Have you ever considered what goes into making ice? TIn a commercial sense, the answer is surprisingly simple: water and electricity. That’s it! Ice makers are machines that take in cold water, pump the water through a coil and into ice cube trays to create iced cubes, then dispense them into an ice bin.
Commercial ice makers are used by restaurants, bars, hotels, hospitals – really anywhere that needs a steady supply of ice on hand to keep drinks cool and food fresh. There are many different types of commercial ice makers available today – from countertop models to floor-standing units with built-in storage compartments for extra bags of pre-made cubes.
So, are you looking to purchase an ice maker for your commercial business? If so, this blog post is just what you need! We will cover the different types of ice makers, what to look for in an ice maker, and some great recommendations.
One thing that we want to emphasize is that it’s best not to buy a cheap model of any type of appliance or device. This will save you time and money in the long run as cheaper models typically have more problems than their higher-priced counterparts.
What Is A Commercial Ice Maker?
A commercial ice maker is a machine that takes in water, pumps the water through a heating coil to create iced cubes, then dispenses them into an ice bin. They have the ability to make a lot of ice in a very short space of time. It’s essential for many types of catering organizations including restaurants, bars, hotels, and hospitals.
There are many different types of ice makers available on the market today – from countertop models to floor-standing units with built-in storage compartments for extra cubes. A well-designed unit will have an insulated exterior that retains the cold air inside while keeping out unwanted external heat sources such as direct sunlight or outside ambient temperature changes.
When looking for a commercial ice maker, it’s also important to consider what type of ice you want to make. Some ice makers use a single-pass design that freezes the water, while others freeze and chop up the cubes in one fell swoop. The cube size is also something to consider – larger cubes tend to be more durable for cold drinks like soda or neat spirits, but they may not work as well for more delicate drinks like smoothies or cocktails.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive unit with little downtime between batches of ice production, then an automatic commercial machine might make sense. Some are even Wi-Fi enabled so you can check on your inventory remotely. But no matter which machine you go for, it’s especially important for it to have a stainless steel interior and exterior, which will resist rusting.
How Do Commercial Ice Makers Work?
Commercial ice makers work by freezing from the inside out. The water then travels to the ice mold, called the evaporator, which is connected to coiled copper heat exchanging pipes. The cold water is piped into the machine and passes through a coil of copper piping. The metal heats up due to its contact with the ice-cold water, which freezes on contact until it turns into ice cubes.
While this is happening, the compressor, which is the heart of any refrigeration machine, pushes refrigerant through the copper piping which will both heat and cool the water and ice.
Clear ice is one of the most distinguishing features of these machines, as regular ice can be cloudy. However, in your freezer, the ice is forming from the outside in rather than from the bottom up like it would if you were to fill a pot with water and put it on the stove to boil.
As such, as air bubbles rise into this thinner layer of ice they remain there, trapping them instead of allowing them to rise out. A commercial ice maker is more expensive, but it also makes clearer shaped ice, which is much better for a commercial setting.
What Are The Different Types Of Commercial Ice Makers?
There are many different types of commercial ice makers, including those that are countertop models or floor-standing units with built-in storage compartments for pre-made cubes. A well-designed unit will have an insulated exterior to keep the cold air inside and resist outside heat sources like direct sunlight or ambient temperature changes.
It’s also important to consider what type of ice and the cube size that you want to make, as some machines use a single pass design while others freeze and chop up the cubes in one fell swoop
Here are some of the most popular types of ice makers:
Modular Ice Maker
A modular ice maker is a commercial ice maker that has different components, such as an automatic machine with different size cube trays and a manual operation. The modular design comes in handy for restaurants or bars that are open to the public but only need one type of ice at any given time.
Undercounter Ice Maker
An under-counter ice maker is a commercial ice machine that sits on the floor and has an open front for storing pre-made cubes. Some of the larger models can produce up to 18 pounds of clear cube per day, which is enough for most restaurants or bars.
Combination Ice Maker
A combination ice maker is a type of commercial ice machine that can make a range of different types of ice. Whereas most ice makers can only produce one type at a time, combinations models can create flaked ice, cubed ice, and crushed ice in one machine. It often also has an open front for storing pre-made ice.
