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Do all dedicated home ice makers suck?


Dave the Cook
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In the last year, I've had experience with four different stand-alone ice makers designed for home use. Without exception, every one failed at what I think should be the purpose of such an appliance: to make dry, substantial cubes in large quantities. None of these were cheap appliances (Sub-Zero, Scottsman); at a beach rental a few weeks ago, I encountered a $1300 Whirlpool that made round-shouldered 3/8" cubes swimming in water. Nice and clear, but in no way as suitable for shaking cocktails or chilling items as those made by the kit in the refrigerator (which probably cost about the same and also managed to keep a lot of food nicely chilled), or, for that matter, in the freezer of the Kenmore I've got at home.

I'm not exactly in the market for an ice maker, but I wonder why anyone would invest so much money in a device that seems designed to fail at its only mission. On the other hand, if someone could point me to a home unit that actually made good ice, I might become a prospect. Anyone have experience -- good or bad, but especially good -- with these contraptions?

Dave Scantland
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As much as I complain about my home ice maker, those half moons are cold and thus dry. Isn't that a freezer temp problem and not an ice machine problem?

Having said that, the ice crusher is a disaster -- though the 5 year old love the stuff that falls out.

Chris Amirault

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As much as I complain about my home ice maker, those half moons are cold and thus dry. Isn't that a freezer temp problem and not an ice machine problem?

I'd agree, except 100% of the ice makers I've encountered have the same problem. If you look that the manual for that Whirlpool (page 11 of this document), you'll notice that there isn't even a temperature setting -- nor, in my mind, need there be, if the default temperature is correct.

Dave Scantland
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Ice makers are purposely designed to make "soft ice". Ice that's held at 32 degrees, so it's constantly melting and making new ice. Very inefficient. That also explains why there is no temperature setting.

The reason you want soft ice, is that when you pour something carbonated over soft ice it doesn't bubble up like crazy and go flat.

Edited by jmolinari (log)
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The reason you want soft ice, is that when you pour something carbonated over soft ice it doesn't bubble up like crazy and go flat.

This is the first I've heard of this: so pouring a soda over colder ice makes it fizz more? Is it something like less CO2 can stay dissolved at colder temps?

Chris Hennes
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The reason you want soft ice, is that when you pour something carbonated over soft ice it doesn't bubble up like crazy and go flat.

This is the first I've heard of this: so pouring a soda over colder ice makes it fizz more? Is it something like less CO2 can stay dissolved at colder temps?

I'm not sure if it's the temperature, or the fact that it isn't dry, and therefore has fewer nucleation points? I often rinse my freezer ice under water to wet it a little before pouring soda over it..it seems to help, but definitely not like when i've used soft ice.

Holy crap..did i know something that the genii @ eGullet didn't? I'm so proud:)

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The ice maker in my freezer is much better than making ice by hand in ice cube trays.

I think there is some confusion here (or maybe I am the one who is confused)... Some people are talking about the automatic ice makers that are incorporated into kitchen freezers. As I understand it, Dave is talking about stand-alone home ice makers that don't do anything but make ice. These are two meaningfully different situations.

Ice makers are purposely designed to make "soft ice". Ice that's held at 32 degrees, so it's constantly melting and making new ice. Very inefficient. That also explains why there is no temperature setting.

This doesn't make much sense to me. I believe that the reason why many ice makers make ice at barely 0 degrees C is because if the ice were any colder it would be difficult to get it out of the molds. If, on the other hand, the ice is just a bit wet, it slides out easily. These stand-along ice makers don't want to go to the trouble of maintaining two temperature zones for making (warmer) and storing (colder) ice, so the default is the warmer temperature. More expensive units, such as the commercial Kold-Draft machines (and perhaps their home "Ice Butler" machine) actually heat the freezing rack when it is time to release a batch of ice. This slightly melts the surface of the ice, which helps it to slide out of the mold into the ice bin below.

This also explains the industry-standard half-moon shape produced by the in-freezer models. They are frozen to a colder (and thus "stickier") temperature that wouldn't slide out of a square mold very easily. But since it is in a half-moon shape, the below-freezing ice cubes can be effectively "pushed" sideways out of the mold into the storage container.

