Common Problems With Countertop Ice Dispensers

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Countertop Ice Dispenser Problems Easy Ice

Last updated on September 16th, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Ice dispensers found on soda fountain ice machines are popular with all types of businesses from offices to fast/casual dining establishments. Since the method of ice delivery is different, it means that countertop ice dispensers face a whole set of problems you won’t encounter with a standard ice machine and ice bin setup.

Here, we’ll discuss the most common problems you’ll find if you have an ice maker on top of your soda fountain.

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How to Tell If There is a Problem with Your Countertop Ice Dispenser

The most common problem we hear regarding soda fountain ice dispensers is that they’re not producing any ice. We’ve written a lot about the issues that cause ice machine to ice production slowing down or not producing ice altogether. The presence of a soda fountain adds a whole set of different problems, and it can be difficult to tell whether a lack of ice is due to the ice machine not working or a problem with the soda fountain.

The easiest way to tell where the problem is stemming from is to look to see if there is ice in the soda fountain’s storage bin. If you see that the bin has ice in it, there’s a really good chance the problem is with the fountain, not the ice machine.

If there isn’t ice in the bin, there’s a higher probability that the issue lies with your ice machine unit. Any number of problems can cause this, including but not limited to:

  • Blocked Drains
  • No Electricity Getting to the Machine
  • No Water Getting to the Machine
  • There’s Not Enough Space for the Machine to Operate Effectively

Let’s look at the most common problems you’re likely to see with a soda fountain ice dispenser.

Clogged Dispensing Tubes

Countertop ice makers have dispensing zones, where ice drops when a customer or staff member places their cup beneath the dispenser to get ice.

Ice must travel through a dispensing tube before it makes its way into someone’s glassware. When the dispensing tube is clogged due to balled up ice in the bin or the dispenser door not opening due to scale or dirt, it blocks any additional ice from dispensing.

If you notice that ice isn’t dispensing, look inside the bin to see if a large chunk of ice is covering the dispensing tube. If so, open the bin out and see if you can remove the ball of ice that may have frozen to the wall of the bin.

Slushy Ice

Nope, we’re not talking about the drink.

Soda fountain ice machines have drainage tubes that drain extra water out of the bin, so ice stays solid.

Dispensers also have stainless-steel agitators, which consist of claw-like metal arms that spin to loosen ice so it doesn’t stick together.

When drainage tubes freeze over or are clogged by ice, water fills the bin, mixing with the ice.

The agitator starts grinding the ice with the water, effectively becoming a blender, which turns the ice and water into a slushy mess.

Oftentimes, removing the ice blocking the drainage tube will return the machine to operate properly.

Slushy ice can also occur if the agitator spins more often than it should. Grinding the ice up until it starts to resemble crushed ice.

With agitator problems, it’s best to call an ice machine technician who can repair the agitator and get the ice machine back to working condition.


Leaking can come from either the ice machine or the soda fountain and with a little observation, it’s easy to figure out where the leak is stemming from.

Leaks that come from behind the machine are often stemming from the ice machine.

If you notice leaking from the bottom of the ice machine or the dispensing tube, there’s a good chance that the leak is coming from the dispenser. This also happens in conjunction with a clogged drainage tube. When the water fills up, it leaks out of the seam between the ice machine and dispenser.

You May Simply Need a Bigger Ice Machine

Although business owners are aware their business is picking up, they may not make the connection that more customers mean higher ice needs.

When this happens, owners simply believe their ice machine is slowing down, but that’s not the case.

There is a simple way to determine if your ice machine is working or if it’s not dropping ice fast enough.

If you notice your dispenser’s bin is empty, measure the amount of time it takes to drop a batch of ice.

If the machine doesn’t drop a batch of ice in at least 45 minutes, there is likely a problem with your machine and you should call an ice machine technician to do a production test.

If the machine does drop ice, the ice machine is most likely working fine. If this is the case, check to see if your business has picked up and consider looking for a larger ice machine that can keep up with your increased ice needs.

Preventive Maintenance Leads to Happy Customers

Sure, there’s a good chance that your countertop ice machine or dispenser will encounter a problem at some point in time, but regular preventive maintenance can drastically reduce the chance of any of the problems we listed above from occurring.

Scheduling a good ice machine technician to come out every six months to test and service your ice machine is the best way to identify problems before they occur.

