Shaved ice and snow cones are a favorite during warm weather. Everyone knows that it is just a matter of crushing some ice and adding some flavored syrup on top to give it taste. No big deal, right?  

Well, maybe there is something more to this crushed ice craze that American culture has missed all these years.  Bingsu, the Korean version of shaved ice, has taken simple shaved ice and turned it into a vast variety of frozen desserts.  Traditional recipes - called Patbingsu - include a special sweetened red bean paste that helps keep the concoction together. Bingsu, found in more modern settings, includes such options as fresh fruit and crunchy cereal as toppings.

So what criteria was used to rate these machines.  Surprisingly, cost ended up being near the bottom of the list.  What skyrocketed to the top was ‘Ease of Use’ regardless of whether it was a manual or electric powered appliance. One or two was chosen for its uniqueness but overall these choices offer a number of options for anyone wanting to try making their own version of Bingsu. Check out the simple recipe that follows the recommendations.  


The 10 Best Ice Machines for making Bingsu


The Little Snowie brand shaved ice machines have been delighting young and old alike for decades.

 Designed by commercial shaved ice manufacturers and compacted into a small tabletop size, this high powered shaver can be used by any one - even children.  This appliance made the top of this list because it seems to have it all.

It produces a smooth ice that closely resembles that of commercial ice machines. The cost might be a little steep compared to a blender but the results are worth it. Recommended for any shaved ice recipe including Korean Bingsu, slushies, frozen beverages, etc., the hardened steel blades produce results in a matter of seconds.

The patented design is backed by a 1-year warranty. The low profile appliance weight 8 pounds and  is about 13 inches high. The beauty of this machine is its operation. Safety is incorporated in the on/off switch in the hinged lid. No accidental starts while filling or damage to fingers that want to ‘help’ the ice move faster.

Once shaved the ice is pushed through the attached cone shaped shoot. Use any wide mouth cup or bowl and pile the ice up for a great dessert. The hopper will handle about half a gallon of ice cubes regardless of size or shape. This product is available for household current, 12v RV use or 220v commercial use.

For the occasional but serious maker of shaved ice desserts, this model has the power of electricity, a large rate of operation (143 pounds per hour), adjustable ice consistency and a reasonable cost.

Make one cup of shaved ice at a time or operate it all day long with this space saving design (12.01 x 16.73 x 8.27 in).  The heavy cast iron base supports a 300W motor that makes short order of any size ice cube.

The alloy blades will retain their sharpness and the aluminum casing and hopper makes cleaning a breeze.

The footed design allows shavings to go directly into individual cups or a large stainless steel container. The hinged lid has a safety disconnect that stops the blade when opened.  

The unit weighs just over 11 pounds and uses 110v (household current which makes it suitable for any number of home and small commercial settings.

Included in the package is the ready-to-use ice shaver, stainless steel holding container and user manual. This unit is perfect for quick and easy operation. 

What could be considered a swing to the opposite end of the spectrum, this manual shaved ice maker by Victorio offers similar features of the two previous models but is very reasonably priced and kid friendly.  

The model is totally portable and operates without electricity. The heavy spring loaded crank handle and gravity feed ice compartment is simple to use and clean. There is an adjustable feature that produces gravel like icys or fine snow crystals that can be used in drinks, Bingsu, Hawaiian Ice treats and more.

The set comes with three stackable ice molds for best results but ice cubes can also be used.  The product is small (6.8 x 8.2 x 12.5 inches) and weighs less than 2 pounds so consider it a fun machine for small amounts. The ice rings are not large, again since this is likely for small volume use. It is the simplest of the sizes offered by Victorio and comes with a one year warranty. Its attractive blue and white design is basic and useable within a few minutes of unpacking. A great option for kids who like shaved ice desserts on a warm day.

Rated as an Amazon Choice listing, this model by Hawaiian Ice, comes with all of the equipment needed to set up a real snow cone operation.

