What’s inside this buyer’s guide
- Types of commercial ice machines
- Things to consider before purchase
- Commercial ice machines vs. commercial shaved ice machines
- Best Brands of commercial ice machines in the USA
- Frequently asked questions
- Commercial ice machine glossary
- Keep your cash; use ours!
Ice isn’t just a frozen liquid—it’s the secret ingredient to a thriving food and beverage venture!
Whether it’s chilling a customer’s drink, preserving your fresh ingredients, or adding that final touch to a dessert, a top-tier commercial ice machine is your silent partner in success.
But finding the right one can be tricky.
That’s where our guide comes in. We’ve done the heavy lifting, researching and comparing all the options out there.
We’ll walk you through the different types of ice machines, what features to look out for, and the top brands in the USA.
Types of commercial ice machines
There are different types of commercial ice machines, each with a specific function. Some create perfect cubes for beverages; others make flaky ice for food presentation.
Let’s explore the five main types of these machines, along with their advantages and drawbacks, to help you pick the best one for your business.
Modular ice machines
Modular ice machines are flexible and powerful devices that can produce a lot of ice.
They have two separate parts: the ice-making part that goes on top and an ice storage bin or dispenser below.
- High output: Modular ice machines can make a lot of ice, with some models producing over 2000 pounds/24 hours. Making them perfect for businesses that need a lot of ice.
- Flexibility: The separate ice-making and storage parts let you choose the best combination for your needs and space. You can pick a bin or dispenser that matches your capacity and size.
- Easy upgrade: As your business grows, you can easily change the main ice-making part without having to change the whole system.
- Space needs: Modular units can be big, especially if they can make a lot of ice. You need to make sure you have enough room not just for the machine but also for airflow around it.
- Installation: These machines may need professional installation to make sure they have the right water, power, and drain connections.
- Maintenance: Modular units need regular cleaning and maintenance. But, their design makes it easier to reach the parts compared to self-contained units.
Countertop ice machines
Countertop ice machines are small units that deliver a remarkable performance.
They are engineered to fit seamlessly on most countertops, making them an excellent choice for kitchens where space is a premium.
- Compact design: These machines are made to fit on most countertops. They are ideal for commercial kitchens with limited space.
- Powerful output: Despite their small size, these machines can produce over 64 to 125 pounds/24 hours, ensuring you always have enough during busy hours.
- Variety: Whether you want a full cube for cocktails, a half cube for soft drinks, a nugget for smoothies, or flakes for food display - countertop ice machines can do it all.
- Location: These machines need to be near a water source and drain. So, you need to make sure you have the plumbing ready.
- Maintenance: You need to clean and maintain these machines regularly to keep them working well.
Undercounter ice machines
Undercounter ice machines are a handy option for businesses that want a constant supply of ice but have little space.
These machines are made to fit under standard-height counters, giving a smooth look while keeping functionality.
- Blended design: Undercounter ice machines fit into your existing kitchen layout, giving a sleek and professional look.
- Noise reduction: As these machines are often hidden by cabinetry, they can help lower operational noise, creating a quieter kitchen environment.
- Easy access: The undercounter design lets you access ice easily without the need to reach overhead or walk to a separate area, improving efficiency in the kitchen.
- Installation needs: Undercounter ice machines may need more complicated installation steps compared to countertop models, including plumbing and ventilation.
- Capacity: While undercounter models save space, they may not make as much ice as bigger, freestanding units. They can process up to 350 Pounds/24 hours, making them ideal for small cafes and bistros.
- Cleaning and maintenance: Undercounter models may be harder to clean and maintain because of their blended design. Regular maintenance is vital to make sure the machine lasts long and works well.
Ice dispensers are machines that distribute ice directly into a receptacle, such as a glass, bucket, or cooler.
They are frequently used in restaurants or hotels where customers or staff can obtain their own ice.
- Convenience: Ice dispensers let you get ice quickly and easily without scooping. This can be very helpful in self-service situations.
- Hygiene: As the ice goes directly into the container, the chance of cross-contamination from hands or scoops is much lower.
- Controlled portions: Many ice dispensers have portion control settings, letting you adjust the amount of ice given out and reduce waste.