The less problems your ice machine encounters the more reliable your ice supply will be when customers come walking through the door.

Bottom line, treat your ice machine well and it will treat you well in return.

Our team is available to help you get started today!

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11 Comments on “Common Problems With Countertop Ice Dispensers”

  1. I have a fountain machine where the ice works and then doesn’t work consistently and I don’t know what can cause it to keep dying occasionally

    1. Hello Jameisha,

      If the fountain ice delivery is intermittent, you should contact the provider of the beverage dispenser (Coke or Pepsi, in most cases). If the ice machine is not producing occasionally, then an ice machine technician should be contacted to help resolve the erratic nature of the ice production. Regular maintenance (every 6 months) will dramatically reduce erratic operation calls.

      1. Hi I’m having ploblems with my “pallet ice machine” that is on top if soda dispensing the ice builds into gigiant snow ball and does’nt want disolve. This is an every day problem , the technician came and said is the type of ice we have. Any sugestions to solve the issue?

        1. Hello Elsa,
          There could be a couple reasons you’re having this issue. One possibility (and this is very likely) is that the dispenser is not set up properly for dispensing pellet ice. Most manufacturers send dispensers are meant to dispense cubed ice. If pellet ice (also called nugget/cubelet ice) is being used, the dispenser may need to be altered to successfully dispense this type of ice.

          Also, some dispenser manufacturers are more successful than others, the the brand of dispenser makes a difference as well.

          Lastly, some dispensers have special agitators for pellet ice. Does your dispenser seem to have this? Agitation rates (stirring the ice during down time) must also sometimes be adjusted in order to not break down this softer ice.

          These are a few examples you can bring to your technician’s attention. Unfortunately, most technicians do not specialize in ice machines (they may also work on air conditioning units and other refrigeration machines), so they may not know these very specific details.

          Let us know if any of this helps. Best of luck!

  2. Soda pop ice machine clogged at times sometimes doesn’t make ice company has use a shop vacuum cleaner to suck ice out and when it doesn’t make ice put ice back in it what could be wrong

    1. Hey Paul,

      Sorry to hear you’re having these issues with your machine. Lack of ice production is a common issue in countertop dispensers, and there are a number of different reasons it could be happening to yours. Since there are several possible factors for this issues, the best course of action is to get a service technician with experience specific to ice machines to look at it. They’ll be able to help with the clogging issue too. In the meantime, can you provide any additional details about your ice machine, such as the manufacturer and model or serial number?

  3. My ice machine over my fountain drinks has stopped making ice at all I looked inside ice bin it’s completely empty

    1. Hey Wendell,

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with your ice maker. We know how troublesome this can be when you’ve got a dining area full of customers! Can you provide any other info (such as manufacturer, model, serial number, etc.) to help nail down the problem?

  4. How do you alter the coke machine to account for pellet ice? Our business often runs out of pellet ice by the end of lunch service. Is there a way to constrain how much ice comes out at once?

    1. Hey Ben,

      There are a few different manufacturers of beverage dispensers that Coke uses—so without a little more info, we can’t pinpoint which exact dispenser you’re using, which we’d need to know to advise what its needs are to accommodate pellet ice, as well as how to constrain the amount of ice dispensed.

      It may be worth noting that regardless of which manufacturer made the Coke machine you’re using, in our experience, slowing down the ice dispenser will not solve the problem of running out of ice. We’ve seen this before, and customers usually just stay at the dispenser longer until they have the amount of ice they want.

      Depending on the physical size of the dispenser, there are different storage capacities, as well as different ice production rates based on the pellet ice machine mounted on top. Easy Ice has worked with a fast food chain that has two self-serve pellet ice dispensers in the customer area, and we found the best solution to be an additional ice machine located in the back that provided surplus ice to be carried out to the dispensers during peak usage. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing the manufacturer of your Coke dispenser, but these units typically have an easily removable ‘manual fill’ lid so ice can be poured in through buckets.

      Again, we can’t give a definitive answer without knowing more about the dispenser itself, but the three options we’d recommend are:

      1. Increase the size of the dispenser to allow for more ice storage
      2. Increase the production capacity of the nugget machine mounted on top of the dispenser
      3. Add additional ice machine in the back area for supplemental ice usage to fill the dispenser manually

      We hope this information is helpful, and good luck!

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