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Homemade vs. Packaged Ice: Which is Better?

Ice is an essential ingredient for cooling drinks, preserving foods, treating injuries, and much more. But should you use ice made at home or commercially packaged ice? Here we’ll compare the pros and cons of homemade and bagged ice to help you decide which is ideal for your needs.

How Homemade Ice is Produced

Making ice at home is a simple process that only requires a freezer and some trays or molds. Here’s a quick overview:

  • Fill trays – Ice cube trays or molds are filled with water and placed in the freezer. Any filtered or tap water can be used.
  • Freeze – Within several hours, the water freezes solid into ice cubes or shapes based on the tray.
  • Remove – The homemade ice is removed from the trays and can be placed into freezer bags or bins for storage.

So homemade ice production just leverages your existing freezer. You control the source water used and can reuse trays indefinitely. But capacity is limited by your freezer space and trays.

The Manufacturing Process Behind Packaged Ice

Commercially bagged ice is produced on a much larger scale using special equipment. Here is a basic overview:

  • Water filtration – Municipal or well water goes through multiple filtration steps to remove minerals and impurities. This improves clarity and taste.
  • Ice formation – The filtered water enters commercial ice machines where it freezes onto refrigerated plates or molds.
  • Cutting – The ice is cut into uniform cubes, cylinders or flakes using integrated ice cutters.
  • Packaging – The bagged ice is packaged in sealed plastic bags by weight, often by automated machines.
  • Storage and transport – The packaged ice is kept frozen in storage freezers and then distributed chilled to retail locations.

This automated process allows bagged ice to be produced in bulk year-round and sold conveniently. But specialized equipment is required.

Comparing Factors: Taste, Quality, Safety

So what are the major differences between homemade and bagged ice in areas like taste, quality, and safety?


  • Homemade ice tastes the same as your tap water since it freezes water straight from your home plumbing. Any odors or flavors present will be noticeable.
  • Packaged ice is produced from pre-filtered water for a neutral, clean flavor. Multi-stage filtration removes unwanted tastes and odors.


  • Homemade ice quality depends on your freezer. Older freezers may develop odors over time or make cloudier, irregular ice.
  • Packaged ice machines generate very consistent ice under optimal conditions, so quality standards are more controlled.


  • Home freezers can accumulate bacteria over time, especially if trays contain standing meltwater. Proper maintenance is key.
  • Commercial ice machines incorporate sanitization cycles and sealed packaging for reduced bacterial concerns.


  • Home ice output relies on available freezer space. Changing temperatures can cause melting and refreezing.
  • Packaged ice machines produce steady volumes of ice to meet demand. Monitoring and maintenance ensure consistency.

So while homemade ice benefits from customization and convenience, packaged ice offers some quality advantages thanks to standardized production.

Cost Comparison

One of the biggest differences between homemade and bagged ice is cost. Homemade ice is essentially free, while packaged ice carries a price tag. Some cost estimates:

  • Homemade – About $0 per batch using existing freezer and tap water. But indirect electricity costs to run the freezer apply.
  • Packaged – Roughly $2 to $3 for a 7 to 10 lb. bag of cubed ice from a grocery or convenience store. Specialty ice can cost much more.

For large events or frequent use, the costs of packaged ice can really add up. But for occasional needs, bagged ice offers reasonable convenience without requiring dedicated equipment.

FAQ about Ice Types

Does packaged ice taste better than homemade ice?

Packaged ice is perceived as tasting better due to commercial filtration removing dissolved solids and impurities that can cause taste or odor issues in homemade ice.

Is bagged ice cleaner than ice made at home?

Packaged ice produced in commercial machines meets food safety standards. But homemade ice from a properly maintained freezer is generally safe too when used for direct consumption. Good hygiene around any ice is still recommended.

How is specialty ice different from normal ice?

Specialty ice is produced in special molds or with added processing to create unique shapes, crystal clarity, or chewable texture for upscale cocktails and food service. It is usually more expensive than standard cube or flake ice.

What are ice nuggets?

Ice nuggets are small pellets of ice made by shaving chunks off a frozen ice core. This allows for convenient fillable ice for coolers. Less surface area means slower melting than traditional ice cubes.

Does ice go bad or expire?

Ice itself does not really expire, but can absorb odors over time in storage. Old ice with off-colors or bad smells should not be consumed. As long as it is frozen continually, ice can be kept indefinitely without going “bad”.

What is the best way to store ice at home?

For longer storage, ice is best kept in airtight plastic freezer bags. Chest freezers or ice chests work better than stand-up freezers, as top-opening doors limit temperature fluctuations during use. Draining excess meltwater improves ice longevity.

The Convenience of Modern Ice Machines

While homemade or bagged ice works for personal use, major ice needs call for more heavy-duty equipment. Enter high-capacity ice machines like the Artic Refresh Ice and Water Machine.

This commercial-grade unit can generate up to 150 lbs of ice per day using an internal ice maker. The ice is produced from filtered water and available on demand via a touchless dispenser. With advanced filtration and antimicrobial treatments, Artic Refresh provides purified, great-tasting ice anytime you need it.

For major events, restaurants, offices, or venues, an ice machine eliminates hassles of buying and transporting heavy bags. The ice stays fresh indefinitely without freezer burn. No more stocking up on bagged ice that melts away faster than you expect!

So for major ice users, on-premise ice machines are an efficient, cost-effective solution for unlimited icy bliss.

The Final Verdict

While bagged ice offers quality and convenience, homemade ice can’t be beat for customization and cost savings. For large events or high demand, modern ice machines deliver the best of both worlds – on-site ice production with purer taste.

Your needs will dictate whether to use trays at home, grab a bag of ice at the store, or invest in specialized equipment like Artic Refresh. But one thing stays constant – ice remains an invaluable kitchen staple and entertaining essential. Stay cool out there!