- Power consumption: Ice dispensers usually need more energy than regular ice machines because they have more parts involved in giving out ice.
- Maintenance: The dispensing part can sometimes get stuck or need regular cleaning to keep hygiene standards.
- Cost: Ice dispensers can be pricier than traditional ice machines because they have more features. It’s important to think about whether the advantages are worth the extra cost for your specific needs.
Things to consider when buying a commercial ice machine
Picking a commercial ice machine is about finding a match between your business needs and the machine’s features.
It might seem easy, but the right ice machine can improve operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.
So, let’s look at the key things to think about to help you make a smart decision.
Styles of ice
Ice has many different forms and shapes that suit different kinds of beverages.
Whether you need elegant cubes for a premium whiskey or crushed flakes for a refreshing snow cone, ice can enhance your drink’s appeal and taste.
Therefore, choosing the right commercial ice maker for your business is not a minor detail. It is a crucial factor that can affect your profitability and customer satisfaction.
To help you make the best decision, let’s explore some common types of ice:
Full cubes are ideal for cooling drinks quickly and keeping them cold longer than smaller or crushed ice.
They also have other uses besides beverages. For example, if you need to transport or ship frozen products, full cubes are the best option.
Flake ice is perfect for making delicious treats and desserts with ice, such as snow cones.
It can also blend well with drinks and retain the flavor of your beverage or dessert.
It can also serve as a cozy base for presenting chilled foods like oysters and other seafood.
Nugget ice may look like crushed ice, but it is actually made of compressed flaked ice, which makes it softer and easier to chew than many other ice styles - it’s like the ice version of popping bubbles!
This makes it especially suitable for ice-based cocktails such as margaritas.
These big single cubes or spheres are often used to serve high-quality spirits.
They add a dash of elegance to any glass, and their slow melting rate ensures your carefully crafted spirit isn’t diluted.
Tube ice is shaped like a tube with a hole in the middle - think of it as the ice world’s donut! It melts slower than other ice types, making it ideal for transportation and industrial uses.
Plus, depending on your machine’s quality, tube ice can be more energy-efficient to produce.
Your establishment’s temperature can affect how well your commercial ice maker works.
All ice machines need some cooling to prevent the condenser from getting too hot and malfunctioning, and this can be a problem in very warm environments.
Commercial ice machines use different cooling methods to make ice.
Each method has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to think about where your machine will be located to choose the best cooling method.
Air-cooled commercial ice machine
One of the most common choices for cooling ice machines is air cooling.
These machines use built-in fans to cool the machine and ensure optimal performance.
They are easy to install and maintain, but they require adequate ventilation.
Therefore, sufficient space around the machine’s vents is necessary.
This can be a challenge if the venue has limited space or a high ambient temperature.
Water-cooled commercial ice machine
Water cooling is another method for cooling ice machines.
It involves circulating water around the condenser to keep the machine cool.
These machines need a source of cool water, which makes them more complex to install.
They also use more water than air-cooling machines.
However, they can be a better option if the machine does not have enough ventilation space or if the environment is very hot.
Remote-condenser commercial ice machine
Unlike air-cooling and water-cooling machines, these machines have the condenser separated from the machine.
The condenser is usually outside the building or in a different room.
These machines are more expensive and difficult to install, but they have some advantages over air-cooling and water-cooling machines.
They use less energy and make less noise.
Water quality and filtration
The quality of the water that you use for your commercial ice machine can make a big difference in how it works and how long it lasts.
This is because the water has minerals that can slowly build up in ice machines over time.
These mineral deposits can make your ice machine use more energy, make weird-shaped ice, or eventually break down.
You can prevent this mineral build-up by choosing a commercial ice maker with a good built-in water filter.
This will keep the machine efficient and reliable for a long time.
But water filters don’t last forever.
You’ll need to check and change the water filter regularly to keep the best performance.
Or, you can choose to filter the water before it goes into the ice machine.
Always make sure any external water filter you install works with your ice machine and doesn’t cancel the manufacturer’s warranty.
Your commercial ice machine produces a lot of wastewater, mostly from the condensation of the compressor.
You need to drain this water properly from your commercial ice machine.
If the machine is higher than the drain point, then a simple gravity drain system is enough.
