Ice has evolved a lot over the years. Times have changed since you could only get a chunk or slab of ice; these days there’s more to it than making simple cubes in an ice cube tray. In fact, there are probably more types of ice than you have even considered. Whether it’s to keep your beverage or cocktail cold or to create a cold dessert, there are a variety of ice types in varying shapes and sizes that each serve their own purpose. You may have a preference for the type of ice that you like depending on what you’re drinking or consuming.
This list of the different types of ice to choose from should open your eyes and introduce you to the types of ice to choose from, and which ice works best for which purposes.
Table of Contents
The ice cube is probably the most common and ubiquitous type of ice available. It’s the most versatile for many beverages, and the type that you’re probably most familiar with. Whether you make your own ice cubes the old-fashioned way by filling up an ice cube tray with water, or have bought bagged ice at the store, these cubes of ice are known by almost everyone. Ice cubes are used often because they melt slowly and keep your beverage cold. Purchasing bagged ice cubes will also help keep your food cool when you store it in a portable cooler.
Full Ice Cubes
Similar to regular ice cubes, full ice cubes are typically a bit smaller than the regular ice cube and have a slow melting time to keep your beverages cold. These cubes are often used in bars and restaurants for drinks, as they are easy to bag and dispense from a commercial ice machine. Full ice cubes work well in both soft drinks and mixed drinks, which most bars and restaurants carry.
Full cubes can save business owners money since they have maximum cooling potential and a slow melt rate which reduces ice consumption. A little can go a long way by using full ice cubes.
Half Ice Cubes
For a sleeker look that almost resembles small pats of butter, half ice cubes are another great contender for iced drinks used by many restaurants and bars. Since these cubes are smaller than their full cube counterparts, more ice is required per drink to keep it chilled. They have a moderate melt rate and are perfect for crunching on by consumers once they start to melt down a bit.
Half ice cubes are ideal for drinks such as soft drinks or iced teas and lemonade, as well as machines with self-service dispensing. Their smaller shape allows them to dispense easier while remaining extremely versatile for a variety of businesses.
Long Ice Cubes
Long ice cubes are a perfect shape to fit into drink containers that have a narrow opening such as a water bottle. To obtain these types of ice cubes, you will need a specialty ice cube tray that fits the ideal long ice size that you would like. These can be a bit varying shapes, as some water bottles are longer than others. A few bottle makers may even include a part of the bottle that you can freeze for your long ice cube for convenience. The melt rate of long ice cubes depends on how large and thick the ice cube is.
Sphere Ice Cubes
Sphere ice cubes, also known as an ice ball, not only look appealing but can keep your drink cold for hours with a very slow melt rate. Like long ice cubes, sphere ice cubes require a specialty ice cube tray to create these large, round spheres of ice. These ice cubes look lovely in whiskey drinks like an Old Fashioned and are also great to keep larger communal drinks cold such as in pitchers or punch bowls.
One of the easiest ways to make a sphere ice cube for the average person is to find a mold that will shape the ice perfectly for you. You can usually find an aluminum press or a plastic mold to create these sphere cubes. Filling a sphere ice cube tray takes a bit more skill than simply filling up a regular cube ice cube tray, though. These trays have a top and bottom section to create the full ball.
To start, you need to separate both parts of the mold, and fill the bottom part with water all the way up to the rim. Next, you will place the top part of the mold onto the bottom, pressing down and allowing any excess water to come out of the air hole at the top. You will then place the mold into the freezer and allow at least 3-4 hours for it to completely freeze before you can use the spherical cubes.
If you’d like to take a more creative and technical approach, you may also shape an ice cube from a block of ice. A common practice in Japan, carving ice balls takes time and skill, so it is not recommended for the average person at home or a bartender without enough experience. Though not practical for most people, with patience and practice, you can learn to carve a sphere ice cube on your own.
Everyone has enjoyed munching on some crushed ice at some point in their lives. Used to chill drinks, crushed ice is usually a preferred type of ice for people who may want a few pieces of ice to chew on while they sip on their beverage. Since crushed ice pieces are much smaller than regular cubes, they require a lot more surface area than the regular cubes. Though they take up more volume, having these ice cubes in your drink allows it to cool more quickly, since the crushed ice gets dispersed throughout more of the drink.
Ice nuggets are similar to crushed ice in that they are smaller than the typical ice cubes, but ice nuggets are a bit bigger than their crushed cousin. This type of ice is popular with some fast food restaurants, as they are soft and easy to chew. Since this variety of ice is smaller, they melt more quickly, but with more volume of this ice per drink, it is great to use with drinks that will become tastier once a bit of ice melts into the beverage. Ice nuggets are somewhat drier than regular ice and are a favorite for many people who enjoy munching on ice with their drink.
Shaved or Flake Ice
Shaved ice, or flake ice, is a popular type of ice for frozen treats like snow cones and shaved ice bowls. With a texture similar to snow, shaved ice is great for a lovely presentation. This type of tiny ice is usually flavored with some sugary syrups for an after-dinner or midday treat on a hot day. Whether it’s a snow cone, flavored shaved ice, or an ICEE, most people have enjoyed some shaved ice as a child or adult.
