Choosing the Right Ice Machine

 Shopping for a new ice machine can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re in the market for the first time. These units are critical for most food service operations, so choosing the wrong ice machine for your needs can spell disaster in the long-run. While ice machines have many common functional characteristics (they take water, freeze it into ice, and dispense), there are far more differences than there are similarities. So which one is right for you? 


There are two factors that play into your decision on the appropriately-sized ice machine for your restaurant.

  1. How much ice do you consume or plan to consume daily? Consider peak usage during the hottest times of the year, as running out of ice should not be an option! Restaurants can expect to use about 1.5 lb per person, and quick service can expect to use about 5 oz of ice for every 7-10 oz drink. If your restaurant has a bar, you can expect about 3 lb of ice per person/seat, and salad bars will consume 40 lb per cubic foot. With these statistics, you can calculate based on peak times and the number of guests how much ice you’ll expect to use.

  2. What’s your kitchen layout? Choosing a storage bin that can hold enough ice during peak times but not overflow during down times is key to efficiency and will consume the least possible space in regards to the ice requirements for your restaurant. Bins can hold about 10-12 hours worth of ice production.

A good motto is to measure twice and purchase once. Check where your outlets are, and ensure plumbing hookups are in the right location. Measure vertically and horizontally to ensure proper space allotments.

Cooling Type

A condenser’s primary function is to draw heat away from the unit. There are two main cooling types to consider:

  • Water-Cooled: Utilizing a separate water line from the ice production, water-cooled machines use less electricity but logically more water than air-cooled counterparts.

  • Air-Cooled: Often the most cost-effective because of no additional water costs. They utilize circulating air to draw heat off of the unit.

There’s also a remote-cooled compressor, which is air-cooled but mounted outdoors, this style will need extra lines running from the unit to the compressor.

Ice Type

Cubed ice is classic and ideal for beverages. Flaked ice is best for packing/displaying items and cooling salad bars. The newest and perhaps best form is nugget ice. Nugget ice is compressed flake ice in the form of small cylinders. While these are not as clear and attractive as cubed ice, they also consume less water and less electricity than cubed, and the machines tend to be smaller and easier to maintain. While nugget ice does seem more pragmatic, the visual impact of cubed ice can truly make the difference to your guests! Analyze what your restaurant wants to achieve in terms of appearance.


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E Friedman Associates Inc

T: 800.555.0666 x7590

D: 347.394.7590

F: 605.782.9015

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