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Opal Nugget Ice Maker Review
When I was in my early twenties, I occasionally saw ice making machines on display when attending functions or visiting friends and relatives who were more financially well off than I was.
And I used to think that people who buy these expensive looking machines must have nowhere better to spend their money.
I mean… these expensive looking machines are not really necessary for any household. And homeowners probably purchase them in huge part to boast about their wealth.
Those days, you’d probably need to have commercial contact to even know where to buy them and who to buy them from.
How times have changed since then.
Because now that I personally have a higher buying power and ice making machines can easily be sourced online, I have suddenly found ice makers desirable.
I would be the first to admit that it’s not a necessity in the house. But more of a kitchen appliance that I want.
And even if you eventually do buy one and find it a nuisance or simply experience a bout of buyers remorse, it would be a great addition to the office pantry. For landlord, it can sit nicely in common areas of multi-family properties for practical and aesthetic purposes.
How can a tenant not appreciate such a machine that he has access to in the common living area?
But this time, settling for a normal ice maker is just not enough to but it anymore.
It would be great to have one that dispenses nugget ice.
What is nugget ice?
I have no reasonable doubt that you have consumed nugget ice before.
In fact, anybody who has visited entertainment avenues would probably have tasted nugget ice. They might not have taken notice of it being a different type of ice and just assumed that it’s just partially melted ice that gave it it’s chewable and crunchable effect.
Nugget ice is the type of porous ice cube that has a certain texture and consistency that makes it impossible to resist chewing it… and even grinding it with your molars.
This is because of tiny pinhole pockets of air between ice flakes. This feature enables the ice to absorb the flavor of the beverage it is put into. It also allows drinks to be chilled faster.
It is so tempting that one might even willingly chose to ignore the spouse so the he or she can savor biting down on one.
You might also know it as Sonic ice.
If it has suddenly dawned on you that you have tried nugget ice before in the past and never gave it a second thought about it being a different species from regular ice, just be aware from now that it is uniquely different.
FirstBuild Opal Nugget Ice Maker
When I first learned about nugget ice being something that is specially made to be in that way, I started to crave for it.
Not in the sense that it is like a drug that would give me my fix. But that whenever I am at the bar or somewhere where there is a remote chance that they serve it, I always look forward to a glass of cold beverage so that I can nibble on the ice.
So it’s not surprising that when I first saw the Opal nugget ice maker, I instantly felt that I have to give it a try.
FirstBuild is a subsidiary of GE Appliances. The company operates out of Louisville, Kentucky. And they are the people behind Opal nugget ice maker.
The product first launched on Indiegogo for a crowdfunding campaign. By the time I learned about the product, the funding round was long over.
So when a colleague, Andy, told me that a friend of his has a unit, there was no question that we had to put it to the test for a review.
Opal Nugget Ice Maker Review
This premium ice maker has a build made of stainless steel exterior and a clear plastic section to display the ice at the center.
From the front view, think of a refrigerator with 3 sections on top of each other with a size ratio for top, center, and bottom, of 1:2:1. The center segment with a factor of 2 is the clear transparent section where you can gleefully observe the ice box being filled up.
The top and bottom is stainless steel with a classy finish.
The center tray section slides out like a drawer for you to grab some ice with your hands or with the black scoop that accompanied it in the package box.
But let’s not kid yourself here. You are going to use your hands.
Fully removing the drawer allows you to do some basic cleaning and also to refill the ice machine with more water to make more ice.
At an operating capacity of 1 pound of ice per hour, it can theoretically spit out 24 pounds of ice in a day. While this is not a stellar production capacity compared to the many regular ice makers available in the consumer market, 24 pounds a day is no slouch either.
A pound an hour is more than enough for the average household. Just start it’s engine an hour before you want the ice and you will be having chilled drinks by the time dinner time arrives.
The ice making capacity should also be enough for parties and gatherings. It would take a HUGE party for you to find the ice quantity insufficient.
Even so, the nugget ice cubes are actually pretty small in size. Meaning that it has much more ice cube in a pound compared to other ice makers that make bigger ice cubes.
There will be enough ice to go around.
How to make ice
To get it running, first pour potable water into the reservoir so that there is actually clean fresh water available for the machine to freeze ice from.
Don’t try any hacks here. Using a tinge of lemon juice or something else is not what this ice machine is built for. Doing so will void the 1 year warranty that accompany this product.
After which, close the ice bin drawer shut and touch the sexy round capacitive sensor button to start.
The button will then flash green when booting up and then to falling white as it starts the ice making process.
Ice cubes will then start filling up the bin while you watch as quickly as 15 minutes.
