A Guide to Choosing Ice Machines

UPDATE: Check out this post for a more comprehensive guide to choosing ice machines.

Ice Type

Ice Type


Best for:

Large Gourmet Cube

Manitowoc’s newest line features 60g extra large cube production, offering the slowest melt times with biggest aesthetic impacts.

  • Specialty Drinks

  • Whiskey, Scotch, and other Cocktails

Full Cube

Also known as ‘full dice’ ice, this structure melts slowly and can keep beverages cool for longer periods of time.

  • Whiskey, Scotch, and other Cocktails

  • Hotel Ice Dispensers

  • Salad Bars

Half Cube

Also known as ‘half dice’ ice, this type can pack tightly into a glass but will melt quicker than its full cube counterpart.

  • Blended Drinks

  • Soft Drinks


Soft flakes of ice melt quickly but are aesthetically pleasing for display and packing purposes - without damaging the products.

  • Packing/Displaying Items

  • Salad Bar Cooling

  • Snowcones


Soft, chewable, blends easily, cools quickly, and displaces more liquid than cube ice.

  • Healthcare Settings

  • Blended Drinks

  • Carbonated Drinks

Specialty Shapes

From crescent to octagon to gourmet shapes, this ice has limitless variations and add a little extra flair to beverages.

  • Fine Dining

  • Mixed Drinks


  1. Manufacturers often rate their machine capacity under perfect conditions (ie. the water temp is cold and ambient temp is at 70). This is not the case in most operations, and actual production is typically 20% less. So choose at least one size larger than what you think you need.  It’s also good insurance to have the extra capacity if the business is successful.

  2. Choose an oversized storage bin, because bins will never be allowed to be completely filled up by the ice machine. When the sheets of ice cubes are harvested, there needs to be enough room in the bin so the the ice breaks into cubes on impact.  Also, an oversized bin only adds a small amount to the price but leaves you with the capacity to have machine produce and hold more ice overnight.  Ice will stay frozen in the bin most of the day.

  3. Opt for multiple ice machines to tackle the overload if you have lots of traffic during peak business hours. This helps to disperse the flow of traffic and improves workplace efficiency. If you’re truly set on one ice machine, you can also opt for smaller mobile undercounter storage bins to be filled before rush hour and used for peak times only!


A condenser’s primary function is to draw heat away from the unit. There are three traditional condenser types to choose from:






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

  • Easy installation

  • Cost effective

  • Less water consumption

  • Will need clearance on top, sides, and back for airflow

  • Can add extra heat to a kitchen


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

  • Not affected by ambient temperatures

  • Less electricity consumption

  • Good for hot, humid climates

  • Will use more water (potentially 100s of gallons), so shouldn’t be chosen for water-restricted areas or where water fees are high.

  • Requires separate water line


Air-cooled but mounted outdoors, this style will need extra lines running from the unit to the compressor.

  • Good option for warm locations with restrictions or or high operational costs for water-cooled units

  • CKitchen- recommended if used in a hot environment

  • Costly installation


There are three traditional configurations to choose from when it comes to ice machines, and there may be variations within each type.




Best for:

Modular/Ice Machine Head

250lb to over 1000lb per day

This option is meant for those who choose to sit their ice machine on top of a bin or dispenser. They’re commonly available in 22", 30" and 48" widths.

Those who already have a bin or dispenser, or restaurants with a larger-volume output, as these machines can produce the largest quantities of ice in comparison to their counterparts.


350lb per day (although some can produce more)

A combination of ice maker and storage bin, the undercounter can fit under most 40” high counters.

  • Small Bars

  • Cafes

  • Businesses

  • Coffee House


Up to 400lb per day

While still able to produce up to 400lb per day, these machines tend to be more compact and may also dispense water.

  • Health Care Facilities

  • Hospitals

  • Offices

To choose the right configuration, you’ll need to know how much ice you consume or plan to consume daily. 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.

Bin or Dispenser?

For modular machines in particular, the ice output has nowhere to go unless you invest in either a storage bin or dispenser.



Best for:


Bins are a great way to store ice until it’s ready for use. You’ll have to choose the correct size for your expected peak time needs, lest you harbor bacteria in a bin of unused ice over time.Your ice storage bin should hold at least as much or 10 - 20% more ice than your commercial ice machine can produce, but you can opt for a small machine and large bin to cater to smaller weekday crowds but overwhelming weekend rushes.

  • Facilities with one common unit and multiple staff members with individual work areas (movie theaters, for instance)

  • Restaurants


A dispenser allows ice that is produced in the machine to be used immediately and dispensed accordingly. This provides no extra storage for large rush hours, as the largest hotel ice dispensers can only store about 300 pounds of ice and are at most 30 inches wide.

  • Hotels

  • Health Care Facilities

  • Employee Break Rooms

Filters and Auto Cleaning Systems (AuCS)

To keep ice tasting fresh and prevent mineral build up, a filter is always recommended (and many times included) for your ice machine. Utilizing a filter can also prolong the life of your machine. Keep in mind that the warranty for your ice machine may be voided due to poor water quality, making filters a wise - and perhaps necessary - investment.

Generally, filters are broken down by output production of the ice machine: 0-600 pounds; 600-1200 pounds, and more than 1200 pounds. Cartridges are easy to replace and will keep your machine functioning at its peak performance.

Your machine will require periodic cleaning. Consider an AuCS (Automatic Cleaning System) like the one offered by Manitowoc.

Shop our extensive line of filters at CKitchen.

Installation Considerations

As with installing any new unit in your kitchen, there are a few considerations to keep in mind from the get-go. A well-planned installation will help prevent mishaps and the need for re-designs after the unit is installed. Additionally, considering all possible points of contention before the unit is brought in can make installation much easier and less hectic.

  • Space and Placement : Consider the flows of traffic as well as the requirements for your machine and bins. Remember, air-cooled compressors will need extra space around the unit for airflow as it will output some warm air from the vent.

  • Supplies and Drains : Water-cooled machines will  need a separate water supply line, but all ice machines will need at least one line to produce the ice and a drain nearby. You’ll need to take into consideration where the closest outlet is for electrical hookups. Most machines operate on standard 110V electric, but if you are purchasing a larger unit, double check.

Further Reading

Ice machines are a large investment for any restaurant and are likely to stick with you for their lifespan - around 10 years! As a focal point to your kitchen and bar, ice machines not only consume energy, but they also consume space and effort in maintenance. Deciding on the details - from the size of your machine to the type of ice it produces - can make all the difference in its integration into the efficiency of your kitchen.

While choosing a certain ice machine based on its ice structure output may seem secondary, in fact choosing the right type of ice can improve profits and customer satisfaction. Knowing the difference ice types and their various uses can help you choose the ideal ice maker for your business.

Shop our extensive line of ice machines at CKitchen.