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Finding the right Ice Machine

Posted by Blake Fotheringham on

Finding the proper ice machine can be quite a challenge.  There are several different brands, Styles, production amounts, and even ice types.  This article should help you figure out what what ice machine is the right for your business.

Ice Styles

There are several different ice types but three major ice styles.  

The most common style of ice is cube ice.  This ice is used in most foodservice applications.  Cube ice lasts longer in drinks.

Nugget ice (also called cubelet and pellet ice) is growing in popularity rapidly.  Nugget ice is known as the chewable ice and is softer.  Nugget ice is popular in sodas, ice waters, hotel applications, and salad bars.

Flake ice is fine shaved ice similar to a snow cone.  This ice is popular in applications requiring ice packing such as salad bars, sports injuries, and blended drink applications.

Machine Styles

There are 3 major machine styles; Modular, Undercounter, and dispenser machines.  

Modular- Modular machines are ice maker heads only.  Modular machines need to go on a ice bin or soda fountain.  You can buy a modular machine in cube, nugget, and flake style.  Modular machines come in many sizes and production amounts.

Undercounter- Under-counter machines are made to go under a counter or other equipment.  Undercounter machines are popular in bar applications, low production requirement applications, and other low clearance applications.  Undercounter machines have a built in bin so another storage apparatus is not required.  You can buy a undercounted machine in all 3 major ice types.

Dispenser Machines- You can buy dispenser ice machines in 2 styles.  You can buy a dispenser bin that requires a modular head then making it a dispenser unit or a dispenser with built in ice maker.  Dispenser machines with built in ice makers come in cube or nugget style. Self contained nugget dispensers usually have a water spout next to it and usually sit on top of a counter.

Production Amount

Lets start with Production amount.  Figuring out how much ice you will need varies by business type.  Check out the table below for a sizing guide.

Business Type Sizing Example
Restaurants 1.5 Lbs per customer per day 200 Customers= 300 LBS
Bars 3 LBS Per Seat  200 Seats= 600 lbs
Water Glasses 50% of glass size X Glasses

500 16 oz Glasses= 250 lbs

Salad Bar 35 LBS of ice per Cubic Foot

8 cubic feet= 280 lbs

Beverage Only 50% of glass size X Glasses

700 32 oz drinks= 700 lbs

Guest Ice (Hotel) 5 Lbs Per Room

200 Rooms= 1,000 lbs

Hospitals 10 LBS Per Patient

50 Rooms= 500 LBS

Cafeteria 1 LB Per Person

500 Customers= 500 lbs


Ice Bin Size

Your bin stores your ice.  A large machine on a small bin may result in running out of ice.  A machine too small for a larger bin may result in too much stress on the machine, mold and mildew growth, and waste. Generally we suggest sizing your bin 10% larger than the machine but it depends on your application.  If you have high demand one day a week you may be able to oversize the bin allowing for storage for that big day.  You may be limited on space and have to get a larger machine on a small bin to keep up.  Try to stick to the 10% rule and go from there.

There are a few different styles of ice bins.  Other than a regular scoop out bin you can buy a dispenser bin, ice caddy bin, and bagging bin.

A top kit is sometimes required for your ice bin.  Please contact us for the proper ice machine top kit sizing.

Condenser Style

There are styles of condensers for ice machines; Air cooled, Water cooled, and remote.  Each style of condenser has it's advantages and disadvantages.  

Air Cooled Machines- Air cooled machine are the most common style of ice maker.  Air cooled machines have internal fans that cool the condenser allowing for ice production.  Air cooled machines are the loudest of the 3 styles of condensers because of the internal fans.  These fans also create a large amount of heat that is circulated around the ice machine.  Air cooled machines are not recommended for small or tight spaces since they put off so much heat.  

Water Cooled Machines- Water cooled machines use water to cool the condenser.  Water flows constantly through the condenser while the machine is running.  Water cooled machines are quieter than air cooled machines and they don't release hot air around the machines.  Water cooled machines use a lot of water during production and in some states with water restrictions water cooled machines are outlawed.  Water cooled machines are really popular in hotels with chiller systems.  A chiller system cools the water and recirculates the water through the hotel.  

Remote machines- Remote machines are extremely popular in large chains that are looking to keep hot air out of the kitchen or ice area.  Remote machines work similar to the central air system in your home.  The condenser is taken outside of the building or to a " Remote" area removing the heat from the ice machine area.  Even though remote machines are the most practical they are the least common style of condenser.  Remote machines have a higher initial purchase cost, installation cost, and lower resale value making them less desirable.

Filtration Systems

A Filtration system is highly recommended for any ice machine.  Since these machines run through a significant amount of water they are prone to hard water and mold buildup.  the proper filtration system will help fight both.  Many ice machine sells companies recommend charcoal filtration systems but we highly discourage the types of filters.  These filters filter out the chlorine which helps fight bacteria in the machine.  The filtration system we recommend for ice machines is Everpure's SI series filtration systems.  The most common models are the 7SI and 4SI.  These machines are designed for ice machines and help reduce black mold, scale, and even red slime.

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