Under Counter and Back Bar Refrigeration

Types: Undercounter and back bar refrigeration units tend to be very similar with respect to features and functions. One of the more significant differences is that back bar units tend to be taller and have interior lighting for display and presentation of drink products.

Despite their name, reach-in back bar coolers are often used in the underbar part of the bar. They do not have to be on the back wall (i.e., back bar). The approximate height of the cabinet is 36 inches. Work heights can be 36 inches if set on the floor or 42 inches if on 6-inch legs. Low profile coolers are very similar to traditional back bar coolers, except they are 6 inches shorter and have a 30-inch overall cabinet height. Low profile coolers provide a work height of 30 inches if set in the floor or 36 inches if on 6-inch legs. Keg coolers are very similar to back bar coolers, except these are devoted to keg storage. Pass thru coolers are like back bar coolers, but they have doors on both sides for an island bar situation. Rear feed coolers have open backs and are typically installed next to walk-in coolers and are chilled by the walk-in cooler.

Capacities/Footprints: Sizes vary significantly based on application. Undercounter units range in length from 27 inches to 139 inches. Depths range from 28 inches to 34 inches and heights vary from 34 inches for undercounter units to 83 inches. The smallest footprint of an undercounter refrigeration unit is usually 24˝ x 24˝, although these units may have ventilation requirements that prohibit boxing them in on the sides. The capacities are up to five kegs or 33 cases of longneck bottled beer.

Energy Source(s): Acceptable U.S. voltages are 115, 208 and 236.

Manufacturing Method: Under counter units are standard with stainless steel exteriors. Black or stainless steel exteriors are offered with glass door versions. Other manufacturers offer unlaminated, laminated and wood-covered doors. The tops may be finished or unfinished. Finished tops are typically stainless steel, but laminated finished tops are available. Slide top cabinets are available in black or stainless steel finishes and have a stainless top.

Standard Features: Many units offer two locking and two swivel casters. Automatic evaporator fan motor delays on some units stop when the door opens to prevent condensation from developing by mixing cold interior air with ambient air temperature. Some units include a 30-second open door alarm. One piece magnetic door gaskets are typically standard. High tech digital controls can be adjusted manually to reach the desired temperature setting. CFC-free 134A refrigerant is standard with many models. Cold air distribution systems provide uniformly maintained temperature within the interior cavity. Top- and bottom-mount compressors are available. High-tech digital controls can be adjusted manually to reach the desired temperature setting.

Back bar coolers can come with or without a finished top. The versions without a top are for designs that have them mounted below a back bar top for a built-in cabinet style look.

New Features/Technology/Options: Some manufacturers allow part or all of a back bar cooler to be converted to keg dispensing, so that both bottled beer and keg dispensing can be provided in a single unit. Dry storage cabinets that match the look of back bar coolers are available. Back bar glass storage units and liquor displays are also available, in addition to margarita machine stands. Ice display units, glass ice display units and lighted liquor displays are also offered as accessories, since they are often mounted to or above bar refrigerators.

Two zone coolers provide two temperatures in one cooler, which eliminates the need for two separate units, each with their own compressor.

Key Kitchen Applications: Undercounter refrigeration and back bar equipment are used for back of the house or cook line storage as well as displays.

Purchasing Guidelines: Look at the size needed, door swings, door finish and whether legs or casters should be specified. Top styles can be finished or unfinished. Verify if special temperatures are required for red or white wine storage. Traditional sliding top mug frosters require a back bar top to be notched to allow access to the top. In an underbar environment, this is not an issue, but in a back bar area it is, because the back bar top is deep enough to cover the entire back bar cooler. An underbar top overhang is usually less than 12 inches, so there is no need to notch it for access to a slide top style cooler.

Maintenance Requirements: Maintain proper air flow to the condensing unit. Regularly clean condenser coils, with the frequency depending on the surrounding environment. Clogged coils prevent heat exchange, making the compressor work harder and shortening its service life. General cleaning of the interior requires simple soap and water.

Gaskets should be checked periodically for cracking and replaced as needed to prevent temperature fluctuations and internal build up of condensation.

Food Safety and Sanitation: It is a fairly unknown fact that most back bar refrigerators are not open food listed. These units should only store non-potentially hazardous closed containers. Nothing that has the potential to spoil can be stored in most back bar coolers. This issue is not enforced by most health departments, so it is very common to see bar coolers being improperly used.

Refrigeration systems must keep temperatures below 45 degrees F and below 40 degrees F for open food. Controls should be set properly, units must be loaded properly and defrosting should be both timely and effective.

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