Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Bill Allen
Best Commercial Ice Maker
A commercial ice machine is literally the backbone of any bar, or even restaurant. That and your refrigeration. These are the investments you should always take very seriously as they allow you to sell cold drinks.
Just think for a second if you didn’t have a working ice machine. What can you serve in your bar? A cold beer, that’s good. Scotch straight up, yup. What about on the rocks? Or even a cold glass of coca cola? Nope. No cocktails, no frozen margaritas, nothing cold, not even chilled.
Your ice machine is super important. And it’s the one of two things you do not want to skimp on when starting a bar. These machines are manufactured to produce hundreds of pounds of ice a day when needed. They are big, expensive and have many parts. You want this to be built well and last as long as possible.
And if these are out of your price range, or just too large, then check out my article on the best ice makers for home bars here.
Think of your ice machine as an investment, not an option. It should make you money. And if you ever do need to sell it, a quality machine will always hold far more value than some no name one.
There are also flake ice machines and nugget ice machines that grind ice into nuggets and flakes for unique applications. Commercial ice machines are designed to produce high-quality ice.
Regular cleaning and water filtration are crucial to maintaining good ice and ensuring a pleasant and consistent taste.
- Best Commercial Ice Maker
- Why is a Commercial Ice Machine Important to You?
- Why American Made ONLY?
- Different Types of Commercial Ice Makers?
- Half-Cube Ice
- Flake Ice
- Nugget Ice
- Additional Ice Types
- Air Cooled vs Water Cooled?
- What Size Commercial Ice Machine Do You Need?
Why is a Commercial Ice Machine Important to You?
Many restaurants, cafes and cafeterias serve soft drinks and beverages, stock salad bars or blend frozen cocktails. In order to do so, a commercial ice maker is essential. Purchasing the right unit ensures you have the right type of ice for your operation, and never run out of ice during business hours.
With the right machine, you can also be sure that you have the best dispensing unit for your needs, be it a simple ice bin and scoop, a single-serve beverage dispenser, or a coin-operated hotel dispenser.
Note: Usually a commercial ice maker is just that, something to create ice. It “usually” does not keep the ice cold. The ice bins are insulated, but don’t expect the ice to stay frozen in the bin longer than a day or two.
Why American Made ONLY?
Believe me when I say I am not one of those “Buy American” types at all. If it is made somewhere else and it’s the best, then I go for it regardless.
But when it comes to a multi-thousand dollar machine that will need to be serviced, that’s another story.
See, a commercial ice machine is a serious investment. And a lot of things can go wrong with them. And when you choose to save a few bucks and buy a brand you don’t know or is made halfway across the world, you can end up loosing a lot of money, or have the biggest headache from constantly banging your head against the wall wondering why you didn’t listen to me here.
Most American made commercial ice makers are made with high quality steel and copper. These machines use a lot of water, and sub-standard materials will rust quickly.
And when a machine does break down, what will you do? Do you think you’ll get a repair person who is going to be familiar with the machine, let alone be able to get parts for it.
Rather many of these companies selling commercial ice machines from abroad want you to ship the machine somewhere at costs like $1000 out of your own pocket. Not to mention the time you have to go buy ice because you no longer have an ice maker.
No, you want a solid USA manufacturer who will stand by their product, send a repair person if something does go wrong, and have available parts on hand when they’re needed. Better yet, they come and service your machine when necessary. That way the warranty stays good and the machine is always functioning at peak performance.
What are the Different Types of Commercial Ice Makers?
Choosing the right type of ice is one of the most important considerations when shopping for a commercial ice machine. Different types of ice are designed for different situations in order to maximize profits in unique applications. Using the right ice for the right situations makes for the best customer experience.
Full cube ice is also called “full dice” ice. It measures 7/8 of an inch all the way around, and resembles a cube in shape. Benefits Full cube ice melts slowly and has a lot of surface area. This helps cool beverages quickly and keeps them cold for long periods of time. Full cube ice also adds visual appeal to drinks like whiskey, scotch and other cocktails.
Full cube ice melts slowly and has a lot of surface area. This helps cool beverages quickly and keeps them cold for long periods of time. Full cube ice also adds visual appeal to drinks like whiskey, scotch and other cocktails.
