Specifying Considerations for Ice Machines

Foodservice operators can choose from three basic types of ice machines: modular, undercounter and countertop.

Generally the easiest option to install, undercounter or self-contained units combine the ice maker and bin into one small, compact machine. Modular units allow operators to purchase and install an independent bin to the unit.

In addition to cubes, nuggets and flakes, some machines form other ice types, including full-size square cubes, octagon-shaped cubes and crushed ice.

Here, James Camacho, principal at Atlanta-based Camacho Associates, Inc., provides details on what operators need to know to properly specify this equipment.

  • Decide what type of ice the foodservice operation requires, be it crushed, hard cubes, extruded or a combination. Upscale bar operations typically specify specialty ice, or bigger cubes.
  • Operators need to decide if water- or air-cooled or remote condensing systems are best. Self-contained air-cooled condensing systems are located on top of ice makers, with the air cooling the system. Water-cooled condensers utilize chilled water that recirculates through the compressor and condensing units, similar to residential refrigerators. Remote
  • systems are located outside of the kitchen, typically on the building’s roof or other outdoor space. This type is for operations looking to take the heat and noise out of the room.
  • The quantity of ice being used should be determined. A general rule of thumb is between ½ to 1 pound per person, depending on the project. While a sit-down restaurant will utilize ½ pound of ice per person, a resort that has a high-volume bar and beverage operation may require 1 pound of ice per person.
  • Depending on the amount of space available, it may make sense to purchase 2 ice makers that produce 800 pounds each of ice per day, rather than 1 unit that provides 1,500 pounds of ice. This way, if 1 unit is down, there is still ice being generated.
  • It’s common for a fast-casual restaurant to have one 1,600-pound unit atop a 1,200-pound bin so there is spare ice in case service is interrupted. It’s best to upsize the bin; for example, specify a 1,400-pound capacity instead of 1,000 pounds, just in case.
  • Maintenance is another consideration when purchasing an ice maker. Units should be easy to clean, delime and descale. Antibacterial coatings also are preferable.
  • Along with quick and easy access to air filters, operators should think about the type of water filters needed. This will depend on water quality, such as whether it’s soft or hard, and mineral and chlorine content.
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