picture of ice maker cubesNowadays, having an portable ice maker cannot be overstated. It may be difficult to conceive, but imagine a time during which a person could quite literally go his entire lifetime without seeing as much as a single cube of ice; a time when it was reserved for the well-off, and suppliers had to import it in great quantities from cooler climates. Today we pretty much take it for granted. Anytime we want, we can produce it on a massive and sophisticated scale that everyone can afford a desktop ice maker and we are even capable of having winter games, like hockey, in the middle of a summer heat wave! However, as little as two hundred years ago, this was not the case. It was not until 1748 and the achievements of William Cullen at Glasgow University that refrigeration became a possibility, and artificial ice making itself only came over a hundred years later in 1851 with the exploits of the American physician, John Gorrie, and the rest they say is history.

Fast-forward to our present day and age, and it becomes impossible to overstate the importance of having an ice maker. They are a part and parcel of our daily lives and rightly so! Today we can store foods, in several different stages of development, for unprecedented lengths of time, as well as transport them effectively to several different destinations because of the large scale amounts of ice produced industrially and locally. Thanks to bar ice makers and restaurant ice machines we can enjoy our favourite meals and drinks anytime we want. It’s an Ice maker that have made it possible to produce, on demand, certain vital chemicals and products like Nitrogen dioxide, famously known as laughing gas, among others, which are very vital in treatment of patients and in surgical procedures. Coming a bit closer to home, it would be quite difficult planning that summer picnic or camping trip without making allowances for at least some source of ice at hand. Given the far reaching effects of its produce, little wonder that those appliances are needed everywhere, and by all and sundry, in almost any setup you can think off from entertainment and sports to high-end technology and research-bartenders, restaurateurs, dairy farmers, livestock farmers, pharmacists, surgeons, campers and hikers, sit-at-home parents, office workers, physio-therapists, sport jocks or athletes, scientists all these people, and more would have their lives made easier by those appliances.

Portable Ice Machines^

portable ice maker

Portable ice maker is a small and mobile appliance designed to easily fit onto any counter or bar.  Those appliances are really fast, usually needing less than ten minutes to produce the first batch. Small size, and lightning quick service, together with the fact that they are cheaper than other ice makers has led to their popularity and makes them perfect home ice maker machines but are also great for outdoors. They do not require a water line, neither do they require a drain line, are very easy to use, requiring no setting up at all apart from plugging them into a power outlet and filling up the reservoir within.
They offer a wide array of options in everyday life and they can be used anywhere, provided you can connect them to a power source, and therefore provide a cheap solution to your needs. While others use them in bars, as a sure fire solution against ice shortages, it is also quite common to see them occupying a quiet corner on the kitchen surface or the bar at home. They would blend as easily in an RV, or a boat, as they would in any get-together organised in the backyard.

Why is Portable Ice Maker useful in Home?^

If you are yet to get an ice machine for home, then a portable device would be a great first step. First off their small sizes mean that you do not have to worry about space unlike with other built-in devices. They are easy to store, and can be brought out as needed, to be put out of the way afterwards so that normal life can resume. The ease with which they can be set up and put to use provides an added attraction for the home of any first time user. You simply plug them into a suitable power source, and fill the reservoir – no expert assistance needed! On top of the above, several new models also come with user friendly electronic displays which further ease the process of acquaintance with the device, leading to a hassle-free process. The fact that they require no water line, and no drain line means that they can be used anywhere in the home, hence the name portable. This is an especially important feature, particularly for those who may already own a built-in model, simply because of the freedom which portable models offer to their owners. Thanks to portable ice makers, you never have to worry about the where, nor the when; all your ice problems a thing of the past.

Read more: Portable Ice Maker Reviews

Sizing and Ice Making Capacity^

Portable ice makers are designed to fit on counter tops and kitchen tops and as such come very lightweight. Very often, their weight lies in the range of 24 pounds to 33pounds, making them extremely light. Their small size has no bearing on their productivity; most modern machines produce over 25 pounds of ice in a day, often giving a choice between various sizes of the cubes.

Fridge Ice Machine or Portable Appliance?^

The choice is a very personal one, but it would be good to know a little bit more about the characteristics of both, their pros and their cons.
The point at which both sets of appliances cross paths is the production of ice and while both of them are great at performing this particular activity, they do so in different ways. In a refrigerator, ice maker works on a convection principle where the heat difference between the cold air from the compressor and the water in the ice mould leads to heat exchange. The lower parts of the cold compressor air which is in contact with the warm water gets heated up, expanding and rising as a result, pushing the colder air at the top, downwards to continue the cycle. This process is even slower than it sounds because air is a notoriously bad conductor of heat, so fridge ice makers take a very long while to produce the first batch. In portable ice makers, on the other hand, the process is a lot quicker. Portable appliances use a blend of conduction and convection as a method of heat transfer where once as water is pumped up from the reservoir to the tray, metal pins or prongs, connected to the evaporating coils, are immersed into the water. These prongs are kept at freezing point by the refrigerant liquid constantly flowing back and forth by convection between the prongs and the evaporator. Metals being great conductors of heat, start freezing the water almost immediately. They absorb the heat from the water and pass it along to the refrigerant liquid flowing within which also in turn rises back into the evaporator by convection to be cooled again before descending back into the metal prongs. Needless to say it is all very rapid and ice can be expected within a few short minutes after the machine is turned on.