Ice Storage Bin
This is the container or compartment where pre-made cubes are stored for use when needed. It’s important to have enough space in your storage area, so you don’t run out of ice during peak hours – especially if you have more than one ice maker. And that is where an ice storage bin comes in incredibly handy. Of course, it is insulated to prevent the ice from melting.
Countertop Ice Maker
A countertop ice maker is a commercial ice machine that sits on the counter and has an open front for storing pre-made cubes. It’s one of the more popular models because it does not take up valuable floor space while also having enough capacity to satisfy most needs.
However, because it is a countertop model, it doesn’t have quite as much internal space as some independent storage units. This means it’s better suited to smaller catering establishments like cafes or small pubs.
An air-cooled ice maker uses an evaporator to produce clear cubes from water. This system works by pulling in cold air and pumping it over the coils of copper tubing, then forcing it out into a heat exchanger which will freeze any liquid on contact. A major benefit of this type of machine is that it can be quieter than its counterparts.
Water-cooled Ice Maker
A water-cooled ice maker is a commercial ice machine that also uses an evaporator to produce clear cubes from raw water or tap water. Any ice that it makes passes through the refrigeration unit which is cooled by water as opposed to cold air.
It then pumps the cold air over coils of copper tubing and (similar to the air-cooled ice maker), freezes any liquid on contact. This type of machine is more expensive, but it can produce up to 25 pounds of ice per day.
Integral Ice Maker
An integral ice maker is a commercial ice machine that has an insulated exterior to keep the cold air inside and resist outside heat sources. Because it’s integral, it means that it’s integrated into other kitchen appliances, such as fridges or freezers.
Portable Ice Maker
A portable ice maker is a commercial ice machine that runs on electricity and can be moved from place to place. It’s one of the most popular types because it doesn’t take up any floor space and all you need is an electrical outlet for power. Because of its portable nature, it’s very popular among catering vans, food trucks, and portable or pop-up restaurants.
What Are The Different Types Of Ice?
As well as different types of ice makers, there are also lots of different types of ice that you might need your ice maker to make. From a bar point of view, certain types will go better with certain drinks. For instance, a scotch on the rocks will need cubed ice to make the ‘rocks’, and crushed or flaked ice wouldn’t work quite as well.
Here are the most popular types of ice.
Clear cubes are perfect for use in drinks that require a more subtle flavor, like gin. They also look great and take up less space than other types of ice, so they’re popular with chefs who want to showcase individual ingredients. A clear cube is made from pure water and will have no air bubbles or impurities mixed in.
This type of ice is a perfect choice for cocktails that have fruit, cream, or other delicate ingredients in them because it won’t dilute the flavors as much as clear cubes would. It has a more round shape with pointed edges and clocks like a half-moon.
Cubed ice is the most common type of ice and has a lot of uses. It’s perfect for chilling drinks like spirits, or carbonated beverages, or any other drink that needs to be cooled quickly.
Ice machines typically produce cubes which are typically between half an inch and one inch wide on average. However, there can be some variation in size depending on the style of the ice machine. In general, this type is ideal for businesses that need a lot of ice during high-traffic periods.
This is sometimes known as gourmet ice and is made from water mixed with air before being frozen. The result is ice that’s denser and has more of a crystalline look to it, which makes it perfect for drinks like cocktails or iced teas.
Nugget ice is a type of cube that’s about an inch wide with an irregular shape. It’s also called “solid” or “shaved” ice and it has the most surface area per volume when compared to other types of cubes.
This style usually comes from old-fashioned machines because they’re able to freeze larger portions at once. A downside of this type is that it melts quickly.
Also known as flake ice, this style of cube comes from a machine called an “ice shaver” and the pieces are generally about an inch in size. The benefit to using pellet or flake cubes is that they’ll chill drinks more slowly than other types of ice and they’re often used for cooling down drinks with alcohol or fruit juice in them.
Crushed ice is created by freezing water for a much longer time than other types of cubes. It’s also typically used in cocktails because it chills drinks quickly and doesn’t dilute their flavor as much when melted.
It’s not the best choice, however, if you want to drink your beverage right away or mix it with carbonated beverages because it melts quickly, then this is a great type of ice to use.
What Should You Look For In A Commercial Ice Maker?
The most important thing when shopping for an ice maker is going to be the capacity – how much can it hold at one time? The best commercial ice makers are capable of producing a lot of ice per day – enough to sustain a very busy restaurant or hotel.
