Buyer's Guide & Information

5 Best Sonic Nugget Ice Makers (2024 Reviews & Guide)

We have reviewed the best nugget ice makers on the market. Compare the top-rated sonic, pebble & pellet ice maker brands for your home or business.

by Holly Curell

The term ‘sonic ice’ was popularized by Sonic; the first company to offer chewable nugget ice. This new type of ice soon became a phenomenon, and people started visiting Sonic in droves just to get their hands on it.

Thankfully, you don’t have to do that now; with the abundant availability of sonic nugget ice makers in the market, you can have all the nugget ice you want at home.

Best Ice Maker

Sonic ice makers are ice machines that make small, chewable ice nuggets, which are different from regular ice cubes. There are several different types of machines available in the market, which can be used for both home and commercial purposes.

The top choice for sonic pebble/nugget ice makers is the Scotsman Undercounter CU50PA. Its sleek design fits under the counter seamlessly, providing a constant supply of chewable ice. With efficient production and user-friendly controls, the CU50PA ensures you'll never run out of ice. 



Storage Bin Capacity

Ice Quality

Production Rate

Check Price

Scotsman CU50PA-1 Undercounter Ice Maker with...

Scotsman Undercounter CU50PA

26 Lbs.

Very High

1.25 Lbs/Hr

Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 Pearl Self-Contained Ice...

Ice-O-Matic GEMU090

22 Lbs.


3.54 Lbs/Hr

Scotsman CU50GA Undercounter Ice Maker,...

Scotsman CU50GA-1A

26 Lbs.

Very High

2.7 Lbs/Hr

Manitowoc CNF-0201A-L Ice Maker and Water...



10 Lbs.


13 Lbs/Hr

Frigidaire EFIC102 Counter Top Ice Maker,...



1.5 Lbs.


1 Lbs/Hr

5 Best Sonic Nugget Ice Machines Reviewed

1. Scotsman Undercounter CU50PA

Best Chewable Nugget Ice Maker


(of the unit)

22 x 14.88 x 105 inches

Storage Bin Capacity

26 lbs.

Production Rate

1.25 lbs. per hour

Ice Quality

(for Sonic Ice production)

Very High

Price Guide



10 years

Scotsman is the oldest manufacturer of sonic ice machines and makes the perfect quality ice for all nugget ice lovers. The unit is perfect for commercial use and comes in stainless steel design.

This machine is a total workhorse, cranking out 64 lbs of Gourmet Top-Hat Whiskey Ice in just 24 hours. And with its 15" stainless steel door ice storage cabinet, you've got plenty of room to stash up to 26 lbs of ice, plus a scoop for easy serving.

But what really sets this bad boy apart is the ice it makes. It's crystal-clear, slow-melting, and doesn't mess with the flavor of your drinks. No weird tastes or odors here!

And here's the cool part - it's got a built-in water-quality sensor that keeps an eye out for hard water. Whenever it detects any, it kicks into gear and cleans it out with each cycle, so you don't have to worry about funky buildup.

The product also comes with a 10 years manufacturer’s warranty on all major components, making it worthy as a long term investment.

""My wife and I are "ice addicts" as we actually eat ice all day long. This Scotsman Ice Maker has totally met our requirements - to deliver ice in large quantities and is soft enough not to break our teeth. The ice machine delivers ice 24/7, is very quiet delivering that ice, and is easy to operate." - Positive review from AJ Madison 

  • Comes with a 10-year warranty
  • Has a high production rate and storage capacity
  • Ideal for outdoor and commercial use
  • Makes authentic sonic style ice
  • Some users may find it to be a little expensive

2. Ice-O-Matic GEMU090 

Best Commercial Nugget Ice Maker


(of the unit)

22.6 x 14.9 x 33.4 inches

Storage Bin Capacity

22 lbs.

Production Rate

3.54 lbs. per hour

Ice Quality

(for Sonic Ice production)


Price Guide



1 year

The GEMOU090 by Ice-O-Matic is one of the best commercial nugget ice machines available. It comes in a sleek stainless steel design, and is relatively compact compared to other commercial machines, allowing it to be easily placed under the counter.

