Many businesses as diverse as bars, hotels, supermarkets, and hospitals need ice, usually in large amounts. You’ll even sometimes find an ice maker in churches and offices that operate in hot and humid regions.
Many companies need ice to add an extra zing to cocktails or carbonated beverages to keep their customers cool on a sunny summer afternoon. Moreover, some businesses need ice to maintain a constant cool temperature for displaying raw fish and meat, vegetables, and fruit. Furthermore, there’s even a need for crushed ice in hospitals and clinics to keep their patients’ body temperature at a constant level. Furthermore, we need to use an ice-making machine to produce ice in various forms and such large quantities. But, where can we find a machine that produces such copious amounts of ice?
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Top Commercial Ice Machine Brands
Many companies supply commercial ice machines. However, you should only deal with those with a proven track record of reliability and popularity. They must also prove that their products maintain the necessary food-grade standard required by the food hygiene regulations. The following brands are the most popular and reputable companies supplying ice machines in the USA today.
The table below gives price comparisons of the commercial ice makers from these brands.
|Hoshizaki||Air Cooled Condensers||$4,300 to $17,000|
|Hoshizaki||Water Cooled Condensers||$5,000 to $24,000|
|Hoshizaki||Self Contained||$3,880 to $18,570|
|Hoshizaki||Modular||$3,500 to $22,000|
|Ice-O-Matic||Air Cooled Condensers||Not published|
|Ice-O-Matic||Water Cooled Condensers||Not published|
|Ice-O-Matic||Self Contained||Not published|
|Manitowoc||Air Cooled Condensers||$4,700 to $18,150|
|Manitowoc||Water Cooled Condensers||$5,700 to $19,000|
|Manitowoc||Self Contained||Not published|
|Scotsman||Air Cooled Condensers||$6,900 to $18,000|
|Scotsman||Water Cooled Condensers||$6,900 to $18,300|
|Scotsman||Self Contained||$4,000 to $20,000|
|Scotsman||Modular||$6,800 to $24,000|
|Vevor||Not specified||$180 to $3,500|
* The facts and figures included here come from each company’s website and were accurate at the time of writing (September 2021) but may have since changed. Also, please keep in mind these may not be like-for-like comparisons as each company offers different solutions. Therefore, you should use this guide as a starting point for research on your part.
Below we profile each of the model’s services and features in a bit more detail.
Note: We rank the ice machine suppliers in no particular order, which indicates that no solution is better than another.
Commercial Ice Machines using Air-Cooled Condensers
Air condensers use air to produce ice. They are more cost-effective than water condensers but can be noisier in operation. Furthermore, you can buy modular units containing air-cooled condenser units or self contained models. Therefore, depending on your preference, you can choose an air-cooled ice maker for business use to suit your circumstances.
Look at these top air-cooled ice makers.
Hoshizaki KM Series
The Hoshizaki KM Series ice makers are air-cooled, providing from 86 lbs to 290 lbs of crescent cubed ice daily. They come in various widths and depths, but all are the same height to suit your standard-sized counter-tops.
Ice-O-Matic Elevation Series
If you are looking for an ice maker using an air-cooling condenser, you need to look no further than the Elevation Series. Furthermore, the machine is very straightforward to clean. All the food-grade plastic food zone components snap in and out of place, and you can easily wash them in a dishwasher. The machine also surpasses the existing DOE energy efficiency regulations by up to 20%, and it discharges its hot air using a dual exhaust.
Manitowoc Neo Undercounter Ice Maker
This ice maker is an undercounter unit with different widths and depths, making it easy to incorporate this machine into an existing kitchen or serving area layout. It also uses air-condenser cooling technology, producing up to 300 lbs/day of ice, and can store more than 100 lbs in its storage bin.
Best Self Contained Commercial Ice Machines
Self contained free-standing ice machines stand alone and don’t require an extra container for ice storage. However, you must realize that they produce less ice than modular ice machines. Here are some of the leading models.
