ice machines

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New member
May 1, 2006
Tucson, AZ
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Hi everyone,

I have a question for those of you already operating your own shops: what size ice machine do you use/recommend? I am in a hot part of the country so I will need a lot of ice, especially in the summers; however, I'd hate to go overboard and never see the bottom of the bin. Any advice is appreciated as I am trying to finalize equipment selections!

Hi Kim,

There are two sides of the coin with this topic. If you buy a Manitowoc or a Scotsman, you may buy smaller models. I do not recommend buying too small, because the unit will work too hard to keep up. Most ice machines have about a 10-year life span. You can stretch the lifespan of your equipment by buying high end brands, and by preventive maintenance.
The size of the ice bin will also be used to factor ice machine productivity. A large ice bin is great for high productivity. I recommend measuring how much space you have for an ice machine. Then shop for the appropriate model. When buying restaurant equipment, never buy off brand equipment. You may save several hundred dollars in the purchase, but you will spend much more in service calls.
If you plan on staying in business for a while, I recommend buying a new ice machine vs. a used one. A poorly maintained machine will cost a fortune in the long run.
I'll share my experience and you can take it for whatever it's worth.

Four years ago when we opened our shop we bought a new Scotsman undercounter. It worked great at first but after the first year it had difficulty keeping up in the summertime. Finding the time to take it apart and clean it was a pain--but trust me, there's nothing worse than slimey tasting ice. Over time it got slower and slower at producing ice. It also put out a lot of heat behind the bar (as all ice machines do) which made it uncomfortable for those who were working. It got to the point that I would have to buy bagged ice every weekend (at $10+ a pop) when we were especially busy.

Finally we decided to get rid of the undercounter machine and we are now renting a large capacity ice machine that we put in the basement. It's a bit of a hassle to fill the ice bin behind the bar but our employees much prefer that to dealing with the heat the old machine put out.

For us renting is totally worth it, both in terms of time and money. For 75 bucks a month a tech comes out and cleans the machine every month and it's one less thing I have to deal with. Now if it ever breaks or has problems I'm not out 200 dollars just to have someone come out and tell me it will cost another 300 to get it fixed.

An ice machine requires regular maintenance and is not a simple machine like a refrigerator. Consider renting a machine and avoid the headaches.

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Thanks for your responses, guys! I appreciate your insights.

I do think I am going to buy all my equipment outright, even if if means more work for me. I want to learn how to take care of all the stuff so that I can have this knowledge to apply to future endeavors, such as expanding to more than one location or into another restaurant type.

Can you give me any idea how many pounds daily production to consider (in terms of what they claim: I realize reality is different since my tapwater is quite warm!) if I have space for a large machine? I am planning to have the machine in the back kitchen room and use an insulated ice bin in the front that can be rolled back a few times a day to fill. I anticipate doing 200-300 drinks daily by the end of a year, with about half of the drinks cold or blended. I have a small (1400 sq ft) cafe that has a drive thru window.
Is IceOmatic an OK brand? It seems to have a good warranty - 7 years on the evaporator if you buy their proprietary filter every 6 months - and it is carried by at least one of the restaurant supply stores in my city.

Again, thanks so much for your time and input!

If you plan on selling 150 iced drinks per day, you will not need a very big ice machine. I would think an under counter unit would be just fine.
As far as the brand Icematic is concerned, I have worked in the restaurant industry for 21 years, and I have never used one. A seven year warranty on an ice machine is unbelievable!
To play it safe, I would recommend a unit that can produce 150 lb. per day with a 30 lb bin capacity.
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ice machine

Thanks Jackson!

I have been advised by a local owner that I will need 300 lbs daily in the summertime in a thriving shop here. Now, I really don't know how to estimate how busy I will be and how fast my business will grow, but if another busy store here (over 400K yearly sales) uses 300+ lbs a day, I had better have large capacity so that I don't end up buying ice or trading up long before the machine's useful life is done. Maybe I should mention that in the summertime, 70 percent of our drinks are iced or blended, but mostly iced, and it is hot here from May until October. Also a high percentage of the iced drinks sold seem to be large - 20 oz or even larger (24oz) at some shops.

I agree that the warranty seems too good to be true. But the filters are not really unreasonable, so either IceOMatic has a superior product, tiny advertising budget, or has found some other way to keep costs down on servicing units that have trouble. I don't mind giving this brand a chance, since my espresso machine installer/supplier/serviceman is recommending it. He is very knowledgable and has seen a lot of machines bite the big one before their time. :)

Hoshizaki sells commercial ice machines. The water cooled models may fit your particular need. Avoid buying used equipment. It is not worth the headaches it causes, not mention loss of revenues.
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ice machine

Thanks Neglid,

However where I live it is not legal to install the water cooled machines - this is a borderline desert in AZ and we have to have air cooled machines to conserve water.

I think I might go for an "undercounter" Manitowoc or IceOMatic that is rated to make about 365 lbs in 24 hrs. They are self contained, and thus save space (I have space issues) - only 30" wide and 48" tall, including bin. This will go into the back room and I'll have an ice truck on wheels that holds 100 lbs of ice to keep filled in front. It is insulated and has a drain spigot on the bottom to let out water. Anybody with any comments or suggestions for or against this idea is welcome to post! My plans are in the City for approval but I can still make small changes if warranted.

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