Guide to Commercial Ice Machines

This commercial ice machine buying guide will provide you with information about all of the important factors you need to consider as you decide which ice machine to purchase. For more detailed information about any of these factors or any of our ice machines, be sure to contact [link] one of our helpful sales representatives. We're always happy to help you get the information you need in order to make the best decision possible for your needs.

Size of the Unit The size of a commercial ice machine is measured by how much space the unit takes up in your facility, how many pounds of ice it produces per day, and how much ice it can store in the bin.

In order to find a unit that suits your space needs, you'll need to measure the location where you plan to store the ice making machine and compare it to available models. Ice machines (and most of the restaurant equipment) are generally measured based on how wide they are. Most stand-alone commercial ice making machines have a standard depth of about 24 inches and a height of about 30 inches, though the height and depth vary based on the type of machine you purchase.

Manufacturers have standard widths for commercial ice machines that you'll need to choose from. For example, Manitowoc produces about 40% of the ice machines on the market. Their ice making machines come in five standard sizes:

  • Manitowoc QM series - compact ice machines that are 15 - 20 inches wide
  • Under-the-counter counter - smaller height, but 26-30 inches wide
  • 22 inches wide
  • 30 inches wide
  • 48 inches wide

Make sure that you consider the amount of ice that you will need as well. Even if you think a small ice making machine will help ou save space, the small ice making machine may not produce and hold the amount of ice in the ice bin that you need to effectively operate your business.

Size of the Ice Bin
The ice bin is the storage unit underneath the machine itself where the ice is held after it is produced. Ice bins are measured based on how many pounds of ice they can store. There are three sizes for ice bins: standard, hotel dispenser and countertop dispenser. A small bin may store only 150 pounds of ice, such as the Scotsman SBX215 . A larger bin may store about 1,500 pounds of ice, such as this Manitowoc Bin Model B-1200-48. Bins can be interchanged and used with different ice machines - even different brands, in most cases. For example, a SerVend ice bin may fit onto a Manitowoc ice machine. (You'll need to check specifications before purchasing the separate units.) However, while you can put a smaller ice machine on a bigger bin (for an additional price), you cannot put a bigger ice machine on a small bin. After all, if the machine produces too much ice for the size of the bin, the ice will overflow.

Type of Ice Making Machine Unit
There are three main ice machine unit types: compact, stand-alone, and under-the-counter. In order to choose the ice machine that's right for you, consider your facility lay-out and space requirements. For example, a bar may benefit from having an under-the-counter machine that provides easy access to the ice without taking up a lot of space behind a tight bar.

Type of Commercial Ice Machine There are two types of ice machines: an ice dispenser, such as the popular SerVend M-90 Ice Dispenser [] and a stand-alone machine, such as the Ice-O-Matic Ice Maker []. An ice dispenser distributes ice into a bin or bucket on demand once a lever is depressed (sort of like a soda machine). A stand-alone machine produces ice around the clock and stores the ice in a bin until it is ready to be used.

Some ice machines, such as the Follett DEV1350SG dispense ice into a chute that makes it easy to bag the ice. This type of machine is very common in physical therapy offices and school gymnasiums.

Most brands offer different options for you to choose from. Restauranticemachines, click here for examples of Scotsman ice dispensers and here for examples of Scotsman ice making machines. You should be able to easily notice the difference between the two types of ice making machines.

Air Cooled, Water Cooled, or Remote Cooled Ice Machine Ice machines are cooled in one of three ways: air cooled, water cooled and remote cooled. About 95% of the ice machines we sell are air cooled. About 4% are remote cooled and about 1% are water cooled. Many machines can come in either an air cooled or water cooled form, but you can to make the choice before you buy the machine. The Manitowoc S-300 ice maker is an example of a machine that comes with both options. Here's the difference between the three options:

    Air Cooled - Air cooled machines operate in much the same way that a window fan would. They push hot air out of the machine and into an external environment. Air cooled ice machines are energy efficient and less expensive and wasteful to run than water cooled machines. However, when they push hot air out of the ice machine, they push it into the environment in which the ice machine is located. This hot air can be uncomfortable, especially in small spaces, such as a kitchen.

    Water Cooled - Water cooled ice machines are the least popular option because they tend to be noisy and wasteful. Ice machines operate around the clock to produce ice and keep it cold. In order to operate a water cooled machine, the machine has to filter water through its system in order to cool it down - kind of like a radiator in a car. The excess water is excreted from the machine and sent into the sewage lines. Water cooled machines not only waste large amounts of water, but they cost most when employers have to pay to purchase water and to manage water as sewage.

    However, water cooled machines are a good option for organizations that have confined space in which to store their ice machines, such as a small store in a mall. Because water cooled ice machines do not produce as much heat as air cooled machines, they also may be more comfortable in small kitchens. While many businesses don't want to pay the extra costs for water and sewage, water cooled machines may be cost-effective for businesses that have a well-based water system.

    Remote Cooled - This type of cooling system uses a remote evaporator to cool the system. The evaporator is usually stored on the roof of a building or in another room. In such a case, the remote cooling system is less noisy and does not produce uncomfortable amount of heat. Manitowoc is the only ice machine manufacturer that makes remote cooling units that not only put the evaporate in a remote location, but that also puts the compressor in a remote location as well, ensuring unbeatably quiet ice machine operations.

Many brands of ice machine manufacturers make models that come as either air cooled, water cooled and remote cooled machines, including Manatowoc, Scotsman, SerVend and Ice-O-Matic.

Type (Shape) of Ice Dispensed There are several different types of ice that ice machines can produce. Many ice machines are equipped to produce multiple types of ice, but the purchaser has to decide which type they need before buying the machine so that the ice machine capabilities can be properly configured. Here are the standard types of ice you can choose from:

  • Cubed
  • 1/2 cube
  • Flake (also called "shaved ice)- consistency is similar to snow; you may have seen it used to pack fish in a fish market; not good for beverages
  • Nugget - consistency is similar to sleet; very small round balls of ice
  • Crescent shape - Hoshizaki is the only manufacturer that produces crescent shaped ice

While many machines offer you the option to purchase a cubed or half-cubed ice type, ou may not find machines that give you the option of choosing between cubed and flake or nugget ice.

Automatic Cleaning Function Manitowoc is the only ice machine manufacturer that offers the automatic cleaning option.

Energy Efficiency of the Ice Machine Most of our air cooled and remote cooled ice machines are Energy Star efficient and rated by the CEE and CEC. However, water cooled machines do not meet the energy efficiency rating for some states, such as California, Oregon, and Washington state. Check with the guidelines in your state if you are considering purchasing a water cooled machine. When it comes to getting an ice machine that meets your space, production, and ice type requirements, keep in mind that many machines can be customized to suit your needs. For example, you can change the type of ice bin and select your preferred type of ice. However, these customizations need to be made before you purchase the ice machine, in most cases.

Contact us me today for more information about any of our ice machines, brands, or other ice machine variations. Always happy to help you find an ice machine that's perfect for your needs.


CKitchen, an E Friedman company, is a FULLY AUTHORIZED Food Service Equipment and Supplies Dealer that represents all major brands of commercial kitchen equipment. Since our inception in 1984, we focused on quality products and upscale projects. Our projects division is responsible for some of the largest food service projects in the country including Hotels, Restaurants and Institutions. We are loyal to our customers as well as our employees. Our average sales professional has been with us for over 8 years. This accounts for the fact that they are some of the most knowledgeable in the Restaurant Equipment industry. We continue to strive for value added service while maintaining the lowest prices in the industry. The bottom line is that we would like you to be pleased with your purchase today and for years to come...
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