Common Questions About Undercounter Ice Makers
Why would I need an undercounter ice machine?
These ice machines fit snugly underneath a service counter, providing large amounts of ice without requiring the footprint of a full-size machine. Built-in ice makers, as they're sometimes known, enable bartenders to access quality ice without running to and from the kitchen with every order. This is especially handy for establishments, such as a poolside bar, where ice is a necessity, but a kitchen is unavailable, and space is limited. These smaller ice makers also fit well in an office, home, or hospitality setting, where a full-size ice machine would be overkill. Producing as much as 599 pounds of ice per day, these smaller ice makers can meet the needs of a range of establishments while fitting neatly under a counter.
What ice capacity do I need?
Capacity refers to how much ice the machine can hold at a time, as opposed to production rate, which indicates how much ice the machine can produce over a 24-hour period. Undercounter machines can produce far more ice per day than their bin can hold, so capacity becomes a limiting factor in the amount of usable ice provided. If you only need an office ice machine, a large capacity won't matter much, unless you're hoping to provide ice for the entire office at one time. Large capacities are most valuable in establishments that expect rush periods, such as concession stands during halftime of a sporting event. Even the most efficient ice makers can't produce ice instantaneously, so if you need huge quantities at one time, look for a high-capacity machine.
What are the differences between a pump drain and gravity drain?
A gravity drain is the standard drain style that enables condensed water to flow from the refrigeration unit, out the bottom of the machine, and into the building's water disposal system. A pump drain system consists of a motorized pump that helps this process along when gravity isn't enough. For most establishments, a gravity drain will sufficiently get the condensed water out of the way, but if there is no available drain for water to run into, a pump will enable operators to drain farther away from the unit. Consider where you intend to place your built-in ice maker and whether you will be able to conveniently connect it to your water system for draining.
What style of ice do I need?
Different undercounter ice makers produce different types of ice. We'll break down the four most common forms below to help you decide which one best fits your needs.
A longtime favorite with restaurants, this type is ideal for keeping beverages cold. Models can produce half, full, or crescent-style ice cubes. Half-cube is a better choice for soft drinks and is easier on blenders, while full cube is more popular in mixed drinks due to its sophisticated look and slow-melting properties. For truly high-end applications, such as serving premium liquors, there are manufacturers that make cubes measuring 1-inch or larger.
- Soft drinks
- Mixed drinks
- Liquor on the rocks
- Melts slowly
- Reduces beverage costs by displacing more liquid
This style of ice has become popular with soft drink consumers and ice crunchers alike because of its chewable texture and ability to absorb drink flavors. While not typically seen in sit-down restaurants, many quick-service restaurants have switched to this type of ice. For many consumers, it's known simply as Sonic ice – because of the drive-in restaurant that has sold millions of pounds by the cup and by the bag.
- Soft drinks
- Frozen, blended drinks
- Bag sales
- Soft, chewable texture
- Quickly cools drinks
- Absorbs the flavors of the beverage
This type of ice is frequently found in grocery stores and fish markets. It cools quickly and molds gently to items it is cooling, which means it doesn't damage delicate items such as seafood and produce. It is also frequently used in healthcare and long-term care because it's unlikely to pose a major choking hazard. This type of ice usually isn't found in the restaurant industry except on salad bars and in frozen drinks.
- Grocery stores and fish markets
- Salad bars
- Healthcare industry
- Cools quicker and molds easier than other types
- Low production costs
- Creates an attractive display
- Soft to reduce choking risks
Gourmet ice is best suited for mixed drinks. This ice is clearer and has fewer minerals than other types, however, to get this shape and quality, it uses more water and electricity. The silver lining is higher water usage means a denser, more solid cube that will displace more liquid and melt more slowly, preserving your drink quality.
- High-end bars and banquet facilities
- Pure and clear with a sophisticated look
- Reduces beverage costs by displacing more liquids