

Commercial Ice Maker
Shop for Commercial Ice Makers

Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for many businesses to have commercial ice makers available for their patrons. These businesses would include hotels, schools, bars and hospitals. These machines can do the jobs of making and storing ice. Some of the larger commercial ice machines can make up to 1,000 lbs of ice each day.

The commercial style of ice makers can produce cubes, nuggets, and flake ice. Commercial machines do not have to be huge. They can be purchased as countertop or built-in units as well. Most manufacturers of commercial ice makers recommend that the machines be cleaned periodically. This cleaning includes sanitizing the water system, cleaning the air filters on some machines, and visually inspecting the machine for loose wires, fasteners and corrosion.

Built-In Ice Makers

Undercounter Ice Maker
Shop for Built-In Ice Makers

Built in ice makers can be purchased to be used indoors or outdoors depending on the style. Because they are not freestanding and need to be installed, they are built to stand up to a lot of use. They are also built to fit in nicely with your lower cabinets. This type of ice maker is great for homes that cannot seem to keep any ice in the automatic freezer tray. This may be due to the fact that those who live in the home love to invite guests over for drinks and snacks; it may be due to the fact that those in the home enjoy chewing on ice throughout the day. No matter what the reason is, the under counter ice maker is a great solution for those who seem to run out of ice much too quickly. Outdoor units are built to hold up to use in garages, outdoor bars and even beside the barbeque grill.

It is important to note that built in ice makers have a “front breathing” component at the bottom of the unit that allows them to be built in to cabinetry, bars, etc. with zero clearance around the sides and back. Other less expensive ice makers can be placed in tight applications, but will  need generally several inches around the sides and back so they can breathe and work properly.

Outdoor ice makers work exactly the same way as indoor ice makers, except that they have more rugged components that have been approved to allow them to stay outside under any conditions. You can use a non – approved ice maker outside, however, you run the risk of it breaking down earlier than an outdoor approved unit, so it’s generally not encouraged.

Countertop / Portable Ice Makers

Portable Ice Maker
Shop for Portable Ice Makers

Countertop ice makers, which are also known as portable ice makers, do not need to be installed. They are very easy to use and are designed to sit on your counter while making ice. These machines need only to be filled with water, plugged in and turned on in order to work. Countertop ice makers are easy to use in campers, boats, and even in hotel rooms. Because they are portable and very easy to use, many have chosen to carry them whenever they travel so that they will never run out of fresh ice. The insulated storage bins inside of these ice makers ensure that the ice stays cold until you are ready to use it. With up to three different cube style selections, it is simple to select the type of ice that you most prefer. If you are looking for a specific color, style or finish for your new portable ice maker, you will most likely be able to find it. Manufacturers have realized that as these machines grow in popularity that many want their ice maker to match their current appliances and decor.

One thing to note with portable ice makers is that they are not actually able to store the ice they make for very long. Once they produce ice, you can remove the ice cubes and use immediately or freeze for later. If you allow a portable ice maker to run continuously, the machine will cycle through the ice cubes as they melt into water and will re-use this water and re-form the ice makers again. Most people that use these types of machines will remove the ice for storage and then refill and run again.


There are several types of ice makers that are able to produce clear ice. This is also known as restaurant quality ice. As a general rule, clear ice can be produced much more quickly than regular ice cubes and is much prettier to look at. Many agree that clear ice looks best when it is formed into one inch or larger cubes. Regular ice cubes are cloudy because of trapped impurities and bubbles that form when the ice cube trays are filled. Clear ice, on the other hand, is made by spraying water up onto a metal grid at freezing temperatures. The 32 degree temperature assures that only the water will freeze, and not the impurities. This means that the ice is crystal clear and free from anything that would mar the clarity. Clear ice makers are available in all types ranging from countertop units to large self contained units.

There are many different types of ice makers available today. By knowing what type of ice you prefer, and adding that knowledge to how much ice you think you will need, it is possible to purchase the perfect type of ice maker to suit your needs.

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Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn

Kara Zorn is a wife and working mom who loves life hacks that help her schedule allow for as much quality family time as possible. She enjoys cooking with locally sourced food and produce and recently took up brewing Kombucha.


  1. I can enjoyed a cup of drink with an fresh ice everyday with ice maker machine for home use. This producing ice just in minutes :)

  2. I had no clue there were so many kind of ice! It’s nice to know what kinds are best for certain things. It’ll make it easier to get the right kind of ice maker now that I know!

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