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Snow cones can be traced all the way back to the mid-1800s during the American Industrial Revolution, with the first proper snow cone machine hitting the market in 1919 at the State Fair of Texas. Today, sweet shaved ice is, without a doubt, one of the best warm-weather treats around. It’s a simple snack with endless flavor options to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth. While combining ice and flavoring is certainly not a complicated process, crushing the ice into small bits can be quite tricky without the aid of a snow cone maker. Whether you’re looking for an everyday treat or a fun trick to roll out at parties, the best snow cone machine will keep you supplied with shaved ice all summer long … and beyond.
- Best overall: Hawaiian Shaved-Ice Snow Cone Machine
- Best commercial grade: ZENY Ice Crushers Machine
- Best old-school: Nostalgia Snow Cone Cart
- Best for shaved ice: Great Northern Premium Shaved Ice Machine
- Best budget: MANBA Ice Shaver
How we chose the best snow-cone machines
No offense to the Snoopy snow cone machine of your youth, but a quality snow cone machine should turn your refrigerator ice into a fluffy, chilly cloud—not a chunky pile of frosty shrapnel. To find the best snow cone machine, we tested the machines ourselves (yes, we have consumed too much Red Dye 40), conducted user testing, and performed heavy research. The snow cone machine has a rich history—one which we honor by presenting products that have been thoroughly vetted and are reliable. Snoopy and Woodstock simply must step up their game if they want to be on this list.
The best snow cone machines: Reviews & Recommendations
Once you know more about where you’ll use your machine and who you want to serve, you can start your search for the best snow cone machines. Soon, you’ll be able to enter the world of the best ice cream makers for even more cool treats. Add an outdoor misting fan, and you’ve got instant summer refreshment without retreating indoors. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a few of our favorites, from hand cranks to commercial-grade models.
Best overall: Hawaiian Shaved Ice Snow-Cone Machine
Hawaiian Shaved Ice
- Syrups included: Yes
- Dimensions: 15.25 x 10.25 x 7.25 inches
- Weight: 8.5 lbs.
- Servings: 1-2 six-ounce servings
- Syrups included
- Can fit on a table or countertop
- Not good for making large batches at once
This complete kit from Hawaiian Shaved Ice supplies you with everything you need to create delicious snow cones right when you open the box. The machine is electric and features 25 snow cone cups, 25 spoon straws, and six-bottle pourers to help control syrup flow. Plus, it comes with six 6-pint bottles of syrup flavors: cherry, grape, blue raspberry, tiger’s blood, lemon-lime, and piña colada.
Best commercial grade: ZENY Ice Crushers Machine
- Syrups included: No
- Dimensions: 14 x 6 x 11 inches
- Weight: 12.19 lbs.
- Servings: 143 lbs. of shaved ice per hour
- Commercial quality in a small size
- Produces a high output of ice
- Protected against rust
- Expelled ice does not go directly into a cup
A party full of hot, hungry guests will be no match for this ZENY ice slush machine. With an impressive motor and hefty size, this machine can churn out 143 pounds of shaved ice per hour—more than enough to satisfy a crowd. The high-end blade turns ice into extremely fine particles to create the ideal snow cone. The machine is protected against rust, and a heavy cast base dampens sound and secures its position on a countertop or table. You won’t need to use specialized ice molds—simply pop cubes out from your at-home ice tray, play them in the ice receptacle, and push down on the handle. Keep in mind, however, that this machine is designed to process a high volume of ice. So, rather than collect neatly in a snow cone cup, the ice will be expelled into an included, attached stainless-steel bowl, which you can then scoop from.
Best old-school: Nostalgia Snow-Cone Cart
- Syrups included: No, but it comes with empty bottles
- Dimensions: 21 x 16.5 x 53 inches
- Weight: 33.8 lbs.
- Servings: 72 cones
- Can crush 2 pounds of ice quickly
- Can move or become stationary
An aptly named company, Nostalgia makes wonderfully festive, old-school snow cone machines. While they have several countertop models, our favorite has to be this snow-cone cart. Not only is this machine a treat for the eyes, but it’s one of the best functioning models on the market. Its stainless-steel blades can crush up to two pounds of ice in 90 seconds, and it holds enough snow to dole out around 72 cones. The cart has a paper-cone dispenser and a side shelf-cum-prep station holding three individual snow cones. The top of this cart even separates from the bottom if you need to ditch the wheels for a stationary experience.
Best for shaved ice: Great Northern Premium Hawaiian Shaved-Ice Machine
Great Northern Popcorn Company
- Syrups included: No
- Dimensions: 15 x 12 x 30.5 inches
- Weight: 55 lbs.
- Servings: 350 lbs. per hour
- Shaves ice quickly
- Can shave large cubes
- Can prep snow cones the night before
This heavy-duty snow cone maker can get through more than 350 pounds of ice an hour and roughly 6 pounds in a minute. The machine applies pressure and slices through large ice blocks up to 8 inches in diameter and 6.5 inches tall. If you can’t get to a store with ice blocks, you can prepare the night before you plan to serve your snow cones by filling up a paint bucket or using a classic milk jug with the top removed. This shaved ice machine employs a highly efficient motor, adjustable stainless-steel blades and weighs roughly 55 pounds.