The machine makes around 85 lbs. of nugget ice during the day and can store up to 22 pounds of ice at a time. Ice production can continue for up to 7 hours until the ice bin fills. It comes with an automated detection system which halts ice production once the bin reaches maximum capacity to avoid over-flooding.

Besides being relatively noiseless, the unit contains an air condenser which is compact and perfect for indoor use. The ice machine is also eco-friendly with minimal energy use. Despite this, it can churn out ice faster than most large units, while using less electricity and water.

This model requires a pump drainage system, which might be a little hard to install, but the manual comes with an installation guide.

One reviewer on says, "If you like nugget / pellet ice, then this is the ma home for you. Extremely entire family loves it!!!"

  • Has a high production rate and storage capacity
  • Fits underneath most counters
  • Automatic sensor for when the bin is full
  • Some buyers might find the price high

3. Scotsman CU50GA-1A 

Best Under-counter Nugget Ice Maker


(of the unit)

22 x 14.9 x 34.4 inches

Storage Bin Capacity

26 lbs.

Production Rate

2.7 lbs. per hour

Ice Quality

(for Sonic Ice production)

Very High

Price Guide



1 year

Scotsman makes the perfect gourmet ice for all the nugget ice enthusiasts. The sonic style is crystal clear, uniquely shaped, slow melting, and retains the flavor of drinks. The Scotsman CU50GA-1A is perfect for commercial applications – in fact, its size makes it the ideal ice machine for under-counter installations.

This design by Scotsman has a stylish stainless steel exterior that makes it ideal for bar use. It also comes with outdoor use approval, unlike most large ice machines, and can be placed anywhere from a patio to an outdoor bar.

The CU50GA-1A comes with an impressive production rate of 65 pounds of ice. You can also store up to 26 lbs. of ice in its ice bins at a time. Additionally, the machine comes with a control panel that can guide users about the water level.

It also has an automatic water quality sensor, which helps in the general upkeep and cleaning of the machine and reduces scale build-up. With less scale build up, the time between consecutive cleanings also increases, making the machine easier to maintain.

"We replaced an old Uline unit with this one. This machine is outstanding! Makes crystal clear ice cubes very quickly. Very quiet except when cubes drop into bin. Not a big deal and very reassuring that we have more ice." - Satisfied buyer from Mr. Pepe restaurant 

  • Is ideal for under-counter and outdoor use
  • Contains water quality sensor
  • Large production capacity
  • Might seem expensive to some users
  • Requires the installation of an efficient pump drainage system

4. Manitowoc CNF-0201A-L 

Top Of The Range


(of the unit)

16.25 x 24 x 35 inches

Storage Bin Capacity

10 lbs.

Production Rate

13 lbs. per hour

Ice Quality

(for Sonic Ice production)


Price Guide



2 years

Manitowoc’s nugget style ice maker is the top-of-the-range, countertop nugget ice machine. Its stainless steel exterior protects it from rust, scratches, and stains, and adds class to the design. It has the highest production rate of any portable ice dispenser and can make up to a massive 315 lbs. of ice in a day.

The dispenser in this machine comes with three settings: ice, water, and ice and water together. It also comes with an activation lever, which takes up minimum space and makes the dispenser easy to use. The blue LED light in the dispenser also makes it ideal for dimly lit areas, night time use, and low light spaces. Additionally, the height of the dispenser means that it can be easily used to fill anything from cups too small pitchers.

A large drain pan at the bottom collects meltwater and spilled ice for a mess-free operation, so you can focus on enjoying your favorite nugget ice.

The Manitowoc CNF-0201A-L ice dispenser is not only ideal for home use and small parties but can also serve as a great addition to hospital and health care facilities – primarily due to its high ice production and low noise levels. It is top of the line so it will be sure to impress friends and family.

