Looking for the best commercial ice machine for your business? Easy Ice knows how overwhelming that can be, and we’re here to help. Working with businesses of all kinds across the country, we’ve installed and now maintain over 30,000 commercial ice makers. You might say we know a thing or two about finding the right match!
If you need help deciding which ice maker is best for your business, you’re in the right place. Let’s examine the best commercial ice machine models for different ice types, business applications, styles of ice machine, and overall reliability.
- Best Commercial Ice Machines for Overall Reliability
- Best Ice Machines for Different Ice Types
- Best Ice Makers by Machine Type
Best Commercial Ice Machines for Overall Reliability
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best ice machine for a given business, including peak ice consumption, preferred ice type, and workspace conditions. But taking a step back and looking at the whole picture, Easy Ice has found the following models to be the most reliable commercial ice machines for the widest variety of our customers.
If there’s one thing we can say about the Indigo® NXT IT series ice makers from Manitowoc, it’s that they tend to get the job done. These machines have an innovative, easy-access design that allows for much better cleaning and ease of maintenance, and in our experience, this makes them more reliable than the average ice machine. Additionally, different machines in the series have the capability to create dice, half-dice, and regular ice cubes. We chose the IYT-0620A specifically from this series because many of our customers enjoy the liquids-displacing benefits of half-dice ice—but we highly recommend all models from the Indigo series.
ICETRO IM-0770-AN and AF (Nugget & Flake Ice)
The reason a nugget ice machine is grouped with a flake ice machine here is that they both come from the same type of unit. A nugget ice machine is simply a flake ice machine with smaller channels in the extrusion head that further compresses the flaked ice into nugget ice.
Our customers often request nugget ice machines due to the popularity of that ice type. When it comes to the preferred ice machine models for these ice types, we’ve selected the 770-series flaker/nugget ice machines from ICETRO. These models are designed for easy installation and service, durability, and consistent performance. We’ve found them to be the right option for businesses in need of a modular nugget or flake ice machine that will stand the test of time.
Hoshizaki DCM-300BAH (Nugget Ice + Water)
The DCM series from Hoshizaki is a self-contained nugget ice maker and dispenser that allows users to dispense cold water in addition to nugget ice. Because nugget ice is often requested in places like corporate offices, nursing stations, and cafeterias, the added benefit of a water dispenser makes sense in many applications. Between the convenience of the design and reliability that comes with the Hoshizaki name, the DCM series is often an easy pick for us. The DCM-300BAH is, by far, the machine that we install for customers most often, but and the DCM-500BAH and DCM-500BAH are also great machines.
Please note that Easy Ice recommends taking extra care with the current iteration of the “OS” variants of the DCM series. These machines have remote sensors for hands-free dispensing, but we’ve found that they don’t always work—particularly when used with clear cups.
Hoshizaki IM-500SAB (Large Cubes)
Hoshizaki’s IM-series ice machines make larger ice cubes, and although large cubes aren’t quite as common as regular crescent or standard cube ice, they’re important for certain high-end and specialty establishments. Over time, we’ve found the IM series makes large square cubes with the best consistency in the industry. Ice makers we use from this line include the IM-500SAB and the IM-50BAA-LM—both of which have also made our list as the best large ice cube makers.
Best Ice Machines for Different Ice Types
Searching for a specific ice type? You’re not alone there—ice type is a high priority for some business owners. This is common in the world of bars and restaurants, but we also see it in settings like healthcare and office break rooms.
Let’s look at some of the common ice types that businesses we work with request, what they’re typically used for, and the best commercial ice makers for each one.
Though not technically a square cube, Hoshizaki’s crescent-shaped ice is widely associated with the term “ice-cubes” and is arguably the most popular ice in commercial applications. These cubes are clear and melt slowly, ensuring drinks stay cold without watering them down. Whether it’s a grocery store, restaurant, or your favorite convenience store—you’ll find ice that’s shaped like this in many places.
The crescent shape itself also has benefits. Thanks to Hoshizaki’s design, the cubes are formed individually and drop one at a time, as opposed to other machines that “bridge” the ice together to aid with the harvest. This means that the cubes don’t clump together and can nest in the glass more tightly, allowing for more displacement of liquid. The shape also helps prevent splashing when pouring beverages more than other ice types.
Hoshizaki is one of the most well-known names in the world of commercial ice machines for a reason. Their ice makers are massively popular, known for their reliability, and feature a CycleSaver™ Design that extends their life relative to competitors’ machines.
While the KM-660MAJ is the most common commercial ice machine we install for subscribers, we wholeheartedly recommend the entire KM series for crescent ice. Hoshizaki’s crescent ice machines create the hardest, purest, and slowest-melting ice cubes on the market.
