Flake Ice Machines
Flake ice is soft, similar to a coarse snow, which makes it ideal for forming around irregular shapes. It doesn't have the hard edges of cube or half-cube ice, so it is often the ice of choice for cooling fish and produce, as it is less likely to bruise those products. The ice's ability to conform additionally helps it maintain a much larger contact surface than harder types of ice, ensuring products are kept at food-safe temperatures for longer. Its malleability also makes it appealing in healthcare, since it can be used to ice wounds and can be molded around test tubes and samples for storage. Flake ice is also often given to healthcare patients who can enjoy the ice without the risk of choking.
Flake Ice Machine Options
Flake ice machines are produced by Hoshizaki, Ice-O-Matic, Manitowoc Ice, and Scotsman, with options including modular and undercounter units. Undercounter ice makers can produce from 181 to 501 pounds of ice per day and can fit under a standard-size counter, making them ideal for small delis and cafes, and as backup units for larger machines in restaurants.
Modular units are ice maker heads paired with bins, and in some cases may require bin adapter kits for the two to fit together. These machines are capable of much higher production, as much as 2,455 pounds per day. Ice maker heads can also be installed on dispensers to equip self-serve stations, but some dispensers are also available as all-in-one packages that each combine a flaker and a dispenser into one self-contained unit. The following table can help you compare the models offered by each manufacturer.
|Undercounter Production (lbs./day)||303-501||N/A||181-329||395|
|Undercounter Bin Storage (lbs.)||110-250||N/A||60-88||80|
|Modular Production (lbs./day)||663-2,280||540-1,149||329-2,409||450-2,455|
|Energy Star Available?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Water Cooled Compressor Available?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Outdoor Model Available?||Yes||No||No||No|
How Flake Ice is Made
Much like nugget ice makers, flakers make use of cylindrical evaporators and augers. Refrigeration coils are wrapped around a hollow cylinder through which water runs. Inside the cylinder is an auger with a blade spiraling up its length. As the water freezes into thin sheets on the wall of the cylinder, the auger scrapes the ice off and pushes it toward the top. In a nugget machine, this is where the ice would be compacted and extruded into nugget shapes, but because the goal with flake ice is a soft, loose final product, the ice is merely pushed out the top of the cylinder and moved into the storage bin.
Because flake ice is not compressed, it retains the excess water that is generally removed from nugget ice. This water content makes flake ice an uncommon choice for drinks other than blended frozen cocktails because of its tendency to melt quickly. However, this high water content and the way it's produced also results in the ice being soft and malleable, making flake ice makers ideal for operations chilling everything from food on a buffet to wounds in a hospital.
Flake Ice Maker Maintenance
In order to keep your flake ice machine producing the ice you need, it is important to stay up to date on maintenance and pay attention to when service is needed. Below is a list of maintenance tasks that should be completed regularly to keep your flaker in peak operating condition:
- Clean or replace air filters. Some ice maker models have air filters that can simply be cleaned off and put back in, while others have replaceable filters. Either way, the air filter should be checked regularly, so ensure you install your unit in a place where the filter can be accessed easily. How often you need to check the filter will depend on the environment where the unit is placed. In kitchens with a lot of debris in the air, such as bakeries and pizzerias, those filters will need to be checked and cleaned or replaced much more often than in other commercial kitchens.
- While air filters keep out the majority of debris, they cannot catch everything, so every time you clean your air filter it is important to also check the machine's condenser coils. In most cases, any buildup is just dust, which is easily brushed away. However, in some cases there may be a grease buildup that will need to be cleaned away carefully to ensure proper operation.
- Change water filter cartridges regularly to make sure your machine is producing palatable ice at the rate it should be. Water filters keep sediment out of the ice machine and help prevent scale buildup, which can negatively affect ice production. Many companies offer a subscription-style service or ongoing reminders when it is nearing time to purchase a new water filter cartridge.
- Clean and sanitize your flake ice maker regularly. Even with high-quality water filters, some buildup will occur on internal components that needs to be cleaned out. Flaker cleaning procedures are different from those of a cube ice maker, so follow all instructions in your user's manual carefully.
- Every time you clean and sanitize your flaker, take the time to visually inspect all seals and bearings. Some ice machines have roller bearings that may occasionally require grease or need to be replaced, and others have graphite bearings that may wear out over time. Internal water seals and external door seals should be checked for any air or water leakage to ensure energy efficiency and prevent any interior damage. In most cases, seals and bearings can be easily replaced in the field if needed.
Flaker Features & Accessories
Finding the right features and accessories for your flake ice maker can make operations simpler and more productive. ENERGY STAR certified models are available to help operators save money in utilities. Outdoor-rated ice makers are also available for outdoor bars or pool areas. Flake ice makers with computerized controls are available to help you customize ice production and decrease waste.
No matter what you are using flake ice for, you will need a way to remove it from the bin and get it where it needs to be. The following accessories will help you scoop and transport flake ice where you need it.
- Ice scoops are available in sizes as small as 2 ounces and as large as 120 ounces for filling glasses and small- to medium-size containers.
- For filling buffets and chilled displays, an ice shovel may be more useful, as it is able to fill a large area much faster than a scoop.
- Ice scoop holders are also important, as they keep the scoops nearby and clean, in accordance with health regulations that forbid the ice scoop being stored in the ice.
- For transporting flake ice, ice totes and caddies can be used to simplify the process.