Why I'm Buying
a $500 Ice Machine

This amazing contraption makes delicious, chewy nugget ice at home

FirstBuild Opal home pebble ice machine

Ice shape matters. We all know this, right? It can make or break your drink. And while a large, clear block of ice is what you want in a rocks glass with bourbon, all other drinks seem to be improved with nugget ice. You know the stuff—frosty ice that comes not as hard cubes, but as small, soft granules that are crunchy, satisfying and highly chewable.

Call it what you want: nugget, pellet, pebble, chewable ice or simply, "the good ice." It makes everything taste better, from a Coca-Cola and iced coffee to a slew of mixed drinks. You know it when it pours out of an ice machine like the winning pull of a Vegas slot machine. You find it at diners and cult-favorite fast food joints like Sonic and Chik-fil-A. And now you can have it at home. Made fresh from a sleek, app-connected machine.

FirstBuild Opal nugget pebble home ice machine

The machine is called The Opal and is the brainchild of FirstBuild, a creation incubator backed by GE Appliances that develops and invests in engineering and design talent. The Opal has been around for a little more than a year, but was hard to keep in stock due to demand. It's finally available via Amazon and it's even offered with free Prime shipping. I'm told there was a deal on Prime Day, but since I missed that, I'm not acknowledging that fact.

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FirstBuild Opal nugget pebble home ice machine

It's a handsome looking stainless steel appliance that's bigger than a coffee machine, but still easily fits on a countertop. Which is good because I don't plan on putting this bad boy away. It features just one, simple circular button surrounded by a glowing LED ring. This ring glows in different colors to let you know if the Opal is making ice, going through a cleaning cycle, or if it's in need of a water refill. Yes, some people might not like that it doesn't hook up to your water line, but for me, that just makes it simpler. There's no installation. You unbox, fill with water and within a half hour, you're crunching on delicious, flavor-absorbing ice pellets.

How does it do it? Well, the engineers at Opal explain it this way: "Traditional ice makers freeze water into a hard ice cube. Opal nugget ice is made by scraping the ice flakes off the inside of a chilled stainless steel cylinder. The flakes are extruded through a round hole, compacting them into chewable nuggets similar to a snowball." If your mouth isn't watering by now, you really have no business reading any further.

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FirstBuild Opal nugget pebble home ice machine

Is it affordable? That all depends on the cost-per-use break down, if you ask me. Any good quality kitchen appliance comes at a substantial cost. Most people spring for one of those bulky Kitchenaid stand mixers, just to have on hand. But those aren't cheap either. And I know I'm going to get a whole lot more use out of this gorgeous pellet ice maker.

Opal ice maker,
$499 by FirstBuild

Not ready to shell out
for a fancy ice machine?

Sonic bagged ice

Head to your local Sonic or Chick-fil-A because most locations sell bagged nugget ice (either in a 5- or 10-pound bag) for as little as $1.50 a bag.

More on Icy Cold Drinks

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