A Quick Guide to Different Ice Shapes

Last updated on January 10th, 2024 at 12:54 pm

When it comes to commercial ice machines, there are several different types of ice shapes available.

Each shape has its own unique features and benefits, making them ideal for specific uses. Understanding which ice shape is best for your business is the key to purchasing the perfect ice machine.

In this blog post, we will discuss four of the most common ice shapes:

  • Cubed
  • Nugget
  • Flake
  • Gourmet

Cubed Ice

Cubed ice is the most common ice shape, and is often found in restaurants, bars, and convenience stores. These ice cubes provide a 100% ice-to-water ratio. Ice shaped in a cube provides a clean look thanks to their uniform shape and size.

It is made by freezing water in a mold and then releasing the ice by heating the mold. Cube shaped ice is available in regular, full, and half cube sizes.

Regular cube ice, also known as standard cube ice, is the most common size used in commercial ice machines, measuring the same on all sides. These ice cubes are versatile and can be used for a variety of drinks, from cocktails to sodas. The standard shape melts at a moderate pace and is often preferred for its ease of use.

Full cube ice is the largest of the three. Full cube, or dice cube, is perfect in its measurements, adding a sense of perfection to drinks. This shape is ideal for drinks, as it cools quickly and doesn’t dilute the flavor. These cubes are ideal for drinks that are meant to be sipped slowly, as they melt slowly and do not dilute the drink as quickly as smaller cubes.

Half cube ice, as the name suggests, is half the size of full cube ice. These small, easily dispensable ice cubes are ideal for drinks that are served in a high volume. Half cube ice is also great for blended drinks, as it breaks down more easily in blenders.

Regular Cube – Standard Cube

Settings:  Standard ice cube found in most commercial foodservice establishments. Popular in restaurants, bars, cafeterias, hotels, and more.

Applications: The most common ice cube. Excellent for dispensing, ice bagging, and cooling any juice, tea, soft drink, or cocktail.

Shape: Solid build, square cube.

Size:  1 1/8” x 1 1/8” x 7/8”

Melting Rate:  Slow

Full Cube – Full Dice

Settings:  Popular in restaurants, bars, convenience stores, cafeterias, and catering companies.

Applications: Ideal for ice bagging. Common in commercial dispensers used with soft drinks and mixed drinks. Often used in bulk cooling as well.

Shape: Solid build, square cube.

Size: 7/8” x 7/8” x 7/8”

Melting Rate:  Slow

Half Cube – Half Dice

Settings:  Popular in most commercial settings, such as restaurants, bars, and dining halls.

Applications: Most commonly found in self-service ice dispensers used with soft and mixed drinks. Also good for bagged ice. Easy to blend making it great for margaritas, smoothies, and more.

Shape: Solid build, rectangular cube.

Size: 7/8” x 7/8” x 3/8”

Melting Rate:  Moderate

Cubed ice machines are known for their durability and reliability, making them a popular choice for commercial use.

Ice-O-Matic IOD150 Countertop Ice Dispenser

Whether you need an undercounter ice machine or a countertop dispenser like the Ice-O-Matic IOD150 150 lb. Ice Dispenser, there is a wide variety of cube-style ice makers to choose from.

Check out the Atosa HD350-AP-161 Air Cooled Half Cube Ice Maker & Dispenser for a high-quality half-cubed ice maker.

Nugget Ice – Pellet Ice – Pebble Ice – Sonic Ice

Originally designed for use in healthcare, nugget ice has a very high percentage of water to make it extremely easy to chew. This style of ice is also commonly known as pearl ice or sonic ice, due to its popularization after being used by the fast-food chain. This shape of ice is made by compressing flakes of ice together, creating a soft and chewable texture.  

Not only can this ice be chewed easily, but it also can absorb the tastes of the beverage it is used in for a more satisfying experience. Nugget form of ice doesn’t consume flavor. In actual it enhances the flavors of the drinks.

Nugget ice is ideal for drinks, as it cools quickly and doesn’t dilute the flavor. It’s also great for chewing, making it a favorite of those with dental issues.

Settings:  Popular in restaurants, fast-food chains, bars, convenience stores, and healthcare facilities.