Note—if your business operates in a coastal area with salty air or a region with hard water, a Manitowoc Machine might be better for you, as their evaporators tend to hold up better in such conditions.
Cube ice is (you guessed it!) more of an actual square cube shape, though in the Manitowoc model we recommend, they do come out with a slight rhomboid shape and dimple in the back. Square cubes have a visually appealing gourmet look and are slightly larger, making them popular in bars and restaurants where cocktails are sold.
Most manufacturers have the same basic shape for full cubes (referred to as “dice ice” by Manitowoc), so we recommend the Manitowoc IDT-0620A specifically for its consistent performance. This model belongs to the Indigo® NXT IT “D” (for dice ice) series and is quite popular with our customers, but we endorse the entire NXT line. The “A” at the end of the model name denotes an air-cooled machine rather than the “W” of water-cooled units, both of which perform excellently. Air-cooled units, however, tend to make the most sense for most of our customers, as water-cooled ice machines have high restrictions in most municipalities.
These cubes are simply half the size of normal cubed (or dice) ice. It’s a very popular ice type because more ice can be put into a glass to displace liquid, but half-dice ice still has the classic, gourmet look of full-sized cubes.
The IYT-0620A comes from the same line as the machine above but makes half-dice ice instead of full dice—which is why it has a “Y” designation. We chose the IYT-0620A for half-dice ice because experience shows us that Manitowoc (and its sister brand, Koolaire) tend to deliver these little half cubes the most consistently, and the machines can be cleaned or serviced with relative ease. Plus, these half-dice cubes don’t have the dimple found in full dice, which sometimes splashes liquid out of the cup when pouring a beverage.
Similarly to our top pick for dice ice above, we’ve chosen the air-cooled model because it’s most commonly used and isn’t subject to the same restrictions as the water-cooled version (IYT-0620W)—but both types perform exceptionally.
Large ice cubes are a big hit in upscale bars and cocktail lounges, and are particularly popular with those who enjoy whiskey, rum, and other dark liquors. The shape creates appealing light patterns in darker drinks, and more importantly, the larger size ensures slow melting to maintain both temperature and flavor.
When it comes to these larger cubes, we recommend Hoshizaki’s IM-500SAB—and IM series in general—because of their superior dependability and lifespan. For ice connoisseurs, it may be worth noting that the IM-500SAB creates slightly imperfect cubes that have a dimple on the bottom, and when compared to other brands, the cubes are slightly smaller with dimensions of 1” x 1” x 1.25”. However, sacrificing aesthetic perfection for dependability is usually a choice we recommend, and we’ve found that these machines hold up over time.
Additionally, Hoshizaki is also the only ice machine manufacturer to offer a unit that makes two-inch cubes—the IM-50BAA-LM. It’s important to note that with large cubes like these, an excessively hot environment surrounding the ice machine can begin melting them in the bin—so it might be a good idea to move them to a freezer as they’re harvested.
Also referred to as shaved or crushed ice, this ice type is very soft and malleable—so it plays an important role in the presentation of food and drink. We often see flake ice used in seafood applications, but it’s also a good option for buffets, salad bars, and displaying canned or bottled beverages.
Commercial ice machines of all types are known for being finnicky, and flake ice machines are even more prone to issues than regular ice cube machines. ICETRO’s IM-0770-AF ice machines have the best performance of any flakers we’ve worked with, and they produce the perfectly soft and malleable flake ice that customers expect.
Nugget, cubelet, pellet, chewblet—this massively popular ice type goes by many different names! But one thing’s for sure: people love their nugget ice.
Made popular by restaurant chains like Sonic and Chick-Fil-A, these little cubes are soft and chewable, and their porosity allows them to absorb the flavor of beverages. Nugget ice is also common in the world of healthcare because its small size allows it to be easily consumed by patients who have difficulty swallowing liquids. Additionally, its soft and malleable consistency means it won’t tear through plastic bags, so it’s often used in medical ice packs as well.
The ICETRO IM-0770-AN is the same machine as the IM-0770-AF flaker mentioned above but has a different extrusion head and cutter, so it can turn flake ice into nugget ice. That’s why this model has an “AN” designation at the end, while the flaker has an “AF.” Like flakers, nugget ice machines can have issues with reliability, but ICETRO’s track record of strong performance makes them our current preferred choice.
In the world of high-end cocktail and whiskey bars, sphere ice has gained lots of popularity. These specialty cubes are among the slowest melting, and their perfectly round shape makes for especially stunning cocktails. Creating sphere ice (also referred to as ice spheres or ice balls) in the past was extremely time intensive, but not with a sphere ice maker!
