Ice machines are a vital part of the F&B back-bar puzzle. But what do operators need to know about the different ice types in order to specify the most suitable system for their businesses? FEJ finds out from those who know best.
With the industry welcoming customers back into their venues again and talk of another heatwave on the way, foodservice operators will increasingly be turning their thoughts towards ice makers for beverage cooling and displays.
Given that there is no shortage of options available to them, what do operators need to know about choosing the right ice type for their sites?
“They need to identify the quantity of ice required for the site’s busiest periods and ensure the machine they order has both sufficient manufacturing and storage capacity,” suggests Maidaid Halcyon’s sales director Robert Wager as a starting point.
“We recommend finding out what style of ice would best fit the site’s requirements. Ice makers are extremely important to the on-trade. Crystal clear ice gives a lasting first impression to any establishment, whether it’s served in its simplest form, through to its most complicated pebble/crushed form traditionally used in cocktails. It is imperative that the highest quality ice is served.”
Maidaid ice cubes are available in sizes ranging from 7g to 33g. Wager reports that pebble ice is now becoming very popular for many uses, and one litre of water can produce 1kg of ice. Granular ice is traditionally used for cocktails and displays and flake ice is a practical solution for displays.
He continues: “The quality of the ice produced will be dependent on the quality of the water supply. Ice machines by their very nature have to have good drainage arrangements, ice melts and the resultant water has to be discharged to drain.
“The requirement of the site will dictate the relevant ice required. Typically, a frozen fish counter will require a different type of ice to a country pub. Selecting a suitable location and ensuring there is sufficient space available is vitally important,” he adds.
Wager notes that it’s important for operators to ensure 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.
The capacity of an ice maker is dependent on the size of machine installed; a smaller machine will generally have a lower capacity. The production of the unit can be affected by the machine’s location.
“Cellar installs will have a change in the ambient temperature throughout the seasons, resulting in a dramatic change to the machine’s performance.”
At Hoshizaki UK, national sales manager Roz Scourfield says that in order to specify the best icemaking solution for a site, much will depend on the types of ice that operators need to use to enhance the drinks being served.
“For example, the crescent ice produced by our KM range is perfect for fast food outlets where you need large quantities of ice to fill the cup, but also a low melting point so that it doesn’t dilute the drink. Our IM range can produce an extra-large cube which is perfect for high end cocktail bars where they might serve with a single shot of spirit to add a bit of ‘theatre’. Alternatively, our ball ice is ideal in a highball glass with an ever popular gin and tonic, while nugget ice is perfect to serve a mojito.
“It’s also important to remember that not all ice is equal. Hoshizaki ice cubes are extremely compact, dry, tasteless, consistently identical and slowly melting, allowing just the right amount of dilution — a combination of everything a bartender requires when it comes to aesthetics, taste and functionality of ice.”
The volume of ice produced per cycle will be dependent on the shape and size of the cubes. Hoshizaki’s ball ice machine will produce 15 balls of ice every 20 minutes — approximately 26kg of ice — but the same machine with large cubes will produce 62kg of ice.
Scourfield says: “The available area doesn’t necessarily dictate which types of ice can be specified, as icemaking machines can be the same size but produce different types and quantities of ice. The main point to consider is what does the customer want to achieve within their drinks offering? We have various sizes of machines available that will offer different cube sizes as well as shapes including hearts and stars to offer something more unique.”
Space and application
Welbilt brand Manitowoc also offers a range of different sized ice maker models to suit each situation. These machines provide specific ice type solutions and daily capacity.
Jonathan Smith, field marketing — ice and blended ice for Welbilt EMEA, says: “Each machine is designed around the type of ice it produces and then Manitowoc offers different sizes of machine to fit in various outlet locations and with different capacity options. The space available and operator’s needs will impact the type and size of machine that can be fitted e.g., modular or undercounter.”
In an ideal situation, operators would have specific ice machines for each area of their business, but operationally if they need one machine to cover different beverage offerings then suppliers will match the best ice solution to their needs.
As an example, a large pub could be using ice for cocktails, spirits and soft drinks and may only want one ice machine for their site. They may even be limited in space and need the ice machine to be located under counter. In that instance, Manitowoc would recommend the diced cube, says Smith.
“The diced cube is a middle-sized cube that can be used across a range of different beverages and is more flexible — an all-rounder cube that looks good in premium spirits and can also be blended in cocktails.”
In terms of which ice is suited to each application, Smith detailed: “Cubes are usually good for bars serving spirits, nuggets are great for cocktails and drinks that need softer ice to blend and flaked ice is mainly used for food presentation.”
As well as the different types of ice, ice machine specification will largely be influenced by the available space, how it will be used, where it will be located and the output required.
The Manitowoc NEO ice cuber can be used for undercounter solutions, while for a larger capacity the Indigo NXT series can be deployed in a bigger area and offers the LuminIce II virus and bacteria inhibitor.
Mark Hogan, commercial director at FEM, which supplies the Manitowoc range of ice makers to the UK market, agrees that the variation in ice shapes and sizes is an important consideration when recommending an ice machine as certain styles of ice are best suited for specific purposes. And as drink trends change, so do ice trends.
“Demand for nugget and flake ice makers has grown significantly over the last few years, thanks to the increase in popularity of smoothies and cocktails,” he says. “Meanwhile the trend towards gin-based drinks has also placed increasing importance on larger ice cubes with a slow melt rate.