 The ice shaver uses block ice to push out mounds of snow which can easily be spooned into the 25 snow cone cups. Other supplies include Hawaiian Ice Brand syrups, black bottle tips, spoon straws and block ice molds.  

Everything is here for delicious Hawaiian shaved ice treats. A compact model (14.5 x 9.8 x 7.8 inches, 8 lb.), the stainless steel blades quickly turn the circular ice blocks into light and fluffy snow.

Coarser crunchy ice can be made for ordinary ice cubes with some adjustment to the blades. Cups can sit in a tray area to keep ice from going everywhere and creating a melted mess.

Two block molds are included.  The self contained blades and safety lid make this a great choice for use by families and kids. 

There is still a place for a manual ice shaver and this model provides some nice features. Both portable and self-contained, there is no leaking or escaping ice chips from the moment the ice goes into the top grinder.  The simple crank handle crushes ice which drops down into a clear container. The unit is quite small (8.6 x 7.1 x 5.4 inches) and weighs about a pound and a half. The stainless steel blades fine crush the ice into powdery crystals.  Perfect for the apartment dweller or student dormitory, this uses simple ice cubes to craft drinks and sweet treats. Completely washable, it comes apart for easy cleaning. The small crank turns smoothly and gets the job done. A great option for the person with little storage room and passion for frozen sweets.  

Made of ABS plastic and stainless steel, this is another totally portable and self contained option for making those frozen desserts.  Simply add a few ice cubes at a time to the top section, turn the crank to get the process going. The crushed or shaved ice collects in the bottom compartment without worry that the product will melt and drain onto the counter. No need to stress out over electric cords or storage of large appliances.  This unit is practical as well as effective. It comes apart for complete cleaning. Use flavored ice cubes or frozen pureed fruit to make a sorbet type treat and no need to worry about getting all the sweet, sticky fluid from the cracks in a electric machine. This can be used by children as well as adults and it is lightweight enough to go on camping trips and other family outings.  Small, compact and practical for outdoor use.

Perhaps the choices have digressed into the whimsical but there is just no resisting this blue-grey penguin shaved ice maker - even if one is not a kid.  The crank handle on the top of his head goes into action and the smooth shaved ice fills up the container in his belly. Fill the compartment in his head with molded ice blocks or ice cubes, reattached the crank and making shaved ice is as easy as 1-2-3.  The unit is totally portable and can be taken outside for fun around the pool or picnic area. The high quality plastic stands up to use and it is easily cleaned and submersible. Mr. Cool weighs just less than 2 pounds and is 9.8 x 7.3 x 7.2 inches - a perfect size for kids, teens and grandparents to have on hand.  

A good inbetween shave ice model that has commercial capabilities, this model by ZENY will process up to 440 lb. of ice in one hour.  Its retro profile is reminiscent of carnival and street vendors. Its size is a bit large for home use (16.14 x 9.8 x 16.9 inches) and it is heavier (17.6 lb.) than most of the options above.  Made of solid stainless steel, it is made to last forever, and keeps up with large events. The footed base allows ‘snow’ to be dispensed into a wide mouth cup or flat bowl. Removable dual blades make it easy to clean. The plunger style feed keeps the ice moving and it has safety features to keep the on/off switch from shorting due to exposure to moisture. It makes short order of any size and shape of ice cube and could be set on a shelf above a large container for commercial operations.  

The Costzon Electric Ice Shaver has ended up at the bottom of the list today, not because it is not a good ice shaver but perhaps because it is too good. This model is bordering on commercial specs and for most users it is just too much machine.  It has a 200W motor and dual stainless steel cutting blades as part of a solid stainless steel body and hard acrylic ‘snow’ container. The size (16"L ×13"Wx 25"L) and net weight (32 lbs) may be portable but not convenient for the home kitchen. The carnival style ‘snow cones’ imprinted sides are also different for home use. However, for a small business or large event, this would be the top choice on today’s list.  It has a enclosed on/off switch to guard against shock even when operating with wet hands and it does the lion’s share of the work when shaving up to 440 lbs of ice per hour. There is a drain pipe to handle ice melt and it runs off of standard 110v household current. Overall, it is a great machine just more than most home environments would need.

