The Best Ice in Town: Commercial Ice Makers for Restaurants

The Best Ice in Town: Commercial Ice Makers for Restaurants

The Importance of Having a Commercial Ice Machine

If there’s one common ingredient in every meal on your patrons’ platters, it’s ice. Whether nugget ice, cube ice, flake ice, the cold beverage’s best ally is available in a variety of shapes and consistencies. With a little savvy decision-making, you can customize the energy efficiency, capacity, hygiene, and method of production of your restaurant’s daily ice supply. In this article, we discuss the most important factors to consider before buying the best commercial ice maker machine for your restaurant.


Choosing the Best Ice Maker for Your Restaurant

Given the size of the ice-making market and the different requirements for every dining facility, ice makers come in different sizes, features, and functionalities. Here are a few broad classifications of the conventional ice machine for restaurants:

Type of Condensing Unit

The process in which water is condensed into ice by a restaurant ice maker depends on the type of condensing unit. Condensing units may utilize water cooling, air cooling, or remote cooling. While water-cooled ice machines are best for hot areas where grease or dust is more likely to exist, air-cooled condensing units are your most cost-effective and energy-efficient option.

In remote-condensed units, the condenser unit is located in a remote location to isolate extraneous noise and heat from the restaurant’s main dining areas. Remote condensing units can be water-cooled or air-cooled.

Type of Ice

Commercial ice maker machines may produce:

  • Full-size cube ice
  • Half-size cube ice
  • Nugget ice
  • Flake ice

While half-size cubes are the most preferred option in commercial dining, nugget ice, or ‘chewblets’, are quickly gaining momentum. They not only displace more liquid (saving you money on beverages), nugget ice is also soft, easy to chew, and best used in blended drinks or smoothies. Flake ice, as the name suggests, can be molded easily and is used to keep meat, salads, and seafood chilly.

Type of Ice Maker

Although the above variations still come into play in the following types, this classification is based on the size and utility of the ice maker:

Modular Restaurant Ice MakerModular ice makers produce the largest amounts of ice among all types, and are accompanied by storage bins that match their production capacity. Available in various widths, they usually sit atop dispensers in restaurant dining/serving areas.
Countertop Restaurant Ice MakerCountertop ice makers have small condensing units that produce under 400 lbs. of ice per day. Since they do not include large dispensers, countertop restaurant ice maker machines occupy minimal space and are usually best for self-serving dining areas.
Combination Ice/Water MachinesSimilar in size and usage to countertop ice machines, combination ice/water machines produce both ice and chilly water for consumption. Their capacity does not exceed 500 lbs. of ice per day, and their compact dispensers do not store more than 50-100 lbs. of ice.
Undercounter Ice MakerAs the name suggests, the under-counter commercial ice machine and its storage bin are designed to perfectly fit under a counter, making them ideal for meeting daily ice requirements for cafés, small bars, and restaurants.

A few other things to consider when buying a commercial ice maker machine for your restaurant are:


Make sure to keep ventilation specifications in mind when purchasing your commercial ice machine. Though ventilation is more significant to air-cooled restaurant ice makers, poor ventilation can negatively affect the power consumption and efficiency of any ice maker.

The Water

The temperature, quality, and supply of the water that enters the condensing unit are other important considerations. Make sure that the feed water is properly filtered to avoid mineral deposits, and the water is not too warm, which may use more power to turn into ice.

Choosing the Right Size Ice Maker for Your Restaurant

The size of your commercial ice maker depends on the type of your restaurant’s service, the number of customers it serves, and even your restaurant’s layout. Here are a few ice serving sizes to keep in mind when deciding on the size of your restaurant ice maker:

Standard Serving Size

The most common serving size in the restaurant industry is 1.5 pounds of ice per customer.


Cocktails usually need around 3 pounds of ice per serving


A 10 oz. glass of water usually requires 5 pounds of ice.

