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The Ultimate Test: Finding the Best Nugget Ice Maker

May 25, 2023

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During all three of my pregnancies, I would drive to Sonic and purchase their perfectly-sized, crunchy ice because I had to have it! Whether you prefer to call them pebble ice, nugget ice, or even the infamous “sonic ice,” there’s something so satisfying about those crunchy little ice pellets. In our quest to satisfy the insatiable craving for nugget ice, we embarked on a rigorous testing journey to uncover the best nugget ice maker. We got our hands on four top-rated makers from Amazon and set up shop in our team office kitchen. Over the course of weeks, we meticulously evaluated their performance, ice quality, user-friendliness, and overall satisfaction. Keep scrolling for the results!

Shop Countertop Nugget Ice Makers

You may remember from our viral beverage station that we incorporated a built-in nugget ice maker, which has been a complete luxury. I personally scoop ice from it about five times a day, but it gets full-range use from our family of five. It’s perfect. It’s hooked up to plumbing, so we never have to refill the water or anything. We love a self-sufficient kitchen appliance! It’s also built-in and quite the investment, so for this test we wanted to focus on strictly countertop ice makers. Without spoiling the results, I’ll say that there’s an ice maker out there for every personal preference and budget, and I would actually recommend all four of these for different reasons. Okay, let’s go!

Meet the contenders

KBice 2.0 Self Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker | Joy Pebble Portable Ice Maker | Kndko Nugget Ice Maker | Opal Nugget Ice Maker with Side Tank

Opal Nugget Ice Maker with Side Tank

We have had this GE Opal countertop appliance for about a year and a half, actually. We bought it for the team office back in the day so our team could have icy cold beverages at their fingertips. This is “The Ice Maker” that everyone is getting these days. It’s supposedly the best it gets.

KBice 2.0 Self-Dispensing Nugget Ice Maker

I found this pebble ice maker quite attractive and knew we had to test out the dispensing feature to see if it is as convenient as it seems!

Kndko Nugget Ice Maker

Unlike the Opal ice maker, this one has a self-cleaning feature, and it’s less than half the price, so I wanted to see how it compared.

Joy Pebble Portable Ice Maker

Every test needs a budget contestant, and this ice maker is less than $100, but we, of course, had to see if the value matched the price!

Testing the Nugget Ice Makers

In order of price, low to high.

First impressions? This ice maker is the smallest one of all! It takes up less real estate on your countertop but also holds less ice! The product image makes it look like stainless steel, but it’s actually a gray plastic material. So aesthetically, it’s not ideal. But what about the ice?

The shape of this ice was unexpected! They almost look like styrofoam packing peanuts with hollow insides. The product listing describes them as “bullet-shaped,” which is probably accurate! And you can select either 1-in ice or .8-in ice, although we didn’t notice much of a difference in size.

Surprisingly, we didn’t mind the different shape! It still satisfied the crunchy ice craving, and the texture was great. I think if you’re a small household and don’t have a refrigerator ice dispenser, this is going to make you so happy.

I would say that this ice maker is the budget version of the Opal ice maker. It’s smaller in size and has a really nice stainless steel finish. I also love that it has a flip-top lid for scooping out your ice. According to the product description, this one wins for making the most amount of ice at 3.3 lbs!

As for the actual ice, it’s the perfect size to chew on, but it was a bit more rough around the edges than the others. And somehow, the ice is harder to chew, whereas the others made more soft-crunch ice. Make sense?

Also, this one has a self-clean feature which is so convenient.

In my opinion, this appliance is the prettiest of the bunch. The black/stainless steel combo is lovely and has a really modern, simple shape. It’s also the largest, which is less than ideal if you’re short on counter space. That being said, the dispense on this machine is incredibly satisfying and easy to use.

You won’t ever have to dig out a scooper, and I would trust my kids with this machine because it’s so simple. Oh, and it fits a Stanley cup perfectly without the bottom drip tray!

This isn’t considered a downside, but opposite to the other ice makers, you can’t visually see how much ice has been made. And you can’t see the water level either. Actually, filling it with water is at first odd, but also fun. You poke the funnel into the hole on the frontside and pour the water in. And since you can’t see the fill line from the outside, the machine beeps at you when it’s full.

The ice pebbles are everything you want them to be–top-notch texture and perfectly crunchy. This one also has a self-cleaning feature.