This ice shaver pro model wins the prize for its large capacity output.  Capable of managing 264 pounds of ice per hour, that is a serious shaved ice operation.  The housing is made of high quality aluminum to resist rust while the blades are made of stainless steel.  The design has a low center of gravity that prevents shaking or ‘walking’ across the counter while in use. All operating instructions are printed on the front of the machine and the coarseness of the ice can be adjusted from the front as well.  The lid has a safety guard in place that stops the action if it is opened and keeps the ice from vibrating out of the hopper. Operating on standard 110V household current, this model works best with larger (2-5cm) ice chunks and has interior fill marks for just the right amount of ice at one time. A drain hose can be connected to funnel off water that has collected when being used for a long period of time.  The weight (25 pounds) and size (16 x 17.5 x 12 inches) are reasonable for its large capacity output. Package includes appliance and user manual.

Drinking Sake

So now that you’ve ordered your Sake set, here’s how to drink it and which foods it is best paired with.

If you are not drinking alone, it’s customary for someone else to fill and refill your “ochoko” and vice versa. When the server pours the drink, hold your cup out slightly. Do the same if you are requesting a refill.

“Kampei” (or “cheers” in Japanese) is the typical toast when drinking Sake. Then, hold the cup close to your face to take in its aroma, take a small sip, and savor the taste in your mouth before swallowing.

If you want to serve warm or hot Sake, you can do so by placing the entire flask (“Tokkuri”) in a pot of boiling water.

You may also choose to enjoy drinking Sake while enjoying some of your favorite dishes. While the beverage combines particularly well with spicy dishes, you can combine it with practically anything. Saki experts claim that Junmai pairs well with seafood and sushi while Junmai Daiginjo goes well with meats.


The Origins of Sake

Sake originated in Japan and has been around for over 2,000 years. It was initially deemed “the drink of the gods” and continues to be one of Japan’s most popular drinks.

Brewing Sake began around 300 B.C. when wet rice cultivation was first introduced. Though the origins of the alcoholic beverage can be traced back to the Chinese, it was the Japanese who first started mass producing this tasty yet simple concoction.

As mentioned before, making Sake involves polishing or milling rice kernels. The milled kernels are then cooked in clean water and made into a sort of pap.

The earliest Sake brewing was pretty nasty. The entire community would chew rice and nuts and spit the mixture into a communal tub. This Sake was called “kuchikami no sake,” which means “chewing for mouth sake.” The enzymes in the saliva facilitated the fermentation process. While this method for making Sake was actually part of a Shinto religious ceremony, this process of communal tub-spitting was discontinued when it was found that adding Koji (a mold enzyme) and yeast could cause the rice to ferment as well.

At its origins, Sake was produced and consumed on an individual and familial basis. However, further on down the line, Sake rice became a large-scale agricultural product. Nevertheless, even with its widespread production, Sake was mainly consumed by the upper classes. The beverage also continued being used in Shinto religious ceremonies. It would be offered as a sacrifice to the gods and was also used to purify the temple. Additionally, on the day of their marriage, brides and grooms would consume Sake in a process known as Sansankudo.

Fast-forward several centuries into the twentieth century. At this time, a press replaced the traditional canvas bags that were used to squeeze out the liquid from the rice mash, yeast, and koji mixture. Shortages of rice during World War II also changed the way Sake was made: glucose and pure alcohol were introduced to the rice mash in order to increase the production yield and brewing time. Although this practice was born of necessity, it continues to be used today.

