The Disappointing Downside Of Nugget Ice

This year, Starbucks finally switched to nugget ice, jumping on the trend started by Sonic for better-textured ice. And who could blame the company? The coffee giant sells tons of iced drinks, and certainly has the revenue to outfit its vast empire with new ice machines. For now, this ice change has a limited release to gauge customer response; so far, the feedback from regulars has been surprisingly mixed thanks to one disappointing downside of this particular ice type.

Nugget ice is popular for a reason, owed largely to its satisfying crunchy-chewy texture. This switch may be great news for Starbucks customers who enjoy iced teas and refreshers, but nugget ice (also called pellet ice) will likely not be a great choice for those who enjoy iced shaken espressos. According to one Starbucks employee on Reddit, "[a]ll of your shaken espressos will need to be shaken even more vigorously, otherwise there won't be foam to speak of." To create a frothy texture from aeration, it's better to use large ice cubes because they don't melt or break apart as easily from strong shaking. Nugget ice, on the other hand, is significantly less dense than standard ice causing it to break down in the shaker instead of staying whole which leads to less efficient aeration. Starbucks is all about how quickly it can push drinks out the door, and baristas are likely not going to start expending additional energy and time to make sure they're getting the same results with new ice.

Other drawbacks of nugget ice

Shaking drinks with ice has the added benefit of rapidly chilling the drink. Heck, it's why the practice is so prevalent in cocktail mixing. When ice is large and dense, it's able to sufficiently chill a drink without melting too much and watering down the final product. But with something like nugget ice, which tends to break down easily when shaken, the water present in the ice goes right into the drink. This is more bad news for those who like shaken iced espressos from Starbucks — the final products will not only be less foamy, but more watery, too.

Remember, though, that not all drinks will suffer in the same ways from the use of nugget ice. As mentioned earlier, teas and refreshers will be less affected since the drinks are simply poured over ice. Less aggravation of the nugget ice leads means it'll stay solid for longer, so you'll at least get to chomp on some satisfying ice cubes at the end. One thing to note is that customers who like requesting light ice in these types of drinks could potentially be in for an unpleasant surprise. Nugget ice contains a lot of air, which is what gives it its volume. Baristas, therefore will have to adjust how much they scoop to avoid unintentionally giving too much of it compared to short compact ice chips people are used to receiving at the chain.