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Find the perfect ice maker for your food service business

The product of Scotsman's commercial nugget ice maker shows up in some pretty popular applications.

Choosing the right restaurant ice maker, like choosing any other piece of equipment for your commercial kitchen, starts with a very simple question: What am I serving? The answer will guide you throughout the rest of the process, so let’s start by finding it.

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What I'm servingWhy use a water filter?
Choosing the right sizeWhat accessories do I need?

Choosing a commercial ice machine based on what you’re serving

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Commercial cube ice makersCommercial flake ice makers
Commercial half cube ice makersCommercial gourmet ice makers
Commercial nugget ice makers

Commercial cube ice makers

Hoshizaki cuber ice

I’m serving: Soft drinks, mixed drinks, bagged ice, ice for dispensing

Perfect for: Bars, baggers, and many restaurants

Who calls them what?: Ice-O-Matic calls them a full cube commercial ice machine, Manitowoc calls them regular cube or dice (slightly smaller ice than regular cubes) commercial ice makers, Hoshizaki’s equivalent commercial cuber ice machine produces a rounded variety, and to Scotsman they’re commercial dice ice cubers.

Manitowoc ice cube

The scoop on the ice maker: These produce the larger rhomboid ice cubes (except for Hoshizaki’s round ice) you find in a lot of bars, in soft drinks in some restaurants, and especially in establishments in the American northeast and in Hispanic eateries. The solid build of full cube ice makes it the perfect choice for a stately glass carrying cola. The cubes’ substantial appearance has also established full cube commercial ice makers as the ice machine of choice for bars, where the clink of a full ice cube in a finely-crafted cocktail or in a hi-ball glass filled with premium liquor makes them a must. Because a commercial ice machine of this type produces a solid piece of ice with a high ice to water ratio, they offer 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.

If you know a cube ice maker is the right ice machine for you, skip ahead to learn about the next step in picking the right commercial ice machine or you can go straight to shopping KaTom’s selection of commercial ice makers. Or, read on to continue comparing ice machines.

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Commercial half-cube ice makers

Hoshizaki crescent cube ice

I’m serving: Soft drinks, mixed drinks, bagged ice, ice for dispensing

Perfect for: Restaurants, convenience stores, dispensers, and any commercial kitchen

Who calls them what?: Manitowoc and Scotsman call them half dice commercial ice makers, Hoshizaki has the crescent cuber ice machine, and Ice-O-Matic comes in with a half cube commercial ice machine.

Manitowoc half dice ice

The scoop on the ice maker: Half cubes are called that because they’re typically half the size of full cube or dice ice, though still in that square shape. Again, the exception is Hoshizaki, which produces its equivalent in a unique crescent shape. Their similarity to full cube ice explains why the uses are nearly identical.

Because it’s the most versatile type of ice, great for everything from restaurant drinks to bagging, half cube commercial ice makers are the best-selling type of ice machine. Half cubes or half dice ice is also the most popular of the options for most commercial applications, dominating the market for restaurant ice makers, and show up in convenience stores, dispensers, and baggers. Like full cubes, half cube ice offers a high ice to water ratio, meaning there isn’t a bunch of air trapped inside each piece. That means more ice in each cube, which means more cooling power and lower demand for ice, so you save money.

If you know a half cube ice maker is the right ice machine for you, skip ahead to learn about the next step in picking the right commercial ice machine or you can go straight to shopping KaTom’s selection of commercial ice makers. Or, read on to continue comparing ice machines.

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Commercial nugget ice makers

Hoshizaki cubelet ice

I’m serving: Fountain beverages, specialty soft drinks, blended cocktails, salad or produce from a serving line

Perfect for: Restaurants, anywhere people might chew ice, properly-equipped dispensers, medical facilities, and any eatery where drinks are made into a star (and a profit center)

Who calls them what?: Hoshizaki has cubelet ice machines, Scotsman calls them commercial nugget ice makers, Ice-O-Matic has billed theirs the Pearl Ice commercial ice machine, Manitowoc offers both nugget and tubular nugget restaurant ice makers, and Follett pops into the roster here with its Chewblet ice makers.

The scoop on the ice maker: These little chunks of frozen water have a dozen different names (Chewblet, nugget, Pearl, gem, chiplet, cubelet, and chunklet, for starters) but one thing that has made it famous: The attraction it holds for those who love to chew ice. Nugget ice has become the go-to for those who chew ice and the establishments that cater to them. But you don’t have to take our word for it. The Wall Street Journal several years ago recognized the growing allure of nugget ice commercial ice makers, and Sonic has built a business model around drinks built around nugget ice. So popular have the little crunchy nugget ice bits become that “Sonic ice”, as it’s known to die-hard fans, is sold by the bag, with some locations of the drive-in chain clearing dozens of bags a week.

Manitowoc tubular nugget ice

Beyond being super chewable, nugget ice is drier than flake ice, so it’s easier to use in dispensers, readily absorbs the flavor of the drink around it, and blends well for frozen drinks and smoothies.

Nugget commercial ice makers have a cylindrical evaporator through which water is run. The frozen crystals that collect on the inside of that unit are collected by an auger that either adds them to the bin or pushes the ice to an extruder that compacts them into pieces, depending on the restaurant ice machine being considered.

Since customers expect more ice when they’re getting this chewable type, you’re saving money on drinks. Many of the commercial ice machines that produce nugget ice also run more efficiently than other types, meaning you save money on utilities.

