Commercial ice makers are manufactured to perfectly match the needs of any small-scale or high-volume business. Depending on the available floor and ventilation space, you can pick from a variety of models that fit your establishment best. Almost every foodservice or hospitality business can benefit from ice makers as they save your establishment money in the long run by producing ice in-house. What’s even better is that you can also package and sell your self-manufactured ice to customers for an additional boost in sales.
High-volume ice makers best suit busy establishments with a high footfall, while smaller units can be used to create ice in artisanal shapes for specialty cocktail bars and pubs. There are undercounter units as well that are meant to service the needs of businesses where space may be sparse. When it comes to ice making, customers have a number of questions regarding their needs. Here, we try to address some of the more common queries regarding commercial ice makers.
One of the more common types of ice produced commercially, cube ice is large in size and as the name suggests, shaped in the form of a simple cube. These ice cubes melt slower than smaller-sized cubes and chill drinks without diluting them. Cube ice can be more conveniently crushed into smaller shards as well. Large cubes of ice are commonly produced in commercial ice makers for distribution as well.
Similar in shape to cube ice, half-cubes are smaller in size and convenient to chill drinks quickly, although their melting rate is marginally quicker than larger cubes. These are perfect for serving in mixed drinks and for commercial bagging applications.
This is a specialty ice cube perfectly suited to fill up a tall glass to quickly chill drinks. These have a rounded and distinct half-moon shape and a tendency to melt slowly, making them another great choice for chilling drinks. A drink served with crescent ice is sure to make a great first impression on your customer!
Nugget ice is soft and easy to chew. It quickly absorbs the flavor of the drink easily and blends into frozen drinks.
Commonly used in commercial applications to display chilled food products, such as seafood and produce, flake ice is soft and snow-like in appearance. It is also used in medical applications where a pliable cooling source is needed.
Gourmet ice is one of the most uncommon types of ice. It is used to impress customers with its unusual shape and specialized utility. These forms of ice can be octagonal or cylindrical in shape and are often used while serving top-shelf liquors and upscale drinks. Gourmet ice tends to hold its shape well while rapidly cooling the drink. It also has one of the slowest melting rates of commercially produced ice.
Ice machines come in a plethora of configurations. The best way to determine the perfect model for your business is to find out your needs and understand your limitations in terms of floor space and ventilation requirements. Some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing an ice machine are:
? How much dedicated space can you spare for an ice maker?
Floor-standing models are suitable for producing large quantities of ice and require proper ventilation to cool the machine. For smaller operations, you can choose from undercounter ice machines that can be tucked away and do not need a lot of ventilation or space to breathe.
? What kind of ice would suit your establishment best?
Bars and pubs can benefit from the more unusual and experimental shapes, while restaurants make better use of regular cubed ice. Hospital settings need ice that is soft and can be used for cold compresses.
? Do you have dedicated space available for cooling the ice maker?
Compressors can be air-cooled, which dissipate warm air into the surroundings. Water-cooled units make use of a water line to provide water as a cooling solution. Remote compressors can be used to take heat dissipation outside your establishment. They also provide savings on air conditioning costs.
One of the most common types of ice that is produced commercially is the half cube. This type of ice has applications in bars, restaurants, hotels and can be conveniently bagged for sale. It fits well in any shape of serving glass and has a slow to moderate melting rate, making it an ideal choice because of its versatility.
Cube ice is mostly used in high-volume applications where ice is needed on a constant basis and high-volume ice machines mostly produce this type of ice. Flake ice is most popular in markets where seafood and produce are sold, thus keeping them cold and invitingly fresh.
As with any appliance that has a residential counterpart, commercial ice machines differ from home ice machines in their production capacity. These are heavy-duty appliances, which are meant for high-volume, long-term use and can withstand the rigors of constant daily use. Residential machines are meant to cater to occasional ice production that is then stored in bins, which are most often a part of the machine itself. Commercial machines often require the bin to be purchased separately because every establishment has its own specific requirements and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for commercial needs. In cases like this, bins can be chosen to best suit the needs of the business and are attached to the ice machine.
The most commonly used and cost-efficient way to cool an ice machine is an air-cooled condenser. Cool air is drawn in through intakes, from where it is used to cool the refrigerant coils and in turn, the evaporator plate. Air-cooled ice machines require proper clearance for ventilation since the intakes are usually in the front or at the sides of the machine.
Water-cooled systems require water to cool the coils and require either cooling towers or a water line to maintain a constant supply of water. These systems may also require filtration systems to provide clean, mineral-free water to the cooling system and need regular maintenance to prevent blockages.
Remote condensers are mostly used in industrial settings where large amounts of hot air need to be dissipated. These condensers are connected to the ice machines by dedicated lines that enable the exchange of heat and prevent noise from bothering customers and employees.
It is generally a good idea to invest in a water filter when buying a commercial ice maker. The water supplied to these machines usually has a degree of dissolved minerals, which is harmless for consumption but may cause scale build-up inside the machine. Even with filters in place, ice makers need proper maintenance and regular cleaning to keep them running efficiently.
It is a good idea to change the filters in your ice machine every six months, although this may vary depending upon the quality of water available in your area. Hard water contains more dissolved and undissolved minerals than regular water and may disrupt the regular function of your ice maker.
In cases like these, it may make sense to err on the side of caution and change the filter more frequently to avoid damage to the ice machine. Softer water is gentler on the filtration system and the ice makers, so you don’t need to stick to a strict schedule to change the filters if the water available in your area is less rich in minerals.
Commercial ice machines are meant to last for a long time. These heavy-duty appliances feature solid construction and with proper maintenance and regular cleaning, they can easily last you eight to ten years of use or even more! These also come with warranties for your peace of mind and are meant to be easy to repair in case something unanticipated happens.
The most appropriate way of approximating when your ice machine needs to be cleaned is outlined in the unit’s instruction manual. Most manufacturers recommend a thorough cleaning at least twice a year, although depending on the air quality surrounding the machine, it may need to be cleaned more often.
Most ice machines come with a clean cycle which aids in the proper maintenance of the appliance. Storage areas and parts that come in direct contact with the product should be regularly cleaned to help the machine produce ice that is pristine.
Depending on your usage and regularity of ice production, the price of a commercial ice machine may vary. Smaller units with lower ice production can carry a price tag of around $1000. Larger units with higher production levels and advanced ice-making features that are meant to run on 24-hour cycles are more expensive and can be expected to be priced in the range of $10,000 and above.
The reason for this wide range in prices is the difference in the build quality of the machine, levels of ice production, and the inclusion of extra quality-of-life features.