  • Quiet operation
  • Produces 315 lbs of ice a day
  • Cost-effective
  • Will require plumbing for water line

5. Frigidaire EFIC102 

Best Budget Nugget Ice Machine


(of the unit)

11.5 x 15 x 15 inches

Storage Bin Capacity

1.5 lbs.

Production Rate

1 lb. per hour

Ice Quality

(for Sonic Ice production)


Price Guide



1 year

The final ice maker that made the cut for our top sonic ice makers’ review is the Frigidaire EFIC102. Frigidaire is a name synonymous with quality built, affordable kitchen products – and this ice maker is a testament to the brand’s reputation.

It is an eco-friendly design with minimal power usage and non-toxic chemicals or freons. It also has minimal noise production with a design that runs at 38 dB, making it a tranquil machine. This sonic nugget ice maker requires no hefty installation; users can simply plug it in, and it starts producing ice in 7 minutes.

The best part about this ice maker, other than its affordability, is that it can produce ice in 2 different sizes – thus giving you the option to switch up your ice nugget size as per your need. The water reservoir is linked to an LED indicator which blinks to notify when water levels are low, so there is no need to check it manually.

This Frigidaire EFIC102 comes with a large see-through window that allows you to check dispenser ice levels without opening the bin door. The design also includes an ice shovel to enable you to easily scoop out the ice for all your needs, while keeping it sanitary and clean.

The design has an in-built drain plug that helps you drain excess purge and melt water for quick cleaning. SImilar to the Della model on our list, the ice from this machine is more of a bullet than a pellet but it still is chewy and soft on the teeth.

  • Environment-friendly
  • Fast ice production
  • Budget-friendly
  • Some users may find the ice to be a little different from the authentic sonic style

Choosing The Right Nugget Ice Maker For You

Ice Quality & Size

The quality of ice is perhaps the number one thing to consider when purchasing an ice maker. Portable ice makers, despite offering high-speed ice production, does not produce the perfect sonic ice.

If you are looking for the perfect sonic ice, you may want to invest in the relatively more substantial commercial under the counter, or countertop models. While they may cost slightly more, they produce the perfect nugget ice, with the right consistency.

Production Capacity

Nugget Ice Maker

The production capacity of an ice maker varies according to their size and the type of machine you decide to get.

If you want a machine for domestic use, then smaller ice makers with a production capacity of 26 lbs per day will be enough for you and your family’s needs.

However, businesses require a higher production capacity for their ice makers.

Larger units with the production capacity of around 85 lbs are often what companies need to opt for to meet their daily ice needs.

Storage Capacity

The storage capacity, again, is dependent on your use and the unit size. Easily movable ice machines have smaller bin sizes which can fill up within ten minutes, while larger units can hold up to 26 lbs. of ice.

It is important to remember that ice production stops once the ice bin is full. Hence, if you are looking for ice for smaller gatherings while wanting to save up on electricity and water, small ice makers may be the answer for you.

Easy To Use And Clean

You don’t want to buy a complicated machine that you will have a hard time figuring out how to use. Most ice makers, whether large or small, are relatively easy to operate. However, it may be harder to learn how to operate machines with extra features like size options, ice types, etc.

Another essential factor to consider when buying an ice machine is the ease of cleaning. Devices that have in-built water recycling systems save you the effort of draining the machine regularly or installing a drainage system.

Size Of Unit

The unit size is mainly dependent on the area you want to place it in. A large machine might attract you, but simply not have enough space in your kitchen for it. The size of the unit also impacts its portability; the smaller the unit, the easier it will be to move around.


While ice makers don’t last forever, you also don’t want to invest so much money in an expensive machine that breaks down or stops working after a short while.

Choose a machine made of sturdier materials that don't break easily when you move it around. And make sure the storage bin material is durable enough to bear the weight of large quantities of ice.


Most sonic ice makers are small and easily portable. What is even better is that most of these ice makers produce at least two different sizes of ice. However, in the larger commercial version of the sonic ice makers, portability is an issue. They often require proper water and drainage systems, and moving them can be a hassle.

