Icesurance Blog

Ice Equipment Sales & Leasing | Phone: (800) 999-5616

Icesurance Blog - Ice Equipment Sales & Leasing | Phone: (800) 999-5616

How To Choose The Right Ice Maker For Your Restaurant

When you are looking for the right ice maker for your restaurant, you have a lot of questions that you need to answer. How much ice will I need to run my business? What type of machine should I get? The answers to all of these questions will help you to narrow down your search and give you the focus you need to find the machine that is perfect for your business.

Type of Ice Makers

Flaked ice is made up of small bits of ice and is extremely versatile. You can use flaked ice to keep food cold when served, as ice and garnish for drinks, and as part of a buffet display. Cubed ice is popular in drinks of all kinds and can come in a variety of sizes. Ice nuggets are randomly sized pieces of ice that are popular in drinks and as part of smaller salad bars.

You can purchase machines that make all three kinds of ice if your daily volume is low, but you should consider separate machines if you run a larger establishment. Larger commercial ice makers usually specialize in one type of ice, which means you will need at least three machines to satisfy your ice requirements.

Cooling Systems

Smaller ice makers can be either air or water-cooled, depending on their design. Air-cooled machines are less expensive to buy and run, but they require a great deal of space to prevent overheating. Water-cooled systems are convenient because they use water as a coolant and do not need a lot of extra space to operate, but they can be much more expensive to buy. If you are cramped for space, then water-cooled is your answer. If you have the room, then you can save some money with air-cooled units.

Considerations for Installing Ice Makers

In a restaurant, an ice maker is an kitchen appliance that is just as important as the walk-in cooler. The right ice maker might require some remodeling before it can be properly installed into a kitchen area. Some of the most important considerations that need to be made for deciding where to put an ice maker include:

  • Drainage and plumbing needs
  • Space for venting
  • The ability to properly clean the ice maker each day
  • Energy efficiency
  • Proper access for kitchen staff
  • Ability to easily perform routine maintenance

An ice maker that is not given the right space to work in can do more harm than good. It is important to analyze your kitchen and make sure that you have a spot that is ideally suited to support your ice makers and allow your business to grow.

To a restaurant, a good ice maker is the difference between success and failure. As you prepare to buy and install the ice makers you will need for your business, you need to take into account all of the operational and maintenance functions you will need to perform to keep your machines operating properly. In order to make a smart investment in ice machines for your restaurant, you need to do you homework and know what you are looking for.

To find out which ice maker works best for your restaurant please contact us at Icesurance. Leasing and financing options are available.

Have You Reviewed Your Ice Machine’s Performance?

The weather has changed and winter, no matter how long it has taken, is finally upon us.  For commercial ice machines, this is the off season.  It’s ironic as our dependency on ice certainly goes down with the mercury while our dear old ice machines thumb their collective noses at us by not only producing more ice, but they seem to be more reliable, too.  The irony however presents an opportunity.  This is the perfect time to sit down and do a little ice prep for next spring.  Here’s a few ideas to help you to review the ice machine performance from the prior season.

Total of all repair bills for the ice machine?

Total of all bills for purchases of ice?

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much aggravation did the ice machine cause?

You may be surprised if you take the time to add up all the repair & ice bills. Often a bill for one or two hundred dollars doesn’t get noticed when it comes in once every few weeks adding up silently over the course of the spring and summer to 1000.00 or more.  Do you really know how much you are spending to keep your commercial ice machine running? This expense will help gauge the viability of a replacement ice machine.

Additionally, the off season is an excellent time to do some routine cleaning and maintenance on your commercial ice maker, change the water filters, and blow out the condenser.  All of this will help your equipment stay clean and run better.

At Icesurance, we provide cleaning and preventative maintenance as a part of our full service ice machine leasing program, which also incorporates service with parts & labor and free ice in event of a mechanical malfunction.  Here’s hoping the winter treats you kindly, and call us if you have any questions. 800-999-5616

The Ironic History of the Classic Cube

I was thinking the other day, (not as rare an occurrence as some might suggest) about the history of the classic cube and how it has come nearly full circle.  For untold millennia, all ice was created in the natural environment, and human endeavors to leverage its cooling properties were fundamentally unchanged for thousands of years.

Ice from a pond 1950'sThe basics were pretty simple: find some ice in a frozen lake, pond or river.  Harvest it, and store it in as cool and insulated a place as could be found or created.

