America’s biggest coffee chain is making a big change to its iced drinks — but will its new nuggets strike gold?
On May 10, a post on Reddit fueled speculation that a new type of ice may be coming to Starbucks. The post, shared on the subreddit r/Starbucks, claimed that pebble-shaped ice would be changing our iced lattes and icy Refresher drinks for good.
“New special ice (we are 1 of 3 cafe stores testing the new ice). What do you guys think? It looks like the ice at sonic,” wrote the original poster, paired with an image of a bin containing piles and piles of nugget ice, a type of softer ice that presses flaky layers of ice through a mold to create an altogether unique ice experience.
Then, a TikTok posted by @coffeepassport speculated further, sharing some piping hot tea on the new ice.
“For the people that said that they don’t like Starbucks ice, they hurt you,” the TikTok user says in the video.
The video also shared a view of a document that identifies the type of ice machine set to be used.
“The new Follet Nugget Ice Machine will produce all the ice needed in your store by consistently producing throughout the day, all while using less water,” the screenshot in the video reads in part. This type of ice machine creates "Chewblet" ice, “uniformly shaped pieces of chewable compressed nugget ice.”
A Starbucks representative confirmed to TODAY.com that new ice is indeed being rolled out.
“As we continue to innovate and make investments in the Starbucks Experience for our partners (baristas) and customers, we are introducing new machines that make nugget ice to select stores this year,” the rep said in a statement. “Like many of our recent investments, this machine allows partners to focus on delivering the Starbucks Experience while hand-crafting the same delicious, high-quality iced beverages our customers have come to expect from Starbucks.”
Hundreds of people took to comments sections on social media to share their thoughts on the new ice that, up until this point, was only available at fast-food outlets like Chick-fil-A and Sonic, where they have gained a cult-like following.
“That looks like some quality frozen H2O!” wrote one user on Reddit.
“I love my drinks with extra ice so this is an upgrade,” commented someone on TikTok.
“Bag it and sell it as snacks,” one Redditor wrote. A Starbucks employee commented, “I can’t wait to snack on this my whole shift.”
Still, some folks had reservations and concerns about the change.
“God no not the hospital ice for coffee,” a Redditor said.
“Nooo, I think the ice you guys have now is so perfect. So perfect I ask for extra extra ice because the coffee is easier to drink. This type of ice, in my opinion, is better for sodas or just plain ice water,” wrote another Reddit user.
“Normally this ice IS IT!!!! But I worry that they will melt too fast in iced espresso drinks,” another Redditor wrote.
Starbucks confirms that these nugget ice tests are part of a multi-year rollout, which means that many stores won’t be getting the machine this year. The powers-that-be will be prioritizing stores that have a high volume of cold drink orders that will benefit most from the new nugget ice machine, so if you’ve noticed a lot of icy drinks on the counter at your go-to spot, you may be next.
The coffee chain says it conducted several tests that demonstrated that the nugget ice does not melt faster than its current ice, which may allay the worries of many commenters speculating about the future of their beverage happiness. Further, Starbucks says the tests showed that most customers didn’t notice a different ice was used in their beverage at all, but that most of the folks who noticed responded positively.
Starbucks also notes baristas have been using the same ice scoop they always have, so the volume of ice per beverage will not change. The company adds that the newer ice machines use less water to make ice, which will contribute to its sustainability goal to cut its water footprint in half by 2030.
This news comes on the heels of another controversial water-related change at the coffee giant. On May 9, Starbucks confirmed it will be charging an additional $1 for Starbucks Refreshers drinks customized with “no water,” telling TODAY.com that the change allowed the company “to provide a more consistent approach to customization.”
The company also added at the time that Starbucks Refreshers drinks can still be customized with light or no ice, free of charge, amid rumors online claiming the opposite.