Ice Machines & Dispensers


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Controlling the temperature of water flowing to ice-making equipment is important because the lower the water temperature, the greater ice-making capacity will be. Generally, temperatures should never exceed 90 °F.

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Types: Available in a number of sizes for countertops or as stand-alone equipment, ice-making machines produce different ice products including cubes of different sizes and configurations as well as flaked, crushed or nugget ice. Some machines sit on top of soda dispensers and feed ice directly into their ice storage bins. Typically used in self-serve situations, such units eliminate the labor needed to fill bins manually while guaranteeing that customers have ice available to them during service periods. Larger ice-production systems include specially designed dispensers that load ice directly into buckets and carts. Nugget ice is an increasingly popular option since more consumers say they prefer it, and it can provide bottom-line benefits because it is slower to melt than flaked varieties and also uses less water and electricity than cubed ice.

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Capacities/Footprints: Larger floor-model ice makers, which produce anywhere from 300 lbs. to about 2,000 lbs. in a 24-hr. period, average about 25” in height and are available in widths from 22” to 48”. Some models are designed to be stackable, doubling daily outputs. Undercounter ice makers, which can produce 100 lbs. to 200 lbs. in 24 hrs., typically fit in spaces 35” to 40” high. Newer countertop nugget icemakers and water dispensers produce larger amounts of ice with smaller storage capacities for greater efficiency. Dispensing options include ice only, water only or ice and water combinations. High-capacity models for venues such as theme parks, institutional kitchens and cafeterias, casinos and more produce 1,450 lbs. to 1,880 lbs. of ice cubes per day.

Energy Source(s): Operators can choose air-, water or remote air-cooled condensing units. Appropriate configuration greatly helps control energy costs. Air-cooled condensers, requiring no additional water for cooling functions, operate best in environments where ambient air temperatures do not exceed 80 °F. In hotter environments, operators may install remote air-cooled condensers on a roof, simplifying cleaning and maintenance requirements and reducing demands on air-conditioning systems. When rooftop units are not an option and temperatures exceed 80 °F., operators can employ self-contained water-cooled condensers. However, these require separate plumbing connections and can cost more to operate in water and drainage fees.

Standard Features: Most ice makers can be serviced from the front for easier maintenance and some have “stay-open” doors or bin lids that slide out of the way for easy access to their contents. Seamless design in bins ensures ease of product removal and cleaning. Many bins include ice scoop holders, a centrally located ice “drop zone” to fill bins efficiently, and thermostats or infrared sensors to indicate storage conditions.

Standard accessories now include water filters to help prevent mineral buildup in lines and automatic cleaning systems. Some ice machines have storage bins that allow the ice that has been in the bin the longest to be scooped out as soon as possible. Some ice makers and bins now feature antimicrobial protection in plastic food-zone components that inhibits the growth of bacteria, mold, mildew and fungus to help keep the equipment sanitary and working properly between cleanings. Some vendors permanently embed antimicrobial agents in select components of their ice machines during the manufacturing process. The coatings protect the inside of the ice machines as well as the scoop. Some manufacturers have added water electrolyzers for additional antibacterial protection. The water produced by the unit reduces foodborne pathogens and spoilage, does not affect taste or appearance of food products and is inexpensive to use and maintain.

Another advance in food safety has been a hands-free dispenser. Quieter ice machines that use a cool vapor process rather than gas in remote systems are now available. Some models now have built-in control boards that will sound a warning or flash lights when a machine needs service. Other models use blown air to push completed ice into a storage bin, reducing the ice harvest time and increasing overall production.

Key Kitchen Applications: Ice machines are suitable for every kind of foodservice facility. Ice cubes melt more slowly than ice in other forms, extending products' cold-holding time and cutting customers' ice consumption. Flaked or crushed ice is most applicable in daycare, healthcare, eldercare and school environments, as it reduces the risk of choking. These sorts of ice are also useful when operators prepare smoothies or other special beverages.