While the manner of harvesting, transporting, and storing may have improved over the centuries, the end results were the same. A labor intensive process provided a quickly vanishing resource.  Now, sometime around 1850, A Dr. John Gorrie needing ice for treatment of malaria patients in Florida, invented the first mechanical ice making machine.

Over the next 60 years, the development of commercial ice making equipment and artificial refrigeration led to the proliferation of commercial ice plants where ice was made and sold in 300 lb. blocks.

Shortly thereafter, machines were invented that cut these 300 lb. blocks into 1.25” square ice cubes which were sold primarily to restaurants and bars, not because of their shape, but because there were no commercial food service ice machines available until the 1950’s, with mass conversion from the ice man to on premise ice making happening in the 1960’s.

The commercial ice machine evolved over the next few decades, but the needs of the QSR & C-Store segments consumed much of the R&D.  The unfortunate byproduct of these drivers was complete devaluation of any aesthetic principles.

Shape became irrelevant and size was sacrificed for displacement.  Yet through all the machinations and explosion of rhomboids, pillows, and crescents, Kold-Draft kept limping along, making the machines that made the same classic cube that they introduced in 1955, the 1.25” square ice cube.  Same size and same shape as the iceman’s cube.

Fast forward to the early 2000’s, a new cocktail revolution created by mixologists grabs the attention of the drinking class.  Ice becomes an ingredient again, and Kold-Draft’s sales start to climb, and keep climbing.

The ice sensation even eclipses the classic cube as hand carved spheres and 2” squares find their way into your Old Fashion.  Some of these larger chunks are chipped out of a big 300 lb. block, delivered to the bar from a new breed of icemen.  I’m guessing it won’t be long before pond made ice is the rage.  Again.

Icesurance is your source for all your classic cube ice needs.  Except pond ice.

Does Your Ice Machine Warranty Provide Enough Protection?

Many of the manufacturers of commercial ice machines offer excellent warranties.  As a matter of fact, the industry standard is three years on parts and labor, and five years on the compressor and evaporator.  While this coverage provides plenty of protection for the ice machine owner, it is not the be-all end-all instrument that many purchasers expect and assume that they have.  That’s because there are many situations that may cause a commercial ice machine to stop working properly, but are not covered by the warranty.  A manufacturer can only warrant what it has control over.  This can usually be described as a responsibility to repair or replace defective components or correct errors in manufacturing.

So, what’s not covered?

The truth is that a material percentage of the expense of servicing commercial ice machines is not warrantied, and that means the owner could very well be getting a bill for service, even though the warranty period has not expired.

I divide the non-covered service into two categories:

  1. Time & Travel
  2. Fault of Others

The Time & Travel heading would represent what is not covered by the factory in terms of travel time to a job, diagnostic time, overtime, weekend and holidays, and freight on replacement parts.  While this varies from brand to brand, any coverage of these expenses would be at a bare minimum if at all.  The fact is, that the owner of a machine that has an in-warranty compressor failure could incur a bill for hundreds of dollars based on shipping costs of the 75lb. compressor, travel time beyond the allowable (usually ½ hour is covered) overtime or holiday-weekend rates, and any hours of labor that exceed the manufacturer’s maximum allowable hours per component.

The Fault of Others category reflects any external issue that may cause an equipment malfunction of which the manufacturer has no control.  The most common culprits include interruption of utility supply, clogged drains, water filters, dirty condensers, scale or slime build-up, etc.  Any service required due to any of these issues is not covered by any of the commercial ice machine manufacturers, and the cost of remediating any of these common situations will be the financial responsibility of the equipment owner no matter how new the ice machine may be.

One way to avoid the headache of unforeseen service expenses is to lease your ice machine from Icesurance.  At Icesurance, our leasing customers receive the best service possible, and we back up that claim with guaranteed ice.

The Difference Between the Acceptable Range of Operating Conditions with the Actual Ability to Produce Ice

The cost of hot air.  In the last blog, we spoke about some of the operating issues that impair the ability of self-contained air cooled commercial ice machines to function properly.

All of these were related to air flow and ventilation.  So, on a related topic, I would like to address some of the other misconceptions regarding self- contained air cooled commercial ice machines.

First of all, most manufacturers provide production data that calculates lbs. of production within the following parameters: 50F-70F water temperature and 70F-90F air temperature.  This would be great information if the real world existed within the same temperature ranges, however it does not.