It’s also important that your new commercial ice machine is made from durable materials like stainless steel on the outside as well as inside so that it won’t start to rust after just a few months or years. A solidly built construction makes sure this machine lasts for many years without any malfunctions.
Of course, there are plenty of other things you’ll need to consider before buying a commercial ice maker. Here are some of the most important things to look out for:
One of the most important things to consider is the size of your ice maker. You’ll need to take into account the size of your restaurant and where you are going to put the ice maker. It’s no good buying a huge commercial model and not having enough room to store it, so size is one of the most important things you’ll need to consider.
There are a few features that you should look for as well. For example, many commercial ice makers also include the capability to produce crushed or nugget cubes of ice. Some machines make “half-moon” shaped ices which are perfect for cocktails with delicate ingredients in them. Another great feature of all high-quality machines is a self-cleaning function.
Arguably, the most important thing when shopping for an ice maker is going to be the capacity – how much can it hold at one time? Think about how many people you plan on serving and what types of drinks they like so that you get a machine with enough capacity for the demand. A good rule of thumb is about 18 pounds per day, but you can find machines that produce up to 50 pounds per day or more.
Also, consider the efficiency. It’s worth getting one that will operate as efficiently as possible in order to minimize your costs. You’ll be able to find out how efficient a machine is based on its wattage and production capacity.
High wattage means a higher production capacity (and more electricity) and vice versa. That’s why it pays to read reviews on ice makers before buying because you should be able to find out how efficient each machine is so that you know which one will work best for your needs.
Ease Of Cleaning
One of the most important features of a commercial ice maker is found in its ease of cleaning. The best machines have an automatic self-cleaning function, but even if you buy one without this ability it’s still worth getting a machine that has removable parts that make them easy to wipe down and clean by hand.
It’s also critical to clean the ice machine regularly because if you don’t, it can start to smell and water can go stagnant.
Installation And Airflow
When you purchase a commercial ice maker, it’s important to consider the installation and airflow. Commercial ice makers need a certain amount of airflow around the unit in order to function correctly. If not, they run the risk of overheating and the ice melting. As such, you’ll need to make sure that your machine will work in the space where you want it and be set up so that there is enough airflow around all surfaces of the unit for maximum cooling efficiency.
Air-cooled Or Water-cooled?
The main thing to consider when purchasing your commercial ice maker is whether you want an air-cooled or water-cooled machine. An air-cooled unit will have a fan inside to blow cold air over the evaporator coils which cools down the refrigerant and then sends it back around for another cycle of cooling. In comparison, a water-cooled machine used cold water to cool down the unit and freeze the ice.
Air-cooled typically has a lower energy consumption than a water-cooled machine, but it also has to have clearance on all four sides for the fan and evaporator coils. A water-cooled unit uses a tank of coolant that is circulated around by an electric pump; this allows more efficient cooling because there’s no need for extra space with fans or air circulation.
Next, think about what your ice maker will be made from. It’s also important that your new commercial ice machine has durable materials like stainless steel on the outside as well as inside so that it won’t start to rust after just a few months or years. A solidly built construction makes sure this machine lasts for many years without any malfunctions.
It’s also important to have a manufacturer warranty on your new commercial ice machine. This will protect you if anything goes wrong with the unit and it needs any repairs or service for up to two years after purchase. Some warranties are even transferrable, meaning that they can be passed down if you sell your business or decide to buy a commercial ice maker second-hand.
Finally, you have to consider the price of your new commercial ice maker. Some of the best commercial ice makers are more expensive than other options, but this is because they’re of much better quality.
The durability of these machines means that you’ll get your money’s worth and then some. You may not want to spend a lot on repairs in the future, and in that case, you may as well have purchased one good machine with an excellent warranty instead.
The Major Differences Between Commercial And Household Ice Makers
There are several major differences between household and commercial ice makers. For one, many homeowners will only need a machine that produces about ten pounds of ice per day because they don’t need to make enough for an entire business or restaurant.
Commercial units also use much more energy than their smaller counterparts so you need to budget accordingly if your electric bill is already high. A residential unit can be plugged in anywhere without worrying about ventilation; however, this isn’t feasible with large commercial machines which should always have at least four inches of clearance on all sides for proper air circulation.
There are also portable ice makers which can be used by both restaurants and households alike. These are a little more affordable to buy, but can rack up a hefty electricity bill and won’t produce as much ice.