If you want a standalone ice machine able to produce about 300 lbs/day, with an in-built storage container able to hold about 80 lbs, this model is for you. It makes flaked ice rather than cubes and is ideal for businesses that only need a moderate quantity of ice daily, such as an office ice machine.
Manitowoc NEO Series
The NEO Series delivers more ice but is no larger than previous Manitowoc models. Therefore, it’s perfect if you want to upgrade your existing model. This model is all about energy conservation and reducing your electricity bills, and there are many innovations to help you achieve this. Moreover, the range includes features such as removable ice storage containers, user-changeable air filters, and angled doors.
Vevor 24h Stainless Steel Ice Maker
This ice maker can produce up to 320 lbs per day while storing up to 77 lbs in its spacious storage bin. This model has a liquid crystal display panel, temperature settings, and time controls. It also includes a powerful energy-saving 750W compressor designed to produce minimal noise.
Vevor Stainless Steel Ice Maker.
Best Commercial Ice Makers with a Water Cooled Condensor
Water cooling is another way to produce ice. You’ll find that most water-cooled machines come as modular units instead of self contained models. Generally, the main benefit is that they are much quieter than air-cooled machines, and that’s always a good thing in a busy restaurant with lots of people around. Plus, they use much less energy. However, usually, they cost more to buy.
Hoshizaki 530MWJ Ice Maker
The Hoshizaki ice machine is a reduced noise modular ice-making machine, producing up to 500 lbs of crescent ice cubes per day. It measures 30″ wide. But, if this size doesn’t suit, the company makes similar machines of different sizes and ice-producing capabilities. So, if you want a small commercial ice maker for a bar or a large one for a hospital, you can choose the correct size for your requirements. One more thing, you must buy a separate storage container to match the amount of ice you need to store.
Ice-O-Matic Gem Range
The commercial-grade ice machines within the Gem Series use condensers with water cooling to produce pearl ice. This type is very chewable and lasts longer in a customer’s drink. You can buy this as an ice bin or as a dispenser, and the machines quickly produce as much ice as you need. You should note that this company produces units in this range, using air-cooling condensers if that’s the type you prefer.
This commercial ice machine from Manitowoc comes in different sizes to fit seamlessly into the existing layout of most commercial kitchens and serving areas. Using this, you can make up to 485 lbs of half or full cubed ice per day. Furthermore, you can buy these water-cooled units as modular or self contained models.
Best Modular Business Ice Machines
Modular ice machines, also known as ice machine heads, produce a large quantity of ice and are great for those companies that need quantities like this regularly. Typically, these top-rated commercial ice machines can produce from 45 to 3,000 lbs of ice per day. But, they don’t store ice, so you must buy a separate storage container. Typically, however, this is a good thing because you can choose the correct sized bin to suit the quantity your business uses daily. For example, to suit most commercial establishments and their existing appliances, you can buy these ice machines in three widths 22″, 30″, and 48″. So, if you want an ice machine for a restaurant, hotel, hospital, or bar, you can choose the correct size for your needs.
The following list shows the best modular commercial ice machines.
Ice-O-Matic ICE Series
The ICE Series provides half or full ice cubes. This model is great for businesses, such as convenience stores, bars, and restaurants that need high volumes of ice daily. The machine, made from stainless steel, arrives with a 7-year warranty, and you can buy it in a variety of styles and sizes.
Manitowoc Indigo NXT Series
The Manitowoc Indigo NXT perfectly suits any company that needs large volumes of ice every day. You can choose your new industrial ice machine from many different sizes, and it will fit securely on top of your existing ice bin, although some models already have an ice bin fitted. This model has a programmable ice function, prevents mold and bacteria growth, and comes with a 3 to 5-year warranty.
Scotsman Prodigy Plus
You can buy the Scotsman Prodigy Plus in different widths and heights to suit your existing fixtures and fittings. This commercial ice maker can produce ice non-stop, 24 hours a day, if you need that much. Furthermore, you can choose from water or air-cooled condensers, whichever type you prefer. For added control, the model comes with sensors and indicator lights so you can program the expected daily amount of ice and keep an eye on its status.