For example, the Kold-Draft GB1064AC series ice maker specifications show that as the water/air temperatures increase from 50/70 to 70/90, there will be a compensating reduction in output from 906 lbs. per day to 725 lbs. per day, a loss of 181 lbs per day, or 20%.  One may make the assumption that the declining production trend will maintain the same trajectory as the air or water temperatures increase, but that would be a mistake as the production drop will accelerate once past the 90/70 barrier.

It is important not to confuse the acceptable range of operating conditions with actual ability to produce ice.  After all, a commercial ice machine producing less than half its optimum production because it is in an environment with 110F air temperature is still by definition, “operating”.  The onus of replacing this amount of lost ice will fall on the restaurant in the purchase of extra ice or an additional machine, relocating the equipment, or upgrading the existing HVAC system, all of which comes not without spending a considerable sum of money.

So, if you have a situation where an ice machine will not work properly, it might be worthwhile to check into the alternatives of remote air-cooled or water cooled equipment.  At Icesurance, we will always help you select the most appropriate equipment for your business.

Position Your Ice Machine For Maximum Output

In consideration of the fact that the vast majority of commercial ice machines are of the self-contained air cooled variety, it is important to recognize that there are certain parameters that will affect the production and reliability of this equipment much more dramatically than water cooled or remote air versions.

The artificial creation of cold is, in the simplest terms, the process of eliminating heat.   With self-contained air cooled commercial ice machines, once the heat has been removed from the water to make ice, it is absorbed by the refrigerant gas.  The cooling of the hot gas is then achieved by blowing or sucking cooler air through the condenser, a component not unlike the radiator of a car that contains the tubing which circulates the gas through the ice machine.

The air movement is created by use of a pretty normal looking fan, and the pattern of air flow may vary depending on the make & model, but generally it is sucked in through one of  the four panels-front, back, right, left, and exhausted out one of the other panels.  And herein lies the gist of the matter.  Improper air temperature or circulation can and will cause drastic decreases in ice production.  This is a chronic occurrence when the equipment is installed in too tight a space, (see manufacturer’s recommendations) both restricting ventilation and increasing ambient temperature.

The key is providing several inches of open space between the intake and exhaust louvers of the machine, and keep in mind that closets and alcoves are some of the worst possible locations.  However, there are other determining factors besides proper ventilation.  A dirty condenser which inhibits or prevents air from flowing through will absolutely impact the ability of the ice machine to produce ice. This is especially noticeable in kitchens where there is a lot of grease build up or where flour is a major food component.

Also, excessive air temperatures will prevent air cooled ice machines from working properly as well, no matter how much ventilation there is or how clean the condenser is.  So, if you have a situation where the ice machine is in an area without air conditioning or even outdoors, in very high heat it just won’t make enough ice.

At Icesurance, we will help you select the right ice machine for your specific application.

Ice-O-Matic Nugget Ice Machines are in High Demand this Summer

ice-o-matic- flake ice machine, nugget ice machine, pellet ice machineAs mentioned in a prior post, Kold-Draft commercial ice machines, producers of the classic square cube, have enjoyed a great resurgence in popularity due to the efforts of mixologists who have successfully raised the role of ice from a simple source of refrigeration to a critical ingredient of a fine cocktail.

It would, however, be a mistake to assume that these innovators of beverage engineering would ever think that one ice form, no matter how perfect it is, would be able to meet the culinary and aesthetic standards of every single drink currently served, or imagined.  That’s the reason we see other ice forms emerging which encompass all types of geometric shapes and some not so geometric as well.

These choices are either homemade, carved out of a block of ice, or supplied by specialty ice distributors, and add a truly unique (and very expensive) aspect in consideration of historical experiences.  There is, however an additional choice that has gained an enthusiastic response, and is produced in an on premise ice machine; nugget ice.

lanikai1-3.jpgIce-O-Matic commercial nugget ice machines, also known as pellet machines, or chewable ice machines produce a compressed nugget, fairly uniform in shape, like a pencil eraser, and creates a spectacular presentation.  Nugget ice is an excellent choice for any beverage that was traditionally made in a blender or with crushed ice.  Aside from an intrinsic attraction to the size and shape of nugget ice, it has an unusual property in that it actually absorbs flavor from the beverage which is a huge compliment to the fact that it chewable.  Ice-O-Matic nugget ice machines are compact, only 22” wide, and is a value added product for any purveyor of fine spirits.

