Commercial ice machines are useful in a wide range of settings and are generally reliable to produce appealing and consistent results. Therefore, choosing a commercial ice machine for your business/establishment can be an important decision though the huge options available in the market can perhaps be overwhelming initially when you begin your shopping exercise. We have therefore collated some useful tips to help you with the task.
Size and types of ice
The most important consideration is why you are shopping for the commercial ice machine. A canteen expansion, providing quality ice for cocktails or providing value-added services in the bar, preserving temperature sensitive medicines and medical gadgets, use in the F&B section for routine needs are among the tops reasons to shop for a commercial ice machine.
When we come to the types of ice, flake, cube, spray and bullet are the four popular types and each of them has a specific application in business. If the ice machine is to produce ice to go with drinks, you should also focus on the cubes fitting well as well looking attractive in the glasses. Cube ice can be a full cube or half cube and the general deployment is to go with drinks since it takes significantly longer to melt in comparison to bullet ice or flake and therefore works perfectly when you need to keep the drink chilled, appealing and refreshing. Though there can be varying sizes in cube ice, generally it is used in pubs, bars or fast service restaurants.
Flaked ice works well in settings where you focus on chilled displays and you need to prevent food such as fish from getting ‘freezer burn’. Flaked ice is often used to form an ice bed and shaping it around the containers/trays. At times, this type of ice is also used in producing smoothies and cocktails to protect the blender blades from wear and tear.
Bullet ice is useful in both applications mentioned above and generally can be produced somewhat faster compared to making cubes. However, this type of ice also tends to melt faster compared to standard ice cubes owing to the rapid manner in which the ice is produced. At times, bullet ice is also called ‘chewable’ ice due to its softness and ease in blending that is useful in childcare and healthcare segments. Generally, bullet ice is made through manually filled ice makers.
At times, Spray ice is also called ‘gourmet’ ice and generally constitutes the best quality of ice. This type of ice is perfect for high-end occasions such as banquets and is crystal clear and takes longer to melt compared to other types of ice. However, if you choose a spray ice machine, the time consumed to make the ice can be longer and therefore, you should ensure that you are selecting a machine that best answers your needs. Consider buying a machine from a reputed manufacturer/retailer such as Ice Machine Direct with a support team to help you with trial and service. In all situations, you should also be using a metallic ice scoop and never use glass for scooping ice. Remember that ice, in its fully frozen state, is pretty hard and you stand a chance of breaking glass which could potentially lead to more serious consequences.
The positioning of your ice machine is another vital factor in choosing the machine. Most machines need permanent water and electrical connection attached to the mains. These are also the larger machines with higher output and generally very powerful. Proximity is important to ensure that ice can be moved to the table where you use it without losing much time. However, some ice machines are also mobile and water is filled manually and you use a temporary electrical connection. Irrespective of the type of machine that you choose, keep an eye out for related regulations with regard to water, disability access etc.
Water or air cooled
Most commercial ice machines are offered as water cooled or air cooled. This means how the compressor gets cooled and indicates the efficiency of the machine when the ambient temperature around the machine rises. Kitchens are generally hot and this could put a significant burden on your ice machine and that brings up the importance of placement. Air cooled machines tend to be cost-effective and water cooled machines offer flexibility in terms of positioning. Tropical ice machines work better in temperature exceeding 320C on nearly every day.
Keeping the kitchen clean and neat is a major task for professional kitchens as well as domestic kitchens. The care that you take for other food items should be given to ice too since any contaminant in the ice can have immediate consequences for the person who consumes the chilled drink or food. That brings into focus the need to maintain your ice machine clean and neat at all times. A clean machine will not only aid hygiene but also help the longevity of your ice machine. Similarly, you should also ensure that the water used in the machine is clean, portable and without impurities. Some commercial ice machines come with self-cleaning mechanism while some others have an anti-microbial coating in the storage and production areas of the machine. In either case, it helps to understand the entire cleaning process before you select a particular machine.
Cost of water and energy are always moving up and therefore if you expect the regular and continuous use of the ice machine, it could be advantageous to look for energy efficient machines that make ice when needed and stores it in a ready to serve unit for a longer duration. In most cases, the savings from energy and water costs can pay for the additional price that you incur upfront.