Drive-thru Serving Sizes

Drive-thru orders do not require refills, meaning that a serving size less than the standard amount of 1.5 pounds should suffice.


Since customers are more likely to take refills during self-service, it’s best to reserve up to 2-3 pounds per customer.

The Best Commercial Ice Makers for Your Restaurant

Be it air-cooled, water-cooled, or under-counter, Chef Buyer has a selection of the best commercial ice makers to suit your restaurant’s needs. Ranked according to their popularity, here are five of our favorite commercial ice machines:

The Best Air-Cooled Ice Machine

commercial ice maker for restaurant
Manitowoc IDT1500A 48" Full-Dice Ice Maker, Cube-Style – 1,688 lb.

Renown for being one of the best commercial ice makers, Manitowoc brings a previously unattainable level of full-size efficiency with its air-cooled IDT1500A. A full-size unit with a production capacity of 1,688 lbs. per day, the machine is ideal for large coffee shops and bars that require a full-day supply of ice handy. Made of slick and durable DuraTech stainless steel, the icemaker comes equipped with a self-contained condenser and a front evaporator. From ice-making features, preference settings, asset info, and maintenance support, the IDT1500A is a user-friendly powerhouse for the busy commercial kitchen.

The Best Under-Counter Ice Machine

commercial ice maker for restaurant
Manitowoc UDE0065A 19.69" Full-Dice Ice Maker with Bin

Manitowoc’s stamp of undeniable quality comes into full play in this handy under-counter commercial ice maker machine. The UDE0065A 19.69" shouldn’t be underestimated because of its designation. Despite being a through-and-through under-counter machine, its ability to produce up to 100 lbs. of cube-style ice and 31 lb. storage capacity make it a contender in any commercial ice maker machine category. A perfect fit for a busy restaurant or café, its air filter captures dirt and grease for longer and more consistent performance.

The Best Water-Cooled Ice Machine

commercial ice maker for a restaurant
Scotsman NS0422W-1 Prodigy Plus Series 22” Water Cooled Nugget Ice Machine

Another contender for the best commercial ice maker brand, Scotsman brings to the realm of water-cooled ice immense efficiency and quality. Known for using as little as 1/5th the amount of water used by other commercial ice makers, the energy-savvy Scotsman produces clear ice nuggets of high quality with ease. NS0422W-1 is a money- and energy-saver that produces chewable nugget ice stored in a handy 455 lbs. bin. This 22” wide machine can be equipped with an additional 900 lb.

The Best Combination Ice and Water Machine

countertop ice maker
Scotsman HID312AB-1 Meridian Countertop Air Cooled Ice and Water Dispenser

This push-button combination machine outperforms other commercial ice makers in the same category with ease. The HID312AB-1 is a countertop machine that utilizes 12 gallons of water per 100 lbs of ice. Its design is specially contoured to occupy lesser space on commercial kitchen platforms and serving areas, and its stainless-steel evaporator and removable sink and grill simplify maintenance. The device requires 115V to operate, producing nugget ice and chilled water at a cool 4.9 KwH per 100 lbs of water.

The Best Remote Condenser Ice Machine

remote condenser ice machine
Scotsman NS1322R-32 Prodigy Plus Series 22” Remote Condenser Nugget Ice Machine

Of all top-rated commercial ice machines in this list, Scotsman’s NS1322R-32 is the most powerful. With a production capacity of a whopping 1360 lbs. per day, this remote condenser ice machine is engineered to go above and beyond the status quo of commercial ice production. Its nugget ice consumes 40% less water and 15% less energy during production, making the machine a formidable power saver to boot. Its separately sold remote condenser ensures that the typical noise and extraneous heat of an ice machine can be safely isolated to a less critical location, such as the outside or storage area of your commercial kitchen. Prodigy Plus machine is an excellent choice for your commercial bar, kitchen, or restaurant!

Posted by Damon Shrauner on 
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