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Types of Ice Produced by Commercial Ice Makers

The type of commercial ice maker you choose should be guided by what you plan to use it for and, in some cases, what type of establishment you’re buying it for. Our guide makes it simple to sort through all the choices armed only with those two facts.

The following inforgraphic will introduce you to the commercial ice makers we sell based on the types of ice each produces. To learn more about each type of ice, the machines that produce it, and what its best applications are, click on the image of that ice to jump to that section of the buying guide just below the graphic.

Commercial Ice Maker Infographic of Ice Cube Types

Commercial Cube Ice Makers

Full Cube Ice

Best ice for:

Soft drinks, mixed drinks, bagged ice, ice for dispensing

Best type of ice maker for:

Bars, baggers, and many restaurants

Ice type names:

Full cubes for Ice-O-Matic, regular cube or dice (slightly smaller) for Manitowoc, square cubes for Hoshizaki, and dice ice for Scotsman.

The scoop on the commercial cube ice maker:

These produce the larger rhomboid ice cubes typical in bars and in soft drinks in some restaurants. The solid build makes it perfect for cola or spirits. This type of ice has a high ice-to-water ratio, which offers maximum cooling and a slower melt, pleasing customers and cutting down on the need for production. They’re also great for large-volume applications, including bagging and bulk cooling.

Commercial Half-cube Ice Machines

Half Cube Ice

Best ice for:

Soft drinks, mixed drinks, bagging, ice for dispensing

Best type of ice machine for:

Restaurants, convenience stores, dispensers, and most any commercial kitchen

Ice type names:

Manitowoc and Scotsman call it half dice, Hoshizaki has crescent cubes, and Ice-O-Matic offers the half cube.

The scoop on the commercial ice machine:

Half cubes are typically a smaller version of cube or dice ice, though the Hoshizaki equivalents are crescent half cubes. Half-cube ice is considered the most versatile type of ice, which is why it shows up in restaurants, convenience stores, dispensers, and baggers. That has made this commercial ice maker the most popular, despite the fact you’re not likely to find it in most bars. Like full cubes, half cube ice offers a relatively high ice-to-water ratio, which means a solid and dryer piece of ice that has more cooling power and lowers production needs.

Commercial Nugget Ice Makers

Nugget Ice

Best ice for:

Fountain beverages, specialty soft drinks, blended cocktails, cooling salad or produce in a serving line

Best type of ice maker for:

Restaurants, bars, convenience stores, properly-equipped dispensers, and any eatery where drinks are made into a star – and a profit center

Ice type names:

Hoshizaki has cubelet ice, Scotsman calls it nugget ice, Ice-O-Matic has billed theirs Pearl Ice®, Manitowoc offers both nugget and tubular nugget ice, and Follett enters the roster here with its Chewblet® ice. It’s also called pebble ice, pellet ice, “Sonic ice”, and a half dozen other things.

The scoop on the commercial ice maker:

These little chunks of ice have a lot of different names, but one thing that has made them famous: The attraction they hold for those who love to chew ice. Nugget has become their go-to and the establishments that cater to them have taken note. So popular are nuggets that The Wall Street Journal has even recognized the growing allure of nugget ice commercial ice makers, and Sonic has centered a business model on drinks built around nugget ice. “Sonic ice” is sold by the bag, with some locations of the drive-in chain selling dozens of bags a week. The Sonic chain has traditionally relied on Scotsman commercial ice machines, though other manufacturers are always working to make inroads.

Beyond being chewable, nugget ice is drier than flake ice, so it’s better in dispensers, readily absorbs the flavor of the drink, and blends well for frozen drinks and smoothies. Since customers expect more ice when they’re getting this chewable type and since you can pack these small pieces in more tightly, you’ll save money on drinks. However, if you’re using nugget ice and offering refills on it, you’ll likely lose money. That’s not just because people will crunch the ice, but also because it melts more quickly than solid types thanks to all those nooks and crannies, which increase the surface area of the ice.

Commercial Crescent Ice Makers

Crescent Ice

Best ice for:

Soft drinks, mixed drinks, bagging, ice for dispensing

Best type of ice maker for:

Restaurants, convenience stores, dispensers, and most any commercial kitchen

Ice type names:

Hoshizaki is actually the only manufacturer that makes a commercial ice maker that produces crescent cubes. Though it’s unique to one company, crescent ice has a fan base, both among restaurateurs and customers, who will seek it out.

The scoop on the commercial ice machine:

The uses are the same as half cubes because the crescent cube is essentially Hoshizaki’s entry in that category. What differentiates it from the class is that curved side, which allows it to fill in a glass better, which means more ice and cheaper drinks. Though the shapes are different, the commercial ice machines that produce crescent cubes use the same process as other cubers.

Commercial Flake Ice Machines

Flake Ice

Best ice for:

Produce, chilled foods from a buffet, seafood or meat in a display, blended cocktails

Best type of ice machine for:

Buffets, grocery stores, fish markets, anywhere that puts chilled food on display, and healthcare and institutional uses

Ice type names:

Everyone actually agrees on this one: It’s flake ice.

The scoop on the commercial ice machine:

Flake ice also has some stock with ice chewers, though it’s less likely to show up in drinks unless they’re mixed or frozen. Its main chewed usage comes in healthcare institutions, where its small size makes it perfect for serving drinks without the possibility of patients choking on ice chunks. It’s ideal for food presentation settings like buffets and produce markets, and works beautifully in drinks that are primarily spirits, with no water to cut them. Its 73 percent ice-to-water ratio makes it light and chewable. Unfortunately, it also melts more rapidly, so it will disappear more quickly in drinks.

Commercial Gourmet Ice Makers

Gourmet Ice

Best ice for:

High-end liquors, drinks at premium eateries or events

Best type of ice maker for:

Upscale restaurants, event and banquet halls, and bars

Ice type names:

Gourmet ice is the standard, with only Manitowoc and Ice-O-Matic in the category.

The scoop on the commercial ice maker:

For Manitowoc, gourmet ice comes in a unique octagonal shape, while Ice-O-Matic’s is cylindrical. In each case, the individual piece is larger than other types of ice and has nearly a perfect ice-to-water ratio, meaning a beautiful, crystal-clear cube that is extremely effective at cooling beverages. Drop one or two into a hi-ball with some well-aged Scotch and you’ve got a premium presentation that high-dollar customers love. Because the pieces are so large and solid, you need fewer of them to do the job, and since they’re too substantial for chewers, you won’t be making repeat trips to the table to replace ice that was munched.