Pros of the Portable Ice Maker^

  • They are small and extremely compact. They are small enough to fit onto practically every counter, but large enough to make and hold adequate amounts of ice.
  • They are fast acting, many models producing the first batch, under or around 10 minutes.
  • They are very portable, and can be used anywhere and at all times so long as a power source is available.
  • They are relatively inexpensive.
  • They produce a huge amount of ice per day, usually between 24lbs and 34lbs.
  • They are easy to use and require neither a water line nor a drain line.

Cons of the Portable Ice Maker^

  • The storage capacity is far below the production capacity. They can hold a very small amount of the ice they produce at a time-no more than 5lbs for most
  • They are not refrigerators; all they do is produce ice. This means that the ice they produce melts faster than in other ice making appliances.

Pros of Fridge Ice Machine^

  • They refrigerate as well, so the ice, once formed, does not melt.
  • They are joined to units that offer other services like refrigeration.
  • They are much more durable.
  • A carefully selected unit will blend better with the existing décor.

Cons of Fridge Ice Machine^

  • They take too long in creating ice, the best models needing up to 90 minutes for the first batch.
  • They are not portable by any stretch of the imagination.
  • Being joined to a fridge, they require water lines.
  • As part of a fridge, some may need expert help in installing.

In the end the choice lies with you, and what you feel your needs are. However, it is clear that, portable ice makers are a great fit for those who do business with ice, entertain a lot, and those who need it at short notice.

What to Consider When Buying a Portable Ice Maker^

Models for portable ice machine abound in our modern age, and as such certain key points should be at the back of your mind when going in for one. It is important to take note of the production capacity of the model before buying. You have to make sure that it meets your daily ice needs and desired type of ice. Of great importance as well is the storage capacity. How much ice does it hold, and for how long? This will ensure you do not use more power than is necessary during use; it is often a plus when you can synchronise your ice consumption with the machines production. For those who are buy their machines from countries other than they are currently living in, it is important to check the power requirement, making sure that whatever you are buying is compatible with your volt mains-if not then you may have to get a transformer. The same goes for those who want to use them on boats; an inverter should solve your power needs.
In the end, portable ice machines fill a dire need in a fun, innovative way and this is attested to by the several good models out there in the market. They are a good product, and are definitely here for the long run.

Other Types of Ice Making Appliances

Generally there are two types of ice makers: Consumer and Commercial. As can be gleaned from the title, consumer devices are used by the population at large while commercial machines are used for industrial purposes for the mass production of ice. The former could be a perfect household ice maker for you.

Consumer Appliances^

In the old days commercial devices were usually a part of the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, where ice dropped into a collection bin provided for that specific purpose. Such models still exist actually, but do not enjoy the privileged place of yesteryears. On the contrary, today when you hear of a consumer machine, what is commonly referred to is the standalone device or appliance such as desktop ice maker. These used to fill various needs that are common to one and all ranging from the common like cooling drinks in the kitchen or outdoors or at the bar to the less mundane like producing packs for the calming of inflammations. There are two types of those appliances namely countertop or portable machines and undercounter devices.

  • Countertop^

countertop deviceIn this section you can distinguish a portable ice makers which can serve as kitchen ice machine and commercial countertop appliances. These can easily fit onto a countertop. They are small, and also very fast in action. It can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes to come up with the first batch. Water is pumped into small tubes with metal pegs immersed in them. The metal pegs are equipped with a cooling and heating system so that once they have frozen the water around them, they can heat the interior, thus allowing the ice to slip off into the collecting bin. They normally produce bullet shaped, and cloudy looking ice.

  • Under-Counter^

These are so called because they are built to fit under a kitchen counter or bar counter. This notwithstanding, they can also be used as freestanding units. Like the countertop appliances they are also very fast acting, however, they produce crescent shaped ice as opposed to bullet shaped which is produced by countertop devices.undercounter appliance

Because of their speed in acting, both countertop and under-counter machines produce cloudy or opaque ice. Air bubbles get trapped in the rapid process giving the cloudy appearance. These could serve perfectly as restaurant ice machines or bar ice makers.