This model is designed to create 50 pounds of eye-catching ice spheres (equivalent to roughly 500 spheres) in 24 hours and features the same consistent performance and innovative design that other types of Hoshizaki ice machines are known for. The machine is compact enough to fit beneath counters and was built to keep maintenance as simple as possible, which helps ensure maximum production and a longer lifespan. This Hoshizaki machine is the only sphere ice machine currently on the market and performs very reliably—but be aware that if the exterior environment surrounding the machine gets too hot, the spheres are likely to begin melting and lose their shape.
Best Ice Machines by Machine Type
Maybe your biggest concern for your business’s next ice machine has more to do with sizing and fitting the unit into the right space, like under a counter. Or perhaps you’re after an ice machine and bin combination, so you’re ready to go with one piece of equipment.
Modular ice makers are popular with businesses that need large quantities of ice daily—particularly restaurants. A modular ice maker is just an ice machine head, so it needs to be combined with a separate, compatible bin or dispensing unit.
Since the Manitowoc Indigo® IYT-0620A was included in our best ice machines for overall reliability, it’s likely no surprise that we’ve selected it as our preferred modular commercial ice machine. Easy access makes maintenance much easier, which ultimately extends the life of the machine, making it ideal for just about any business where a lot of ice is needed. Other popular machines from the Indigo® NXT IT line include the smaller-capacity IT0500 models.
Self-Contained Units (Undercounter Ice Maker & Bin Combination)
Self-contained ice makers, unlike modular units, require no additional equipment for proper operation. They’re generally much more compact than a modular unit on top of a bin, so they’re more adaptable to smaller spaces—making them popular in applications like cafes and smaller restaurants. The downside of their smaller size is they produce less ice than their modular counterparts.
We chose this ice machine model because of its convenience and performance. A removable bin makes the unit easy to clean and service, and it has a front door panel that slots into the top when opened, which creates a large opening for scooping ice. The unit also breathes in and out through the front, which allows for use in tight spaces without ventilation issues. Another popular, well-performing model from this line includes the UDF-310A (dice ice).
Remote-cooled commercial ice machines have their condenser installed in a separate area outside—usually on the roof, behind the establishment, or in a breezeway. This setup ensures that the hottest, noisiest part of the ice machine is outside. For some businesses, having a remote-cooled ice machine makes all the difference when it comes to consistent performance. Many of the problems ice machines encounter arise from their surrounding environment getting too hot, and a remote condenser takes that possibility off the table—typically resulting in a longer lifespan. It also ensures the ice machine isn’t too loud, which is particularly important in settings like hotels. The downside of these machines is that such lengthy refrigerant lines can run into issues, so installation must be done professionally.
Note that some of the other series we’ve looked at have remote-cooled options, but for readers looking specifically for this type of ice machine, we’ve added specific examples that we’ve had good experiences with.
Regardless of condenser/cooling type, Hoshizaki’s KM series and Manitowoc’s IT series have proven themselves to be dependable machines—which is why they’ve been mentioned elsewhere on this list. With the added benefit of a remote condenser, these units will dependably produce the ice that businesses need more efficiently and for a longer period of time than their traditionally air-cooled counterparts. Businesses that are interested in remote-cooled ice machines often serve more customers, which is why we’ve chosen high-production models for this section.
Water & Ice Dispenser
Water and ice dispensers are handy little ice makers that typically fit on a countertop. They keep ice and cold water readily available, and are often found in office break rooms, hotels, and hospitals.
We like to recommend nugget ice for water and ice dispensers. Ice makers like these are usually put in places like break rooms, and employees almost always prefer the soft chewability of nugget ice. As previously mentioned, however, these types of ice machines can be prone to issues—which is why we recommend the ever-reliable Hoshizaki DCM-300BAH.
For those who are picky about their nugget ice, it’s worth noting that Scotsman HID ice machines create smaller, softer cubes than the DCM-300BAH. We often recommend those ice makers too, but when it comes to the reliability factor, we prefer the Hoshizaki.
Best Ice Machines by Business Type
If your main priority is finding out which commercial ice machine makes the most sense for your specific business type, let’s examine the best models for use in some of the industries Easy Ice works with most.
We find that restaurants often require the production capacity of a modular commercial ice machine, even if they’re on the smaller side. The versatility aspect is also key here, as modular units can go in the back kitchen on a bin, on top of an ice dispenser, or on top of a soda fountain.
Let’s take a look at our preferred units for different restaurant applications:
Once again, the Manitowoc IYT-0620A makes an appearance as our recommended machines for small-medium restaurants. Because businesses that size have slightly less traffic than larger establishments, we’ve found the production capacity of approximately 600 lbs. of ice in a 24-hour period is adequate for daily needs. And while the IDT-0620A (which is basically the same machine, but it produces dice ice) to be just as reliable as this model, our customers in the restaurant space often find the liquid displacing properties of half-dice ice to be preferable.