Large, commercial ice makers provide the added flexibility of being used in both domestic and industrial setups and can be used to make various types of ice. If your ice machine is traveling with you, we recommend that you invest in a smaller, portable ice maker. Similarly, if you want to invest in an ice maker that you can later use in a café you are planning to start, buy a larger unit.

Installation & Setup

The installation or set up can vary according to the size of the machine. Portable ice machines require no installation and are ready to use. All you need to do is plug them into a power source and fill the water reservoir. On the other hand, larger units require the installation of a water line, and a proper drainage system.

Cost & Warranty

Sonic ice makers can cost you anywhere from $200 to $5000, depending on the type you want to buy. The smaller units are often relatively cheap, but also provide lower quality ice, and a smaller production and storage capacity. The larger units, while more expensive, also come with larger ice bins and a higher production rate. 

Considering the warranty before buying an ice maker is also important; since ice makers are expensive, knowing that they will last you a while can put your mind at ease. While smaller units don't come with warranties that last more than two years, you can opt for extended warranty.


Benefits Of Sonic/Pebble/Nugget Ice Machines

Many people prefer pebble ice over any other kind. If you are one of these nugget ice enthusiasts and are often running to find the perfect pellets, then buying a sonic pebble ice machine is just the thing for you.

Here are three benefits you’ll get with installing this machine in your home or business:

  • 1
    High-quality gourmet ice at just the click of a button
  • 2
    Fast and easy access to chewable, blender-friendly ice for cocktails and smoothies
  • 3
    Saves the cost of buying bagged sonic ice repeatedly

Different Names For This Type Of Ice

Different ice-makers may refer to sonic nugget ice by different names, but don’t let this confuse you. We have compiled all the popular, and the not so popular, names that sonic ice goes by to keep you on the up and up:

  • Chewable ice
  • Crunchy ice
  • Soft ice
  • Nugget ice
  • Pearl ice
  • The People's Ice
  • Pellet ice
  • Pebble ice
  • Chewblet
  • Gem ice

How Nugget Ice Is Made

Nugget ice is pellet shaped chewable ice composed of frozen water and air. It is a favorite with beverage businesses since it is blender friendly. It can be used to chill drinks, keep in food displays, and even plain chewing.

In a typical sonic ice machine:

  • The water is run through a metal cylinder
  • The refrigeration system cools the water to a freezing temperature
  • The water freezes in small sheets and protrudes from the side of the cylinder
  • An auger scrapes the cylinder walls to create ice flakes
  • These ice flakes are pushed through a small tube and compacted into nuggets

Chewable Ice vs. Regular Ice Cubes

Unlike regular ice which is just frozen water and no air, chewable ice is a mixture of both air and water. The more air there is in the ice, the more chewable it becomes.

There’s also a considerable difference between the texture and size of regular ice cubes and nugget ice. While ice cubes are big and frozen, sonic ice is softer, more chewy and smaller. Nugget ice is also better at flavor retention than regular ice cubes, which make it a popular choice for sodas and cocktails.

How To Use a Sonic Ice Maker

Typically, ice makers aren't complicated to use. While the precise method of use may vary as per make or model, most just require a water and power source.

  • Connect your ice machine to a power source
  • Either connect it to a water source or fill it with water
  • Make sure to use fresh, clean water – the cleaner the water, the better the ice
  • Do not exceed the fill line marked in the reservoir
  • Secure the door properly
  • Turn the machine on

Some things to avoid while using a sonic ice maker:

  • Avoid using anything other than water to fill the reservoir; it may cause the machine to malfunction
  • Avoid adding sugar; it will cause parts to stick and may cost you your warranty.

Installation & Setup Of Sonic Ice Machines

The installation and setup for ice machines can vary from model to model; however most ice makers are straightforward to install, and all they require is a connection to a water source (if the model requires it), drainage, and electricity.