Commercial Machines

Commercial appliances produce ice in industrial scale which is usually of higher quality and very clear, practically pure. They are a usual fixture to be seen upon or below the counters of businesses that either sell, or require ice as a supplement for their products like bars, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and so on. They offer a wide range of types, shapes and sizes as well.

Commercial ice makers usually come in four types namely: Modular or Machine Heads, Flake Machines, Cube Machines and Tube Machines.

  • Modular^

Modular machines are made of two parts: the upper part or the machine head, and the lower part known as the dispenser or bin as the case may be. The modular machine head is like a integrated box comprised of every component required for transforming. It is mounted upon an appropriate bin or dispenser to perform storaging. Thus the name modular machine, which signifies consisting of two parts. Machine heads commonly come in 22 inch, 30 inch and 48 inch widths and a bin of like proportions would be appropriate for storage, although certain models come smaller and require adaptations. For example the flake machine head comes in 21inch width, and would require an assessory known as a bin top adapter to make up for the lost inch to maintain proper balance on the storage bin.

The different versions of modular machine heads can produce anything from 250 pounds of ice to well over 1000 pounds in a single 24 hour cycle.

As can be expected this tremendous work rate makes them immensely popular as commercial appliances; a real favourite for businesses as far as commercial machines go. Another reason for the popularity of the those devices is due to its modular nature; when it breaks down repairs do not require a total overhaul of the entire machine. It suffices just to repair the head. In the event of the need for replacement only the machine head need be replaced by a suitable, properly functioning model, leaving the bin or dispenser intact and in place. Thus each part of a single unit can be maintained separately.  Machine heads could even be swapped or used interchangeably on the same bin to meet different needs that may crop up during the day.

  • Flake Machines^

As the name would suggest, flake machines create flake ice. It is formed with sea water, or water with a very high concentration of salt also known as brine. It makes this particular machine a really important feature in the commercial space because the vast usefulness  which ranges from food preservation to construction.

  • Cube Machines^

These are relatively small machines as far as industrial machines are concerned, with sizes ranging from a mere 30kg to about 1755kg. They are normally vertical structures with an evaporating chamber situated at the top and a bin situated at the bottom. As can be expected from their names they produce cubes of varying sizes.

  • Tube Machine^

Tube machines produce tube shaped ice. Water is frozen in tube shaped chambers to produce the effect. They are a favourite for those who work with beverages, fresh fruits among others because of its rapid cooling effect. Tube ice can also be eaten on their own, so are also a favourite for those who love to chew on it from time to time.

On the whole Commercial machines aim to fill a particular need and the choosing of any is usually a well-thought through process.

Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Ice Maker

thinking-manBuying a commercial machine is not an easy task as there are many factors that you have to take into consideration. Commercial appliances are often an essential part of restaurants, cafeterias, bars and many other business and therefore you should not be buying one blindly.

  • Cold Hard Facts of the Business: How Much Ice Does Your Business Need?^

Commercial machines, even those of the same category, come with different production capacities. It is important to have a pretty good idea of the amount of your need before you make a choice. A fairly accurate estimate of your need can be gotten by gauging the volume required in a typically busy day at the office. It is also good to have an idea of the rate consumption as that would help in assessing the amount of storage space that would be optimal for synchronising the rate of production to your rate of consumption so that wastage of power and water resources are averted.

  • What Type of Ice is good for Your Business?^

The rapid advance and proliferation of commercial devices has led to a corresponding increase of different types of ice over the same period, each with its own peculiar characteristics and advantages over the others. Several sub-categories exist, but we can broadly distinguish three categories: Cube, Nugget, and Flake.

  • Cube^

picture of clear tube ice

The traditional cube remains the most popular of all the types and is used in a wide variety of businesses. Most commercial devices will have this cube on offer. It is particularly suited for those who deal in beverages, because their high ice to water ratio make them hard to melt thereby reducing the need for replenishment. They are also large, and require just a few to fill a glass, and are not favoured by those who love to chew it.

This type is especially good for soft drinks and mixed drinks. Because they tend to be dry, they are also good for those who sell ice in bags, so good for supermarkets and convenience stores. Other names such as crescent or half-cube ice all fall under this category. They are particularly advantageous in that they have a high ice-to-water ratio meaning that they tend to be very dry, and slow to melt leading to maximum cooling which, in turn, also leads to a resulting reduction in the need to produce. They do especially well for soft drinks and will be found in any bar, kitchen or restaurant that is worth its salt. Cubes are also great for large scale applications like bagging and bulk cooling.

  • Nugget^

picture of cube ice

This type is perfect for those who work with beverages, but are especially great with sweet drinks and cocktails. Its high surface area also makes it effective as a coolant so it is also good for those who work in the food industry; nuggets are used to cool salads for example. What makes them really special, making its commercial machines a must have for those in the beverage industry is the fact it is chewable.

