Top 5 Questions about Ice Machines


Many of you savvy shoppers know the secret to getting the best ice machine for your restaurant is in asking as many questions as possible. After all, buying a new ice machine is an important purchase! We’ve rounded up the top five frequently asked questions about ice machines and have the answers from the product experts at FSW below.

1. What’s up with all these styles of ice? What’s the difference?

If you thought ice only came in cubes, there’s a whole world of ice left to explore. With everything from half-cubes to nuggets, there’s bound to be an ice style perfect for your business.

  • Full Cube

    Full size ice machines or “full dice” are commonly used to make cubes you’ve seen pretty much everywhere. This traditional style of ice can quickly lower the temperature of a beverage without melting  too fast. This means drinks stay icy cold without becoming watered down. These large cubes are perfect for bagged ice or whiskey on the rocks.

  • Half Cube

    Half cube ice machines (or half-dice) are an economically-friendly ice maker for any business. The 1/2 size shape displaces more liquid than full cube and effectively reduces beverage costs for operators. These cubes are an excellent choice for fast-casual restaurants serving drinks all day long.

  • Nugget Ice

    Nugget ice makers, also known as those that make pearl ice, “sonic” ice or “chewable”; no matter what name you call it, this is one ice that always tastes sweet. Made famous by Sonic drive-ins, these fun nuggets offer a soft, chewable texture that retains more flavor. If you’re not already a fan of nugget ice for flavor, you will be when you see how these cost-cutting cubes displace more liquid than any other shape of ice.

  • Flake Ice

    If flake ice were poetry, it would be free-form! These flexible flakes can be molded into any shape and used for a wide number of applications. Providing more square feet of surface area per ton than any other style of ice, flake ice machines offer ice that creates such a nice layer of hydration that they actually preserve fresh food, like fish, for longer period of time.

2. What is the difference between air-cooled and water-cooled condensers? Which one is better?

There’s no hard and fast answer when it comes to condensers. Air or water – no matter which element you prefer to keep the heat off your refrigeration lines, it’s important to know the difference between the two technologies and why you might favor one over the other.

  • Air-Cooled Condensers

    By utilizing strategically placed fans and ventilation to draw heat away from refrigeration lines, manufacturers have created cost-effective ice equipment that’s easy to install. But because these machines need room for air to flow, you’ll want to consider the proper clearance required for the machine to operate. (An ice machine with a front-facing air vent will allow you to get more out of your machine in less space.)

    Easy to install
    Uses less water
    Needs clearance for air to flow
    Cooling fan and exhaust air create more noise (and extra heat)
  • Water-Cooled Condensers

    To keep things extra cool, water-cooled machines have a water line running along the condenser. This type of machine is not affected by ambient air temperature so it’s an excellent solution for kitchens that are extremely hot. Although a water-cooled machine uses less electricity than an air-cooled ice machine, it does make up for it in water usage.

    Quieter without a condenser fan
    Not affected by ambient temperatures
    Uses less electricity
    Best used in hot, humid environments
    Beats up your utility bill with water expenses

3. Do I really need a water filter? How often do I need to replace it?

Yes, you really NEED a filter. Unless your ice machine features filter-free technology, you’ll need a filtration system to keep producing fresh, pure ice. Properly filtered water is what creates those crystal clear cubes everyone loves so much. Without it, your guests are stuck with milky, cloudy cubes covered in minerals and scale. There’s definitely a difference you can taste! Not only will filters keep your water clean, they actually extend the machine’s lifespan by inhibiting scale buildup on components.

REMEMBER: Replace water filters every six months.

Do I need a bin with my ice machine? Do they come together or separately?

Every modular ice machine needs a storage bin. Otherwise, you’ll have no way to collect and preserve all the ice the machine makes. More often than not, storage bins are sold separately. You’ll want to be sure to purchase one that can accommodate your ice machine’s production. Typically, a storage bin with room to hold more than what your machine can produce is best. That way, you’ll be sure to have room for a full 24 hour ice production cycle plus some space for extra.

ice machines

4. What size ice machine do I need for my business?

Every business is different. Some restaurants may use hundreds of pounds of ice a day while others may only use a few ounces. Using the right size machine keeps ice production on par with your needs without creating excess waste.Determining the best fit will start by determining the style of ice and how many people you plan to serve in a day. Along with these basics, it’s important to consider traffic during peak hours, machine location, environmental conditions, and storage bin size.This handy size chart from our Commercial Ice Machines Buying Guide will walk you through the details and help you determine just how much ice your business needs.

5. Are there environmentally friendly ice makers out there?

Environmentally friendly ice machines do exist. If you’re looking for an environmentally-cautious machine, an Energy Star certification is a great place to start. This certification ensures machines are operating at energy-efficient levels without compromising performance. Another way to keep your footprint small is to make sure the machine you’re using is the right size for your business. Using the right size ice machine minimizes utilities and eliminates a surplus of potential waste.

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About Author

Taylor Hansen

Taylor is a proud Denver native, passionate about writing, traveling, and music. She lives for experiencing new cultures and trying new food. Foodie, beer, and coffee connoisseur to boot, this lady simply likes to enjoy life's finer things in the company of good friends and family.

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