Types Of Ice: Sizing Up 8 Popular Ice Shapes

Not all ice is created equally. You have cubed ice, round ice, shaved ice, tiny ice blocks, large icy spheres, heart-shaped ice, ice blocks shaped like strawberries, and so much more! 

You may have noticed the recent trend of ice trays in different shapes and sizes, but that's not all there is to it. These days, you’re not limited to blocks of ice or even ice blocks shaped like dinosaurs or Dachshunds. There are so many options to choose from!

Cube ice has come a long way since it was first invented in 1844 by an American doctor called John Gorrie to cool down medical rooms. Now, you’re probably wondering about the large variety of something as simple as chunks of ice. 

So, let's delve into the different types of ice that you can find out there!

8 Different Types of Ice 

Whether it is made with ice trays at home or with ice machines, all types of ice have 3 things in common:

  • You can make ice cubes with any liquid that can freeze. This could be water, of course, but also juice, tea, coffee, and even milk. 
  • It floats! Why does ice float? Believe it or not, ice is lighter than water. That is because it's around 9% less dense than water.
  • Ice is super cold. No matter what liquid you freeze, once it's frozen, it will be cold to the touch!

Besides these obvious characteristics, different types of ice don't have much in common. Along with unique sizes and shapes, cube ice can also have different properties. For example, some ice melts slower than others, and some types of ice are easy to chew. 

There are also different ice cube trends to look out for when choosing ice. Depending on what you will be using it for, we've compiled a list of some of the typical types of ice available out there. 

Let's break it down!

#1 Classic ice

This type of ice is also called dice ice, which is similar to what you'd expect to find in your freezer in those old-fashioned ice trays.

  • Classic ice is made in large quantities with a filtered ice machine. It's perfect for restaurants and other commercial settings.
  • What makes this type of cube ice a good choice is that it melts slowly – as a result, you use less of it, which is a cost-saving option.
  • If you've ever had a soft drink at a restaurant, or a drink at a bar, or if you've bought bagged ice, chances are you've used classic ice!

#2 Half classic ice

Half classic ice is also called half-dice ice for obvious reasons!

  • It is exactly like classic/dice ice, but half the size.
  • It is typically used for soft drinks in restaurants, drinks in bars, bagging, and self-serving environments like hotels, convenience stores, and offices. 
  • This type of ice is smoother and smaller, which means it's easier to chew.
  • Half-dice ice is also popular in healthcare buildings where filtered ice dispensers are available. This is because this type of ice gives maximum cooling at a moderate melt rate.

#3 Nugget/Sonic ice

Nugget ice is chewable ice that's popular for that very reason.

  • Because of its small cylindrical shape, nugget ice absorbs flavors from whatever drink it is in. Its smaller size also makes this type of ice easy to blend, which means it's great for frozen or blended drinks. 
  • The downside to nugget ice is that it has a quicker melt rate than bigger ice cubes. It is a lot softer, less dense, and smaller. So, if you get a large soda with nugget ice, drink up quickly! If you don't, you could end up with a watered-down drink.

#4 Shaved ice

Also called flaked ice, this is very soft ice.

  • It is the best type of ice for displaying food like fish or meat and keeping them cool while transported.
  • You can also use shaved for making frozen desserts or blended drinks. 
  • Another interesting way to use shaved ice is for sports injuries. It is pliable, so you can easily mold it around an injured body part.
  • Finally, don't forget snow cones; shaved ice is perfect for this!

#5 Tophat ice

The tubular shape of tophat ice is hollow and shaped like a hat on one side.

  • Your drink's liquid gets chilled quicker and more evenly because both the inside and outside of the ice touches the surrounding liquid: perfect for blended cocktails and mixed drinks!
  • This type of gourmet ice is typically served in upscale restaurants, bars, and banquet halls.
  • Tophat ice cubes are usually clear and look stylish, served in high-end cocktails and exclusive liquors.

#6 Crescent ice

Shaped like a half-moon, this type of ice is a bit more technical than the other ice cubes around.

  • It was designed in this unique half-moon shape to reduce splashing. 
  • Just like classic ice, crescent ice has a slow melt rate, making it great for cooling drinks on hot summer days at the poolside.
  • As a bonus, with this ice, you can keep the splashing limited to the water!

#7 Square ice

A typical full cube of ice looks clean and crisp and is a lot more esthetically pleasing than standard ice cubes.

  • The main difference is that square ice is shaped in a perfect square instead of just a cube shape.
  • You can make square ice with boiled, distilled water for extra clarity.
  • This ice looks so good, it could be considered gourmet ice! It also has a slow melt rate, similar to crescent ice cubes, so it will keep drinks cooler for longer without diluting them.

#8 Ice balls

Perhaps the classiest, clearest type of ice available, ice balls are large spherical frozen water shapes.

  • If they're made right, these balls are crystal clear and look stunning in a cocktail, or as the perfect 'rock' to your whiskey. 
  • To make ice balls can be tricky, and you'll need a clear ice maker to get the shape just right. It's worth it, though!
  • This is simply the best way to display a high-end drink, and it is also the slowest melting of all types of ice. 

The Scoop on Different Types of Ice

Ice comes in various shapes and sizes, and this affects how quickly it will melt. Ice machines can make ice faster than standard ice trays at home, and some can even make gourmet ice. If you enjoy entertaining, you may want to consider an ice cube maker to speed things up!

You may like the idea of splash-proof crescent ice to chill your Campari cocktail or prefer gourmet ice spheres in your gin and tonic. Maybe shaved ice in your frozen strawberry daiquiri is more your jam. Whatever you like, there's ice that will suit you.