Commercial Ice Makers Best Use Tips
Here are some top tips to get the absolute most out of your commercial ice maker:
- If you hear a clicking sound when trying to turn on your ice maker, there are likely mechanical problems with the device.
- Make sure not to overload any of these machines as this can cause overheating and damage. Also, make sure all electrical connections are secure before running or unplugging anything.
- Inspect both inside and outside of your unit where condensation collects – if any water droplets form after 15 minutes have elapsed then something may be wrong with the refrigerant coils in which case professional assistance will be needed.
- Consider the type of ice you want before making a purchase. You’ll find that commercial ice makers vary by how they make the ice – some machines will produce cubes or crushed instead of nuggets for example. As such, it’s a good idea to have a look at what type of ice goes best with what type of food or drink before you make a purchase.
- Also, think about the location of the ice maker and where you are going to put it. Make sure to measure the area and ensure that there is enough space for your new machine to fit. This will save you a lot of trouble in the future.
- Consider ventilation – with a commercial ice maker, you’ll need more ventilation and not just the one inch that is required for residential units.
- Clean your ice maker regularly to ensure that it is running at its best and reduces the risk of any future malfunctions.
- If you have a hard water area where limescale is prevalent, make sure to install a water filter so that your ice machine doesn’t break from the buildup of minerals.
My Top Commercial Ice Maker Recommendations
Polar G-Series Under Counter Ice Machine
Polar’s G-Series ice machine produces up to 50kg of soft, bullet-shaped ice every day. It’s a compact-sized ice machine with an impressive output. It’s also great in spaces that are segregated for other purposes because of its size. The G-Series’ operation and access couldn’t be any easier. It has a dispenser that always provides ice on the other side of the 10kg capacity bin. To store ice, the door can be closed to safely protect it and keep it from melting.
The Polar ice machine’s stainless steel commercial design is extremely durable and reduces maintenance times after a busy shift. This commercial ice machine even features a self-clean setting that reduces downtimes at every opportunity for sanitation and safety.
Designed for everyday commercial and industrial use, including high-volume establishments, this ice machine is ideal if you need a reliable ice maker with a bigger output and higher production capacity.
- Produce up to 50kg of soft, bullet-shaped ice every day
- Comes with a large capacity bin ready for immediate use
- Self-clean mode is available on the machine
- High production capacity is great for all different restaurant sizes
- The self-cleaning mode makes clear up a breeze
- The compact machine can fit in smaller spaces
- Durable stainless steel design
- Undercounter style is great for bars
- Might be too small for some kitchens
Foster Ice Flaker 130kg Output FMIF120
This ice machine is a favorite among many restaurants, bars, and commercial kitchens. The FMIF120’s ice flaker produces large amounts of soft-shaped nuggets – perfect for use in cocktails or even serving seafood. With an output of up to 130kg over 24 hours, this will take care of all your needs when it comes to ice production.
The FMIF120 is another commercial ice maker that’s durable and aesthetically pleasing with its stainless steel construction. This also means it’s incredibly easy to clean and ensures maximum food hygiene and efficiency. If you are looking to produce large quantities of flaked ice for seafood displays or blended drinks, a Foster Ice Flaker is right for you.
- Produces up to 120kg of flaked ice every 24 hours
- Available in a variety of sizes and power outputs
- Flakes are soft and slow-melting for maximum food hygiene
- Comes with an automatic water feeder system that can be set according to demand or need
- Ideal for a range of ice needs from cocktails to serving seafood
- Aesthetically pleasing which is great for customer-facing organizations
- Sturdy, stainless steel production
- Easy to clean
- Expensive compared to other models
Polar C-Series Countertop Ice Machine
The Polar C-Series Commercial Countertop Ice Maker produces ice anywhere with exquisite looks and reliability. This machine is easy to use and only requires minimal training. With an internal water reservoir and ice sizing buttons, it takes only minutes for your desired size of ice to appear.
The Polar ice maker is ideal for people with limited space or who need a portable ice machine like small restaurants, cafés, or pubs. There’s no drainage connection either, making it suitable for food trucks or portable restaurants too. This compact design means you can easily pack it away when not in use without taking up too much space.
Once service is over and the ice machine has been drained, it can easily be cleaned. Removing the tracks and other parts makes for a fully hygienic unit.