Applications: Widely used in smoothies, sodas, frozen drinks, juleps, and cocktails. It is also used in salad bars and buffet lines to keep chilled ingredients cool.

Shape: Soft, small pellet shaped. Tubular shaped.

 Size: 3/8″-1/2″ in length and width.

Melting Rate: Quick.

Nugget ice is ideal for drinks, as it cools quickly and doesn’t dilute the flavor. It’s also great for chewing, making it a favorite of those with dental issues.

Ice-O-Matic undercounter nugget ice machine

Nugget ice machines are known for being energy-efficient and low-maintenance, making them a popular choice for commercial use. Undercounter nugget ice makers offer you easy access to high-quality ice under a compact footprint.

Complete your kitchen’s setup thanks to nugget ice machine heads. Provide guests with a countertop nugget dispenser with the Scotsman HID525W-1 Nugget Style Countertop Ice Maker & Dispenser!

Flake Ice – Shaved Ice

Flake ice is small, irregularly shaped pieces of ice that are popular in seafood displays and salad bars. The ice is gentle and packs well enough to provide ideal chilling for displayed foods.

This type of ice shape is made by freezing water on a cylindrical evaporator and then scraping the ice off with a rotating auger. Flake ice is soft and pliable, making it easy to mold and shape around food products. It’s also great for drinks, as it quickly cools beverages without diluting the flavor.

Thanks to its small size, flake ice is perfect for usage in healthcare facilities since patients wont choke on ice chunks. Due to its ease of production and lack of sharp edges, it is also the ice of choice for medical compresses.

Settings: Popular in healthcare facilities, buffets, grocery stores, cafeterias, and anywhere that chilled foods are on display.

Applications: Most commonly used for chilled food displays, such as merchandisers and buffet lines. It also can be found in blended drinks and medical compresses.  

Shape: Small and snow-like. 

Size: Sizing varies.

Melting Rate: Quick.

Flake ice appeals to ice chewers because of its light texture, and chewable 73% ice-to-water ratio.

Scotsman UF2020A-1 undercounter flake ice machine

Flake ice machines can help your kitchen keep up with continuous use. Placing an undercounter flake ice maker in your kitchen can help staff keep quickly melting ice replenished. The Scotsman UF2020A-1 216 lb. Air Cooled Undercounter Flake Ice Machine is a great choice for a compact, yet spacious ice maker.

Gourmet Ice – Bullet Ice – Top Hat Ice

Gourmet ice, also known as top hat or bullet ice, is large, crystal-clear, and perfectly shaped. It is often used in high-end cocktails.

Gourmet ice is ideal for drinks, as it cools quickly and doesn’t dilute the flavor. It has nearly 100% ice-to-water ratio. The surface area is excellent for retaining the integrity of the beverage’s flavor, while keeping your beverages colder for extended periods of time. It’s also great for presentation, as it adds a touch of elegance to any drink.

 Settings:  Popular in upscale restaurants, bars, and catering events. Ideal for whiskey and bourbon bars, distilleries, and high-end taverns.

Applications: Designed for high-end cocktails.

Shape: Large with solid build. Octagon shaped, cylindrical shaped, or top hat shaped.

Size: 1 3/8″ x 1 3/8″ or 1 1/4” x 1 1/8” x 7/8” depending on shape.

Melting Rate: Slow.

Gourmet ice machines are ideal for high-end commercial use. They are designed to provide the highest quality ice with impeccable reliability.

We offer a variety of undercounter gourmet ice makers. With an undercounter unit, your company can conserve space while still producing fresh ice as needed.

Check out the Ice-O-Matic UCG080A 95 lb. Air Cooled Gourmet Cube Undercounter Ice Machine. This unit comes with a 33-lbs capacity ice bin and adjustable legs for custom heights.


There are several different types of ice shapes available for commercial ice machines, each with its own unique features and benefits. When selecting a commercial ice machine, it’s important to consider the type of ice that will best suit your needs.

  • Nugget ice is soft and chewable.
  • Flake ice is pliable and molds easily.
  • Cubed ice is the most common and versatile.
  • Gourmet ice is crystal-clear and elegant.

Our industry-experienced sales team is ready to help you find the perfect ice machine!

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