Best budget: MANBA Ice Shaver
- Syrups included: No
- Dimensions: 7.28 x 5.1 x 7.87 inches
- Weight: 0.317 ounces
- Servings: 1-3
- Hand crank
This portable ice crusher from MANBA measures just 7.28 x 5.1 inches and features an easy-to-use hand crank. All you need to do is fill the top portion of the canister, turn the crank until you feel minimal resistance, and then empty the ice into the bottom reservoir with a quick push. This shaver comes with a 15-piece ice tray to throw in the freezer so you can stock up before you head out on the town. For an even easier snow cone, consider filling the ice tray with fruit juice so you can crush the ice and immediately eat without needing to bring additional flavoring.
What to consider when buying the best snow cone machines
There are a few major considerations and decisions to make before adding a snow-cone machine to your home appliance collection. Think about who you’ll want to serve these sweet treats to—do you need something you can take to the park or beach? Should you invest in an old-school cart? We’ll walk you through some essential questions to get you started.
While it may seem straightforward to some, it never hurts to consider what exactly your new machine is doing to execute those perfectly fluffy ice crystals. Snow-cone makers provide custom ice molds or take common household ice cubes and turn them into veritable snow. With an electric model, all you’ll typically need to do is apply a little bit of pressure, pushing the ice through a specially designed blender that grinds it up without melting it. Depending on the machine you purchase, the ice will be doled out into those quintessential snow cone cups, and you can add the flavoring of your choice.
If you’re looking to keep a snow-cone machine around to satisfy your family’s summer dessert cravings or serve a few friends, a standard countertop model will suit your needs. While each snow cone will be made to order, you don’t need an industrial-strength machine to serve four or five treats at a time. However, if you’re looking to host a more significant event, consider investing in a commercial-grade model. These machines will be slightly larger and produce more than 100 pounds of crushed ice per hour. You can also look for a model with an ice reservoir. That way, you can grind up a healthy amount before continuously serving. Just make sure to store any machine with a reservoir in a cool place—you don’t want to spend time crushing the ice only for it to melt. These high-end snow cone makers will help your guests avoid a line and save you any additional stress.
If you don’t have any access to power, consider purchasing a portable snow cone maker with a hand crank during an outdoor park party. While they’re more tedious than their electric contemporaries, hand-crank models are easy to use and often come in small sizes that you can quickly pack away in a cooler or travel bag. Remember, smaller models can only handle a certain amount of ice at once, so make sure you pace yourself if you need to churn out multiple rounds.
A snow cone is much more than plain pieces of tiny ice. You need flavor (and cups). With most machines, you will need to supply your own ingredients, but there are a few complete kits out there that will help you get started. These kits are particularly great for folks who need a snow cone maker on short notice or don’t want to go through any hassle trying to select the perfect flavors for an upcoming party.
If you want to venture out on your own to create a classic snow-cone experience, plan to add spoon straws, snow-cone cups, and syrup flavors with pouring tops to your shopping list.
Q: How much does a snow cone machine cost?
Commercial-grade snow cone machines will be more expensive than ones for casual use. They can start at $20 for an easy-to-use tabletop machine and go up to $250 for a professional-level, free-standing appliance like the one you’d see at a field day or county fair.
Q: What should I look for in a snow-cone maker?
The simplest rule of thumb is to look for a machine from a reliable home appliance brand. The caveat is that you’ll need it to fit your space, so be sure to look at the product’s dimensions and measure the spot you’re most likely to keep in your home. Pay particular attention to the product specs and look for a snow cone maker that can handle more than a couple of pounds of ice per hour.
Q: How much ice does a snow cone machine use?
Each snow cone maker is different, so the amount of ice you’ll need varies from machine to machine. It’s also dependent on how many snow cones you want to make. Generally, most snow cones use between four and six ounces of ice, meaning a 20-pound bag of ice could make almost 50 snow cones. If you have special ice molds for your snow-cone machine, read the instructions, which should tell you how much ice you’ll need to prepare.
Q: What snow cone maker produces the most snow cones?
The Nostalgia Vintage Snow-Cone Cart can produce more than 70 snow cones, making it one of the most productive machines on the market. A commercial-grade machine like the ZENY Ice Crushers Machine might have a smaller receptacle, but a fast motor means as long as you can refill the machine, you can serve as many as 20 people in under five minutes.
Final thoughts on the best snow cone machines
- Best overall: Hawaiian Shaved-Ice Snow-Cone Machine
- Best commercial grade: ZENY Ice Crushers Machine
- Best old-school: Nostalgia Snow-Cone Cart
- Best for shaved ice: Great Northern Premium Shaved-Ice Machine
- Best budget: MANBA Ice Shaver
Celebrate warm weather with a fun, new at-home home appliance to help you beat the heat. The best snow cone machine will supply you, your friends, your family, your coworkers, your neighbors, and pretty much anyone else who could use a pick-me-up with a quick frozen snack. Our favorite all-in-one kit is the Hawaiian Shaved-Ice Snow-Cone Machine. If on a budget, we’d go with the MANBA Ice Shaver. All you really need to do is pick a manual or electric machine that can handle the size of your party, grab your favorite syrups, and you’re in business. You’ll have a simple, thirst-quenching dessert in your hands whenever your heart desires.
Why trust us
Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.
Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.