While known best for their ability to keep half-pint cartons cold in school cafeteria lines, a milk cooler can actually be a multipurpose cold storage piece. You can also use one to keep dairy cold in back-of-house operations or to provide a chilled pass-thru between the kitchen and the bar for bottled beer. A powerful refrigeration system offers cooling either by forcing chilled air through the top and bottom of the interior, or by chilling the walls of the unit, allowing this equipment to keep dense liquids cold. Many models have main lids on top with secondary doors on the front that cannot open unless the main doors are open. This design makes it easier to get crates in and out, and for small children to serve themselves from the cooler. More
When you start your search for a milk cooler, the first aspect to consider is how large of a model you'll need. The main dimension to keep in mind is crate capacity. Since milk is usually shipped and held in crates, this also tells you how many cartons the unit will hold.
The smallest models hold eight milk crates, while the largest hold double that. To determine which size is best for your operation, first figure out what type of milk container will be going inside the unit. Each crate can hold 64 half-pint cartons, so even the smallest unit can hold 512 half-pints. A crate can also accommodate four one-gallon jugs at a time. This allows for the smallest milk cooler to hold up to 32 gallons of milk. After you've determined what type of container you will be storing, figure out how much of it you will use between deliveries. Your cooler needs to be big enough to keep an adequate supply of milk between deliveries.
All models have lids on the top. However, you can purchase a model that also has a secondary door on the front for easier access. These doors cannot be opened unless the main ones on top are opened. The purpose of these doors is to make loading and removing milk crates easier. Since a fully-loaded crate of milk weighs 35 pounds, this can be a useful option, especially in a high-volume establishment.
Side-mounted doors also have a second benefit: they make it easier for young children to see and reach inside the cooler for milk cartons. If you are buying a unit for use in an elementary school or daycare, you may wish to have side-mounted doors simply to make it easier for young children to get cartons out of the cooler.
Models are available in either stainless steel or a combination of stainless steel and vinyl.
- Stainless steel is resistant to dents, scratches, and corrosion. However, it shows scratches and smudges easily. Because people will inevitably leave their fingerprints on these machines, this is something to consider. Steel is also more expensive and is typically only found on top-of-the-line models.
- Coolers made with a combination of stainless and vinyl are available. Since people frequently put full milk crates down on the top-mounted doors, stainless steel doors are used here to prevent dents and damage. The rest of the body is white laminate for lower costs and for easy cleaning. This material is generally durable, though rust may form underneath if the vinyl peels or chips.
A milk box is available with one of three different types of interior construction: galvanized steel, stainless steel, or white aluminum.
- Galvanized steel interiors are a low-cost, corrosion-resistant option. They are less expensive than stainless steel, but are more difficult to clean since this is a rougher material.
- Stainless steel interiors are more expensive, but more durable than galvanized steel. Since there are no pores or cracks in this material, it is also easier to clean. This is very important for these machines as milk is bound to leak out from faulty cartons, which can lead to bacterial growth and a foul odor.
- Lately, white aluminum has become a popular option for these models. It is also corrosion resistant and smooth for easy cleaning. It is less expensive than stainless steel because it isn't as durable, though it is also strong enough to support heavy, full milk crates.
There are several specialty options available to make a model perfect for your establishment. For example, you can purchase a built-in model that is designed to fit in counters, making it a good fit for cafeteria lines. Floor drains are also available to make cleaning easier by allowing you to spray out the cooler and have the water carry the spill down the drain. Some models have tray slides available that allow customers to rest their food trays as they go through the line. Dual-sided models have doors on two sides and are designed for being mounted in the middle of a split cafeteria line. That allows these to serve customers on each side at the same time. Finally, a remote condenser is also available on some models. This option allows heat from the condenser to be dispersed outside, keeping the inside of the building cooler and cutting down on the noise in your serving line.