Commercial ice machines are the silent heroes of F&B operations, especially in the warmer months. So ensuring you have the right equipment to suit your requirements is absolutely essential. FEJ asked the market’s top experts how operators can get it right first time.
1. Take reliability and ease of cleaning seriously
Reliability and ease of cleaning are key factors for operators to consider when purchasing ice machines. “Everyone is aware how difficult things become when an ice maker fails to produce ice on hot days,” says Andy Threlfall, group technical and compliance manager at Pentland Wholesale. “It is important that a reliable, reputable machine is purchased from the offset, in order to ensure a high level of reliability can be achieved and also in the event of failure that parts are readily available to provide a swift and efficient repair.”
Pentland Wholesale offers a wide range of ice makers under the Simag brand, which Threlfall says are produced in a leading Italian factory renowned for reliability and quality. “These are also supported by a large stock of spare parts held in the UK ready for next-day delivery should the need arise,” he adds.
2. Analyse how much ice you’ll need at peak times
With summer upon us, it’s vital that ice machines can meet the additional operational pressures that warmer weather presents. Storage and volume are therefore major considerations when it comes to choosing the right machine.
“It’s important to establish just how much ice may be required at your busiest times, to ensure your machine can meet this demand,” says Gavin Lillington, global category manager at Polar Refrigeration. “Whether it’s sending staff off-site to procure ice during a busy service, to the opposite end of the scale whereby your device is generating more volume than you require, each presents inefficiencies in equal measure.”
Threlfall at Pentland Wholesale says that many operators do not realise that stated ice production capacity is based on ideal temperatures, and that production capacity will drop when the ambient temperature and water inlet temperatures increase during the summer periods.
“The operator should take this into account and purchase an icemaker which has a slightly higher capacity than they actually require, this will ensure the production capacity will cope over the summer periods,” he says.
Adam Lenton, marketing manager at Classeq, the exclusive distributor for Ice-O-Matic in the UK, adds: “In terms of specifying, under-specifying the amount of ice they need is one of the biggest and most common mistakes operators can make when it comes to choosing an ice machine. Our advice would be to consider building in at least 20% additional capacity on any new installations.”
3. Don’t fall for the biggest ice myth in the industry
There is a perception that all ice is the same, but that most certainly isn’t the case, insists David Rees, group marketing manager at HTG Trading, which distributes the Scotsman range of machines. “Scotsman has machines making eight different types of ice: gourmet or supercube ice cubes, dice, superdice, cubelet, nugget, flake, superflake and scale ice,” he explains. “Plus there are machines making different sizes of cubes.”
Scotsman has created a special app for operators and specifiers that don’t know what sort of ice machine they need. Using a configurator, they can select what sort of ice they want, and how much of it, from a scrolling menu, with the app displaying which Scotsman ice machines are most suited to their requirements.
4. Give sufficient consideration to location
Selecting a suitable location to position an ice machine and ensuring there is sufficient space available to house it is a vitally important part of the installation process. Julian Lambert, sales director at Maidaid, says there are a few key factors to bear in mind, such as making sure the environment does not exceed the air and water temperature limitations for the equipment, and that the necessary utilities are available, including the correct voltage electrical supply.
“The last thing that is often forgotten is the space around the machine for service. 15cm minimum left, right and rear for air-cooled models is recommended. Cellar installs will be affected by changes in the ambient temperature throughout the seasons, resulting in a dramatic change to the machine’s performance,” he says.
Polar Refrigeration’s Gavin Lillington says he often sees machines that are located in sub-optimum environments. “Ensuring that the location for the machine best fits your business needs is vital — the moment that ice is removed from the machine it begins to lose temperature, therefore locating it in an easily accessible location is also imperative to preventing wastage and transportation time.”
5. Follow the golden rules of fridge and freezer specification
As with refrigeration and freezer equipment, there are certain service aspects that must be considered when specifying an ice machine. Operators must position their ice-making equipment in a space that has access to relevant utilities including water, electricity and waste.
“Where waste is concerned, it is important to check that the flow is suitable for the size of the machine and identify whether a pump is required,” advises Roz Scourfield, national sales manager at Hoshizaki. “When it comes to the style and type of ice, it is important that the operator understands the volume of ice required and ascertains what the primary use of the ice will be. For example, if an operator needs to start the day with, say, 20kg of ice for a display and further smaller quantities for use, an operator must purchase a machine that is able to produce and store sufficient ice overnight. We also recommend that operators look at the quality of the ice as much as the quality of the machine.”
6. Saving energy improves profit margins
Knowing how to save energy can make a difference when choosing which ice machine to buy and integrating it into your F&B facilities. “These days it is all about saving energy and operators are becoming increasingly aware of the short- and longer-term benefits of reducing their energy and water consumption and improving profit margins,” says Bob Wood, director at DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems.
