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An ice machine is a necessity for any bar, restaurant or hospitality venue that serves up hundreds of iced drinks a day. We’re here to help you understand your options so you can choose the right ice maker for you and your business. 


What is a commercial ice machine?

Simply put, an ice machine makes ice for commercial businesses. They will have an attached water source and a waste drain. Commercial ice machines are designed to be easy for businesses to use, and attach to the mains water supply or can be manually filled. They produce a huge amount of ice that can be used straight from the machine or transferred to an ice cooler.

Why should I buy a commercial ice maker?

A commercial ice machine will be able to make a large amount of ice, quickly. They’re designed to be used frequently whilst being able to endure fast paced and tough working conditions.

How do ice machines work?

Water gets pumped into the machine through a pump in the back, which travels to the evaporator. This is connected to coiled copper pipes, which the compressor pushes refrigerant through to cool the water.

When the ice maker is turned on, the compressor increases the pressure of the refrigerant which changes the temperature. When it goes through narrow types, it loses heat and is condensed, but as it travels through an expansion valve it evaporates to become a gas. This process creates heat energy, and any air that surrounds the refrigerant pulls heat from the pipes and the evaporator. Any water that flows over the evaporator freezes.

As ice cubes form, a sensor triggers a valve that tells the compressor to stop forcing heated gas into the condenser, sending it to a bypass valve. Hot gas cycles through the evaporator without cooling, loosening the ice from the tray without melting it. This causes the ice to fall into the ice bin.

What are the different types of ice made by ice machines?

Before looking at equipment, you should think about what type of ice cube you’ll need. Ice machines are able to create a variety of shapes and sizes of cube, suited to different applications.

Ice Cubes

This is your standard square cube of ice. They melt slowly but are able to quickly cool drinks, so are great for general use. They are also quick to produce and are the most commonly seen in pubs and bars. Most ice machines will be able to offer a range of cube sizes.

Flaked Ice

This is used mainly for storage and counter displays. It’s shredded from a solid block, creating shavings that can be molded into shape. Flaked ice is also commonly used for cooling wine or champagne and blending into cocktails.

Nugget Ice

When flaked ice is compacted, it turns into nuggets that are most commonly used for slushies.

Crescent Ice

Crescent ice features a rounded top and flat bottom, reducing the splash as drinks are poured on top. The shape also causes less mineral content during its formation, meaning the ice is hard and melts slowly.

Spherical Ice

These are becoming a popular option instead of the standard cube. They melt very slowly and look attractive, making them a great choice for drinks ‘on the rocks’.

What makes a quality ice cube?

The factors that go into a quality ice cube include the dilution rate, the cooling rate, and the cube clarity. Ultimately, this depends on the production method, size of the cube and the shape of the ice.

Dilution Rate

Dilution is how quickly the ice melts once it’s formed. Good quality ice melts more slowly, and this depends on the residual water content of the ice.

This can also be affected by the surface area of the cubes – larger ones will melt more slowly.

Cooling rate

The larger the surface area, the quicker drinks will be cooled.


Clarity is how pure and transparent the ice is. Most commercial businesses will want an attractive, clear cube and this is what commercial ice machines are designed to produce. The water source is constantly moving, preventing any build up of impurities and excess air. 

Water filters

Installing a water filter with your ice machine can help prevent a lot of problems. Water naturally contains deposits and chemicals, that can cause a residue build up over time in your machine. This could cause the machine to stop functioning, or result in ice that tastes and smells unpleasant. 

A water filter will reduce deposit build up, resulting in less pressure on your machine. It will also mean better tasting ice due to the removal of chemicals. 

Types of commercial ice machines

When you’ve decided on the type of ice you’ll need, you can start looking at which ice maker models will meet your requirements. 

Integral Ice Machines

Integral ice machines are typically seen on sites that have light to medium demand. They feature a built in storage bin, and so can be purchased as a complete piece of equipment. 

Modular Ice Machines

Modular ice machines can have a high rate of ice production, with the ice maker and the storage bin sold separately. The ice machine sits on top of the bin, so the ice falls into the bin to be stored. The main benefit of a modular system is that you can choose your production capacity and storage capacity independently, so it’s completely suited to your requirements.

Air cooling vs water cooling

The cooling type of an ice machine describes how the compressor is kept cool, and how the machine works when temperatures rise above normal levels. As commercial kitchens and bars are usually very hot environments, this can affect how your machine will run and so you’ll need the right cooling system to perform in these conditions. 

Our range of brema ice makers include both air cooling and water cooling systems. Get in touch to see what would work best for your business.

Air cooling

Air cooled ice machines take in air from their surroundings, meaning you’ll need a clearance area around the machine. They need to be placed away from hot catering environments as well as any contaminants. This is usually the more cost effective option, as you won’t need to run them from a mains water supply.

The advantages of an air cooled is machines are that they’re easy to install, are generally less expensive to purchase, and are very efficient at cooling. However, their fans can be very noisy and as the airflow removes heat, the surrounding area may get hotter.

Water cooling

Water cooled ice machines are able to work in hotter environments, as they use the mains water supply to cool the condenser. They can have higher running costs, and if you’re in an area with hard water then you’ll also need a water softener.

These units are generally quieter than air cooled models, and they use less electricity.

Choosing an ice maker size

When choosing what machine to buy, you should calculate how much ice on average you’ll need during your busiest time of day. This is so you won’t have the risk of running out of ice. 

We stock ice makers that range from production of 34kg-155kg of ice each day, so you can choose a size that means you won’t run out, but also won’t be paying for a machine that’s too high spec. 

You will also need to think about the physical space you have to put the ice machine in.

Placement and installation

You’ll need to carefully think about the placement of your ice machine. Ice will start to lose temperature as soon as it’s collected from the storage bin. The machine should be placed in an area that’s easy to access, and as close to the serving point as possible.

Of course, you’ll also need to consider your water and power supplies. Most ice machines need a mains water connection, including drainage. 

Ice machines require good airflow around them, with a space of around 150mm around the sides and back of the unit. It shouldn’t be put in a location where the ambient temperature is drastically changing. 

Cleaning and maintaining the ice machine

To avoid the ice becoming contaminated, you should treat your ice maker well and ensure you are cleaning it regularly. This includes cleaning the outside of the machine, deep cleaning the interior including your storage bins, and sanitising any scoops or accessories you have. As the ice machine is constantly wet, mould and fungi growth can be a problem if you are not regularly following cleaning guidance. 

Remember to also pay attention to the vents and refrigeration components, and keep them clean of dust and debris.

You should also get your ice maker serviced by a refrigeration engineer at least once a year. 

Ready to purchase or rent?

Our range of commercial ice machines will ensure that your business can cope with customer demand, with a range of sizes and capacities to choose from. Contact us for more information, or view our range of ice makers below.

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