Gold Nuggets: Scotsman Home Ice Machines Provide ‘Sonic Ice’

Scotsman Nugget Ice

Have you ever been crunching on some of that super-chewable nugget ice – a.k.a. pellet, pebble, chunk, Chewblet®, gem, Pearl®, and Sonic ice – and wondered how this nearly-perfect frozen creation came to be? Surely those little chunks of ice can’t be made with the same types of home ice maker that creates cubes and other solid shapes. But, are they chipped from another, bigger piece? Are they shaved off an ice block like the makings of a Sno-Kone®?

Countless people the world over love to crunch this type of ice. While a constant craving to chew ice has a creepy-sounding name (pagophagia) and may be a sign of a serious health issue1, most people who chomp the stuff just like the crunch and/or the cold.

Among those people, Sonic ice is like the caviar of the ice world. The nugget ice produced by the commercial ice machine in every “America’s drive-in,” as the chain bills its restaurants, is composed of frozen water and air joined together in a harmony that makes it chew perfectly, they say. The folks at The Wall Street Journal recognized the growing love of chewing ice nuggets2 back in 2008, and the popularity has only ballooned from there.

Since that time, the coldest corners of the Internet have been dedicated to forums in which ice lovers discuss things like drink recipes that leave the most chewable ice and share “ice chewing stories.” One of our vendors, Scotsman, has traditionally been the sole supplier of the commercial ice maker used in every Sonic drive-in and has created a website called “Luv the Nug”3 for its fans. There are even YouTube videos of people “reviewing” Sonic ice4.

The good news is, Scotsman has some home ice maker models that produce that beloved Sonic-style ice. They use a unique and fascinating process to create that nugget ice that we’ll explore here.

Inside a Sonic Ice Machine: How Nugget Ice is Made

Nugget Ice Maker

Nugget ice begins in a completely different way than its cubic cousins, though the process starts with producing flake ice.

In the typical Sonic ice machine, water is run through a metal cylinder that is cooled by the refrigeration system. It’s so cold that the water begins to freeze in small sheets that protrude from the side of the cylinder. At the same time this is happening, an auger turns, scraping the interior walls of the cylinder. As it does that, it removes the forming ice spikes and pushes them to the top of the auger.

If this was the end of the process, we would call the resulting product flake ice, a type commonly seen in fresh seafood and produce displays. But a residential nugget ice maker takes it further, pushing the ice flakes through a small tube that compacts them into a single piece. At the end of the tube is an extruder tip, where the ice is either allowed to break off naturally into smaller pieces or is lopped by a blade into somewhat uniform bits.

Ready for a Nugget Home Ice Machine?

If you’re ready to order an ice maker that can give you Sonic ice at home, look no further than KaTom’s digital shelves for several models of this type of Scotsman ice maker. If you need assistance making your purchase, please contact one of our helpful customer service representatives at 1-800-541-8683 or

1. New York Times article on health concerns related to chewing ice

2. Wall Street Journal article on popularity of Sonic ice

3. Scotsman's Luv the Nug website

4. YouTube video reviewing Sonic ice