Having the right type of ice and producing the right amount of ice in a costeffective way are critical to maintaining profitability at the beverage center. There are two basic types of ice made by two different types of machine processes. The classic ice type for beverages is commercial-quality cube ice, which differs from that made in ice trays in how it is produced. Flake ice is the other main ice type. Flakes are ideal for rapid beverage cooling but tend to water down the drink too much for most customers. For use in beverages, most consumers prefer cubes; the cube tends to melt slower than flaked ice because it has less surface area and there is not water trapped inside like with flake ice.
A new “hybrid” ice that seems to be gaining in popularity is known as compressed nugget ice. This ice, which is not as crystal clear as cubes but is slower to melt than flaked ice, is formed in an easyto-chew nugget. The process by which the ice is made uses less water and significantly less electricity than producing cubes, making nuggets a less costly option. The machines are also more compact and require less maintenance.
Once the ice type is selected, sizing ice makers for volume is the next step, though it can be difficult because of the many variables involved. Ice needs are rarely the same in any two operations, and requirements will fluctuate in most stores, depending on the day of the week and the season. Generally, a convenience retailer can count on using about 1 lb. of daily ice production per fountain beverage served. This usage factor includes ice melting in the bin and some waste but does not include other ice uses like bagged ice, which retailers should consider accounting for separately.
Once the number of pounds of daily ice production is determined, retailers must then match the production need with a machine. Some production claims can be misleading if the purchaser doesn’t know what to look for. Many manufacturers’ ice making claims are based on a 50°F water temperature and 70°F air temperature at the ice maker. These temperatures are often unrealistic since in many areas incoming water temperature exceeds 50°F, especially in the summer when ice needs are greatest and the air temperature in the store is higher. Exceeding design temperatures can cause the maker’s production capacity to drop.
When sizing an ice maker, buyers must take into account the air and water temperature to be sure that enough ice can be produced. As a rule of thumb, a 10°F air temperature increase may reduce daily ice production by 10% when using an aircooled machine. In addition, the higher room temperature will melt ice in the bin quicker, requiring more ice-making capacity to replenish and fill the bin. The use of water-cooled ice makers, especially for larger machines, can reduce the amount of heat the ice maker itself adds to the kitchen. The amount of heat generated by air-cooled machines is significant, especially if located in a small confined area or an air-conditioned space.
Ice makers use either air or water to cool their refrigeration compressor and condenser system. Each has its advantages. The air-cooled condenser is cost effective and involves no added water costs. In addition to dispersing less heat than an air-cooled machine, the watercooled system does have some significant advantages in efficiency. A water-cooled maker’s electrical consumption is generally less when compared with a similarlysized air-cooled machine. Water-cooled units are also quieter for areas where noise is a factor. Most water-cooled machines must be on a “closed-loop” system, which may not always be feasible.
A variation of the air-cooled system is a remote condenser unit that offers advantages of its own. The remote unit takes the biggest heat-producing component the condenserout of the ice maker altogether. The remote approach does not require water and removes most of the heat from the service area. The condenser can be located up to about 50 feet away, perhaps on the store’s roof.
Finally, retailers must never underestimate the importance of a water filter for an ice maker. Water filters, after all, condition incoming water, reduce mineral buildup and cleaning frequency, allow top equipment performance and, in the end, improve the overall quality of ice.