Regarding budget, this particular ice maker stands out as the most expensive, and it also happens to be the one we’ve had and tested for the longest time. I don’t really love that there’s a side tank involved, and it is optional, but I would say it’s pretty necessary unless you’re fine with refilling the water cavity frequently.

Over time, it has required some troubleshooting, and here and there, it makes some random weird sounds, but it does an incredible job of satisfying the pebble ice craving. It also seems to make ice the quickest, and with the side tank, you won’t have to refill very often.

Best Pebble Ice Maker Overall

1. KBice – The design, function, and price of this machine make it my favorite! I think the value exceeds the price you pay, and I’ll never get over how satisfying the dispenser is.

2. Opal – While this ice maker performs perfectly well, it’s almost double the price of the KBice machine, and I’m not sure it’s double the value. That being said, it holds significantly more ice, and more water, which means less refilling.

Best Budget Pebble Ice Maker

1. Joy – We all had great things to say about this quirky little “bullet-shaped” ice maker. It’s less than $100, and although it’s not ideal for a big family, it would be perfect for college students or newlyweds.

2. Kndko – I would recommend this appliance if you want a great nugget ice maker at a fair price. Although it didn’t win as the most satisfying ice, it’s still pretty dang good. It’s also a bit shocking that it’s smaller in size but also holds the most ice.

If you have a pebble ice maker, be sure to weigh in!

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What do you think?

  1. Kate Gill says:

    One component I wish I had been shared was motor noise. (Although maybe they’re all the same so it wasn’t a true variable!) We have the Opal and it is so dang loud when it’s making ice. It’s in our kitchen within range of our living room/TV watching area, and we have to turn the volume up on the TV when the Opal is making ice. :) Just a funny thing I wish I’d researched before buying.

  2. Joanna says:

    I had a small built in ice maker under my sink on our boat. At first it was a novelty. But the ice cubes were those bullet ones and melted quickly in your drink. We ended up taking it out, selling it, and freeing up all that space by simply putting two ice cube trays in the freezer. I would not buy another. Our freezer at home has an ice cube dispenser and the ice is bigger and harder so it lasts longer in a drink, especially if the pop is not cold to begin with.

  3. Heather Larson says:

    We’ve had the GE Opal 2 ice maker for almost 2 years. It requires a lot of cleaning with vinegar & bleach. It’s required a lot of trouble shooting with the “add water” light turning on when full of water & not making ice. We’ve used Costco water (it’s reverse osmosis). It’s so wonderful when it works but a headache to keep it working. We recently bought a Costco ice maker for $89 that makes the bullet ice, lightning fast, to use when our Opal is down. It’s so convenient having reliable ice that I put the Opal away after the add water popped up again. Haven’t missed it. 😉

  4. Liz says:

    I recently bought a Frigidaire Compact Countertop ice maker. It looks like the Joy machine but it is stainless steel. There is also an Iceman portable machine – it has a handle to make it easier to carry around. They are in the 99-109 price range.

    I like the size of the ice bullets, but they do melt fast in the drink. I also have some silicone ice trays that make large cubes, which take a while to melt. Check out Amazon to see the variety of sizes and shapes. A lot of the trays have lids to make them stackable. There was a rose shaped option as well as balls, hexies, and other shapes.

    The machine is working great – I’ll start it working about 10-15 minutes before I want to have ice. BTW, some of these machines mention that you use tap water, not distilled water.

  5. Hillary says:

    I really love flakey ice. I worked at a restaurant with it once and I never have really seen it again. So good.

  6. Jen says:

    The one thing I had hoped to have reviewed in this is the meltability of the ice. Some of these ice makers the ice seems sooooo thin and melts so fast. Any comment on these four? Did the ice melt super quick like maybe they don’t freeze it all the way through?

    • Michelle Layton says:

      I always dump mine into a Ziploc bag and freeze it before using, keeping a supply of ice.

      • Joanna says:

        I wonder why you don’t simply freeze ice cubes in your freezer and free up counter space? 🤔

  7. Jeni B. says:

    We’ve have the built-in Scotsman nugget ice maker for 9 years now. It is expensive and we love it so much it is worth it! We miss our ice when we go on vacation. We recently moved and it’s the first appliance we bought!

  8. Sondra Price says:

    I appreciate the details involved in this comparison. Wish I had read it two week ago as I just bought an Opal, but dang if it isn’t the most perfect crunchy ice. 😉

  9. Susan Berkelbach says:

    I love when you do these kind of posts! It’s so interesting and I trust your opinion on them! Thanks!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

HI! We're Chris + Julia

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