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Types of Ice Made by Commercial Ice Machines

No matter what type of establishment you operate, most will require having an ice machine of some sort. Ice is a huge necessity for bars and restaurants serving refreshing cocktails and beverages, to hotels, and even hospitals. 

To choose the right ice machine for your establishment you need to know the benefits and drawbacks of each type of ice is equally as important as the configuration of the machine itself. You must also determine what size commercial ice machine you need to meet the demands of day to day service. This guide will help you determine what type of ice and style of ice machine is best suited for running a successful establishment.

Types of Ice Produced by Commercial Ice Machines

Type of Ice Appearance & Features Popular Usage Production Benefits
Full Cube Ice or Full Dice Ice Cube or rectangle Casual Dining, hotels, convenience stores Cube Ice is hard and clear ice made by spraying or running water over a freezing evaporator plate until the thickness of ice has developed. Once the ice grows to the right cube size which is usually divided on a grid it is then released from the plate and dropped into a storage bin or ice dispenser.

Hard, long-lasting ice. Ideal for cooling beverages without watering them down
Half Cube Ice or Half Dice Ice Smaller cube or rectangle Quick service, fast food, schools - Most popular size and shape of ice More surface area for faster melt but also cools drinks faster Displaces more liquid which means less beverage being served
Gourmet Ice Cylindrical, almost top hat shaped High-end restaurant or sophisticated alcohol establishments   Melts slower so drinks are less likely to be watered down. More likely to “clink” against each other and glassware
Crescent Ice Curved edge with flat side - made exclusively by Hoshizaki Quick service, Fast food, schools, hospitality; universally exchangeable with half cube or half dice Product same as full or half dice cubes but with a different shape. The curved side makes it easier to fit more ice in a cup. More surface area for faster melt but also cools drinks faster. Displaces even more liquid than half dice cube, which means less beverage being served.
Nugget Ice, also known as Sonic Ice

also known as Pearl or “Sonic Ice” for the national fast food chain that made it famous

Small, round, irregularly-shaped balls of ice that are porous and good at absorbing liquid Healthcare facilities, Restaurant Chains Nugget ice is made the same way flake ice is made through an auger cylinder. However, once the ice makes its way to the top of the cylinder, it is forced out through extruders that compress the ice into the nugget shape. Soft and chewable ice that absorbs liquid and retains flavor of beverage. Its very high liquid displacement means less liquid per glass. It is easy to chew and melts quickly making it ideal for healthcare and asissted living facilities.
Flake Ice Soft tiny flakes Super Markets in fresh seafood and meats Flake Ice has a unique way it is made compared to the different types of ice. With an auger-type evaporator cylinder water is sprayed on the inner surface where it starts to freeze in a very thin layer. Once this occurs a spinning auger chops the thin slices of ice into even smaller flakes. A rotating blade forces the flakes to the top of the cylinder where they begin to fall out. Flake ice is easy to pack and shape. It is easy to chew and melts quickly making it ideal for healthcare and asissted living facilities.

Ice Configurations

There are typically 3 category styles commercial ice machines fall into. These styles are modular or ice machine heads (which require a corresponding bin on which it’s mounted), undercounter ice machines, and countertop ice makers and dispensers. Each of the following styles caters to a specific audience and understanding the differences between the 3 can make purchasing an ice machine a lot easier. 

Modular Ice Machines

Modular ice machines are designed to produce large amounts and can make anywhere from 250 lbs - 17000 lbs of ice per day. Their shape allows them to fit on a variety of ice storage bins, ice machine dispensers, and soda dispensers. 

Undercounter Ice Machine

Undercounter ice machines size offer the convenience of storing the ice machine in a small place that normally cannot fit a regular sized machine. With a smaller size comes a smaller production rate of 50lbs-500lbs a day. They most popularly used in the front of the bar to allow easy access of ice from bartenders and staff.

Countertop Ice Dispensers

This type of ice machine is best suited for the healthcare facilities such as nurses stations, patient areas, waiting rooms or break rooms. Its design allows customers to access the ice without the help of staff members. Ice dispensers range in sizes and produce on average 200lbs-800lbs of ice per day. Most dispense a nugget style ice making it easier to chew.

Commercial Ice Machines by Brand


Manitowoc is known for ranking high above their competitors as one of the most technologically advanced machines on the market. Their onboard computer system (Indigo System on ) monitors and maintains the operation and cleaning cycles making regular upkeep quite simple. This becomes very useful in environments with variable ambient temperatures. 


Scotsman is best known for their nugget machines which were made famous by the fast food giant, Sonic. This easily chewable ice has also found its way into the health care industry where Scotsman’s water and ice dispensers continue to dominate. 

Scotsman tends to work well in high-volume establishments and can meet demands easily. These machines come with an impressive warranty and are Made in the U.S.A!

Scotsman ice makers do come with very useful built in technology however it is not as advanced as its competitors which can result in a slightly uneven production volume when temperatures of air or water are not ideal.


Ice-O-Matic ice machines are knowns as one of the best “pound-per-dollar” machines around due to their mechanical nature. They do not come with an onboard computer to that monitors and optimizes production like their competitors.

However, the simplistic design, using all electro mechanical components, means that if something goes wrong, any technician is likely to have a generic part on hand to fix the unit and for less!

Ice-O-Matic shines when it comes to the warranty. They stand behind their machines. They offer the longest evaporator plate warranty with use of a , if you also purchase an Ice-O-Matic in line water filter kit which helps support clean, clear ice production. This lowers maintenance needed and makes making ownership of one of these machines less stressful.

Ice-O-Matic’s machines can react poorly to less than ideal temperatures however in controlled environments they are power-houses when it comes to simple, efficient ice production.

How to Choose the Right Commercial Ice Machine

The next time you are in the process of buying a commercial ice machine ask yourself these simple questions:

  • What type of drinks or products am I serving
  • What type of ice do I need?
  • How much ice do I need to run efficiently? Check out this easy to use Ice Machine Sizing Guide
Once those questions are answered finding the right ice machine should be a breeze. An additional factor that may be worth considering is the possibility of saving money through an energy efficient ice machine . In recent years new technology with ice machines is emerging making it possible to get a machine that is both energy-efficient and hard-working. With so many choices to choose from let ACityDiscount help you along the way!

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