But if the machine is lower than the drain point, you’ll need a drain pump to get rid of the wastewater.
Some manufacturers offer drain pumps as an extra accessory you can buy but keep in mind that it is another part that will need maintenance and can break down.
No matter what drainage system you choose, it’s important to keep an air gap between your ice machine’s drain endpoint and your commercial kitchen’s drain access point.
This gap is essential to prevent any sewer water from flowing back into your commercial ice maker or ice bin if there is a problem with the floor drain.
Ice bin selection
Choosing a commercial ice machine that fits your needs is important, as it should work well with your daily operations.
Here are some key aspects to consider when choosing a commercial ice machine:
Ice bin capacity
The maximum amount of ice that ice bins can hold is measured by filling them to the top.
Ice makers have an automatic shut-off switch that prevents the bin from overfilling.
But if the ice forms a peak, it can trigger the automatic shut-off even though there is more space in the bin.
To fix this, make sure your ice bin is in the right spot under the ice maker.
Keep an eye on the feeler arm and water pressure, and check the water line, inlet valve, thermostat, and filter regularly.
If this sounds too complicated, you can always call a professional for help.
Bin’s exterior, foam insulation, and interior lining
You should pay attention to the outer, inner, and foam layers of an ice bin.
The inner layer of an ice bin is waterproof.
It should not let melted ice water leak through the foam layer and behind the outer layer of the ice machine.
If you see any leakage or other problems, it means something’s wrong.
Don’t ignore it - you need to call a professional for help or think about getting a new ice machine.
External damage and structural damage
Regular use can damage commercial ice storage bins.
Even the strongest ice bins can get holes or cracks that can affect the insulation of your ice supply.
If you see any openings in the outside of the ice machine, you should consider replacing your ice bin.
Rust or corrosion
Rust or corrosion on the outside of the ice machine may indicate a leak somewhere.
This can wet the insulation and reduce your bin’s ability to keep your ice supply cold.
Don’t ignore this issue. You need a professional to look at it.
They will help you evaluate the situation and find the best solution for your needs.
Maintenance and servicing
Your ice machine is a vital part of your restaurant.
You need to take care of it regularly to keep it working well.
Here are some tips to follow:
- Get a technician once a year: A professional can clean your ice machine thoroughly, remove any bacteria or mold, replace the refrigerant, and check if everything is working properly.
- Replace the water filter every six months: The water filter stops minerals and impurities from blocking your ice machine. If your water is hard or has a lot of minerals, you may need to replace it more often.
- Clean the air filter often: The air filter prevents dust and dirt from getting into your ice machine. If it gets dirty, it can lower the airflow and make your machine overheat. You should clean it at least once a month or more, depending on how dusty your environment is.
- Pick an easy-to-maintain ice machine: Some ice machines are designed to make maintenance easier. Look for ones that have water and air filters that are easy to access and replace. You should also check the temperature, controls, wiring, fasteners, external filter system, and inlet water valve screens to spot any problems and fix them before they get worse.
Commercial ice maker vs commercial shaved ice machine
You might be wondering what the difference is between a commercial ice maker and a commercial shaved ice machine.
These are two different types of equipment that do different things.
A commercial ice maker makes and stores ice cubes or nuggets that you can use for drinks, food, or ice sculptures.
It needs a water supply, a drain, and a power outlet to work. It can make from 50 to 3000 pounds of ice per day, depending on the model and size.
A commercial shaved ice machine shaves ice cubes or blocks that you already have into fine flakes that look like snow.
You can use them for desserts like snow cones, slushies, or blended cocktails. It only needs a power outlet to work.
It can shave up to 6 pounds of ice per minute, depending on the model and power.
Here is a table that summarizes the main differences between these two types of equipment:
Commercial ice maker
Commercial shaved ice machine
Produces and stores ice cubes or nuggets
Shaves pre-made ice cubes or blocks into fine flakes
Cooling drinks, preserving food, making ice sculptures
Making shaved ice desserts with syrups, toppings, or mix-ins. Serving dishes like oysters.
