Commercial Ice Machine Buying Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Buy

ice machines buying guide

There are so many things to consider when choosing the best commercial ice maker for your business. What works in a fast-food restaurant may not be the best choice in a hotel or a bar. A busy restaurant may need a larger-capacity machine than a small café. That delicate, soft, flaked ice that you use to display fresh produce would melt too quickly in a gin and tonic, leaving your customers with watered-down cocktails, which is not good if you want repeat business.

Whether you are purchasing ice machines for restaurants, cafeteria, hospital, office lounge, or any other type of commercial facility, the ice machine you choose should meet your specific needs. In this handy buying guide, we have put together information that shows the most important things to keep in mind as you decide on your purchase. You can use this buying guide to give you the tools you need to ask the right questions and make the best choice when you purchase your new commercial ice machine.

Commercial Ice Machine Types

Commercial ice makers can be classified into three different ice machine types, according to the compressors used to cool the water. These three types are:


Air-cooled ice machines work by circulating air to pull heat away. They need plenty of room for air circulation, and they can be noisy, but they are the most affordable type of ice machine.


Water-cooled ice machines require two water lines – one for the ice and one for the compressor.

Water-Cooled ice machines

These machines have a low to medium noise level and are more costly than air-cooled units, but they don’t require as much space for air circulation.

Remotely Cooled

Remotely cooled ice machines must be placed outside on a concrete slab, so they are frequently located on roofs. Because of their outdoor location, these machines are much quieter than other types, but they are also much more expensive. Ice machines do not typically come with remote condensers, so they must be purchased separately.

Remotely Cooled ice machines

Types of Commercial Ice Machines by Size

Ice machine sizes vary greatly, and the size of an ice machine determines its amount of ice production and storage, as well as the space required to install it. For example, a large machine may produce a large amount of ice, but it will require more space than smaller machines, and a countertop model will be small, but it will produce much less ice than a larger machine.

Before purchasing an ice machine, you’ll want to make sure you find one that fits within the available space and produces enough ice to meet your needs. Ice machines for office lounges or small restaurants tend to be smaller than ice machines for hotels, which need to produce more ice.

Under the Counter

Under- the-Counter ice machines are self-contained, and they are designed to help you get the most out of a small space. As the name suggests, they fit easily under a counter, and they are commonly used in bars, where staff can access ice quickly and easily for customers.

These machines can make between 50 and 500 pounds of ice in 24 hours.


Modular ice machines are often placed on top of an ice bin or dispenser. They are designed to produce between 250 and 1,000 pounds of ice per day, which is a much larger amount than what an under-the-counter unit produces.

Countertop Ice Machines

Countertop ice machines are compact, so they can be used in situations where space is limited. Ice machines for hospitals, office lounges, and small cafeterias are often countertop machines. These machines can produce 50 to 400 pounds of ice per day.

Dispenser Ice Machines

Ice dispensers make ice and dispense it. These dispensers are often used in areas where self-serve dispensing is necessary, so ice machines for cafeterias, fast food restaurants, healthcare facilities, and hotels are often dispenser ice machines. These machines produce between 75 and 500 pounds of ice per day.

Specialty Ice Machines

In certain situations, a specialty ice machine may be the best option. For instance, in correctional facilities, a machine with no removable parts and tamper-proof screws may be the safest choice. Ice machines on boats may be subject to corrosion, so there are specialty machines that have stainless steel parts and are sealed to prevent damage from salt-water.

Amount of Ice Needed

As you decide which type of ice machine to purchase, it’s important to consider how much ice you will need it to produce each day. So, how do you know how much ice you will need? Below are some guidelines that will help you determine your needs. It’s a good idea to purchase a machine that produces slightly more ice than what you will need.

Restaurants and Food Service
Restaurant dining2 lbs. per person
Cocktails3 lbs. per seat
Other beverages5 oz. per 7-12 oz. glass
8 oz. per 12-16 oz. glass
Salad bar30 lbs. per cubic foot
Patients10 lbs. per patient
Cafeteria1 lb. per person
Guest ice5 lbs. per room
Catering1.5 lbs. per person
Cubed ice1.5 lbs. per person
Flaked ice2 lbs. per person
Cubelet ice2 lbs. per person

Types of Ice Cubes

There are several types of ice available, and each one is designed to suit a specific purpose. For example, some large types of ice are designed to melt slowly, so they work well in cocktails, while smaller, softer types tend to melt quickly and are great choices for smoothies or food displays. Below are the most common types of ice cubes.

Cube – This is the traditional shape for ice cubes. Cube-shaped ice is commonly used in beverages and may come in a range of sizes, depending on the specific model of ice machine you are using.
Crescent – Crescent-shaped ice cubes are curved with one flat side. These ice cubes are great for use in beverages since their sleek design reduces splash when liquid is poured over them.
Sphere – Sphere-shaped ice melts slowly and is often used when serving cocktails on the rocks.
Cubelet – Cubelets are Ice nuggets that are soft, small, and easy to chew. They are typically used in soft drinks or blended cocktails.
Flaked – Flaked ice is finely shaved and is typically used in situations where other forms of ice may be too heavy, such as in food displays or in frozen cocktails.
Bullet – Bullet-shaped ice cubes are composed of compressed flaked ice. Since it is soft and melts quickly, it’s a great option when you need ice that you can blend or crush.
Top Hat – Top Hat ice is a type of gourmet ice that is typically shaped like a top hat and is often used in cocktails.

Ice Machine Water Filters

Clean, pure-tasting ice requires clean, pure-tasting water, so regardless of which type of ice machine you purchase, you will probably want to install a water filtration system. Below are some key reasons for installing ice machine water filters.

They will reduce the amount of mineral deposits that can build up inside the machine over time, which means your ice will taste better and your machine will last longer. Since filtered water has fewer minerals, it will freeze faster and melt slower than water with a high level of minerals. Water filters remove chlorine, which will also improve the taste of your ice.

Ice Bins and Dispensers

Some ice machines include an integrated storage bin, while others require a separate bin. Depending on the type of ice machine you choose, you may need to purchase a bin in addition to your ice machine.

Machines with integrated dispensers are more sanitary because there is no need to reach inside the bin to retrieve the ice. Ice machines with integrated dispensers are great options in situations where multiple people other than your staff will be dispensing ice.

Three Popular Ice Machine Brands

You want to buy the best commercial ice maker that fits your budget and meets your needs. There are so many different types and brands of ice machines that it can be difficult to choose. Below are three of the most popular brands of commercial ice machines available, so if you’re not sure what type to purchase, this is a good place to start. Each of these brands produces high-quality commercial ice machines that are used around the world.


flake ice maker

Scotsman FS1222L-1 Prodigy Plus 22” Flake Ice Maker

As the largest ice machine manufacturer in the world, Scotsman Ice Systems has distributors and authorized serviced agents in more than 100 countries. Scotsman produces more than 300 different models of ice machines, bins, and dispensers. Their ice machines are suitable for a wide range of uses. This includes everything from machines that supply a single ice cube at a time or up to 10 tons of ice per day. The company uses the latest technology to create its products with efficiency, quality, food safety, and performance in mind.


Half-Dice Ice Maker with Bin

Manitowoc UYF0310A 30” Half-Dice Ice Maker with Bin

Based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, Manitowoc produces more than 200 different types of ice machines. Their products are found in restaurants, hotels, convenience stores, bars, and other commercial establishments across the globe. Manitowoc uses cutting-edge technology to create products that are innovative, safe, and energy-efficient.


Crescent Cubes Ice Maker

Hoshizaki KML-325MAJ 30” Crescent Cubes Ice Maker

Hoshizaki developed Japan’s first automated ice machine in 1964, and since then, it has become a prominent ice machine manufacturer. The company creates products that are focused on energy efficiency, ease of use, and durability. In addition to ice machines, Hoshizaki manufactures a full line of commercial food and beverage equipment, including refrigerators, dishwashers, and beverage dispensers.

An ice machine that produces a lot more ice than you need is inefficient and can increase your electric and water bills. On the other hand, a machine that doesn’t produce enough ice can create serious problems for your business.

Keep these tips in mind as you do your research and make your decision. By considering the available space, noise level, size and type of ice, and the amount of ice you will need each day, you can feel confident that you are purchasing the best commercial ice maker for your commercial facility.

Posted by Damon Shrauner on 
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