Frozen Drink Machines Buyers' Guide
A frozen drink machine, often called a slush machine or margarita machine, lets your business offer a number of quality frozen or chilled beverages. Having cold drinks available can increase sales and give customers a refreshing break during the hotter months or sweet treat year-round. Since these machines are available in a number of different types and styles, it's important to know what you want to serve and how much you will need to serve each day before investing in one.
Uses for a Slush Machine
Slush machines are best known for serving slushies in convenience stores or concession stands and margaritas in restaurants or bars, but they can also be a great way to offer products like frozen lemonade or coffee. If you are planning to utilize your drink dispenser as a margarita machine or frozen cocktail machine, make sure that it is meant to freeze alcohol, as not all dispensers can achieve the well-below-freezing temperatures required.
No matter what type of drink you want to offer, your drink mix will likely come in the form of a liquid concentrate or granulated powder, both of which need to be mixed thoroughly before being added to the machine's hopper. Some machines are recommended for use with mixes that fall within a certain brix level or ratio, which indicates the percentage of the weight of sugar in the mix. Consult with your food supplier to understand which options will work with your machine.
Slush machines are equipped with hoppers that hold your product. Hopper capacities are measured either in quarts or gallons, so remember that there are 4 quarts in 1 gallon when deciding which capacity is right for you. Hopper capacities range from 1.5 to 6 gallons, although some heavy-duty models can hold up to 35 quarts, or 8.75 gallons. These machines might have one hopper or as many as four; multiple hoppers will let you offer a wider variety of product types or flavors. The product within these hoppers is constantly agitated by an auger, which maintains the final product's consistency. It's recommended that operators not let the product get low enough to expose the auger, as this lowers the quality of the product and could damage the machine.
It's also important not to fill your hopper to more than the maximum, since the frozen product will occupy more space than its liquid form. Most machines will offer a freeze mode and a chill mode that allows you to safely hold products in the machine overnight. To cut down on the time it takes for the product to reach its optimal cold temperature, consider pre-chilling your mix before adding it to the hopper.
Frozen drink machines are manufactured to fit on countertops, but how much space they ultimately take up depends on the size of the model, as a slush machine with only one hopper will take up less space than one with three hoppers. The compressor type also impacts the space requirement. These machines are generally self-contained and air-cooled, although some manufacturers offer water-cooled models.
Air-cooled models should not be used in conditions with temperatures exceeding 80 degrees F, as this will impact the machine's ability to freeze and chill properly. Because of the heat produced and the fact that most models have air vents on their sides, you won't be able to place your slush machine right next to a wall or another machine. However, some models will come with bottom-mounted air outlets that allow for side-by-side installation.
Slush machines are available with a number of aesthetic variations. Some models are finished in black or stainless steel, or a combination of the two. Although many hoppers are clear, polycarbonate bowls that allow customers to see the product being mixed, machines being utilized in a busy commercial kitchen or other behind-the-scenes area might not benefit from that visual interest. Most slush machines have a graphics display across the top that might be back-lit, drawing customers in and advertising what products you have.
It's important to consider how easily cleaned or maintained a machine might be. Some are constructed with fewer parts for easier maintenance, while others have parts that can be sanitized in a commercial dishwasher. Many models come with removable drip trays, dispensers that won't drip during use, and touchpad displays that guide the programming, cleaning, and maintenance processes.