50 to 3000 pounds per day
Up to 6 pounds per minute
Freezer or cooler
Cleaning and maintenance
Best brands of commercial ice machines
Scotsman has carved a distinctive niche in the ice industry over its five-decade journey, becoming synonymous with high-quality commercial ice dispensers, ice storage solutions, and water filtration systems.
Tracing its roots back to 1921 as Queen Stove Works, the brand has evolved over the years into the Scotsman we recognize today, setting standards in efficiency, performance, and food safety.
Among the standout offerings from Scotsman are the C0330MA-1D and C0330SA-1 Prodigy Series models. Both models, with a 30" air-cooled modular design, boast a robust ice production capacity of 400 lb. per day.
The C0330MA-1D model is adept at churning out medium-sized ice cubes, outfitted with a self-contained, air-cooled condenser, WaterSense adaptive purge control, the patented Harvest Assist system, AutoAlert indicator lights, and a self-aligning front panel for ease of access and maintenance.
On the other hand, the C0330SA-1 model specializes in crafting small-sized ice cubes while retaining all the features of its sibling model. It adds a Vari-Smart Ice Level Control Kit to its repertoire, enhancing its functionality.
Hoshizaki stands as a cornerstone in the global arena of designing, manufacturing, and promoting food service industry equipment.
With its inception in Nagoya, Japan, in 1947, the company has been unwavering in its pursuit of crafting products that uphold the highest standards of ice and water quality.
Highlighted among Hoshizaki's array of offerings are the KM-350MAJ Slim Line Series and the KM-520MAJ models. These 22" air-cooled modular crescent ice machines are fine-tuned to meet the demanding needs of modern commercial kitchens.
The KM-350MAJ is a powerhouse capable of generating roughly 489 lbs of crescent-cubed ice within a day. Its robust stainless steel exterior is not only aesthetically pleasing but built to endure, while the integrated EverCheck™ alert system and CycleSaver™ design ensure optimized operations.
Similarly, the KM-520MAJ model steps up the ice production game by delivering up to 556 lbs of crescent-shaped ice cubes daily, all while inheriting the stellar features of the KM-350MAJ model.
Originating in 2007 as Taicang Vevor Machinery Equipment Co. Ltd, Vevor thrives as a global e-commerce entity with its headquarters nestled in Shanghai, China, and logistical hubs spread across Los Angeles, Bremen, and Sydney.
Vevor boasts a diversified product portfolio encompassing business and industrial wares, machinery tools, and kitchen gadgets.
Among Vevor's noteworthy offerings are the VEVOR 110V Commercial Ice Maker, 265LBS/24H, and the VEVOR Commercial Ice Maker Machine, 265LBS/24H. These models are engineered with a cutting-edge 510W compressor, demonstrating an impressive prowess in ice production.
They can swiftly churn out up to 90 ice cubes in a mere 8-15 minute cycle, amounting to a substantial 265 lbs of ice over a 24-hour span.
Accompanied by a sizable storage vessel capable of accommodating up to 77 lbs of ice, these machines are well-equipped to meet the rigorous demands of any commercial kitchen setting in the USA.
Manitowoc Ice is a leading designer, manufacturer, and distributor of commercial ice machines in the United States and globally.
Since its inception in 1964, Manitowoc Ice has been on the cutting edge of technology and conservation.
They are committed to providing products that not only satisfy customer needs but also add value to the equipment investment by reducing costs and emphasizing food safety.
Two recommended models from Manitowoc are the IDT1500A Indigo NXT and the IDT0500A Indigo NXT.
The IDT1500A model is a 48" wide air-cooled cube ice machine that can produce up to 1668 lbs of full-dice ice daily. It features a Dura-Tech exterior that is corrosion-resistant and fingerprint-resistant and uses CFC-free R410A refrigerant.
The IDT0500A model is a 30" wide air-cooled dice ice machine that can produce up to 520 lbs of ice per day. It features an easyTouch display for simple operation, DuraTech technology for superior corrosion resistance, and an intelligent diagnostics system that provides 24-hour preventative maintenance.
Ice-O-Matic was established in 1952 in Denver, CO, by Dave Smith with a mission to offer the best ice machines in the business with a single-minded focus on top-quality ice. Today, Ice-O-Matic is dedicated to providing simple, reliable, and easy-to-use commercial ice machines.