  • Electricity:
    Check your machine's manual to determine its voltage and fuse size requirements, and ensure that they match with the resources available to you. If everything is suitable, you just need to plug the machine in.
  • Water:
    Check your machine’s installation guide. If your machine comes with a water reservoir, then you do not need to fix it to a pipeline, and there is no plumbing required. However, some commercial models may require a water connection for continuous ice production.
  • Drain:
    Ice machines require a drain system so all the purged and meltwater can be adequately drained. The two ways to set up the drainage for your ice machine is either through a floor drain or a drain pump. In case of a drain pump, you will have to contact the manufacturer to determine the volume of purge water to get the right drain.

If you need help installing a larger, commercial unit, get a free quote from a local plumber by using our form below.

Taking Care Of Your Sonic Pellet Ice Machine

To keep your sonic ice machine working efficiently, you need to invest time in its upkeep. Here are some tips for maintaining your sonic nugget ice-maker:

  • Keep it clean:
    Clean the inside of your ice-maker with sanitizing solutions, either provided by manufacturers such as Scotsman, or home-made diluted bleach solutions
  • Change the filter regularly:
    Most nugget ice-machines require filters to improve flavor, and to remove any harmful micro-organisms. Neglecting to change these filters frequently, as advised by the manufacturer, can result in dirty water, and low-quality ice
  • Descale:
    The more ice your machine produces, the higher the chances are of calcium build-up called scaling. If this build-up isn’t removed regularly, it can damage machine parts and shorten the lifespan of the ice-maker. Descaling can be done by using household vinegar or manufacturer provided descaling solutions
  • Unclog:
    Frozen ice melt and smashed ice particles can lead to the jamming of dispenser chutes. This can be prevented by regularly emptying the ice-bin, and cleaning it thoroughly inside and out
  • Ventilate:
    For ice-makers to function at their best, they require proper ventilation. Refer to your machine’s manual to locate the vents, and ensure that they are in perfect working condition

Why Nugget Ice Machines Are Expensive

Opal Nugget

Nugget ice makers are unique machines designed to create ice of a specific density, shape, and size. This means that they require expensive parts such as refrigerants, copper coils, pumps, compressors, etc. Such specifications are what results in these machines being expensive.

However, it is safe to say that sonic nugget ice machines are worth spending money on. This one-time investment saves you a lot of money on buying bags of chewable ice every time you feel the urge to make a drink or munch on chewable ice. Alternatively, for a different way of consuming your ice you could look at shaved ice machines


How do you keep sonic ice from freezing?

To keep the ice chewable, the ice bins in sonic ice-makers do not have any refrigeration. This ensures that the ice does not freeze, stick together, or become too hard to chew.

How do I fix a nugget ice maker that has stopped producing ice?

Often, the reason your ice-maker stops running is simple – you’ve run out of water. Check to see if that’s the case, and refill your machine if needed.

Your ice-maker freezing up is also a prime reason for it to stop producing ice. It can be fixed by:

  • Thawing the ice maker
  • Cleaning the water inlet valve
  • Increasing the freezer temperature
  • Replacing the water filter
What are the most reliable top-rated brands of sonic ice makers?

Many ice-maker brands are known for manufacturing reliable and long-lasting ice-machines. Some of these names include FirstBuild, Scotsman, Ice-O-Matic, Della, Manitowoc, and Frigidaire.

Can you make sonic ice without a machine?

If it is authentic sonic ice you want, then making it without a machine is impossible. However, if something that looks or feels somewhat like sonic ice will suffice, then you can obviously DIY it.

The trick is to use carbonated (fizzy) water and freeze it. The air bubbles in it will give it a porous texture. Then crush the ice cubes, and you'll get an excellent alternative to nugget ice.

Where is the best place to buy sonic ice machines?

Out of the many online retailers that offer sonic ice machines, but the most popular one is Amazon. This is because of the wide range and ability to easily receive and return products.

You can also buy a portable sonic ice machine at an electronics store near you.


We have reviewed an entire range of ice makers to find the best ones in the market for you. We compared and analyzed them based on price, storage capacity, production rate, build and durability to compile a list of the top 7 sonic nugget ice machines.

While all of the machines we listed are excellent, the Scotsman Undercounter CU50PA is the most efficient and durable.

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.