Ice Machine Buyer’s Guide: Which One is Best for Your Needs?
It’s likely your hotel, bar, bistro, restaurant, café or mobile catering company relies on ice in some way or another - and from food preparation and storage, to display assistance or drink preparation, a commercial ice machine can be worth its weight in gold.
To help you choose the best ice making equipment for your business, we’re guiding you through the basics of ice machine buying. Take a moment to chill out or put things on ice, and we’ll get started….
Ice: What for, and how much?
Firstly, it’s important to realise that not all ice is created equal. Ice used in food preparation or storage may need to have different qualities from that served up in a soft drink. So, when choosing your ice machine for your restaurant or bar, you should start with defining your ice needs.
Typically, flaked or crushed ice is most visually appealing, which means it’s great for serving in cocktails or packing around fresh food such as fish to keep it at its best while on display. However, dilution rate is a key consideration for mixologists; cubed ice is a good choice for long drinks that need to stay ice cool for longer, as it takes longer to melt. Thimble shaped ice is similar in appearance to cubed ice, but gets ‘wet’ more quickly.
Along with the end point of use, you also need to consider the volume of ice you will require and how quickly you’ll need access to it. There are many astoundingly efficient ice machines on the market now, but if you need a commercial ice machine to help you keep the cool in a busy city centre bar, you’ll need to do some simple maths to determine how efficient you need it to be. Begin with how many drinks you’re likely to need to chill per hour to give you a steer on the capacity and speed you’ll need.
If you’re looking for an ice crusher or flaker for more occasional use, you might sidestep one of the bigger medium or high output ice machines, that can offer as much as 283kg of output at once, in favour of a smaller machine that takes up less space and will use less energy – a compact ice machine, or countertop ice maker, for example. On the Lockhart Catering Equipment website you can compare up to four ice machine models from manufacturers such as Arctica and Ice-O-Matic at once, so you can quickly check for all your must-haves before making your decision.
Where will your ice machine be located?The position of an ice machine in a kitchen or even back of bar needs to be considered carefully - it’s not simply a case of finding a bit of space and finding something that fits!
The type of cooling system that a particular ice machine uses, either air or water-cooled, will have a huge impact on where it can be placed. Air-cooled ice machines work best when they are free from obstructions and potential contaminants, so they need sufficient space around their air vents. On the other hand, water-cooled ice machines rely on water and electricity to cool the ice, so space is less of a consideration, but they may cost more to run because of the increased reliance on utilities.
Another crucial consideration is of course, the distance between where the bar or restaurant ice machine will be located, and where the ice is needed for its end use. Once you’ve factored in the logistics of what your machine will require to operate, you’ll need to ensure it’s close to where it will be used, otherwise your ice might lose temperature in transit. If you’re a mobile business, the advantage of a countertop ice machine is that it can move around with you, although they will need to be manually filled.
How will it be cleaned and maintained?How many jobs are listed on your Start of Day and End of Day bar or restaurant cleaning schedules? If you’d prefer not to add too many more tasks to your lists, then consider the cleaning and maintenance requirements for your selected ice machine.
Look out for machines with specially-designed non-stick bacterial resistant, or antimicrobial coatings, along with machines that feature manual cleaning cycles which could help to minimise your cleaning time. You should also take note of how frequently consumables such as water filters may need to be changed. It’s also a good idea to obtain an ice machine manufacturer’s warranty and service agreement to provide peace of mind and help you get up and running again quickly should any issues with your machine arise.
Don’t forget your ice machine accessoriesAlongside a wide choice of commercial ice machines, we also sell metal and plastic ice scoops, ice crushers, ice buckets, ice tongs, and all manner of cocktail making essentials. Or should you require your ice to keep food and ingredients cool, our extensive range of gastronorm containers are available in a range of sizes and materials to suit your restaurant needs.
We hope that you’ve found our commercial ice machine buyer’s guide helpful, and if you have other heavy equipment on your restaurant shopping list, take a look at our other buyer’s guides including a pizza oven buyer’s guide to help you reach the upper crust.