While the brewing process and availability of Sake has changed through the years, its importance in Japanese culture has not. From its origins, Sake has been a drink of family, friendship, and reverence, consumed to mark important occasions. Because the beverage is meant to be enjoyed with those one holds dear, tradition holds that one must never pour their own Sake. This culturally and historically significant drink has been enjoyed in Japan for millennia and is now being enjoyed internationally. 

Selecting the Right Bottle of Sake

Undiluted Sake contains an ABV of 14 to 20 percent. When sold by most manufacturers, the drink is diluted by combining it with water.

Sake tastes unlike any other beverage on the market, and it may be an acquired taste for some. Nevertheless, because many factors affect the flavor, quality, and aroma of the drink, it is important to try different kinds of Sake before deciding on your preference (or before writing it off altogether).

Fresh Sake usually has a better taste than koshu (aged) Sake, which typically tastes rougher and stronger.

Another way to know the flavor of the Sake is by referring to the Nihonshun-do. Nihonshun-do describes the sugar level – or sweetness – of the beverage. Also known as the Sake Meter Value (or SMV), a +5 would indicate a relatively dry taste while a -2 would be rather sweet.

Regardless of your palate and preference, there is likely a Sake that you will fancy. Even if you don’t prefer to drink your Sake straight, you can always mix it to create your very own cocktail. You can also infuse your Sake with flavors and spices to create different notes.

How Sake is Categorized

Unlike wines, which are categorized by the variety of grapes used, Sake is classified by how much the various rice strains are milled. To put it more plainly, if you eat white rice, about 10 percent of the rice grain has been milled. All rice is brown rice, but milling gives it its white appearance.

Sake rice has been milled at least twice as much as traditional white rice. The reason why rice used for Sake must be milled is that each grain of rice contains starch. Starch converts into sugar, and sugar converts into alcohol. However, unless it's milled, the starch is surrounded by layers of fat, minerals, proteins, lipids, and vitamins. While these things are good for you, they’re not good for making Sake. So, the more impurities you remove, the more refined your Sake will be.

Class X Sake: Made using rice, mold, and water. All Sakes in this class are “Junmai,” meaning that brewer’s alcohol has NOT been added.

  • Junmai – Rice has been milled 30% and 70% of the original grain remains.

  • Junmai Ginjo – 40% of rice has been polished, and 60% of each grain remains.

  • Junmai Dai Ginjo – 50% has milled and 50% of grain remains

Class Y Sake: Sakes made using rice, mold, water, and brewer’s alcohol

  • Honjozo – The rice has been polished 30% and 70% of each grain remains.

  • Ginjo – 40% polished and 60% remaining

  • Dai Ginjo – The rice has been milled 50% with 50% of each grain remaining.


Other Types of Sake

  • Nama – Sake is usually pasteurized twice. Nama Sake is pasteurized once.

  • Nigori – Sake that hasn’t been filtered resulting in a cloudy appearance.

  • Genshu – Sake that is undiluted by water to lower alcohol content.

  • Taru – Sake that is fermented then placed in cedar casks to give it a woodsy taste.

  • Kinpaku – Sake with gold flakes, used mainly in celebrations and lavish occasions.

  • Koshu – Sake that has been purposefully aged or matured.

  • Kijoshu – Sake that is sweeter and considered an after-dinner beverage.


Serving Sake

Traditionally, SakiSake is served from porcelain flasks known as tokkuri. The drink is poured into small ceramic cups called ochoko or sakazuki and sipped. You can also chill Sake and drink it from a wine glass.

Sake can be served at room temperature, warm, hot, or chilled. This usually depends on the quality of alcohol being served, the season, and, of course, the drinker’s preference. However, high-quality Sake should always be served chilled or at room temperature because adding heat can cause the beverage to lose its flavor and aroma.

To preserve its freshness, store bottles of Sake in cool, dry, and dark areas. It’s also best to finish an opened bottle, so bottom’s up!

And now that you’ve been schooled on how Sake is made, the best way to find your personal preference, and how to serve Sake, we present you with the best Japanese Sake sets.


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