What Type of Ice Machine Is Best?
The answer to this question depends mainly on the type of business you own, how busy you become in the peak season, and how much you intend to pay. However, when choosing and purchasing a new business ice machine, you usually choose between modular or self contained models.
A modular machine is a unit that produces ice but doesn’t store it. Therefore, you need a storage bin or dispenser in which to keep the ice until needed. Usually, you purchase this separately. But, it’s an excellent idea to decide on how much ice you will get through in a day and buy a bin of the suitable size. Of course, it also means that if your business scales up, you can buy a larger bin rather than worry about purchasing a larger ice maker.
You can buy modular units in various sizes, but they are typically large machines. They produce high volumes of ice, up to 3,000 lbs per day. Therefore, they are ideal for large businesses such as hospitals and hotels that daily use large amounts of ice.
Self Contained Machines
A self contained ice machine produces ice and stores it within a built-in storage bin. These machines come in many different types; the two most common being an under-counter machine, which slides under the counter out of the way, and a counter-top machine, which sits on top of the counter at a convenient working height.
Usually, self contained ice makers are smaller than modular units and produce between 60 to 300 lbs per day. So, if your business doesn’t need much ice or you have problems storing large amounts, this type of small commercial ice maker is the one for you.
Purchasing New vs. Used Commercial Ice Machines
You can always purchase a pre-owned ice machine as an alternative to buying a new model. A used ice machine will cost less than a new one. But, if you don’t purchase wisely, you run the risk of paying good money for a heap of trash. When in use, ice machines operate day in and day out in most premises. They endure continuous wear and tear and tend to rust if they aren’t looked after properly.
Suppose you choose to buy a used model. In that case, you risk ending up with a machine that needs cleaning, followed by repairs, and maintenance, before it is safe to use in a commercial environment. Furthermore, there’s a good chance that the warranty has already expired, so you will probably end up paying a lot more for repairs than you would if you had bought new.
What to look out for
If buying new is entirely out of the question, here are a few things you should do before you buy a pre-owned model.
- Look over the machine in person before buying. Then, you can decide if the level of corrosion is manageable or not.
- Inspect the condenser coils. If they are dented or corroded, the machine won’t last long unless you do major repairs.
- Look for damage and corrosion everywhere on the machine, especially those parts in contact with ice. Although you might get away with a bit of rust elsewhere, every part in contact with ice must comply with the food hygiene regulations.
- Speak to the dealer, and ask about the machine’s history. You need to know about the machine’s previous owners and where it was used, so you can assess whether it’s been overused. Furthermore, the dealer will have a list of previous maintenance work to help with this.
Finally, rather than choose a used machine, consider a refurbished ice maker. The dealer will have inspected and replaced all damaged and consumable parts, and they often sell for half the cost of a new machine. Plus, it usually comes with a limited warranty.
Types of Ice Requirements
You might not realize this, but ice machines can produce different types of ice. Depending on the job you want the ice to do, you can choose from shaved, nugget, cubes, etc. Furthermore, choosing a machine that produces the correct type of ice can increase the profitability of your business.
Let’s look at the commonly found types of ice and their uses in a commercial setting.
This is what many people make in their home freezers. It’s very common and is slow to melt. Typical uses include:
- Ice dispensers.
- Ice displays.
- Mixed drinks.
- Soft drinks.
This is about half the size of a full cube. You can add more ice to a glass, and it melts slower than shaved ice, so it keeps your customer’s drinks cool for longer.
Typical uses for half cube ice include:
- Carbonated beverages.
- Ice dispensers.
- Mixed drinks.
- Soft drinks.
This type might be one you haven’t come across before. It is a premium ice cube intended for up-market environments. The main benefits include slowly melting ice, which doesn’t stick to other cubes.
Typical uses for this type include:
- Up-market bars and restaurants.
- Waiter stations.