If you know a nugget ice maker is the right ice machine for you, skip ahead to learn about the next step in picking the right commercial ice machine or you can go straight to shopping KaTom’s selection of commercial ice makers. Or, read on to continue comparing ice machines.

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Commercial flake ice makers

Hoshizaki flaker ice

I’m serving: Produce, chilled foods from a buffet, seafood or meat in a display, blended cocktails

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

Who calls them what?: Ice-O-Matic and Manitowoc both call them flake ice machines, while Scotsman says they’re flaked ice makers and Hoshizaki prefers the name flaker commercial ice machine. Follett also makes an appearance in this category with its flake ice makers.

Manitowoc flake ice

The scoop on the ice maker: Unlike cubers, flake ice machines don’t have an evaporator plate. Rather, they have an evaporator tube, through which fresh water pours. The refrigerant runs through coils around that tube, creating ice on the inside of it. An auger then scrapes that off and carries it to the bin or dispenser. 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. It’s main chewed usage comes in healthcare institutions, where its small size make it perfect for serving drinks without the possibility of choking on ice chunks. It’s also ideal for food presentation settings like buffets and produce markets, where chilled food needs to be kept cold while still being on display for customers. Its 73 percent ice to water ratio makes it light and chewable since it has plenty of little air bubbles to soften the crunch, and the mix helps you save money on utilities by increasing the cooling power of each piece, thereby minimizing the amount of ice you need.

If you know a flake ice maker is the right ice machine for you, skip ahead to learn about the next step in picking the right commercial ice machine or you can go straight to shopping KaTom’s selection of commercial ice makers. Or, read on to continue comparing ice machines.

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Commercial gourmet ice makers

Ice-O-Matic gourmet ice

I’m serving: High-end liquors, drinks at premium eateries or events

Perfect for: Upscale restaurants, event and banquet halls, and bars

Who calls them what?: Gourmet ice is pretty much the standard, with both Manitowoc and Ice-O-Matic producing a gourmet ice machine.

Manitowoc gourmet ice

The scoop on the ice maker: For Manitowoc, gourmet ice comes in a unique octagonal shape. Ice-O-Matic’s commercial gourmet ice maker produces cylindrical pieces. 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. Put a few pieces into a larger glass and you’re ready to serve a black-tie dinner or at the city’s classiest eatery. 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.

If you know a gourmet ice maker is the right ice machine for you, continue reading to learn about the next step in picking the right commercial ice machine or you can go straight to shopping KaTom’s selection of commercial ice makers.

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Sizing your commercial ice machine

The next step in selecting the right ice machine for your needs is finding a properly-sized unit. A commercial ice maker from KaTom can produce from 24 to 1,053 pounds of ice per day, and bins from 10 to 927 pounds, offering supply to meet demand from the smallest eatery to the largest convention hall. See the table below for some idea about how much ice your establishment is likely to need.

As for the dimensions of the machine itself, KaTom offers undercounter ice makers, head and bin combination ice makers, head-only ice makers that help you save money by just replacing the works of an aging ice machine, and outdoor ice makers, that offer the opportunity for chilled drinks at outdoor events or in patio serving areas. KaTom also stocks commercial ice dispensers that make portioning ice easy and allow for customers getting their own ice, cutting down on staff demands.

Ice-O-Matic GEM0450 Ice Maker
Your businessProjected average usageMost common ice types
Full-service restaurant1.5 lbs. per seat turnCube, half cube
Fast food restaurant6-14 oz. per 8- to 24-oz. drinkHalf cube, nugget
Full-service bar3 lbs. per seat turnGourmet or cube for liquors, flake or nugget for cocktails
Hotel or motel5 lbs. per room per day (more if you allow filling of ice chests)Cubes, half cubes
Fresh food displays40-50 pounds per cubic foot per dayFlake
Healthcare patient ice8-10 pounds per bed per dayNugget or flake ice
Distribution/bagged iceMultiply bags per day by pounds in each bagBased on preference

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Filtered water means a purer product from your commercial ice machine

Ice-O-Matic water filter

Providing the best-tasting and clearest-looking ice to your customers is crucial if you want to set your drinks and your commercial kitchen apart from the competition. KaTom sells water filters for restaurant ice machines, as well as replacement cartridges for those water filters, that allow you to achieve both those qualities by ensuring only clean water enters the evaporator.

Not only does putting a water filter on the intake pipe for your restaurant ice maker protect the purity of the frozen product, it also helps extend the life of the machine itself. Particularly in areas with hard water, impurities flowing through the commercial ice maker can collect or calcify inside the works. That can force you to pay for more service calls and can make the machine wear out more quickly.

You may even add value to your restaurant ice maker purchase by equipping the system with a water filter. Ice-O-Matic extends its typical three-year evaporator warranty to seven years if you use one of its water filters when you install it, then replace the filter cartridge regularly. Most manufacturers recommend doing that every four to six months, depending on the size and usage of the machine. One of KaTom’s customer service representatives should be able to help you determine the proper timing for your particular situation.

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It’s all about accessories for commercial ice machines

From scoops to ice buckets to serving caddies, KaTom has the accessories you need to put your commercial ice machine to best use. Shop our full selection of these handy add-ons for restaurant ice makers.

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Contact KaTom for more scoop on restaurant ice makers

If you need more help making a decision on a commercial ice machine, please contact one of our helpful customer service representatives at 1-800-541-8683 or through e-mail at info@katom.com.