Square ice cubes are generally thought of as the most traditional form of ice, but ice comes in many shapes that are not used for drinks. Specialty ice has uses in the hospital industry, markets, and yes, restaurants and bars.
Let’s look at some specialty ice types and the specialty ice makers that produce them.
Nugget/Cubelet Specialty Ice
This ice shape was originally designed with hospitals in mind. Doctors found that ice works well to hydrate patients who have a hard time drinking liquid out of a glass. Instead of serving water, patients are handed a cup of nugget ice they can chew on through the day. Patients don’t have to worry about harming their teeth since nugget ice is created by packing flake ice together into a small nugget (imagine the texture of a snowball).
The soft texture of nugget ice is also great for physical therapy. Nugget ice is small and rounded, so it provides a better surface area when applied to the skin. Nugget ice molds around difficult to treat areas, like knees and elbows.
Harder ice cubes, like crescent ice, can also melt into ridged points that can cut through plastic bags. Nugget ice is soft enough that is melts into small pellets that won’t rip through plastic and leak icy water over patients.
Some bars and restaurants actually prefer nugget ice for drinks over traditional cubed ice. Since nugget ice is reformed from ice shavings, it has a porous texture that absorbs liquids. Nugget ice is very popular in soda shops because it takes on the flavor of sugary drinks, which leaves customers with a sweet, icy treat. No wonder Sonic uses this ice in their famous slushes!
Flake Specialty Ice
Flake ice is designed for food displays, but clever business owners have found other uses for it as well.
Flake ice machines produce soft, flakey ice similar in texture to snow. Just like snow, this ice sticks together and can be molded into a variety of shapes. Business owners who run seafood restaurants, fish markets, of produce stops build elaborate displays to show off their products to potential customers. Food and drinks can stand up firmly in the ice and stay cool in the process.
Oyster bars commonly serve oysters on a bed of chilled rock salt, but many bars are switching to flake ice because it keeps shellfish at a safe temperature. Flake ice chills oysters while keeping them in place on a plate. Best yet, flake ice makers produce a never-ending supply of flake ice, which is much cheaper than buying bag after bag of rock salt.
Finally, flake ice is also used in physical therapy clinics for the same reason nugget ice is so popular. The soft, moldable texture provides the best possible cooling surface for difficult to reach areas.
Sphere Specialty Ice
Who said its hip to be square? Well, Huey Lewis did, but he probably wasn’t talking about ice!
Over the last decade, mixology has become big business. Bars everywhere are looking to cocktails as a canvass for their culinary creativity.
Sphere ice looks great in drinks. It’s crystal clear and stacks nicely into any type of glassware. Since these cubes are larger than other commercial ice machine cubes, they won’t water down drinks and dilute their flavor.
Hoshizaki’s new sphere ice machine is an upcoming undercounter ice maker that delivers 50 lbs. of perfectly round sphere ice a day.
Square Specialty Ice
Wait, aren’t square ice cubes the most traditional style? Yes, but when it comes to commercial ice makers, they aren’t the most popular anymore. Both crescent ice and half-dice ice is a popular ice for bars and restaurants because of its versatility and high production rate.
Large ice cube makers take a bit more time to produce crystal-clear square cubes for cocktails and other drinks. Since the change, square ice has become a prized choice for high-end cocktail and whiskey bars. These cubes have become more of a specialty cube because they are large and keep high-end cocktails and top-shelf spirits cool without watering them down.
While large ice cubes are great for all types of cocktails, high-volume sports bars and restaurants may want to use a smaller cube for sodas and water. For more information on ice machines for bars and restaurants, check out our Restaurant and Bar Ice Machine Guide.
Specialty Ice Machines are Here for All Your Business Needs
If you run a business that’s best suited for a specialty ice type, know that there are plenty of commercial ice machines on that market that produce these types of cubes. Both Hoshizaki and Manitowoc make some of the best commercial ice machines on the market.
With our all-inclusive ice maker subscription, you can get a flake, nugget, or square ice machine for no capital upfront. We also include cleaning, maintenance, and repairs to guarantee their performance. You get it all for a low, monthly cost.
If you need help choosing a specialty ice machine for your business, contact us and one of our helpful Ice Machine Experts will point you in the right direction.