Commercial Ice Machine Terms

Commercial Ice Machine Terms

Air-Cooled: A type of condensing unit that uses air to cool refrigerant as it flows away from the evaporator. This is the most popular type of condensing unit, and in most cases the most economical in terms of upfront cost.

Antimicrobial: A term used to describe a material that kills or prevents the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria or fungus. Many manufacturers have antibacterial agents molded into the plastic parts of their ice machines.

Auger: An auger is a type of screw conveyor that uses a blade to move products from one end of a tube to the other. Auger blades are used in flake and nugget ice machines to scrape ice from the evaporator wall and move it up to where it can be compressed into nuggets or dispensed into a bin.



Bin: The bin is where ice is stored until it is dispensed or scooped out. These range widely in size. In most models they are easily accessible via a door, but on a dispenser the storage is built into the interior of the unit.

Bin Adapter: This equipment, also known as a top kit, allows you to mount an ice machine head onto a bin or dispenser that would otherwise not be compatible together. These kits sometimes include ice deflectors that help direct ice into the bin.

Bin Level Kit: One of these may be included with your ice machine or purchased and installed separately. A bin level is a mechanical sensor that bases ice production on how much ice is in the bin, letting you adjust ice production as needed and prevent bin overflows.

Bridge: This is the part of ice that connects each piece to those around it. It is only seen on cube and half-cube ice, as a result of the ice being made on a grid. Ice bridges may break when the ice is released into the bin, but in some cases it has to be broken manually with an ice scoop.

Cleaning Cycle: A cleaning cycle is an automated process many ice machines feature that cleans the interior of an ice machine, a process that includes removal of debris and buildup. This is an essential part of maintenance, but is completely separate from sanitizing. Units with extreme amounts of buildup may require manual scrubbing in addition to the cleaning cycle, and the bin must also be cleaned and sanitized separately.

Clearance: This is the amount of space required between the ice machine and adjacent surfaces, including walls and other equipment. Adequate clearance helps ensure proper air circulation so the ice machine can keep up optimal production rates.

Compressor: The compressor is a type of motor that keeps refrigerant moving around the refrigeration system. This part is included in the condensing unit.

Condenser Coils: Refrigerant is pushed through these narrow coils by the compressor, a process that allows the liquid to be cooled quickly either by air or water.

Condensing Unit: Also known as a 'cooling unit', this is a unit comprised of the compressor and condenser coils.

Cysts: A type of microbial contaminant sometimes present in water that is capable of causing severe gastrointestinal illness. While chlorine can kill some types of cysts, others have to be filtered out. To help increase food safety in ice, many operators specifically look for water filters that can remove cysts.



Dispenser: An ice dispenser uses sensors or a lever to activate mechanisms that push ice out of an opening. Because ice is dispensed without the bin having to be opened, these are often used in self-serve applications. Some dispensers come in the form of all-in-one pieces with ice-making components built in, while others are designed to interface with separate ice maker heads.

Displacement: A term for how much room ice takes up in a glass that would otherwise be filled with a drink. The more liquid ice is able to displace, the less soda or tea is needed to fill a glass, saving operators money.



Drain Pump: One of the two drain options available for ice machines. Uses a motorized pump to move water from the unit to a nearby drain. The pump can be included in the ice machine or sold and installed separately. Pumped drains are generally used when gravity drains cannot be.

ENERGY STAR: A program founded by the EPA that identifies and promotes energy- and water-efficient equipment. Ice machines can be rated on both energy consumption and water usage. Equipment that is ENERGY STAR certified will save the operator money over time compared to standard equipment due to decreased utility costs.

Evaporator: The surface where ice is formed. In a cube ice maker, the evaporator is a flat plate with a grid on it, with each opening in the grid being the size of the ice cube the unit is meant to make. In a flake or nugget ice machine, the evaporator is a cylinder. In each case, refrigerant tubes run along the evaporator are used to carry away heat and lower the metal surface’s temperature to promote freezing of water.

Extruder: In an ice machine that produces nugget ice, soft, wet ice is pushed through a narrow hole, forming it into tubular nuggets that are then dropped into a storage bin.

Gravity Drain: A type of drain that can be used when the floor drain is lower than the drain outlet and is located within 12 inches of the ice machine. It is not a powered drain, but instead uses gravity to move water to the drain.

Hard Water: Water that has high mineral content. Hard water is generally safe to consume, but it can cause mineral deposits to accumulate inside restaurant equipment and affect performance and efficiency.