Similarly, we’ve also found the water cooled versions of these machines (IDT-0620W and IYT-0620W) to be excellent performers as well—but as previously mentioned, the restrictions surrounding water-cooled ice machines make air-cooled the most commonly optimal option.
For larger restaurants, we recommend the same IT machines as we do for smaller ones—just the higher production capacity models. All features and benefits of this model (as well as it’s water-cooled and full-dice counterparts) are the same, but the additional ice is necessary for restaurants that experience higher daily traffic.
For use with a beverage dispenser/soda fountain
For Cubes: Manitowoc IYT-0620A
The same machine we’ve recommended for small restaurants gets our pick as the ideal cuber to use with a soda fountain as well. The machine’s smaller footprint works better for this application, and the small ice cubes are good for use with soft drinks.
For Nugget Ice: ICETRO IM-0770-AN
Some restaurants insist on having nugget ice with their soda fountains—which customers tend to appreciate. We’ve found ICETRO’s modular nugget ice machines perform the best over time in this application. When used with beverage dispensers like soda fountains, nugget ice can melt, clump together, and then not dispense properly—so be sure you have a dispenser made specifically for nugget ice!
Hospitals need a lot of ice, but as previously mentioned, much of it is used for things like bringing down swelling and keeping patients who have difficulty swallowing liquid hydrated. Because of these uses, we’ve found that countertop nugget ice machines are often the right solution.
Both of these ice machines are water and nugget ice dispensers, and each has features that are beneficial in a hospital setting. For the DCM-300BAH, it’s the reliability that makes it a standout. For the HID-312, it’s the fact that the slightly smaller, softer, and more malleable texture of the ice may be better for treating swelling and consumption by patients.
Corporate offices typically just want a set up that allows employees to walk into the breakroom with their water bottles and easily dispense water and ice. Nugget ice is generally preferred by employees, so interestingly enough, our preferred commercial ice machines for corporate offices are the same as that of hospitals.
The big difference here is that in a breakroom setting, the benefits of softer nuggets come down to preference—so the consistent performance of DCM-300BAH may be the more enticing feature.
(Note: we do not recommend ice-water dispensers that lack a drain, as this can lead to problems with drip tray overflows and create unsanitary conditions.)
Hotels use lots of ice, and many of them have ice machines available on every floor—sometimes multiple units to a floor! These days, hotels prefer that customers can dispense ice into containers instead of reaching into a bin with a scoop—a much more sanitary set up. That’s why we’ve recommended a specific dispenser and ice machine combination.
We’ve found that this combination, despite coming from two different manufacturers, gives the best overall reliability and accessibility to the bin of the dispenser for sanitization. As a part of our subscription, Easy Ice has an adapter that ensures these two machines work together seamlessly.
Warehouses have similar needs as corporate offices and other breakroom setups. There are usually more employees involved, so more ice is needed. Water and ice dispensers are preferred in this application, but nugget ice and water dispensing machines don’t always offer the same storage capacity as a modular cubed ice machine placed on top of a water and cubed ice dispenser. Because this extra storage capacity may be needed in a warehouse setting, we’ve made several recommendations.
The DCM-500BAH, like the DCM-300BAH, is very reliable compared to other nugget ice makers. Because warehouses tend to have bigger operations with larger workforces, we’ve chosen it for this application because it makes double the ice as the smaller DCM model.
ICETRO IM-0770-AN with Cornelius Enduro 200 or 250
However, if the 40 lbs. of storage offered by the DCM-500BAH still isn’t adequate for daily needs, another great nugget ice combination we’ve used is ICETRO IM-0770-AN with a Cornelius Enduro series water and nugget ice dispenser. Where more storage of nugget ice is required than either of the DCM models allow, we’ve found Cornelius models to be consistent dispensers. This combination would also require an adapter.
If nugget ice isn’t a priority, another higher-storage option we recommend is a modular half-dice ice machine from Manitowoc’s IT0500 series placed on top of a Hoshizaki DM200B—which allows for up to 200 lbs. of stored ice cubes. For this application, Easy Ice uses the same adapter that we use in hotels to match the Manitowoc IDT0500A with the Hoshizaki DB-200H.
Need Help with Your Ice Supply?
Ice machines unexpectedly break down and cause problems for businesses every single day. As the nation’s only provider of commercial ice machine subscriptions, Easy Ice takes all those ice-related issues off your plate. With repairs, preventive maintenance, and backup ice all included for one monthly payment, you’ll never have to worry about your ice supply again.
Any questions? Reach out to Easy Ice today! 866-327-9423
As the Co-Founder and COO of Easy Ice, John Mahlmeister has been working in the commercial ice machine industry since 2009. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the only national provider of full-service ice machine subscriptions in the industry. Since Easy Ice was founded, the number of ice machines under its management has grown to over 30,000 units across 47 states, with no signs of slowing down.
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