If your establishment uses a lot of ice, then a modular ice maker is perfect for you. Also known as an ice machine cuber head, modular ice machines provide a lot of flexibility, as they can be mixed and matched with ice dispensers and bins of different sizes, including soda dispensers.
Modular ice machines can produce anywhere from 250 lbs. of ice to over 1,400 lbs. per day! Cuber heads are typically available in 22”, 30” and 48” widths. Ice storage bins come in the same standard widths, in order to easily fit the cuber heads. You can also mount smaller cuber heads on larger bins or dispensers. This requires the use of an ice bin adapter kit, which serves to cover up any open space on top of the bin and allows the head to sit firmly.
Modular vs. Self-Contained Ice Makers
When shopping for a commercial ice maker, you may see references to self-contained ice machines, also known as undercounter ice machines. Unlike their modular counterparts, self-contained ice machines serve as “all-in-one” units, combining the ice machine with the storage bin. Modular ice machines consist of just the ice machine head, and the bin is sold separately. However, Central offers head-bin kits that take the guesswork out of finding a compatible head and bin!
Self-contained ice makers usually have a compact footprint and produce low volumes of ice, making them ideal for small bars, cafes, and breakrooms. So, if your establishment uses a lot of ice, a modular ice maker is your best bet.
Types of Ice
Cube ice is the most standard type of ice offered in commercial operations. Cube ice melts slowly and cools drinks quickly. Full cube, half cube, and regular-size cubes are available. Note: they may also be referred to as “dice” instead of “cube,” depending on the manufacturer’s preference (both terms mean the same thing).
Full-size and regular-size cubes are perfect for soda or alcoholic drinks because of their slower melt time, which prevents beverages from getting watered down.
Half cubes are the most versatile type of ice. They can be used in drinks and slushies, and they’re also the preferred type of ice for bagged ice. Half-dice cubes have a lower production need, which saves money on energy costs.
Also known as octagon or top-hat ice, gourmet ice is a large type of ice that’s ideal for higher-end drinks, such as any spirit served on the rocks.
Nugget ice extremely populars—specifically for customers who like to chew their ice. Also known as pearl, cubelet, or chewblet ice, nugget ice is soft enough to chew but hard enough to be dispensed. This makes it perfect for fountain drinks and blended drinks. Nugget ice melts more quickly than cube ice, so you can expect more ice refills from your customers.
If you’re looking for an easy way to keep displayed food chilled, look no further than flake ice. Flake ice resembles the type of ice you’d see in a snow cone. It’s commonly used for buffets and retail displays, such as seafood counters at supermarkets. Central carries a broad range of both flake and nugget ice machines.
Commercial Ice Maker Cooling Type
For most establishments, an air-cooled machine is going to be the best option. Air-cooled machines use fans that move air over the condenser to remove heat from the unit. They are the simplest to install and maintain, as all of the components are contained within the unit.
One thing to consider when purchasing an air-cooled ice maker is clearance. The machine needs to have a minimum amount of space between it and the ceiling/walls in order for it to have the airflow required to run smoothly.
Water-cooled condensers are more expensive to operate than air-cooled condensers. The reason for that is in the name – water consumption is much higher due to the water needed to continuously flow through the condenser and keep it cool.
However, a water-cooled machine works well if your space doesn’t allow for an air-cooled condenser. It’s also ideal in environments where there is a lot of grease-laden air, or where the ambient temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Hotels use water-cooled condensers a lot because they tend to place their ice makers in corners in hallways or closets, where proper ventilation just isn’t possible.
Remote-cooled units have a lot of benefits. Rather than being contained within the ice maker, the remote condenser is located elsewhere, typically on the roof of the building. Refrigerant travels from the machine to the condensing unit to be cooled, and then it’s sent back to the ice machine. Having a remote unit eliminates most noise and heat from the area around the ice machine. However, you’ll likely need a qualified HVAC technician to install the unit and its remote components, which can cost more money.
Ice Production Capacity
Ice machines are rated based on the amount of ice they can produce within a 24-hour period. You’ll need to consider several factors when determining how much ice your business needs.
If you’re starting a new business, you want to account for potential growth. Where do you see your needs evolving? It’s better to overestimate your usage than underestimate it, so keep that in mind when deciding. Also, think of your busiest day—and what the demands would be on that day—and use that as a guide to decide the proper size. That way you’ll never run out of ice!
Our product consultants can work with you to help determine what size machine is best. The beverage sizing guide below gives you a good rule of thumb to help approximate what you need.
Central has a variety of cube ice makers to for any production capacity we’ve discussed, including:
Adriane works as a Content Specialist at Central Restaurant Products. She has more than a decade of experience as a copywriter and e-commerce strategist, with most of that time spent focusing on the restaurant industry. When she’s not writing about foodservice, Adriane enjoys cooking, hiking, traveling, and hanging out with her dog.