- Salad Bars
- Bagged Ice
- Hotel Ice Dispensers
Half-cube ice, also referred to as “half-dice” ice, is used in a wide range of applications. Most half cube ice cubes measure 3/8″ x 7/8″ x 7/8″.
With its unique shape, half-cube ice can pack more tightly into a glass, displacing more liquid. This will increase your beverage profits since customers get a lot of ice in relation to the beverage. It also gives customers a super-chilled drink. Half-cube ice also blends more readily than full-size cubes, making it a good choice for blended coffee drinks or smoothies. Ideal Uses
- Blended Drinks
- Iced Coffee
- Mixed Drinks
- Soft Drinks
- Therapeutic Uses
As the name suggests, flake ice consists of small slivers of ice that are flaked off to provide a packable ice perfect for displays. Flake ice packs together well and effectively chills down products on display, from seafood in groceries stores to food pans in a salad bar.
Molding ice around the product allows more even cooling results. Since flake ice is soft, the product is less likely to scratch or bruise. Flake ice can enhance the visual appeal of product displays while maintaining safe food temperatures.
- Blended Cocktails
- Ice Wraps/Therapeutic Use
- Meat/Seafood Displays
- Produce Displays
- Salad Bars
Nugget ice is also known as chewable ice, pellet ice, pearl ice or “Sonic” ice. It is soft and chewable; a customer favorite. Benefits Aside from providing customer satisfaction, nugget ice also displaces more liquid than cube or half-cube ice, so operators will see even more beverage profits with this ice.
It also blends easily and cools quickly, making it ideal for blended cocktails and smoothies. Nugget ice is great for flavor and color retention in beverages, too. Finally, health care facilities use this type of ice for patient drinks because it is so easy to chew. If you need more information on them, you can can see a good article here on nugget ice makers.
- Blended Cocktails
- Carbonated Drinks
- Health Care Settings
Additional Ice Types
The aforementioned ice types are the most common, but there are a handful of specialized ice styles that add a little extra flair to a drink. The majority of these ice types are available in undercounter commercial ice machine units only, and will be placed in the back bar area for use in mixed drinks.
Crescent ice has the shape of a crescent moon. It is ideal for soft drinks or other beverages. The shape allows the ice to pack together better than full or half cubes, displacing more liquid and further increasing your beverage profit margins.
Gourmet ice has a distinct top-hat shape and adds extra sparkle to the drink. The visual appeal makes this ice type ideal for mixed drinks or cocktails. It also melts slowly, so customers can enjoy their drinks at a slower pace without it becoming warm or watered down.
Octagonal ice has the same function as full-cube or half-cube ice, in that it displaces a lot of liquid while quickly cooling the beverage. It just has an octagonal shape, appealing to operators who want to break with the tradition of serving standard cubes in their beverages.
Air Cooled Ice Makers vs Water Cooled Ice Makers?
The condenser is a necessary part of any refrigeration system. It assists in removing heat from the refrigerant for continuous cooling. When it comes to commercial ice machines, there are three different condenser types: air-cooled, water-cooled and remote-cooled condensers. The condenser you need depends on where your establishment is located and the ice-production capacity of your machine.
Air-Cooled Ice Machines
With air-cooled ice machines, air is circulated over the condenser to draw heat off of the refrigeration lines. The air is moved via fans and air vents. Benefits
- Air-cooled machines are easy to install.
- These units are typically less expensive than water-cooled and remote-cooled condensers.
- They utilize much less water in comparison to water-cooled units, saving money on utility costs.
- Most commercial kitchens will be able to use air-cooled ice machines.
- Clearance for airflow is required on the top, sides and back of all air-cooled ice machines. Depending on the manufacturer and where the air vents are located, as little as a few inches or as much as several feet may be required.
- The air filters and air vents need to be cleaned or replaced regularly so the machine can breathe properly.
- The cooling fan can become noisy during operation, and the exhaust air can add extra heat to a hot kitchen.
Water-Cooled Ice Machines
Water-cooled ice machines have two separate water lines; one feeds the ice-making compartment, the other runs along the condenser to remove heat from the refrigerant. Benefits
- Water-cooled machines are not affected by ambient air temperature.
- This type of condenser uses less electricity than air-cooled condensers.
- With no condenser fan, water-cooled machines operate fairly quietly.
