commercial ice makers

The Types of Commercial Ice Makers for Your Business

Historians consider American inventor Jacob Perkins the father of the refrigerator. Admittedly, though, he wasn’t the first to work with refrigeration or icemaking. But in the 1830s, he invented the first practical refrigeration machine using ether in a vapor compression cycle.

Over the next 200 years, refrigerators and ice machines evolved to serve different purposes. For example, businesses in several industries use commercial ice makers to make large quantities of ice.

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Keep reading this article to learn more about the types of commercial ice makers available on the market.

Countertop Ice Makers

This is the smallest commercial ice maker for businesses to buy. The machine is compact and self-serve. It makes small, chewable pieces of ice. It also dispenses water.

Countertop ice makers can produce up to 400 pounds of ice per day. They are popular ice machines in:

  • Healthcare facilities
  • Hospitals
  • Lounge rooms
  • Small cafeterias

Ice Dispensers

Ice dispensers are also self-serve. They make and dispense ice directly from the unit. This type of ice maker is excellent for frequent use. The ice shouldn’t sit in the machine for more than a day.

Ice dispensers can produce up to 500 pounds of ice per day. You will often see these ice machines in:

  • Cafeterias
  • Healthcare facilities and hospitals
  • Hotels
  • Lounge rooms
  • Quick-service restaurants

If you use a self-serve ice machine at any place of business, it’s most likely an ice dispenser.

Modular Ice Machines

Modular ice makers are the largest and most popular option to choose from. They can produce as much as 3,000 pounds of ice per day. The unit’s design allows it to sit on top of a separate unit like:

  • Ice bin
  • Beverage machine
  • Ice dispenser

These large ice machines are great for large-scale dining establishments like fast-food chains, restaurants, and cafeterias.

Hotels, movie theatres, and schools also prefer modular ice machines. You will see these machines in kitchens or employee areas and not around customers since they aren’t self-service.

You can also stack some styles of modular ice machines. Yet, stackable machines can be challenging to clean and service, which lessens the machines’ lifespan.

Modular ice machines come in various shapes and sizes, making them versatile for business owners.

Self-Contained Ice Machines

This under-counter ice maker combines the ice maker and the bin. Its size is compact, allowing you to store it in small areas. A self-contained ice machine can produce up to 700 pounds of ice per day.

They are common in businesses such as:

  • Bars
  • Coffee shops
  • Cafes
  • Small restaurants

Condensing Units

Aside from the four main types of commercial ice makers, there are also three condensing units to choose from. Condensing units are temperature-control devices.


Air-cooled condensers are the most common condensing unit type. Fans move air to cool down the equipment. They push out the hot air. This model is cost-effective and energy-efficient.

But, ice machines with an air-cooled condenser need at least six inches of clearance around the air intake to function correctly.


With a water-cooled condenser, water cools the ice machine. They move energy (heat) by compressing a gas (refrigerant) and pumping it through a system of coils. The air around the coils heats and cools spaces.

Unlike an air-cooled condenser, water-cooled condensers don’t have a clearance requirement. This makes them excellent for commercial kitchens.

Yet, these condensers require a constant flow of cool water to ensure they work correctly. They use up to fives times more water than an air-cooled machine.


This last option is quite different than the first two because the condenser is in a separate room from the ice machine. You can even place it outside or on the roof. Refrigerant lines run between the machine and condenser.

Remote-cooled ice machines are quiet since they remove heat and noise from the space where the ice machine is.

However, these condensers require more care and maintenance than the others.

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Factors To Consider When Buying an Ice Maker

One of the most important factors to consider is the size. To know which size is right for your business, calculate how much ice you need to produce in one day and how much space you have for the machine.

You can work with your employees to determine how much ice your business uses in 24 hours.

Further, if you have a tight space available, you need to consider a water- or remote-cooled condenser. It’s also essential for the ice maker to have proper drainage.

The next most important factor is where you will store the ice. Unfortunately, many ice machines only dispense ice and do not store it. So again, you need to consider your capacity to know what size bin you need.

It would be best to have a rough 20% buffer for capacity to handle peak hours of business. Additionally, it would help if you considered how frequently you use a large batch of ice. You don’t want old ice sitting in the bin or the bin to overflow. Old ice can melt and cause unsanitary conditions.

If you’re conscious about price, remember, the ice maker cost will vary greatly depending on which machine type, size, and condensing unit you decide on.

Ice Cube Types

Depending on your business, you may want a particular type of ice cube. For example, seafood and salad bar displays use flaked or shaved ice to keep the products cool.

Many restaurants choose either full cube ice or half cube ice. They both cool down drinks quickly without watering them down. Crescent ice is another common choice amongst restaurants.

Some restaurants and bars also like to use nugget ice. Nugget ice is soft and chewable. Also, since it’s smaller, it melts faster than cube ice. Healthcare and hospitality facilities use nugget ice too.

Last, there is gourmet ice. This ice comes in a cylinder or octagon shape. Many cocktails come with gourmet ice to give a luxurious feeling.

You can consider the type of ice cubes you want after selecting the size and model of your ice maker.

Commercial Ice Makers for Your Business

With a strong understanding of commercial ice makers, you can buy one for your business that suits all your needs. Always keep in mind the amount of ice you need in 24 hours and the size of your space before deciding.

To get started, you can compare quotes now. At Ice Maker Depot, we can assist with all your ice machine inquires.

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