Go Upscale with Gourmet Ice

A Guide to Gourmet Ice Machines

Since diners have come to expect craft cocktails on the drink menu, gourmet ice machines have become a popular choice for proprietors of bars, lounges, and hotels who want to elevate their drink presentations. In addition to providing an enhanced visual appeal, the heftier sizes of top hat and large cube ice mean they melt more slowly than small cubes. This makes gourmet varieties perfect for specialty cocktails, traditional mixed drinks, and pours of liquor served on the rocks, as they allow guests to enjoy drinks without them becoming quickly watered down.

There are fewer gourmet ice maker models than there are in other ice machine categories since this type of ice is a relatively niche item. Still, foodservice and hospitality operators will need to choose between multiple gourmet ice machines to find the one that best fits their needs.

Gourmet Ice Machine Options

As with other types of ice, gourmet ice has been given a different name by nearly every company that provides the equipment to make it.

types of top hat ice

Eurodib imports Italian-made BREMA gourmet ice makers. This version of the oversized ice is simply referred to as an ice cube and measures 1310 by 1410 by 1310 inches.

The gourmet ice produced by Hoshizaki ice making equipment is called top hat ice, which measures 1 inch tall with a 78-inch top diameter. The company also produces a gourmet square cube with approximate measurements of 1 inch by 1 inch by 114 inches.

Ice-O-Matic offers the grande cube. This type of gourmet ice measures 114 inches wide, 118 inches deep, and 78 inches tall.

Manitowoc Ice has been innovating ice makers for more than 50 years, but the company's big shot cube may be its most impressive yet. It measures 2 inches tall, 112 inches wide, and 134 inches thick, making it the largest gourmet ice cube. Manitowoc offers self-contained floor models and modular units.

Gourmet ice makers from Scotsman will produce a gourmet ice cube that measures 1 inch by 118 inch by 114 inch. Scotsman primarily offers undercounter, self-contained models in this category.

Choosing a Gourmet Ice Machine

It's important to know how much ice your gourmet ice maker will need to produce each day to keep up with customer demand. When calculating this amount, it's best to consider your maximum requirement and to purchase a unit that produces more than you need, rather than less. After all, running out of ice on a busy night can be detrimental to beverage service and customer satisfaction, especially when your guests have come to expect an enhanced presentation. Production capacities for ice makers are based on ideal ambient and water temperatures that may not be possible in the typical commercial kitchen environment, so your machine will most likely produce less than its maximum estimated production capacity.

Gourmet ice makers are available as self-contained undercounter units, floor models, and ice maker heads that can be combined with separate ice bins. The daily production capacity of an undercounter model will generally be lower than a larger head-and-bin combo or a floor model, as most of them are rated to produce less than 100 pounds each day. Gourmet ice machine heads and floor models may be able to produce several hundred pounds of ice, with daily capacities ranging from 100 to nearly 900 pounds of gourmet ice per day.

Gourmet Ice Maker Options & Accessories

Gourmet ice machines produce larger ice cubes, so they may require more energy and water to complete each cycle. Purchasing an ENERGY STAR ice maker can help offset these potential costs, as they have met stringent guidelines for energy and water efficiency. The type of compressor your ice maker has can also impact its efficiency, but most gourmet ice machines are air-cooled units rather than water-cooled. They are not meant to produce a high volume of ice, so you are more likely to find self-contained units, rather than machines with remote compressors.

Because most gourmet ice makers are self-contained models designed to fit under a counter, it's important to determine whether you will need a gravity drain or a pump drain. A gravity drain can be used in conjunction with a floor drain if the floor drain is not too far away from the machine. However, if the floor drain is not located at a downward angle that would allow water to drain naturally, a pump will be needed.

When installing an ice machine of any type, you should ensure the machine's location can guarantee any clearance requirements dictated by the manufacturer. Some machines are front-breathing, which allows for no-clearance installation on the sides. This can be a great option for small kitchens that need more ice than can be provided by a countertop model. To extend your gourmet ice machine's lifespan, it should also be cleaned and maintained according to manufacturer recommendations.

To improve the quality of the water being used with your gourmet ice maker, consider pairing it with an ice maker filter. This will remove minerals from the water to create purer ice and reduce the buildup of scale in your machine. Other ice maker parts and accessories, including bar ice bins, ice totes, and scoops and shovels, can improve your operation's workflow and increase its efficiency.