Two recommended models from Ice-O-Matic are the CIM0530FA Elevation Series and the GEM0450A.
The CIM0530FA model is a 30" wide air-cooled full-dice cube ice machine that can produce up to 561 lbs of ice per day. It features a self-contained, air-cooled condenser, dual exhaust top/side air discharge, PURE ICE® built-in antimicrobial protection, LED status display, one-touch sanitize/descaling controls, and dishwasher-safe food zone components.
The GEM0450A model is a 21" wide air-cooled pearl nugget ice machine that can produce up to 464 lbs of ice per day. It features a stainless steel exterior, SystemSafe Monitoring, a water sensor, decreased water/power usage, and produces Pearl Ice® soft, chewable crystals.
Frequently asked questions
How do commercial ice machines work?
Commercial ice machines function by circulating water across a cooled surface, leading it to crystallize into ice.
Following the formation of ice, it's collected and transferred to a storage container for utilization.
This process repeats until the storage container reaches its capacity.
At this point, the machine halts ice production until a portion of the ice is taken out of the bin, creating space for additional ice production.
This automated mechanism guarantees a steady supply of ice without the need for manual oversight.
How to clean a commercial ice machine?
Here’s a guide on how to clean a commercial ice machine:
- Empty the ice: Begin by removing all the ice from the machine. You can temporarily store this ice in a freezer or cooler while you clean.
- Switch to cleaning mode: If your machine has a cleaning mode, switch it to this setting.
- Create a cleaning solution: Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing vinegar and water in a ratio of 1:10.
- Clean the machine: Use the vinegar and water solution to clean all parts of the ice machine, including the water path.
- Rinse and dry: After cleaning, rinse all parts with clean water and allow them to air dry.
- Restart the machine: Plug the machine back in and restart the ice maker. It’s recommended to discard the first batch of ice produced after cleaning as it may contain a residual cleaning solution.
How long does a commercial ice machine last?
A commercial ice machine generally has a lifespan of around 4-5 years under standard conditions.
However, with regular cleaning and maintenance, this can be extended to over a decade.
The longevity of a commercial ice machine can be influenced by several factors.
These include the brand of the equipment, the quality of the water used in the machine, the environmental conditions where it’s installed, and the level of maintenance it receives.
It’s important to note that under optimal conditions, some machines can continue to function effectively for anywhere between 7 to 10 years.
Commercial ice machine glossary
Grasping the technical terms is a crucial step in your journey to find the perfect commercial ice machine.
If you’re uncertain about the distinction between a condenser and a machine head, these clarifications should help:
A component used in air-cooled ice machines. Its primary function is to filter out particles from the incoming air that could potentially clog the machine.
This refers to the amount of liquid that can be poured into a glass once ice has been added.
A key component in an ice machine that converts refrigerant gas into a liquid, releasing heat in the process.
The location of the drainage line in an ice machine, which is responsible for removing wastewater.
The container or bin connected to the ice machine,that collects and stores the produced ice.
Ice formation unit
The part of the ice maker that freezes water to create ice.
This term refers to the length of time it takes for a piece of ice to completely melt.
Maximum ice output
This refers to the largest amount of ice that a machine can produce in a single cycle.
A substance that alternates between a liquid and gaseous state during the refrigeration cycle.
A built-in filter that removes impurities from water as it’s channeled into the machine.
Keep your cash, use ours!
We hope this guide has helped you better understand what you need to look for in a commercial ice machine and how to choose the right model for your needs.
If you want to know more, you can always reach out to the SilverChef team.
Hospitality equipment can be expensive, and paying for it outright can put pressure on your business’s cash flow.
Our finance solutions allow you to get the equipment you want now and to pay for it in small, regular amounts out of the revenue it generates for you.
Rent–Try–Buy® not only helps you maintain your cash flow, but it also gives you unrivaled flexibility to adapt your equipment to the changing needs of your business.
You can upgrade or buy the equipment at any time or, after 12 months, return or continue renting it.
If you decide to buy the equipment, we’ll give you back 60% of the net rent you paid in the first year and 20% of any rental payments afterward — to put toward the purchase price. If you buy the equipment within a year, the interest will be 0%.