- Water-cooled ice machines are ideal for hot, humid climates where temperatures may otherwise adversely affect the ice machine’s cooling properties.
- Water-cooled ice machines are more practical for operations located in areas with low water utility costs, since they utilize a great deal of water to operate.
- A separate water line is required for installation.
- The cooling water is sent directly down the drain, so hundreds of gallons of water are drained every day; this can take a toll on utility costs.
- Municipalities that have water-usage restrictions do not allow businesses to install water-cooled ice machines.
What Size Commercial Ice Machine Do You Need?
Every commercial kitchen is different and will require different amounts of ice. The right commercial ice machines will keep up with demand without creating a surplus of ice, which may end up being wasted.
The table below gives capacity estimates based on how ice is being used. This will help you calculate how many pounds of ice (also known as the “yield”) your machine needs to produce each day.
|Type of Operation||Usage||Per||Recommended Ice Type|
|Restaurant||1.5 lbs||Per Person||Half-Cube|
|Bar/Cocktail||3 lbs||Per Seat||Half-Cube|
|Salad Bar||40 lbs||Per Cubic Foot||Flake|
|Fast Food||5 oz||Per 7-10 oz Drink||Half-Cube|
|8 oz||Per 12-16 oz Drink||Half-Cube|
|12 oz||Per 18-24 oz Drink||Half-Cube|
|Guest Ice||5 lbs||Per Room||Full-Cube|
|Restaurant||1.5 lbs||Per Seat||Half-Cube|
|Cocktail||3 lbs||Per Seat||Half-Cube|
|Catering||1 lb||Per Person||Half-Cube|
|Beverage||6 oz||Per 12 oz Drink||Half-Cube or Nugget|
|10 oz||Per 20 oz Drink||Half-Cube or Nugget|
|16 oz||Per 32 oz Drink||Half-Cube or Nugget|
|Packaged Ice||Pounds per bag||x Bags Sold Per Day||Full Cube|
|Cafeteria||1 lb||Per Person||Half-Cube|
|Patient Ice||10 lbs||Per Bed||Nugget|
|Drinks||40% of the cup||x Drinks Per Day||Half-Cube or Nugget|
|Seafood Display||30 lbs||Per Cubic Foot||Flake|
|Produce Display||60 lbs||Per Cubic Foot||Flake|
|Self-Service Beverages||1.5 lbs||Per Student||Half-Cube|
|Full-Service Beverages||0.5 lbs||Per Student||Half-Cube|
Calculating Your Daily Ice Requirements
Commercial ice machine manufacturers rate their machines based on ice production for a 24-hour period. When calculating the amount of ice needed for your establishment, factor in the following elements:
- The number of people you need to serve during the day
- The separate places where ice is used in the bar, restaurant or establishment
- The type of ice you need in every application (this may mean that more than one type of ice machine is required)
Additional Sizing Considerations for Commercial Ice Machines
Sizing a commercial ice machine is a bit of a guessing game. This is especially true for first-time restaurant owners. The number of people you hope to serve is the most valuable factor in any estimate, but you also need to consider estimates for your busiest days, allow room for growth and factor in environmental conditions.
- Estimate customer traffic during peak hours on busy days.
Be aware of the maximum amount of ice your establishment will need on any given day by estimating how many customers you will see during your busiest day. Use those numbers to calculate your ice-production needs.
- Consider machine location and environmental conditions.
The expected 24-hour yield for all commercial ice machines is based on an incoming water temperature of 50 °F and an ambient air temperature of 70 °F. If these or similar conditions cannot be maintained, ice production will suffer. For air-cooled machines, allow several inches of clearance around the machine for proper air flow. Excessively hot and humid environments may require a water-cooled machine, and large-capacity machines may need a remote condenser to maintain production.
- Overestimate production by 10 to 20% to allow for growth.
New restaurants should overestimate their ice production needs by as much as 20% to allow for restaurant growth. Overestimating will also help account for fluctuating customer traffic and environmental conditions that can affect ice production, especially on a smaller unit.
- Purchase an appropriately-sized ice storage bin.
Regardless of the production capacity of your commercial ice machine, you will only need an ice storage bin or ice dispenser that can hold enough ice to satisfy your busiest rush hour. Calculate how much ice you will need during your busiest hours and purchase a bin that will hold at least that much ice.