“Ice makers use more water than just the water contained in the ice — in fact a typical icemaker uses two to four times more water than the volume needed to make the ice. If you’re looking for energy efficiencies and savings, and it’s appropriate for your business, choose an air-cooled icemaker over a water-cooled system. And if buying an air-cooled model, ensure you have a well-ventilated area in which to position your machine. Contrary to popular belief, ice-makers do not perform well or efficiently in extremely cold environments.”
Mark Hogan, commercial director at FEM, agrees: “Caterers should prioritise energy saving as reducing energy consumption will mean lower bills. FEM’s range of Manitowoc Ice machines achieves the highest levels of energy and water conservation. Over 97% of Manitowoc’s cube ice machines meet or exceed stringent Energy Star and CEE performance criteria.”
7. There’s more to crystal clear ice than meets the eye
One of the biggest mistakes operators make is to expect crystal clear ice when the machine has a poor water supply and filtration, says Maidaid’s Julian Lambert. He suggests that to achieve the best results from its own ice makers, the machines need to be supplied with high quality water.
“To achieve this, it is strongly advised that from installation the machine is installed with the correct filter and softener. An experienced distributor will be able to advise what is best for the machine selected. To maintain high quality ice being produced we advise that all filters and cartridges are replaced every six months dependent on water quality and usage.
“This will prevent the ice maker suffering from premature breakdown due to scale. One of the most common maintenance issues with ice machines is the blockage of the condenser due to dust and debris build-up. This is easily rectified by cleaning the air inlet grills with a vacuum and a soft brush. Ensuring water supply filters and softeners are replaced will help to ensure the longevity of the machine and maintain hygiene.”
8. Don’t dismiss good hygiene
Dismissing hygiene-led features as unnecessary when purchasing an ice machine is an oversight, particularly given the recent reporting surrounding ice contamination issues.
“Although many of these reports have been found to be a result of lack of basic personal hygiene from the operators, hygiene-led features can certainly help to ensure a sanitary ice-making process,” says Roz Scourfield, national sales manager at Hoshizaki UK.
“For example, Hoshizaki’s special ‘closed cell’ ice production feature combats the build-up of bacteria. Unique to the IM range of ice machines, this feature allows for ice to be produced in a sealed environment and, as such, prevents any kind of airborne bacteria entering the ice during the freezing process. Add to this, the automatic fresh water rinse cycle after each ice harvest provides further safety considerations for operating businesses.”
Adam Lenton, marketing manager at Classeq, the exclusive distributor for Ice-O-Matic in the UK, says it’s fundamental for operators to get fully on board with the cleaning and maintenance aspects of running an ice machine. “Not doing so can have devastating results,” he says. “Operators must ensure they have clear ice-handling guidelines and we encourage them to instil a strict regime of training staff in cleaning equipment and maintaining best practice to keep on top of ice hygiene on an ongoing basis.”
9. Ensure the level of support meets your needs
Warranty and after-sales support are important considerations that operators shouldn’t overlook when purchasing ice machines. Although the latest generation of models are robust and well-designed, it is reassuring for operators to know that the manufacturer will provide support if any issues arise. Mark Hogan, commercial director at FEM, says there are some impressive warranty packages on offer now. “The Manitowoc Indigo comes with a comprehensive warranty, which includes five years parts and labour on the icemaker evaporator and three years parts and labour on all other components,” he reveals.
10. Temperatures and taste must be part of the discussion
Bob Wood at DC Warewashing & Icemaking Systems echoes the view that the positioning of ice machines is vital. Operators often think of putting them in a cold store or cellar but this can have a detrimental effect on production, he says.
“A common misconception is that they work better at very low temperatures. Air-cooled machines operate best between 10°C and 43°C while our water-cooled machines operate between 3°C and 32°C. This is particularly important to realise if you are placing an ice-maker in an outhouse where temperatures fluctuate throughout the year. On the whole, ice-makers are very energy efficient but making sure you position them correctly in a well-ventilated area and ambient room, with regular cleaning and maintenance, will help to ensure energy efficiency for many years.”
Wood also agrees that foodservice operators need to install mains filters because although the water might appear clear, it will invariably contain minerals and odours that will affect the quality of ice and decrease the life expectancy
of the machine.
“All icemakers benefit from a water filtration system, which will not only ensure your ice machine performs better for longer but the taste, smell and clarity of ice you serve to your clients will be greatly improved too. This system can be purchased along with your machine and does not require a power source to operate.”
Ice, ice, maybe…
Specifying the correct machine size
3 questions to ask when deciding on ice machine size:
– Will the ice maker be able to meet peak usage during the hottest part of the year?
– What are the various locations or stations in the establishment that will need ice, and will they be serviced from one or multiple ice makers?
– Have you planned for future growth? Consider building in at least 20% additional capacity on new installations.
Approximate ice usage per day per person
Cocktail bar: 1.4kg
Salad Bar: 6.41kg per cubic metre
Quick Service: 148ml per 207-296ml drink, 237ml per 355-473ml drink, 355ml per 532-710ml drink