The Kold-Draft Classic Square Cube Revolution

kold-draft classic cubeKold-Draft…you’ve come a long way, baby.  It seems like yesterday, but the Kold-Draft classic ice cube revolution is now in its ninth year (as far as Icesurance is involved)  and growing.  This is not as much a testament to Kold-Draft, the machine or the factory, as it is a testament to the foresight and commitment of those who recognized a clear difference in the quality of the ice cube in both form and function.

Many of us who were making a living selling and leasing commercial ice machines had come to think of the cube size and shape as an irrelevant factor.  The engineers who designed the major brand ice machines seemed focused only on satisfying the needs of C Stores & Fast Food outlets where ice cubes are not even visible in the opaque paper cups with lids.  The result was that the needs of the rest of the food and beverage industry, for better or worse, were not addressed and they had no real choice but to use the same ice as Jack in the Box or Circle K.

So Icesurance would like to thank some of the visionary folks, like Dale DeGroff and Julie Reiner, who have re-introduced the classic square ice cube back into the daily consciousness of the American consumer. And now, nearly a decade later, the brand is stronger than ever because it looks good, it lasts long and it is better quality.  Because the mixologists were right.

The Importance of Cleaning Your Ice Machine

Without debating the origins of life on earth, it’s a certainty that moisture, in the right circumstance, breeds organic growth.  Unfortunately, the right circumstance may very well be the inside the commercial ice machine in your restaurant.

While that growth is called by different names, none of them are flattering.  So, whether you prefer mold or fungus, we can all pretty much agree, it is truly a disgusting slime of a gag inducing substance.

I am not a scientist and therefore cannot tell you the hows and whys of its appearance, but I can sure tell you that it has got to go.  Not only is this stuff gross looking, it can also represent a serious sanitation issue, causing possible illness and health department violations and/or fines.

Most commercial ice machine companies have cleaning and sanitizing instructions on their websites, and there are many YouTube demonstrations as well. However, we realize that not every restaurant has the personnel or the time to get this job done by themselves, so we provide that service.

Let’s face it, removing this goop is nobody’s favorite job.  But at Icesurance, we do believe that our ice machine leasing customers deserve the right to a sanitary ice machine, and to make sure of that, we have our professional, factory trained staff on the road cleaning and sanitizing our customer’s ice machines every day.

That is one of the most important benefits of our full service ice machine leasing programs.  We keep your ice machine clean and free from contamination.

Icesurance takes the hassle out of commercial ice machine cleaning.  We also offer cleaning service to non- leasing customers as well, for a nominal fee.  So, don’t let your ice machine become toxic, don’t let your ice machine become the target of your next health department inspection.

Beware of Purchasing Commercial Ice Machines Online

When it comes to getting your next commercial ice machine, do you really, really want reliable post sale service?  Is quick and competent ice machine service an important factor in the purchasing decision? Of course, nearly everyone will respond affirmatively, after all, who wouldn’t want excellent support for a piece of equipment that is so integral to creating a positive customer experience, especially when one considers the overall temper-mentality of commercial ice machines as a food service equipment segment in general.

Yet the facts just do not support this conclusion.  An ever-increasing number of commercial ice machines are purchased through online websites, where the primary driver is price.  There is nearly no other reason that these sites can even exist, as the business model is based on search engine optimization, not product knowledge, not customer support.

These marketing companies own no service vans, employ no refrigeration mechanics, administer no warranty claims and stock no parts.  Oh, and if they did, it probably wouldn’t matter because they DON’T EVEN ANSWER THE PHONE.  Good luck even trying to find a phone number, which has now become the Where’s Waldo of websites.  That’s because it takes people, real carbon based life forms who earn salaries, to talk to customers.

At Icesurance, we answer the phone, and there are no shopping carts on our website.  That’s because when a customer is going to spend thousands of dollars on a commercial ice machine, we believe that he or she is entitled to knowledgeable assistance to review some options and help select a machine that makes the best sense for their specific application and budget.  And we also believe that the same customer is entitled to talk to somebody who is courteous and competent to orchestrate any required service if and when they have a problem with that machine down the road.

So, in conclusion, I’m not a believer in buying ice machines from an electronic collection of programming code that has no ability or desire to process the demand, the operating conditions, and the urgency of repair.  However, one product that is surely made for internet sales is books.  So if you decide to buy an ice machine that may or may not be the right fit, you might want to buy a refrigeration text book as well.  At least the book won’t break down next year.