“Larger style gourmet ice cubes have an octagonal shape and offer maximum cooling with a nearly 100% ice to water ratio, thus avoiding dilution. Gourmet cubes can be produced by the compact Manitowoc Ice Sotto undercounter ice makers.”
Hogan adds: “Alongside considering what drinks an operator needs the ice for, and thus what type of ice is needed, it is also important to consider ice production during peak operating hours — and how this can vary throughout the year. For example, within the Sotto range, there are various sizes available in terms of how much ice is produced within a 24-hour period. The smallest in the undercounter range will give 22kg of ice whereas the larger would give 76kg.”
Kelly Gothard, regional business manager at Foster and Gamko, says that the shape and size of ice dictates how long the ice lasts and how much water gets into the drinks served, so it’s important to understand how these factors impact its effectiveness.
“Traditional ice cubes from a tray tend to water down drinks faster because more cubes mean more surface area and a quicker melt rate.
“It therefore follows that the size and shape of ice makes a difference. The most common shape for drinks ice is still the cube, and standard cubes work well in almost every cocktail, but it’s important to make sure they’re a consistent size so they melt consistently too.”
Foster’s ice makers feature a spray system which produces crystal clear ice cubes in a patented shape that last longer in cold drinks.
“You may have seen an increasing use of larger ice cubes in recent years. These are great for spirit-forward cocktails such as Manhattans and martinis because the dilution rate is slower — perfect for serving bourbon or whiskey.
“On the other hand, some drinks benefit from the addition of crushed ice — especially tiki drinks such as a mai tai — because it will thin out the syrups and juices. Crushed ice can be made in two ways. Ice can be put into a bag and crushed manually with a mallet or rolling pin, but the less labour-intensive way is to use a machine such as a Foster ice flaker, which has a high output and integral storage bin.”
Gothard also notes that the relative hardness of the water can affect the efficiency of an ice maker because of limescale build-up: “If the water in the area is particularly hard then use of an ion-clean device is recommended.”
Over at Hubbard Systems, which supplies the Scotsman range of ice makers to the UK, David Rees, group marketing manager of Hubbard parent company HTG Trading, asserts: “The different ice types require specific freezing methods, therefore an ice machine can only produce one type of ice to ensure it is as high quality as possible. For operators requiring multiple ice types, two different ice machines can be attached to the same partitioned storage bin to create a flexible modular ice production solution.
“Businesses with limited space and lower ice requirements might only require one machine making premium ice cubes which can be turned into crushed ice, for example by using the Scotsman Crushman 360. Larger sites with different levels of demand should consider separate ice machines to meet their different needs.
“A hotel or restaurant may need a large capacity supercube machine for drinks, plus a smaller flake ice machine to meet the kitchen’s need for food production and display. Individual ice machines can be sited close to where they’re needed, reducing handling and transportation and helping to ensure good ice hygiene,” he adds.
Rees says it’s important to recognise that different ice types develop at different speeds: “Gourmet supercubes are formed by spraying water upwards into a frozen mould, which helps it to freeze into a solid and pure form but takes longer than other systems.
“For example, dice ice has a cupped shape with a hollow centre and is faster to produce than supercube ice, so you would need a larger machine to produce the same quantity of supercube ice as dice ice in a 24-hour period. Flaked and nugget ice is produced very quickly allowing relatively small machines to create a large volume of ice.
“For a direct comparison of two self-contained ice machines with a similar footprint, the EC127 supercuber produces 72kg every 24 hours while the NU300 produces 142kg of nugget ice in the same time.”
Nevertheless, the biggest restriction on installation is often access to utilities. “Electrical connections and fresh water supply is usually not a problem but waste water disposal often presents issues,” says Rees. “For these situations, Scotsman’s EC range of self-contained ice machines are fitted with a progressive water discharge system which automatically pumps water away, allowing them to be located up to 15 metres away from, and even below the height of, the nearest drain.”
Ice cream machine manufacturer Carpigiani is a new name in the ice maker sphere, having recently taken over the Ice-O-Matic brand from Winterhalter-owned Classeq. Ice-O-Matic brand director, Adam Lenton, followed the marque to its new home.
He comments: “The capacity and the ice type required is rarely an issue as Ice-O-Matic has a full range of ice machines including nugget, flake, cube, half cube, grande and gourmet. Each one of these product ranges has machines capable of producing enough ice to meet the demands of the venue. However, it is important that venues consider the volume of ice they will need during their peak days and times of the year — this way they can choose an ice maker and select the right sized ice storage bin to ensure they always have enough ice to meet the demand of their customers.”
Lenton reveals: “Ice-O-Matic’s range of Elevation modular ice makers features a unique dual exhaust designed to discharge hot air from both the side and top of the unit. This increases the amount of areas in which an Ice-O-Matic machine can be installed and also reduces the potential for an obstructed exhaust. Areas of the backbar which may not have been considered suitable for a standard ice machine previously can now be utilised to install an Elevation modular ice maker.”
The available space will ultimately dictate the size of the machine, but this shouldn’t be the determining factor in the style of ice offered.
“The style should ideally be dictated by the usage of the ice,” advises Lenton. “The other factor that needs to be considered if space front of house is an issue is whether there is an option for the machine to be placed back of house in a specific ice machine area.
“Other factors surrounding installation should include checking the voltage and amperage characteristics of the electrical outlet where the ice maker will be located, whether there are utilities and a floor drain within one metre of the machine, and if there is a water source shut off.”
There is clearly a lot for operators to consider when it comes to picking an ice machine for their business, but having the right model in place will be worth it when those long hot summer days get underway.