This ice melts quickly since it is so thin and fine and is soft enough that it can be eaten quickly with a spoon. The best way to make this ice is to use an ice shaver machine, and then molding the finished ice into round shapes for desserts.
Another common use for flake ice is for keeping food cold at markets or grocery stores. Fragile seafood displays often use flake ice, since the fish or other type of seafood can easily sit on top of the ice and stay cold.
Lastly, flake ice is a great use for ice packs since it can mold easily to whatever shape or part of the body that needs a cold compress, all without adding too much pressure.
This ice is typically the type of ice cube that a refrigerator with a built-in ice maker will create. Meant to easily be tossed into drinks without too much splashing, crescent ice cubes are shaped like a half moon, with one side that is round and the other being flat. Crescent ice can move around with liquid and not stick, making it ideal for drinks at home. This ice is perfect for bagging and dispensing and has a slow melt rate perfect for keeping your beverage cold without getting too watered down.
Have you ever thought of ice as being gourmet? No? Well, think again because there is such a thing as gourmet ice, which is typically found in more upscale restaurants. Upscale food deserves beverages with upscale ice, too! What classifies an ice as “gourmet?” Well, with a cylindrical and hollow shape, this ice presents well and will not water down drinks too quickly. Often used in nice cocktails or whiskey drinks, gourmet ice deserves to be in a glass that will showcase its unique presentation.
Top Hat Ice
A type of gourmet ice, top hat ice has tall and wide cylinders with a circular shape. This ice has a solid build, allowing it to stay cold longer and melt slowly as to not water down a cocktail too fast. Top hat ice is perfect for high-end liquors and upscale drinks. It is crystal clear and looks unique in its shape, providing an elegant presentation while effectively cooling down a drink.
Types of Ice Makers
To get all the ice that you desire, an ice maker is the most effective way to create enough ice that you require at your home or business. Commercial ice makers are a necessity for any bar or restaurant, and you also may choose to purchase an ice maker for your home if you enjoy your beverages ice cold.
Countertop Ice Makers
A countertop ice maker is a more compact option, ideal for offices or healthcare settings. Countertop ice makers typically dispense nugget type ice, which is easier to chew and preferred for hospital patients. Since these ice makers are on the smaller side, they have a small storage bin. Yet, depending on how often ice is being dispensed from a countertop ice maker, they may produce and dispense up to 400 pounds of ice on a given day.
These portable ice makers may be a preferred choice for personal use as well. If you have an at-home bar or simply want more ice in your kitchen, you can purchase a countertop ice maker for your personal space. Since they do not take up too much space, they are the perfect option for that extra counter space that you’ve been wondering what new gadget to place there.
Under-Counter Ice Makers
An under-counter ice maker is similar to a countertop ice maker in that it is compact and ideal for smaller spaces. Yet, unlike the countertop ice maker, an under-counter ice maker, as its name suggests, is meant to be placed under a counter. Most will fit under a counter 40 inches high and can meet the needs of smaller bars, cafes, or restaurants.
An under-counter ice maker makes a bit less ice per day than the countertop version, typically maxing out at around 350 pounds of ice per day. There are some higher-capacity models, though, if you do require this type of ice maker but also require more ice. This type of ice maker may also be purchased for residential use, too. If you have a space in your home that is tall enough to fit an ice maker under the countertop, an under-counter ice maker may be the perfect solution for your ice making needs.
Freestanding Ice Makers
A freestanding ice maker does not require a countertop to either be placed on top of or under. As a more flexible option, you may choose to place your freestanding ice maker wherever it is needed. These types of ice makers may come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you can measure out how tall or short you need your ice maker to be, depending on where it will be placed, so that it fits where it is required. Freestanding ice makers vary in price, as there are more affordable, lower-cost options, as well as ice makers that can go into the thousands of dollars.
Any Ice for Any Occasion
With all the types of ice to choose from, sometimes there is a better choice for what ice should be used in different locations and for different uses. Regardless of what kind of ice you’re using, it’s important to remember to clean your ice maker, or you risk lowering the quality of ice dispensed.
At home, you will probably use regular cubed ice, crescent ice, or even crushed ice if you have a built-in mechanism to crush your ice for you. Regardless, any of these ice options will keep your beverage cooler and should not melt too quickly (unless you use crushed ice, which may be because you prefer to eat some ice as you drink your refreshment). Long ice cubes can also be used at home if you prefer to drink from a water bottle.
Restaurants will often use cubed ice, half cube ice, or may use sphere ice, gourmet ice, or top hat ice for specialty drinks and cocktails. Fast food restaurants may offer regular cubed ice, ice nuggets, or half cube ice as well, depending on the drink. Slushies, for example, may use shaved ice or ice nuggets, while some popular iced coffee options may use ice nuggets as well.
No matter what type of beverage you’re craving, there’s probably a certain type of ice that will pair best with that drink. Now that you know the different types of ice available, go ahead and get a cool refreshment to enjoy!