What is a Shaved Ice Maker?

Harriette Halepis

A shaved ice maker is a device that turns large blocks or small cubes of ice into slivers. Shaved pieces of ice are usually used to create artificially flavored treats frequently called snow cones. A shaved ice maker functions in the same manner that a regular ice maker does, only the outcome of the machine's process is different.

A shaved ice maker turns ice cubes into shaved ice.
A shaved ice maker turns ice cubes into shaved ice.

When ice is inserted into a shaved ice maker, a motor fitted with blades finely grinds the ice into small shavings. These shavings are ideal for any artificial syrup that may be poured over them, since syrup tends to stick to finely shaved ice. In one hour, an industrial shaved ice maker can grind nearly 500 pounds (226.79 kg) of ice. Residential shaved ice makers do not grind as much ice as industrial machines, but they do grind enough ice to make a fair amount of frozen treats.

A New Orleans inventor patented the first ice block shaver used for snow cones.
A New Orleans inventor patented the first ice block shaver used for snow cones.

The shaved ice maker is frequently confused with the snow cone maker, though the two machines do not function in the same manner. A snow cone maker grinds large blocks of ice into fine bits that resemble balls of ice or snow. When artificial syrup is added to ice that was created from a snow cone maker, the syrup automatically sinks to the bottom of the snow cone receptacle.

Shaved ice is largely associated with Hawaii, since shaved ice treats are popular throughout Hawaii, though the first shaved ice maker was invented in New Orleans. A man by the name of Ernest Hansen developed the first motorized shaved ice maker in 1934. Prior to Hansen's invention, street vendors chipped and shaved ice by hand from large blocks. When Hansen's invention was introduced, many street vendors gave up the hand chipping method for the practical shaved ice maker.

Today, shaved ice treats can be found all across the globe. Nearly every country has some form of shaved ice treat, though these syrupy snacks tend to go by different names according to geographic location. Snow cones come in a number of different flavors and sizes, though the recipe for a basic snow cone remains the same.

Those who would like to make snow cones at home can purchase shaved ice makers from certain manufacturers online or through specialty kitchen supply stores. Residential shaved ice makers are relatively inexpensive in addition to being easy to use. Industrial shaved ice machines tend to be more expensive than residential machines, though the return on investment is often worth the initial price.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I wouldn't mind having a home shaved ice maker. I like shaved ice, but very often, the syrups are just too sweet for me. I'd like to make a tangier, less sugary syrup for a shaved ice so I could enjoy it more frequently.

I'd like to have a sour cherry or sour grape syrup for shaved ice, and have it very low in sugar. Lemon or lime syrups would be good, too. Some people like really sweet syrups like that, but I'm not one of them.

We also have an ice plant in our town, so I could get a small block of ice from there for a shaved ice machine. I'll have to look into how much they cost.


Snow cones are a different animal from shaved ice. Snow cones are made of little ice pieces that are hard. Shaved ice is very soft and flaky.

I know in Hawaii, you can get shaved ice with ice cream and/or red adzuki beans in the bottom of the cone. That just doesn't sound good to me.

Shaved ice has really become common all over the world, now that the machines are more readily available. You can even get shaved ice in far flung places like Malaysia! They tend to be popular anywhere the weather is hot and/or sticky.

Post your comments
Forgot password?