When it comes to making excellent drinks, it’s hard to overstate the importance of ice. Proper ice can be the difference between a sub standard cocktail and the sort of drink that leaves a lasting impression.
And if you need to produce ice in large quantities, a commercial ice maker is definitely the way to go. These appliances are ideal for business owners and restauranteurs who need to crank out large amounts of ice for drinks or even for those who simply want a luxury ice maker for the home bar(see also: Best Bar Cutting Board – A Must Have For Any Home Bar).
No matter what your ambitions are, we’ve got you covered. We’ve rounded up a list of the best commercial ice makers on the market today to help you decide which one is the best fit for your needs. Stick around until the end for tips on what to look for when comparing, and how to tell which machines are the real deal.
A Quick Word About Ice Types
Before we take a look at our list of the best commercial ice makers, it’s important to take a quick moment to discuss the different types of ice out there. It’s important to know the difference because many ice makers only make one type of ice, and you don’t want to be stuck with a product that makes an ice type you don’t want.
There are essentially six main types of ice: cube, half cube, nuggets, flakes, crescents, and gourmet. We aren’t going to get super deep into this topic here as there is quite a bit we could discuss, but here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know for the purposes of choosing a machine:
- Cube ice: as the name suggests, this is a literal cube of ice. Most makers produce ice that’s about 1″x1″x1″ or a little less. Cubes are versatile and work with many beverage types and are used for fine dining, scotch drinking, or even bringing a cooler to temperature.
- Half cube: as this name also suggests, this is a cube of ice that’s cut in half. Half cube ice has gotten more popular in recent years and is ideal for not only most regular beverages, it’s perfect for blended drinks and frozen cocktails.
- Nuggets: Nugget ice is probably the most popular type of ice – a nugget looks like a little pellet of ice, and is ideal for a wide variety of drink types, including blended drinks and frozen cocktails. We’ve created a resource for the best nugget/sonic ice makers here.
- Flakes: this is kind of a catch all term which describes ice with irregular sizes. Most of the time flakes are used for displaying food (like seafood, for example) but not for drinks.
- Crescents: also known as chips, these cubes last the longest and are great with beverages but are NOT ideal for blended drinks.
- Gourmet: gourmet ice almost looks like an upside down chef’s hat and are most commonly used in bars and for nicer drinks. Not the most ideal for blended drinks.
Best Commercial Ice Makers – Our Reviews
Our top commercial ice maker choice goes to the Manitowoc NEO Undercounter Ice Machine – it simply has all of the features you love to see in a bar appliance.
It’s worth noting right off the bat that this is an undercounter ice machine – meaning it’s designed to fit snugly as a built-in unit underneath your counter. With that being said, this unit also works just fine as a freestanding unit, so it can be a great fit for a wide variety of spaces. It’s well insulated and can even be used effectively in garages or other rooms without air conditioning.
The filtration system here is top notch and does a fantastic job of creating a flow of consistent, high quality water through the machine. The end result is clear, consistent, great tasting ice that won’t dilute the taste of the drinks you use it in.
This particular model creates half cube sized ice, but you can also opt for a variation of this model that creates full size ice cubes. Capacity wise the unit processes 1.5 gallons per minute of water (can fill the entire bin from zero in less than 12 hours) and has a bin that holds up to 90 pounds of ice.
Last but not least, Manitowoc products are covered by a generous warranty, which is a must-have for high ticket items. The compressor and evaporator are covered by 5 year warranties and all other parts are covered by a 3 year warranty.
If you’re in need of generous ice storage capacity, the ADT Industrial Grade Ice Maker is an excellent choice that can hold up to a whopping 200 pounds of ice in the bin.
In addition to sheer ice capacity, this unit runs quite efficiently. It makes 156 ice cubes per cycle, and each cycle takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. You can also run this ice maker 24 hours a day without issue – most of its parts are made of durable stainless steel so longevity is not an issue even with heavy use.
As far as the type of ice goes this unit makes traditional full size cubes, which are versatile and perfect for use in drinks or to handle bulk cooling needs.
As you’d expect from one of the best commercial ice makers on the market, this unit comes with a complete set of accessories. With the included ice scoops, water supply hose, water supply connector, and water draining hose, you’ll be ready to rock and roll shortly after installation.
When it comes to the top brands in the ice machine game, Scotsman is a name that has been around for quite some time and is widely known to make outstanding quality products.
Their 15 Inch Undercounter Nugget Ice Maker is an outstanding choice for anybody who prefers the nugget style of ice. This unit is compact and efficient – it won’t take up much space at all underneath your counter. No side clearance is required for installation as the unit’s ventilation is all on the front. While it’s designed to be a built-in, it’s feasible to use this unit in a freestanding setting.
For its size, the Scotsman produces a cool 79 pounds of ice per day, and can store up to 36 pounds. This is obviously not the highest capacity unit to make its way onto our list, but it’s perfect for those working with a smaller amount of space. Scotsman also offers similar styled units that are larger for those in need.
Last but not least, this unit is designed to last. With stainless steel as the material of choice for key components and corrosion resistant aluminum side panels, you can expect durability even with heavy use. Scotsman also covers this product with a 3 year warranty.
If you’re looking for a more budget friendly option, one of the most affordable commercial ice makers on the market is the HomeLabs Freestanding Ice Maker Machine.
The price point is really good for what you get – this unit can make 99 pounds of high quality cube shaped ice per 24 hours. There is a tradeoff though, and it comes in the form of storage capacity. The storage bin only holds 29 pounds of ice, which is pretty small compared to the other units on our list.
