Article contributed by John Mahlmeister, COO, Easy Ice
The world of commercial ice equipment is a mystery to most people, including business owners who have relied on ice machines for decades. With a handful of brands to choose from and several different models per brand, it can be tough to decide which ice machine is right for your business.
Now, you don’t have to make that decision alone. Easy Ice, the only national provider of commercial ice machine rentals, has compiled our first Best Ice Machines list to help business owners pick out the right brand and model for their needs.
Why should you trust our judgment? We’re the largest ice machine rental company in America, with over 33,000 subscription customers across 47 states. We’ve been in business since 2009, and many of our staff members have decades of experience in the commercial ice machine industry. We’re not affiliated with any one brand; we use machines from multiple manufacturers in our subscription program to satisfy our customers.
Here’s an excerpt from our Best Ice Machines of 2023 list:
The Manitowoc Indigo NXT IT Series: Best for Small, Medium, and Large Restaurants
Ice machines from Manitowoc’s Indigo series appear across multiple categories on our list, thanks to their maintenance-friendly design and reliability. Manitowoc is a consumer-favorite, American-made brand that you’ll find in restaurants and bars all over the country. The Indigo series produces Manitowoc’s regular cube, dice cube, and half dice cube.
Small and medium restaurants typically use around 600lbs. of ice every 24 hours, so the IT0620 is often the right Indigo series model for them. For larger restaurants, we recommend the IT1200, which produces around 1000 lbs. of ice daily. These two models are identical outside of production capacity.
BONUS: The Manitowoc IT0620 is also our pick for best ice cube machine to pair with soda fountains. This model fits perfectly on top of most beverage dispensers, and the Manitowoc cube types are already popular with quick service restaurants.
The ICETRO IM-0770-AN: Best Nugget Ice Machine for Soda Fountains
Speaking of soda fountains, some restaurant owners want nugget ice for theirs instead of hard cubes. Given how much America loves nugget ice—also known as cubelet ice, pellet ice, Sonic ice, etc.—we’re not surprised.
In our customers’ experience, ICETRO’s nugget ice machine performs the best long-term in this specific application, and the brand is one of the more affordable on the market. Whether you’re considering an ICETRO or another brand, make sure you have a dispenser designed for nugget ice, or the ice won’t make it through!
By Ice Type
The list of ice types is longer than most people think! Hard cubes vs. soft ice, standard shapes vs. specialty ice—business owners have plenty to choose from.
Hoshizaki, the Japanese brand that has long dominated the commercial ice equipment industry, is our pick in two of the ice type categories, one specialty and one standard.
The Hoshizaki KM-660MAJ: Best Crescent Ice Machine
The crescent cube is Hoshizaki’s signature ice, a cube widely beloved in the restaurant industry. No other brand does it better than they do. Their 600 lb. crescent cube machine stays in our top 3 requested models every year.
The KM-660MAJ, like all Hoshizaki ice machines, features the brand’s CycleSaver™ design—so your ice machine will use less water and energy than competing models and last longer thanks to the better cycle-to-ice-production ratio.
*Special Note: if you run a restaurant in a coastal location where the air is salty or in a region with especially hard water, consider a Manitowoc ice machine instead. Their evaporators tend to tolerate those conditions better than Hoshizaki’s.
The Hoshizaki IM-500SAB and IM-50BAA-LM: Best Square Cube Machines
Whether you want standard square ice for your bar or extra-large specialty cubes, Hoshizaki is, by far, the most dependable brand offering them.
Their IM-500SAB produces 1-inch square cubes perfect for high-end liquors served on the rocks, and with a 500 lb. daily production capacity, the machine is well-suited to small and medium-sized restaurants and bars. We’ve also seen cafes and coffeeshops select the IM-500SAB to use square cubes in their iced drinks, setting them apart from their national chain competitors.
In the specialty ice world, only Hoshizaki makes an extra-large square cube. The IM-50BAA machine creates giant 2-inch cubes that transform cocktails into statement pieces. The 2×2 square cubes are comparable in size to Hoshizaki’s sphere cube, another standout specialty ice type. All you need is one cube per glass.
*Special Note: we strongly recommend moving the extra-large square cubes (or the sphere cubes, if you choose that type) from your ice bin to a freezer in order to preserve their shape. This ice is prone to losing its shape if left too long in the unrefrigerated bin.
By Model Type
For some business owners, the ice machine’s design is an important factor because space is limited and they may not have room to install a standard ice machine in their kitchen. Additionally, they might want the ice right behind the bar or counter, accessible at a beverage fountain, or accessible at a self-serve water and ice station.
Our recommendations in two of these special categories?
The Manitowoc NEO® 310 Series: Best Undercounter Ice Machine
Manitowoc’s NEO series delivers an ideal undercounter ice machine for restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops that want their ice close at hand but out of sight. Why are these ice machines our pick for the undercounter category?
- Removable bin makes for easy cleaning and service
- Large bin opening
- Designed to “breathe” through the front, preventing ventilation issues in tight spaces
The Manitowoc NEO 310 series produces around 300 lbs. of ice per day and comes in dice (UDF-310A) and half-dice (UFY-310A) models.
The Hoshizaki DCM-300BAH: Best Water and Ice Dispenser
Whether you want a water and ice dispenser for your quick service restaurant, coffeeshop, or office micro market, we suggest nugget ice—one of the most popular ice types across all applications.
Hoshizaki’s 300 lb. nugget ice and water dispenser is one of the most reliable, and that’s saying something, given the tendency of nugget ice machines to develop mechanical issues more than hard cube machines. With the brand’s CleanCycle24 technology, your DMC-300BAH will perform a 2-second flush every hour to promote overall internal cleanliness. Hoshizaki’s H-GUARD Antimicrobial Plus agent will also help keep your ice and water clean between professional maintenance visits.
Scotsman’s HID ice machines are runner-up in this category, and you may prefer its smaller, softer cubes to Hoshizaki’s cubelet ice. While Scotsman is a solid choice in this category, we do think Hoshizaki rates higher on overall reliability.
For the complete list of 2023’s Best Ice Machines (Commercial), visit the Easy Ice blog here.
John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Denver. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to over 30,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit EasyIce.com. Find them on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn