Ice Machine Buyers Guide

One of the most popular pieces of refrigeration equipment in restaurants and bars, the commercial ice machine provides your business with a reliable and consistent supply of ice. With a variety of ice maker types and brands, choosing the right machine for your business can be a tricky process.

Our expert product consultants have put this buyer's guide together to help you make an informed decision.

Types Of Ice

The most important to point to consider is the type of ice you want and the purpose of the ice, for example, are you offering self-serving ice or do you need ice for cocktails, do you need to keep items chilled or to ice blanch vegetables. Whatever your circumstances it is important to choose the right ice machine, so you get the right ice type.

Cubed This is the standard and most generally used type of ice. This type is ideal for keeping your drinks refreshing and chilled. Also, cubed ice takes longer to melt in a glass than flaked, or the sizing of this ice can vary and is suitable for bars, pubs and quick serve.
Flaked This ice is typically seen in snow cones but can also be used to preserve food on display. It is also great for maintaining hydration of food for a long time. Also, flake diced can be used in certain cocktails and smoothies although this is less common.
Gourmet Used in events special occasions, banquets and upscale restaurants, this ice will not dilute the flavour of drink due to its longer retention rate, this crystal-clear ice has an aesthetic appeal making it an attractive option for special events. However, this ice can take longer to make and so you need to consider the power and ice production time of an ice machine.

Positioning An Ice Machine

You need to carefully consider the location of the ice machine as when ice is collected from the storage bin it will start to lose its temperature and potentially melt. The positioning of the ice machine should be in easy access area to reduce the transport time of the ice to its intended use to prevent wastage.

Also, you need to take into consideration where there are water and power supply. Most ice machines require a mains water supply including drainage.

It's essential to ensure all legislation is followed when positioning, such as water regulations and disability access. Ice machines are available in countertop, freestanding, built-in and under-counter variants.

Air Cooled vs Water Cooled

The notion of saying an ice machine is either water or air cooled describes how the compressor is kept cool and how the ice machine performs when temperatures rise above normal levels. The high-temperature environment of a commercial kitchen can affect how an ice machine runs and so cooling systems are required to help combat these conditions. again, considering the location is essential before you consider purchasing an ice machine.

Air Cooled

Ice machines require clearance around their ventilation to allow for a high intake of air for the cooling process, as they take in air from their surroundings, air cooling ice machine needs to be positioned away from catering environments that produce excess heat and steam, as well any other contaminants that could affect the quality of the air. Air cooled ice machines are typically more cost effective as you are not running with mains water supply in addition to the power supply.

Water Cooled

Using a mains water supply to cool down the condenser, this machine can be situated in warmer environments than their air-cooled counterparts making them more flexible appliances, however water-cooled ice machines can have higher running costs due to the use of water mains, in some areas, especially those with hard water, as a water softener will be required for the smooth running of the machine, which adds to the price.

Production Quantity

When considering what ice machine to buy it is advisable to calculate how much ice on average is required during your busiest periods to calculate how ice you will need on a day to day basis without the risk of running out of ice.

Also considering where your catering establishment is located will also affect the amount of ice required for example a cocktail bar will need more ice than a café. Also, a riverside bar during hotter weather will see an influx of customers wanting ice compared to a city centre restaurant during the same heat. Evaluating both your location and your busiest periods will provide you with an idea of how much ice you will need to prevent waste and insufficiency.

Also, storing a large amount of ice is a potentially expensive and inefficient if left unused, check out these guidelines to help with ice requirements although this does not factor in variables as previously discussed like location etc.

  • For 7-10oz Drinks: requires approx — 17kg of ice per 100 drinks. 
  • For 12-16oz Drinks: requires approx — 27kg of ice per 100 drinks.
  • For 18-24oz Drinks: requires approx — 40kg of ice per 100 drinks.

Final Considerations


With the consideration that you may be reusing ice in drinks and to preserve food, it is essential to clean and, maintain the ice machine regularly, according to the FDA ice is food and so it must be handled with the same hygiene rules. Letting your ice machine become unclean and unsanitary will result in lower quality ice and affect the lifetime of the ice machine.

Water Quality With ice machine using a mains water supply, the quality of the ice will be a result of the quality of the mains water supply. In some areas, the water will need to be filtered to prevent limescale build-up, which can be done with a water softener. For drinking ice, some machines feature self-cleaning cycles as well as anti-microbial coatings to ensure the water is cleaned.