Sizing is the first step in deciding which model is best for you. Some are designed to be used in small suites to provide ice for just a few drinks at a time. Others produce several hundred pounds of ice and can be used in operations as large as grocery store delis.
To determine how much ice your machine needs to produce, consider what you will be using your machine for and how many customers you serve in a 24 hour period. Read our ice machine buyer's guide to find out how much ice your machine needs to produce. These models can create anywhere from 44 pounds of ice per day for the smallest swing-open door model to 772 in the largest flake ice model.
You must also consider how much ice you need your bin to store, with your busiest rush periods providing a baseline. For example, if your coffee shop is located near a college campus, you may see your largest volume of business around a class change. This is when you'll need the most ice. Make sure the bin can contain all the ice you'll need during this peak period because you'll be using it faster than the machine can produce.
Four types of ice are offered on these models: cube, nugget, flake, and gourmet.
A longtime favorite with restaurants, this type is a good choice for keeping beverages cold. Models can produce half, full, or crescent-style ice cubes. The half cube makes a better choice for soft drinks and is easier on blenders, while the full cube is more popular in mixed drinks due to its sophisticated look and slow-melting properties. For truly high-end applications, like serving premium liquors, there are manufacturers that also make a large cube of 1-inch squares and 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 due to its chewable texture and ability to absorb a drink's 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, thanks to the drive-in restaurant that has sold millions of pounds of it 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 delicate items like seafood and produce aren't damaged by it. It is also frequently used in healthcare and long-term care because of the fact 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, so risk of choking is low
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. There is a silver lining to that cloud, though. That higher water usage means a denser, more solid cube that will displace more liquid and melt more slowly, preserving the quality of your drinks.
- High-end bars and banquet facilities
- Pure and clear, with a sophisticated look
- Reduces beverage costs by displacing more liquids
Designed for low-volume applications such as employee break rooms, suites, and small coffee shops, models with swing-open doors are typically the smallest of the three types with a typical width of 15 inches. Some manufacturers call them “compact” models because of their small footprint. The swing-out door design makes them look more like a mini refrigerator than an ice machine, but it also allows for easier access to the ice bin. These are best for uses where space is limited and you don't need high volumes of ice. Nevertheless, the largest models can produce up to 85 pounds of ice. This amount is certainly not enough for a small restaurant, but it may be enough for a small bar.
When most people think of an undercounter ice maker, a model with a slide-up door is what comes to mind. These units can easily fit underneath a bar or kitchen counter and provide a wide access area to the ice storage. Widths vary from 15 to 30 inches, with the smallest models producing around 60 pounds of ice per day with a storage capacity of 36 pounds. The largest models can produce up to 400 pounds of ice per day and store 110 pounds. They also offer a wide variety of different ice types.