Cold/Juice Drink Machine Buyers' Guide
Cold drinks are an easy way to add revenue to a convenience store or make drink dispensing easy at a buffet. While most cold drink machines share many similarities, the way the drinks are cooled, mixed, and served can vary, so finding the right fit for the drinks you wish to serve can ensure the best drink quality for your customers.
The smallest models have one drink bowl and the largest offer four, allowing you to provide a wide variety of drinks. Determine how much counter space you can dedicate to your beverage dispenser and how many drink varieties you would like to offer to find the best size for you. Cold drink dispensers start as narrow as 7-inches wide, and are available in sizes as large as 28-1/2 inches wide.
In addition to the number, you must also consider the size of the bowls. Bowls are available in a range of capacities, from as small as 1 gallon to as large as 5.4 gallons. The amount of sales of each drink you expect and how often you will be able to refill the bowls can help you decide what size bowl you need. Some models, such as the Grindmaster-Cecilware C-3D-16 have two different bowl sizes in one unit, allowing you to offer more of your most popular drink.
Another measurement to take into consideration is the size of the cups you plan to use. Cup clearance on juice drink dispensers range from 7- to 11-inches high, so make sure that the largest size cup you plan to offer will fit between the pouring valve and drip tray.
Drink dispensers are built with one of two types of standard methods for mixing drinks. One type, called a 'bubbler', uses a spray mechanism to move product from the bottom of the bowl to the top, resulting in what looks like a fountain. This creates a dynamic, always-moving display that attracts customers, as well as keeping the drink mixed and preventing any sediment from settling at the bottom. This type of mixing is ideal for low-sediment products that do not foam, such as powdered, concentrated, or syrup-based drink mixes.
Other machines use impellers and agitators that spin in the bottom of the bowl to mix drinks. This type is better for dairy and high-sediment drinks like fresh juice. Drinks that produce froth when mixed too quickly, such as coffee and tea, are also recommended for use in a dispenser with an agitator. Some models feature adjustable agitator speeds, so you can find the perfect mixing speed for the drinks you're serving.
Many beverage dispensers feature clear polycarbonate bowls that allow the drink to be seen from all sides. These often feature visible measurement markings on the bowl, making keeping track of sales and knowing when to refill simple. This type of bowl is refrigerated from the bottom or through an ice core.
Some models are available that have the bowls surrounded by a plastic casing that houses refrigeration components, allowing the drink to be cooled on three sides. This is more energy-efficient, and also means the blank side panels can be used for merchandising graphics. Most companies offer a few graphics options, or you can have yours custom-made.
All of the bowls are made of a clear polycarbonate, but base construction varies. Some models have an economical plastic base, while others feature stainless steel, which is more durable and easy to clean.
Another construction factor to consider is how easily the components of the drink dispenser are removed for cleaning. Some models require the user to reach down into the bottom of the bowl to remove it, while others have an easy bowl-release mechanism. The bowl, pour valve, and drip tray must all be cleaned regularly, so a model which allows those pieces to be easily removed can help make maintenance simple.