The reason you want soft ice, is that when you pour something carbonated over soft ice it doesn't bubble up like crazy and go flat.

This is the first I've heard of this: so pouring a soda over colder ice makes it fizz more? Is it something like less CO2 can stay dissolved at colder temps?

I don't see how this could possibly be true. The main things that lead to rapid degassing of carbonated beverages dispensed into a glass are temperature, turbulence and the presence of nucleation sites. If your fizz water is cold, you pour it in carefully, and you don't have a lot of nucleation sites (e.g., little particles suspended in citrus juice, minor imperfections in the glass, microscopic dust particles, etc.) in there, I don't see how pouring over warm, wet ice would be helpful. The only possible difference I could see is that extremely cold ice might have a rough surface that provided extra nucleation sites. But these will all melt away in a matter of less than a second following contact with liquid, leaving a surface that is no less smooth than that of the warm, wet ice.

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The ice maker in my freezer is much better than making ice by hand in ice cube trays.

I think there is some confusion here (or maybe I am the one who is confused)... Some people are talking about the automatic ice makers that are incorporated into kitchen freezers. As I understand it, Dave is talking about stand-alone home ice makers that don't do anything but make ice. These are two meaningfully different situations.

Sam is correct. I apologize if I wasn't clear.

I have a perfectly adequate automatic ice maker in my freezer. But here's the thing: the going rate for a retrofit ice maker kit for an upright fridge is around $120. For what by comparison is chump change, it makes ice that is far superior -- though not what I would call great ice -- to a $1300 dedicated unit. Yeah, you could get a Kold Draft Ice Butler, but that's three grand, and comes with (last I heard) service issues.

I don't understand why no one simply improves on the ice maker kit design, giving it more molds, a faster cycle time, and a larger bin. How that could cost more that the inferior ice makers on the market now?

This also explains the industry-standard half-moon shape produced by the in-freezer models. They are frozen to a colder (and thus "stickier") temperature that wouldn't slide out of a square mold very easily. But since it is in a half-moon shape, the below-freezing ice cubes can be effectively "pushed" sideways out of the mold into the storage container.

I don't follow. The half-moons that come out of my ice maker are fully frozen.

Dave Scantland
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dscantland@eGstaff.org
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Eat more chicken skin.

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SLKinsey, the crazy inefficiency of constantly melting the ice by keeping the freezer at 32 instead of heating the trays to release the ice makes me thing that there is more to why ice makers have "wet" ice, than to get them out of the trays.

As i said, i don't know why, but its indubitable that when you pour a soda over ice from a regular freezer ice maker you can pour about 1/4 glass and the rest is bubbles, but if you pour it over "wet" ice there are no bubbles formed at all. Keeping it wet and melting also keeps it more scoopable i think.

Dave, the half moon shapes are normally "swept" out of their container. Since they are half moons they come out pretty easily. You couldn't "sweep" out a square cube. Having said that, my ice maker in my freezer makes ice and removed it from the tray by flipping the tray over and twisting it, like you would do by hand..which would also work for a square. This method could be used by ice machines if keeping it well below freezing and having it come out were a concern.

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I've had a built-in undercounter U-Line ice maker in my kitchen since it was installed in 1994 and other than having it recharged with coolant, five or six years ago, and having some external tubing replaced, it has produced ice reliably and it is dry, clean and usually quite clear but I also have a water filter system that removes most of the particulates that occur naturally in our local well water.

When I lived down in the Valley, I had a smaller unit, also made by U-Line and it worked fine for me.

I haven't had any experience with the other manufacturers mentioned.

I think U-Line has been making home units for a very long time - I've recommended them to other people and have never heard any complaints from those who bought them.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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This also explains the industry-standard half-moon shape produced by the in-freezer models. They are frozen to a colder (and thus "stickier") temperature that wouldn't slide out of a square mold very easily. But since it is in a half-moon shape, the below-freezing ice cubes can be effectively "pushed" sideways out of the mold into the storage container.

I don't follow. The half-moons that come out of my ice maker are fully frozen.