Purchasing Guidelines: On hot days when demand for ice is highest, the output of ice machines will be lowest because of the effect of heat on compressors. For this reason, operators should consider purchasing ice machines capable of meeting their peak demand on these days, rather than average volumes, because drink sales can easily be lost on a hot summer day if there is no ice. Specially contoured or shaped ice often displaces more liquid than standard cubes, therefore reducing beverage costs. Such machines can actually pay for themselves through beverage savings in a matter of weeks, depending on an operation's ice usage and sales levels.

End-users should weigh not only how much ice their operation will need during peak demand periods, but also when it will be needed. For example, if an operator experiences its highest volume on weekends but lighter traffic during the week, a machine with a smaller capacity can be paired with a larger bin. This would allow the end-user to save ice that is produced during the week for use on weekends.

Maintenance Requirements: Controlling the temperature of water flowing to ice-making equipment is important because the lower the water temperature, the greater ice-making capacity will be. Generally, temperatures should never exceed 90 °F. Most ice machines require regular cleaning, and operators should check them frequently for loose wires or leaks. Keep lines clean by purging with clean water. Water filters that prevent mineral buildups can reduce the necessity for frequent cleaning. Since cleaning ice machines is a time-consuming task that requires the storage bin to be emptied, operators should make sure a service agency will properly handle this task.

Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Since ice is now considered a food safety concern by many health departments, cleaning and sanitation of ice machines are critical. Operators should look for automatic, internal self-cleaning systems for both ice machines and dispensers that include built-in sanitizers and cleansers.

Ice Dispenser


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Many dispensers today are available with automatic, internal self-cleaning systems that can be pre-set to perform functions when facilities are “dark” or at low use times.


Types: Stand-alone countertop ice dispensers for foodservice facilities are generally hand-filled. In high-volume operations, floor-model dispensers can be paired with ice machines.

Capacities: Countertop dispensers can store from 10 lbs. to 90 lbs. of hand-loaded ice. Large floor models can accommodate up to 1,000 lbs.

Standard Features: Stainless-steel exteriors. Features can include removable dispensing chutes, deep catch-drain areas designed to help prevent ice overflow and an internal agitating function to prevent clumping. Some dispensers also include an internal paddle-wheel scoop to ensure all storage bin contents are dispensed. Large dispensers can feature options such as push-button controls, cardkey and/or coin operation and automatic ice bagging. Card-key access is usually available in higher-end hotels, while less expensive hotels and motels often prefer ice-dispensing units that operate with coins or tokens.

New Features/Technology: Some newer dispensers feature infrared sensors that eliminate the need for staff or customers to touch the machine by dispensing proportioned amounts of ice.

Key Kitchen Applications: Ice dispensers are a convenient way to hold ice for service in facilities and hotels, either in the back of the house, or in the front of the house for customer self-service.

Purchasing Guidelines: Larger operations that have a need for ice in multiple locations should consider purchasing ice dispensers. As a result, an operation that is interested in ice dispensers will need a large ice machine.

A surprisingly common mistake operators make is estimating the size of a unit needed at their location. Since they often sit under ice machines or, in their larger versions, next to vending machines, operators should take special care to calculate the exact dimensions of ice dispensers and the equipment that they will be near.

Similarly, end-users should make sure that an electrical outlet dedicated to a unit can handle the load of the ice dispenser in conjunction with all other equipment it is intended to power.

Hotels and motels should remember that most health codes prohibit them from having ice directly accessibleto customers. In hotel/motels where ice is accessible, it is very common for guests to cool drinks directly in the storage bin or remove ice in unsanitary ways, which creates obvious health hazards.

Maintenance Requirements: Frequent cleaning is a must to keep units sanitary. Removable dispensing chutes make this task easier. Many dispensers today are available with automatic, internal self-cleaning systems that can be pre-set to perform functions when facilities are “dark” or at low use times. Purging lines regularly with clean water prevents mineral buildup. Some manufacturers offer self-paced, online training on a variety of ice machine-related topics — from a basic course in ice machines to courses in the technical aspects of the latest products.

Food Safety & Sanitation Essentials: Dispensers provide easier sanitary handling of ice and help prevent food cross-contamination.

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