It will continue churning out ice in batches until it eventually runs out of water or when the ice bin becomes full.
The button is uniquely designed as a circular touch button with led lighting on the edges as a display ring… like how a full solar eclipse would look.
The lighting is used to indicate the current status of the machine including:
- Green when it is powered on
- Falling white while it is making ice
- Slow falling white when it is defrosting
- Solid white when the ice bucket is full
- Pulsing yellow when it is in cleaning mode
- Rotating yellow when it is rinsing
- Swishing blue when more water is needed
This control panel is unlike any other anything we’ve seen. It is simple, yet capable of doing so much.
A FirstBuild app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and it can be used to schedule start and stop times. This enables you to order the ice maker to start churning ice at let’s say 4pm or 5pm… or both.
Or you can program it to take the morning shift an hour before you wake up and you will have the ice ready for breakfast.
Connecting to the ice maker via Bluetooth, the app also allows you to see if the machine needs more water.
Pairing your smart phone with the machine is a breeze. You can also switch on the night light via the app. But no, it’s not going to play music from your music app like a wireless headphone.
I personally find that the app is really a gimmick to keep in contact with customers as the timing feature can really be built into the main product in the first place.
Having customers download the app allows FirstBuild to market and sell other products to existing customers via mobile.
Yet with the app, there is a hope (no matter how little) that one day the app might be updated to make the ice maker more smart. Maybe even integrate it with Alexa or Google Assistant.
However, I can’t understand why they choose the connection to be via bluetooth rather than WIFI. I’d like it if I can set schedules while I’m at work, outdoors, or on the way home from work.
Other than that, a bluetooth connected ice maker will sure get guests intrigued and impressed.
Pros of Opal nugget ice maker
With a weight tipping the scale at 44 pounds when empty, it not exactly an ideal weight for portability. For that you might want to take a look some of the best portable ice makers.
44 pounds is quite manageable for a grown man, and might even find it light. But it’s definitely too heavy for a kid.
But with dimensions measuring 10.5 in x 14 in x 17 inches, it not exactly sized like an industrial ice maker too. Albeit a little tall.
So I would say that you can bring it along for trips as long as you are careful in transport. Having it on a boat or RV would be heavenly.
Air vent holes for internal fans are situated on both sides towards the back that are delicately design-cut for aesthetic beauty. These openings can also be found on the back of model.
Drain hoses are attached to the bottom back of the product with holding hooks to hold it in place at the top back. Making the hose vertically placed when secured with the hooks.
There is no option to install a direct water supply line to it. But why would you need to do that anyway?
Unlike many household ice making machines that don’t have filters, Opal nugget ice maker uses it’s own proprietary Opal water filter which is not surprising for such a unique product. And replacement filters have a 3 month lifespan.
We had a chuckle when reading about the elaborate way a buyer described the ice maker as a slice of heaven.
Capable of operating temperatures between 55°F(12.7°C) – 90°F(32.2°C), it also comes with an ice scoop and drip tray for a more complete package.
It surprised us that the drip tray is an essential accessory as you are going to spill melted ice water when you pull out the ice bin.
Cons of Opal nugget ice maker
Other than the inconvenient fact that this is one pricey ice maker, it is a unit that does make some noise that some people might find a turn-off.
Because as consumers, we are accustomed to electronic and machinery products being more silent the more expensive it gets.
Think about washing machines, refrigerators, air coolers, etc. The more premium prices these products command, they are usually quieter.
But this is not the case with the Opal nugget ice maker.
While the noise this machine makes is not what we consider loud, there are various countertop ice makers that we find quieter than this one.
But we have to also keep in mind that this could be due the huge technology and technical differences that this ice maker is made with.
This ice making machines makes ice by scraping ice flakes off an aluminum drum, then forcing them through a cylinder mold to compact it and create nugget ice.
Yet even though it does make a sound when in operation, it’s not as if it’s so loud that you wouldn’t be able to watch TV in peace in the living room or listen to the radio blasting in the kitchen.
The noise level is more like a hum when the compressor is running.
Should you buy this ice maker?
The simple answer is yes if you desire and demand nugget ice for your beverages. And of course… it will be worth it if you can afford it.
This is a compact nugget ice maker that sit nicely in the kitchen or bar counter that will be able to blend into the interior design without making the area ugly.
To the best of our knowledge, you will not find other comparable ice makers at this price point. No competing product even comes close!
Maybe you can find commercial suppliers that sell them at this size. But they might cost thousands of dollars.
Perfect for the designer kitchen countertop, for glamping, as a gift, and with so many compliments and positive reviews from buyers, I can’t see it disappointing you at all.