April 07, 2023 4 min read

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    UPDATE: The First Build brand was bought by GE and the Opal Nugget Ice Maker is now the GE Opal Profile 2.0 Nugget Ice Maker.

    Chewable nugget ice has somewhat of a cult following among aficionados. The soft ice absorbs the flavors of your favorite soft drink and is deliciously chewable long after the last of the liquid component has been slurped up. Many people look forward to the fountain drinks at fast food restaurants such as Sonic for this very reason.

    Opal Ice Maker

    The ice at the end has a pleasing chewable texture that is soothing and almost cathartic. Nugget ice is often preferred to hard ice because it doesn’t gradually dilute and water down your drink with melting ice. Instead it has a tendency to absorb the tasty flavors and provide a delectable final treat to munch on while maintaining the intended flavor of your favorite drink along the way.

    • What is Nugget Ice
    • Exceptional Build Quality
    • How to Make Nugget Ice
    • The Magic Inside The Machine
    • Cleaning Your Ice Maker
    • Is it Worth The Hefty Price Tag

    The Opal Nugget Ice Maker - What is Nugget Ice?

    FirstBuild is a new manufacturer on the block that has specialized in making a home ice maker that mimics the experience of the soft nugget ice from Sonic and other restaurants. The Opal Nugget Ice Maker has perfected this type of ice right it your home. It can be made efficiently and easily in your own home and enjoyed with all your favorite drinks from soda to cocktails.

    Exceptional Build Quality

    The Opal Nugget Ice Maker is compact and finished with a stainless steel body. It fits elegantly on your countertop but has a rather bulky footprint. It can output ice in rapid fashion with the first usable batch coming in about 15 minutes. From there you can make up to 3 lbs of ice in the bin at a rate of 1lb per hour. The machine is simple to use and can also utilize the bluetooth function of your phone for convenient operation.

    Opal Ice Maker

    Build quality is a selling point for this appliance. It has the appearance of quality and operates like a robust well made machine. The size is a relatively towering 17.25” in height with a 10.5” x 15.5” footprint. Take note of the longish depth as it can be deceiving. The footprint will take up a good amount of countertop space. It is designed to fit under standard height kitchen cabinets. The weight is also on the heavy side at a portly 44lbs. The proportions and heft are the result of the quality hidden machinery necessary to make superior at home nugget ice right in your kitchen. You may also notice the noise produced by the fan. Don’t expect this to be a silent machine. You will not want to sleep near it while it is making ice.

    How to Make Nugget Ice

    As mentioned, the ice bucket will hold up to 3 lbs of ice and will shut off when the fill sensor is activated. In the reservoir under the ice bin, there is an upper fill line and lower fill line. You do not want to fill above the lower fill line once the Opal has a full bin of ice. Any ice that melts will be recycled to make new nuggets. You can expect the sitting ice that is already made to melt slowly in the ice bucket. The plastic bucket is air insulated with double wall construction which provides some insulation to slow down the melting time.

    Opal Ice Maker Diagram

    With the Bluetooth controlled app, it is possible to add some remote functionality to this machine. The app seems to need improvement and maybe future versions will provide better features with more functionality.

    The display light is designed to tell you when Opal is full (solid white light), making ice (falling icicles), cleaning (yellow light), or needs water (swishing blue).

    The Magic Inside The Machine - How does Opal Make Nugget Ice?

    Nugget ice has different properties from regular hard ice. The manufacturing process is unique and more complex than simple hard ice. A chilled stainless steel cylinder is used to freeze water into layers on the inside surface. This thin frozen coating is scraped from the cylinder in layers and then formed and compressed into a roundish shape. The end product is extruded and compacted into the “nugget” shape. The result is softer, chewable ice with the desired texture of pellet ice. 

    Cleaning Your Ice Maker

    Adhering to a regular cleaning schedule is recommended to keep the machine free of bacteria build up. Since it is easy to clean this should not be a problem. The machine can operate on a self cleaning mode that will automatically keep most of the inside components free of slimy bacteria build up. Ensure that the machine is thoroughly dried. It will be necessary to complement the auto cleaning with a hand cleaning to get all the surfaces. Use vinegar and a hand cloth to wipe down the ice chute and other components that may have exposure to being wet and not drying completely.

    Is it Worth The Hefty Price Tag

    There is no doubt that indulging in the luxury of your own personal nugget ice machine comes with a couple of drawbacks. First, the price of the machine is on the expensive side. Typically going for around $500, it may be more than you want to pay for a machine that makes ice. Also, the machine itself is bulky and a bit noisy. You may find the countertop space in your kitchen significantly reduced with this ice maker. For the diehard pellet ice crowd, these shortcomings can probably be overlooked. There isn’t a better option on the market at this price point.   


    See the latest version of the Opal Nugget Ice Maker from GE here.