This type is also known as nugget, cubelet, or sonic ice. It is a type of shaved ice molded into small balls. Moreover, it has useful characteristics as the ice prevents beverages from foaming or fizzing and doesn’t stick together.
Typical uses of pearl ice include:
- Carbonated beverages.
- Salad bars.
This type is also known as flaked ice. It has a large surface area. Therefore, it will cool items quickly and is easily packed. However, it also melts quickly too.
Typical uses for shaved ice include:
- Fresh produce.
- Meat and seafood displays.
- Nursing homes.
- Salad bars.
Condensor System Types
A condenser system is the part of the ice maker that cools water to produce the ice. After deciding the type of ice you need for your business, you must consider the type of condenser required.
There are three types, and we’ll look at them now.
Water cooled Condensers
Generally (and very simplistically), a condenser extracts heat from drinking water, converting it into ice. A water-cooled condenser transfers the heat into water, which takes it away to the drain. Because of this, the machine doesn’t need ventilation space, unlike an air-cooling condenser. Water-cooled condenser models produce less noise when compared to air-cooled condensers and are the best option if the environment you work in is hotter than 80⁰ F (26⁰ C). However, they use a lot of water that continuously pours down the drain. Therefore, the condenser increases your utility bills and wastes natural resources.
Air-cooled condensers are the most commonly used in a commercial environment. The heat extracted from the drinking water to make ice transfers to an air current that continually vents into the surrounding environment. The condenser keeps the ice at the ideal temperature for production and storage. The air-cooled ice makers require air vents around the machine to remove the hot air. Therefore, there should be enough space for the hot air to move freely. The manufacturer will give recommendations of the minimum ventilation space depending on the model. Unfortunately, if your business uses air-cooled ice makers in an environment with a temperature of more than 70⁰ F (21⁰ C), they can start to malfunction. Furthermore, they might not be suitable for some commercial environments due to the high noise levels produced.
A remote cooled ice maker is similar to an air-cooled model. Although they use air to keep things cool, the condenser unit is positioned remotely from the machine. Usually, the condenser connects to a wall or ceiling, often in another room or even on the roof. This situation does away with the noise problem of regular air-cooled units. However, they cost more than a standard air-cooled machine.
Daily Ice Output Requirements
We already know that the amount of ice your business requires will determine the type of machine you decide to buy. If you see a machine’s output described as being moderate, you should expect to produce somewhere between 300 and 600 lbs per day. Likewise, a high output will be at least 3,000 lbs per day.
Typically, your business requirements vary from day to day depending on the number of customers you have, so you must buy a machine that produces enough ice for the busiest part of each day. Even though a low output machine is cheaper than one with a higher output, you don’t want to have customers complaining because they haven’t enough ice in their beverages. Furthermore, if you are a start-up business, you need to plan your ice maker to accommodate how much ice you need in a few years. As a rule of thumb, it’s probably a good idea to choose a machine able to produce up to 20% more ice than you currently need.
How much ice do I need?
We have talked so far about the weight of ice produced per day. But the number of pounds of ice your icemaker produces won’t help you work out how many cups that is. Therefore, to help you out, we’ve put together a short table to show how many pounds of ice you should aim for when using 100 standard-sized cups.
|Cup Size||Daily Amount of Ice / Hundred Cups|
|7 to 10 oz||40 lbs|
|12 to 18 oz||60 lbs|
|18 to 24 oz||90 lbs|
Here’s another table that gives an idea of how much ice your company might use:
|Business Type||Amount of Ice|
|Bars||3lbs per seat|
|Hospitals||1 lb ice per person per day in cafeteria + 10 lbs per bed per day|
|Hotels||5 lbs per room per day|
|Restaurants||2 lbs per customer per day|
|School and University cafeterias||1.5 lbs per student per day|
If your business needs to use plenty of ice, you should consider purchasing an appropriately sized ice maker. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to look at commercial ice machines and decide which one is best for you.
To choose the correct one, you need professional help. Therefore, complete the form on this page to receive up to four quotes from ice machine dealers. They will help you decide on the right one for your business.