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.
When selecting an ice machine, the most important thing to keep in mind aside from production rate is the shape of the ice that the machine makes. Each type of ice has its own benefits and drawbacks. The following infographic will introduce you to the commercial ice makers KaTom sells based on the types of ice each produces. To learn more about each type of ice, check out the buying guide just below the graphic.
Table of Contents
- Cube Ice Makers
- Half-Cube Ice Machines
- Nugget Ice Machines
- Crescent Ice Makers
- Flake Ice Machines
- Gourmet Ice Makers
Commercial Cube Ice Makers
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:
- Ice-O-Matic: full cube
- Manitowoc: regular cube (larger) or dice (smaller)
- Hoshizaki: square cube
- Scotsman: dice ice
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 of this ice type makes it perfect for soda or spirits. This type has a high ice-to-water ratio, which offers maximum cooling and a slower melt, pleasing customers and cutting down on production needs. They’re also great for large-volume applications, including bagging and bulk cooling.
Commercial Half-Cube Ice Machines
Best ice for:Soft drinks, mixed drinks, frozen cocktails, bagging, ice for dispensing
Best type of ice machine for:Restaurants, convenience stores, dispensers, and most any commercial kitchen
Ice type names:
- Ice-O-Matic: half cube
- Manitowoc: half dice
- Hoshizaki: crescent cube (see below)
- Scotsman: half dice & small cube
The scoop on the commercial ice machine:Half cubes are typically smaller versions of cube or dice ice, though the Hoshizaki equivalents are crescent cubes, which we cover later in this guide. 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 diversity 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 piece of ice that won't water down drinks as quickly, has more cooling power, and lowers production needs.
Commercial Nugget Ice Makers
Best ice for:Fountain beverages, specialty soft drinks, and blended cocktails
Best type of ice maker for:Restaurants, bars, convenience stores, properly-equipped dispensers, and any eatery where drinks are made into stars - and profit drivers
Ice type names:
- Ice-O-Matic: Pearl Ice®
- Manitowoc: nugget, tubular nugget
- Hoshizaki: cubelet
- Scotsman: nugget
- Follett: Chewblet® Ice
- Other: pebble ice, pellet ice, Sonic ice
The scoop on the commercial ice maker:These little chunks of ice have several 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 each week. The eateries traditionally relied on Scotsman commercial ice machines, though other manufacturers have made 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 in 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, count on spending more money on ice. 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
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 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:Its 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 a glass better, which means more ice and less drink, cutting costs. Though the shapes are different, the commercial ice machines that produce crescent cubes use the same process as other cubers.
Commercial Flake Ice Machines
Best ice for:Produce, chilled foods on a buffet, seafood or meat in a display, blended cocktails, medical uses
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 is also the ice of choice for packing around injuries, since it forms easily and doesn't have corners to poke into flesh. 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
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:
- Ice-O-Matic: Gourmet Ice
- Manitowoc: Gourmet Ice
- Hoshizaki: Top Hat Ice
- Scotsman: Gourmet/Top Hat Ice
The scoop on the commercial ice maker:For Manitowoc, gourmet ice comes in a unique octagonal shape, while Ice-O-Matic, Hoshizaki, and Scostman have cylindrical ice that looks like a top hat. 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.
Also included in this category are specialty ice styles that are even larger than the standard gourmet ice. Ice-O-Matic offers the grande cube, a large, solid piece of ice that is 11⁄4 inches wide by 11⁄8 inches deep by 7⁄8 inches high. Manitowoc has a machine that produces the Big Shot cube, a clear, dense, 60-gram cylindrical cube ideal for drinks on the rocks.