Cubed Ice vs. Crushed Ice [8 Types Compared]

Last updated on June 23, 2021

Making cocktails at home will have you wondering about the difference between cubed ice vs. crushed ice. You’ll find that it varies between drinks and preferences. This short guide will help you wrap your head around it.

Cubed ice or crushed ice — which is better? There’s no right or wrong answer, and you’ll find that both camps have their arguments. Here’s a quick comparison:

  • Cubed ice is more readily available, and it’s the quickest way to chill your drinks.
  • Crushed ice melts much faster but gives your drink a texture (that many people swear by).
  • Some drinks require one type of ice or the other (for example, you have your whiskey with cubes, but tiki cocktails with crushed ice.)

Takeaway: if you only need to chill your drink as fast as possible, use cubed ice. If you like the crunchy or snowy texture, you’ll love crushed ice.

Another way to look at it is that while ice cubes are the go-to way to chill drinks effectively, crushed ice turns a drink into more of a dessert (think about the Sonic ice fame.)

While we think we’ve answered the question, we will take a closer look at the different types of cubed and crushed ice to better understand the differences between these kinds of ice.

What's Inside

Cubed Ice

ice cubes

Use one-inch ice cube trays when making any cocktail at home. These are essential and the bread and butter of home ice which is used for stirring, shaking, being a decent size, won’t over dilute too quickly, and fits into various glasses. One-inch cubes are good for stirring cocktails at any time in your house. This type of ice is perfect because it has the best size ratio that will not chill too fast nor make drinks diluted.

A cube of ice takes more than an hour to melt, but you have plenty of time to enjoy your drink as the watery taste is at its detectable level after only 90 minutes or so. You might appreciate that this, as it lets you decide just how much dilution and coldness you desire. If your drink is too warm with too much alcohol left in it, you can add another cube or two instead of waiting for the original one to melt away, but if not enough ice has been added from the beginning, you can also just add more cubes.

Freezer Ice

ice tray

If you’ve ever had a drink at a proper cocktail bar, it’s easy to judge the stuff in your freezer for its cloudy appearance. However, don’t be so quick to disregard it. Freezer ice, while ugly, can chill a drink just as well as any other kind of ice. Stir and shake any drink with this stuff, even if it’s not ideal for presentation on a final table.

Large Ice Cubes

large ice cube

Large ice cubes last longer in drinks and they look more appealing. With larger chunks, ice melts slower than smaller chunks. Bigger blocks also stay cooler longer thereby delaying the dilution of beverages served over the course of a drink or two – while often looking impressive visually.

Ice Spheres

ice sphere

An Ice Sphere is typically served with alcohol or cocktails. It helps by slowing down the chilling process and reducing dilution because when you use ice cubes, they float on top so all the flavor would be diluted, and the drink wouldn’t be as cold anymore.

Collins Ice Cubes

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Collins ice cubes are used for cocktails such as gin and tonic or whiskey soda. A stack of one-inch cubes would do the trick, but if you want an eye-catching drink, either make the ice spears from a Collins Ice Mold or cut them out of an ice block.

Ice Block

ice block

Ice blocks are simply large chunks of ice frozen in a mold. They are sometimes removed from the freezer for a few minutes to make the sides colder to be shaken or blended without using ice cubes. Most ice shavers use ice blocks to produce shaved ice. Because it’s a large block of ice, it tends to be clear and non-porous (non-cloudy.)

Crushed Ice

homemade ice

To make crushed ice at home, take freezer ice cubes and wrap them in a dishtowel. Use a mallet or meat tenderizer to pound the cubes. If you’re going to finish your drink in 20 minutes or less, it would be fairer. Crushed ice is used in desserts and cocktails.

Nugget Ice

ice nuggets

Nugget or pebble ice is produced using special technology. It makes small pieces of ice compressed from shaved ice. They have a porous structure and are softer than crushed ice.

Some home refrigerators offer this type of ice, but they are often made in commercial machines or stand-alone ice makers. These pellets do not last long and are crystals known for their unique way to melt when exposed to heat. Nugget Ice is also well known as Sonic Ice, and it can be good for drinks that don’t mind a little dilution since the small pieces quickly melt.

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