So it’s maybe not the ideal choice for those who need large quantities of ice in short spurts of time. However, if you don’t particularly need a ton of ready-to-go ice storage, this unit may be a great fit for your home or business.
As the name suggests, this HomeLabs appliance is designed for freestanding use – not under the counter use. At 17.6″ x 15.7″ x 31.4″, it’s actually compact enough to use on a counter top or table top, as long as it’s close enough to connect to water supply.
A feature we particularly love here is that you can adjust the thickness of your ice cubes on the LCD control panel – so you have ultimate control over your ice.
Ice-O-Matic is another trusted name in the world of ice making appliances. Their ICEU150HA Air Cooled Undercounter machine is one of their best, as it can crank out 185 pounds of ice per 24 hours.
The bin is also quite large considering the size – the storage capacity of this unit is 70 pounds of ice, which is definitely a must have for many businesses that go through large quantities of ice.
The ice making capacity and storage bin size are especially impressive considering that this unit measures out at only 27 x 29 x 40 inches. Many competitors aren’t able to offer this level of capacity without making their appliances considerably larger.
Ice-O-Matic is also known for their 7 year warranties – which is one of the longest, if not the longest warranty coverage period in the industry. They also offer complete customer service and have a team of technicians available for service calls to address any issues that may arise.
The Manitowoc Half-Dice Machine with D400 Bin is the sort of ice machine you want if you don’t want to worry about your business running out of ice. With 450 pounds of ice making capacity per day and 365 pounds of ice storage, it’s hard to imagine many operations that would need more capacity.
If you are one of those operations that needs even more storage capacity, this ice maker also can be purchased with a larger 532 pound bin. This machine produces outstandingly high quality clear ice in addition to the impressive production capacity. The ice is half cube shaped and ideal for a wide variety of uses.
An EasyTouch display makes operating your machine intuitive and easy – you can control everything about your ice production schedule from one spot. It also comes with a scoop, holder, ergonomic door, and polyurethane bin liner.
Last but not least, this ice maker is energy efficient – which is especially important considering the size. Compared to similarly situated units, the D400 uses 20% less water and 10% less energy to run.
The Vevor 110V Ice Maker is an all around solid appliance that checks a lot of the boxes you like to see when it comes to the best commercial ice makers. It’s made with quality parts, including but not limited to the premium water filter, brushed stainless steeel finishes, and food grade PP injection liner.
Most of all, the Vevor units are efficient at creating ice. Depending on the ambient temperature of your set up, this unit’s cycle time runs anywhere from 8-15 minutes. Each cycle produces 108 cubes of ice, which amounts to a production capacity of 320 pounds per 24 hours.
Storage wise the bin supports 77 pounds of ice, which is a nice size for most business or home use scenarios. It’s a freestanding build that is insulated quite nicely – you can’t use it outdoors but it should do just fine in rooms that don’t have air conditioning.
How To Choose the Best Commercial Ice Maker
We already touched on the different types of ice how there and how the type of ice your appliance makes can make a huge difference. Next we’ll take a quick look at some of the other factors you should consider when comparing ice makers.
Freestanding vs Undercounter (Built-in)
It may sound obvious, but you should make sure to pay attention to whether the unit you’re looking at is designed to be freestanding or to be installed underneath a counter. There are some distinct differences between the two build types (such as how the ventilation system is configured), and it would be sub-optimal to buy the wrong type.
Of course, some ice makers work as either freestanding or built-ins. No matter what your preference is, just be sure to double check on this point before making a purchase.
Even for commercial grade ice makers, there is a pretty wide range of production capacity ice makers. Most commercial units are capable of making somewhere in the range of 65-500+ pounds of ice per day. With that in mind, take a moment to think about how much ice you plan to use at your business or your home.
Storage Bin Capacity
Just because your ice machine can make 200 pounds of ice per day, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get to truly utilize that power. The size of your storage bin matters because that’s the maximum amount of ice you’ll ever have on hand at any given time. Think about how frequently you’ll plan to use ice and how much you’d like to have on hand for your peak hours.
Insulation (Where Do You Plan to Use Your Ice Maker?)
The reality is that some ice makers are better insulated than others. It’s rare to find a maker that can truly operate outdoors in the summer heat (if you do find one it will be expensive), but some are more capable than others of performing in a non air conditioned room.
So if you plan to make ice in your garage, for example, not all units will work well. Take a look at how well insulated your unit and its storage bin is to see if it can handle production in a warmer room.
Of course, all ice makers are well suited for indoor use – so no worries on this point if you just plan to install one inside.
How easy is your ice maker to clean? It’s a good idea to keep your ice machine in tip top shape, so a unit that’s a hassle to clean isn’t going to be the best for the long term.
Furthermore, as with many commercial appliances, ice makers are prone to break. The more reputable manufacturers have teams of mechanics who can come out for service calls and fix any issues you might have. It’s worth looking into what kind of support is offered alongside of your appliance.
With the ability for an appliance to create ice 24/7 comes the inevitable usage of energy. Especially if you plan to buy multiple units for your business, consider how much energy will be used by your ice maker and account for the ongoing cost of electricity in your decision. You should be able to tell how much energy a given product uses on the website where you plan to make a purchase.
No matter whether you’re a bar owner, restaurateur, or simply somebody who wants perfect ice at home, we hope this guide to the best commercial ice makers has helped guide you in your decision making process.
At the end of the day there are plenty of solid products out there, and much of the decision comes down to your personal preference of ice type, production capacity, and storage capacity.