Right. That's because your freezer is chilled to well below freezing. The half-moon shape makes it possible to mechanically remove the fully-frozen, dry ice from the freezing tray by pushing it out of the tray.

SLKinsey, the crazy inefficiency of constantly melting the ice by keeping the freezer at 32 instead of heating the trays to release the ice makes me thing that there is more to why ice makers have "wet" ice, than to get them out of the trays.

This is a simple money proposition. It is not necessarily inefficient, and in fact cheaper to keep the ice at right around 0 degrees C. At 0C, by the way, the surface of the ice will be wet. Thus, wet ice.

The way most ice makers work is that all the chilling is directed towards the part where the freezing takes place, and the bottom is simply an insulated bin that holds the ice. This insulated bin is partially chilled with whatever coldness is "left over" from making new ice up above. For this reason, the ice bin is typically not much above 0C, and for the reasons previously stated, the de-traying process works much easier if the ice is a bit wet and therefore around 0C as well. Really, there is little need to actually freeze the ice at much below 0C, and in fact ice frozen at warmer temperatures may benefit from increased clarity, etc. This is one reason why wet "bad ice machine ice" is often quite clear whereas the half-moon "in-freezer ice machine ice" is often almost entirely opaque. What you would like for a machine to do is freeze the ice at around 0C, and then unmold it to a refrigerated ice storage bin where it is tempered to a lower temperature. I assume this is what

The U-Line ice makers andiesenji recommends make crescent-shaped ice and are essentially stand-alone versions of in-freezer ice makers (in fact, they even look like little freezers with ice makers inside).

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From talking to quite a few refrigeration guys , I constantly hear that the whirlpool unit is not very robust or reliable.

I have a small cafe where I do have a small ice maker--a Hoshizaki (made in Peachtree, GA. --go figure...)which is the same size as the Whirlpool, but after 3 years of commercial use, is perfectly fine.

A commercial ice maker functions by having a constant spray of cold water over the ice plate. Once ice builds on the plate, the water sticks onto it and builds rapidly.

Other than Kold Draft, most machines simply have an insulated bin, that fresh ice gets dumped into. While this may seem wastefull, it does kind of make sense:

The ice at the very bottom of the bin is the oldest, and a bit stale, as it melts, it gets replaced by "fresher" ice.

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The first U-line icemake I had made round, plug-shaped "cubes" that were hollow in the middle because of a cone-shaped prong that was on the bottom of each section, around which the ice formed.

I think we got that one in 1971 or '72 at the Home show in L.A. We bought the demo model and picked it up at the end of the show. It had a few dings but worked just fine for several years and was still working when I sold the house in 1978.

It was not frost-free and had to be periodically defrosted and cleaned.

The one I got in '94 was the only frost-free one on the market at that time.

I was doing some catering then and needed the capacity.

U-Line is made in Wisconsin

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

Am looking for an ice maker.

Little background. I don't have an ice maker in my fridge. I had the ice makers removed as it took space from my freezer section which I wanted. Second, all the ice made from fridge were "white"/cloudy. I like clear ice.

Not having ice has never been an issue in the past. We just don't use a lot of ice and when we have parties, I just go buy a couple bags. However, this has changed. As my kids have gotten older, cries for ice from them and their friends have gotten louder. So I am looking for a ice machines for the home. Again, it doesn't need to be big. I would like it to be efficient (energy consumption), reliable, quite and make clear ice (if possible). I don't want to spend more then $300 but will consider if will get me clear ice.

Any insights, experience or recommendation would be greatly appreciated.

Soup

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it's not the water filter that makes clear ice. It's the method in which it's frozen. Plus many ice-makers continuously make new ice as the bottom layer continuously melts away. This gives you a constant supply of "fresh ice". They aren't cheap. A standard kitchenAid ice-maker will run you $1,000+. Not to mention the plumping involved if it's not already there.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I have become a convert of Camper English's method in the link posted by Junkbot. I use plain tap water and smaller plastic containers(1.5" square x 2" high) and pull them from the freezer before they freeze solid so I get perfectly clear ice. I had one of those small ice machines at one time but this method is the hands down best!

Edited by ctimm (log)
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