Samsung and LG both showed off new refrigerators at this year’s CES that feature one of the best innovations we’ve seen in years: better ice. LG introduced a fridge that can make the spherical ice that perfectly complements a strong pour of fine whiskey, and Samsung’s latest can make pebble ice.
Pebble ice, for you poor bastards who are unfamiliar, is alternatively called Sonic ice, owing to the fast food chain’s use of it in its drinks, or simply “the good ice.” The ice is practically required if you want to make authentic tiki drinks, as that’s what was used in the original bars in the 1930s through ‘50s, and I swear it seems to make sodas fizzier, while also being soft enough you can happily crunch on it when the drink is done. The lore of Texas truck stop chain Buccees claims the founder’s wife only agreed to his plan to launch a series of truck stops in Texas if he agreed to carry the ice. When I was growing up, my friends and I would often muse as to why Wendy’s and McDonald’s didn’t embrace the superior ice to give themselves a leg up on Sonic and Taco Casa.
The reason is likely because pebble ice machines are outrageously expensive. The GE Opal 2.0 can only make about 24-pounds of it in a day, takes up an incredible amount of room on your kitchen counter, makes a good deal of noise every time it starts cranking away, and costs $500-$600. The industrial-sized machines used by restaurants go for even more.
That’s probably why fridge-makers haven’t opted to put the specialized machines in their own refrigerators. But the other refrigerator innovations we’ve seen in the last few years have been pretty useless. No one really needs a fridge with a window inside or a giant screen. Everyone needs better ice.
So it’s a shame that Samsung’s pebble ice maker is coming in the Samsung Bespoke 4-Door Flex. These customizable fridges are intended for high-end kitchens (which means they’ll be pricey) and allow you to mix and match eight different finishes on the door, so you can have navy glass doors up top and champagne steel on the bottom. One section is called the Flex Zone and lets you set the temperature from normal fridge temps all the way down to freezer temps.
The Bespoke also includes a Beverage Center with a built-in refillable water pitcher on one side and a spigot for fresh water on the other. Down at the bottom, the ice machine will make normal fridge ice and pebble ice—which Samsung refers to as nugget ice or “ice bites.”
LG’s been innovating on the ice front a little longer, and its exorbitantly expensive Craft Ice fridges, which were introduced last year, can produce crushed ice, normal ice, and the spherical kind necessary for a stiff drink. But this year the Craft Ice feature is coming to other fridges in LG’s lineup—specifically LG’s Instaview fridges, which have a translucent window so you can see inside without opening the door. That’s not the only feature to trickle down. The Instaview fridges will also have LG’s UVnano tech, which uses UV light in an attempt to keep the water spigot cleaner. LG claims it will killed 99.99% of bacteria after 24 hours.
These are baby steps, but LG bringing its ice feature to new fridges a year after launch suggests an ice-making renaissance could be around the corner. That’s unfortunate if you, like me, recently bought that Opal 2.0. (But I love it.)
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)