- No mains water connection required
- Produces ice every 12 minutes
- Available in a wide range of sizes and power outputs, including an energy-efficient design
- Comes with convenient side handles for easy portability
- A drain plug is provided for simple cleaning
- Portable due to lack of necessary mains water connection
- Easy to store when not in use
- Hygienic and food-safe unit
- Might be too small for some kitchens
Ice-O-Matic Half Cube Ice Machine
This ice machine is a top-selling commercial ice maker that produces up to 96kg of half cube nugget ice every 24 hours. The Ice O Matic Half Cube has an impressive output and can be easily accessed with its convenient dispenser on the side or front of the unit.
Boasting impressive and unrivaled convenience, this machine is ideal for use in restaurants, bars, pubs, and more. Developed for mains-fill use, the machine produces a large number of half-cube ice pieces that can be stored in the sizable storage bin.
The bin is made from a bacteria-fighting compound, which reduces bacteria growth. Alongside a self-cleaning cycle, this ensures maximum food hygiene.
- Produces 96kg of half-cube ice every 24 hours
- The self-cleaning cycle reduces downtime
- Large storage bin with water level indicator ensures easy access to cubes
- Easily produces up to 50% more ice than some other commercial ice machines
- Bright LED display with digital controls for easy operation
- Drain plug on the rear side for simple cleaning.
- High production capacity is great for larger organizations
- The handy self-cleaning system reduces cleanup time after a busy shift
- A large amount of storage means you can make a lot of ice in advance
- Very pricey
- Quite a bulky machine
Question: What is the best ice shape?
Answer: I would recommend a commercial ice maker that produces nuggets over cubes. Cubes are more likely to melt and turn into water while nuggets will stay solid for much longer – especially if you’re using them in drinks or with food. If your unit makes crushed ice, then it’s best to use this type of ice as opposed to cubed because crushing the pieces breaks down their structure and allows the melted liquid inside each cube so they will be less icy than big chunks of hard frozen water crystals.
Question: How long does an average commercial ice maker last?
Answer: Commercial machines usually have one-year warranties but these can vary by manufacturer. This isn’t bad considering how many years you’ll get out of one machine. They are built to last so be sure you find the best commercial ice maker that suits your needs.
Question: Is it necessary to buy a separate condenser for an ice machine?
Answer: If your machine is an AC-powered model, then yes – the manufacturer will need to provide this separately in order for the unit to work. You should also confirm if there’s any refrigerant that needs to be included in the purchase.
Question: What should I look for in a commercial ice maker?
Answer: The most important thing about any unit that you buy should always be its capacity; this will determine how much ice it can produce at one time, and some units are designed for businesses so they have higher capacities than residential models. Commercial machines also typically last longer because they are made from higher-quality materials.
Question: What kind of ice is best for smoothies?
Answer: If you plan on using your commercial ice maker to make smoothies, then I would recommend buying a unit with crushed or nuggets. These types of ice will produce less residue in the drink and won’t have large frozen chunks that can ruin the texture of this type of beverage.
Question: Do portable ice makers keep ice frozen?
Answer: Yes, portable ice makers keep ice frozen. They come with insulated ice compartments that reduce the melting of the ice. These are a great option for businesses that are on the move a lot, or where there isn’t enough room for a large permanent ice machine.
Question: Do ice makers use a lot of electricity?
Answer: Commercial ice makers use a lot of electricity. For most units, you’ll need approximately 100-125 kilowatts per hour and it will be more for an AC-powered unit than a non-AC one. This is because the former need to power both the machine’s compressor as well as everything inside that help with freezing the water or making crushed ice.
Question: Does an ice maker make a lot of noise?
Answer: Commercial machines are generally louder than residential ones because they need to work harder in order for the refrigeration process to take place. This is why it’s best to have a unit installed in an area where there isn’t much foot traffic and close proximity with other equipment that could be sensitive, such as dishwashers or refrigerators.
Question: How much does an ice machine cost?
Answer: The price of commercial ice makers can vary a lot. You can expect to pay a price starting at around $800 and going up to over $20,000. This is because they are designed for different needs; smaller models might work better in small cafes or offices so the cost will be lower, but if you’re looking for more capacity, such as a large restaurant or hotel, then you’ll need a bigger ice maker that will come with a higher price tag.