Modular: Describes ice machines that come in more than one part. A modular ice machine usually consists of a head mounted on either a bin or dispenser. Some configurations require bin adapters to be compatible.

Nickel Plating: A method in which copper or steel is coated with a thin layer of nickel to protect it from corrosion. This technique is commonly used in the construction of evaporator plates. Because nickel is not as durable as stainless steel, nickel-plated evaporators must be cleaned with nickel-safe chemicals.

Refrigerant: A fluid used to transport heat in refrigeration systems, usually through copper tubing. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs such as R-134a) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs, such as R-404a) are commonly used in commercial ice makers, refrigerators, and freezers. Due to environmental concerns, those are being phased out in favor of R-290, a propane-based hydrocarbon.

Remote Condenser: This is a type of compressor that is located away from the actual ice-making components. This setup is valuable in hot kitchens where high temperatures could have an adverse effect on ice production. It’s also a good solution for an operator who does not want the condenser putting out excess heat and noise inside the building. The remote condensing unit is usually mounted on the roof. That installation will cost more up front, but a remote unit can provide savings over time with more efficient ice production and decreased strain on the HVAC system.

Sanitize: To remove microorganisms from a surface. This is an important step for food safety that is separate from cleaning and requires different chemicals, but can sometimes be completed as part of the unit's built-in cleaning cycle. Each manufacturer will provide instructions on how to sanitize its ice machines.

Scoop: A tool used to remove ice from a bin. These are needed due to health regulations that forbid scooping ice with cups. Scoop holders also keep scoops handy and keep your operation in compliance with health regulations that forbid scoops sitting in the ice.

Self-Contained: A term describing an ice machine that has the compressor and bin in one piece of equipment sold together. These can be an upright or undercounter ice machine or an ice dispenser.

Splash Curtain: See water curtain.

Stainless Steel: A metal alloy composed of steel, at least 10.5 percent chromium, and sometimes nickel. This alloy is durable, easy to clean, and resistant to corrosion. It is the most common material used in the construction of the exteriors of ice makers. In Hoshizaki units, it’s also used for the evaporators.

Sump: A tank where wastewater is collected. This is where the gravity or drain pump is attached. Many ice maker models have a periodic 'flush' or 'agitation' feature in the sump to help remove accumulated hard water deposits in the tank.

Top Kit: See bin adapter.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS): A measure of the minerals, salt, and metals in water that is read in parts-per-million (ppm). A reading can usually be determined with a water testing kit or by a water testing lab. If your tap water has high TDS, you may need to clean or delime your ice machine more often.

Undercounter: This term is used to describe many types of restaurant equipment, including ice makers, that are built to fit under a standard-height countertop. When it comes to ice makers, units in this category can produce 50 to 300 pounds of ice per day.

Water Cooled: A type of ice machine condenser that uses water, instead of air, to cool the refrigerant. These units require a constant flow of cool water, which makes them impractical for most locations that don't have recirculating water systems. However, this is the most efficient type of ice maker, which is why production capacities of water-cooled units are the standard for rating ice machines.

Water Curtain: A plastic part, sometimes called a splash curtain, that blocks the water flowing over the evaporator from splashing into the ice bin. On some commercial ice machines, this piece also serves as a built-in bin level that will halt ice production when the ice fills the bin enough to lift the curtain.

Water Distribution Tube: Used in all commercial ice makers with flat evaporator plates, this tube is located at the top of the evaporator and runs the length of that component. The tube has a series of small holes that expel water over the evaporator's surface, where it freezes into ice. The water that does not immediately freeze is recaptured and circulated back up to the water distribution tube to be sent across the evaporator again.

Water Filtration: These systems help remove dissolved solids, harmful microorganisms such as cysts, and undesirable flavors like chlorine from water. A water filtration system may be as simple as a single inline cartridge that is installed on the incoming water line, or as complex as a multi-cartridge manifold system. Water filtration can help extend the life of an ice machine and improve the ice it creates. No matter what type of filtration is used, it is important to change the cartridge(s) regularly.

Water to Ice Ratio: Describes what percentage of the finished ice product is frozen and what percentage is liquid. This term is most often used when describing nugget ice, which is a much wetter ice than harder, denser cube ice. Most nugget ice consists of 10 to 30 percent water.

Water Pump: An ice machine component that consists of an impeller and a motor that turns it, pushing water through the distribution tube to be released over the evaporator. A water pump must be calibrated carefully to ensure water is moved at the proper pressure through the tube. This component is often one of the first to be considered when troubleshooting a malfunctioning ice machine.