Ice nuggets do really well for fountain beverages, blended cocktails, and cooling salad. Other names abound such as pebble and sonic ice, but they simply refer to the different manufacturers who have realized and invested in the their widespread popularity. It has many uses, but its popularity lies especially with those who love to chew it! This is a trend that is so significant business wise that it has led to the production of business models and drinks centred on this. Sonic with its drinks and ice bags is a prime example. While being significant, edibility is not the only reason for the growing allure of much vaunted nugget ice: It readily absorbs the flavours of drinks it is poured in which further adds to its appeal when cocktails and beverages are concerned. They also mix readily with frozen drinks and smoothies because of their high surface area. Their relatively dry nature makes them popular among restaurants, bars and properly equipped dispensers.

  • Flake^

picture of flake ice

It is light and powdery in appearance. Its high surface area makes it the preference for those who need ice to preserve products such as those who dabble with fresh fruits, sea food, meat, and others. It is not uncommon to see commercial machines producing these mounted around food displays at sites known for such products. Though not to the extent of nuggets, it is chewable, and also readily absorbs the flavour of drinks thus it could be used for beverages although this is rare.

It is more likely to see it in use in hospitals where there is always the danger of patients choking on ice or inadvertently swallowing more solid specimens like nuggets or cubes.

  • Available Space^

silver chrome tape for measurementsAnother thing to consider when going in for a commercial machine is the amount of space at your disposal. Without compromising too much on production capacity, it makes for great business sense to acquire a model that not only takes up as little space as possible, but can also be put out of the customer’s way.

Commercial machines, whether modular machine heads, countertop, or undercounter present a great way to make up for the gap created by the demand for ice in many businesses spanning several fields. Once you are well aware of the needs of your business, as well as the specific type that suits your business model, a careful search should turn up, rather quickly, the commercial ice maker to take you from where your business is to where you want it to be in no time flat.

Freestanding vs. Built-In

built in deviceAppliances nowadays do not only fill a need, far from it. Manufacturers often also have in mind to fill a need in a certain way. Style and appearance, as well as structural design are as much considered as the mechanism and principle underlining the entire machine. As a result of this, it is not uncommon to come across household ice machines and commercial ice makers which are built with a view in mind of blending seamlessly with interior, neither is it strange to see other versions of this same machine designed to stand freely, ready to be used anywhere and at any time. While appliances by definition are aimed at making daily life easier, not all of them make a perfect fit for everyone. There are target niches, target production scales, as well as target accessories that when considered together, provide a unique experience. The choice as to which to go in for is therefore a pertinent one, one that should not be taken without adequate consideration of the characteristics of different types, their respective differences, their pros and cons, and how these all relate to the particular circumstances and needs.

While built-in machines are bulkier, taking up a lot of room, corresponding freestanding machines come smaller, more often than not with a view to mobility. Built-in ice maker could be a perfect kitchen ice machine.

Built-in machines tend to need specialist help in setting up. This is just as well because they are designed to be part and parcel of whatever location into which they are installed both aesthetically and structurally. Freestanding machines on the other hand tend to be pretty easy to handle often coming with simple “plug ‘n play” procedures that can work on any standard outlet.

Most importantly, the method of ventilation for built-in and freestanding models of the same appliance is different. Built-in appliances, because they are designed to fit seamlessly with whatever niche they are intended for, tend to be ventilated at the front. This avoids over-heating in these appliances. On the other hand, an appliance that requires adequate amounts of space to ensure that proper ventilation occurs at the sides or at the back or both is considered a freestanding appliance.

They generally do the same thing, albeit differently. Trying to choose between one and the other would invariably turn to economic considerations: built-in appliances are generally more expensive than their corresponding freestanding units, but they tend to be more durable and also tend to work slightly better. Also if you have the space, are really into aesthetics and do not mind the extra cost, then built-ins would be an excellent choice for you. Freestanding models are easier to move around, offering more options for usage, and with proper care will last long enough for you not to feel the pinch of its shorter life span.

Ultimately the choice remains with you. Rate of production, cost of running, availability of space, demand among other things should all play a part in the decision making process.

Compressor Types^

Compressors are often considered the heart of the refrigeration and freezing process. A refrigerant vapour is compressed into liquid by the compressor and channelled to   a condenser along the circuit. Compressors are sometimes classified according to how the refrigerant liquid is cooled in the setup or along the circuit. In this light we can distinguish three types namely: Air cooled compressors, water cooled compressors and remote cooled compressors.

  • Air Cooled Compressors^

An air cooling compressor would have air as the medium by which the cooling process is carried out. Air is passed over the condenser and this siphons heat away from the high pressure, high temperature refrigerant vapour.

  • Water Cooled Compressors^

In a water cooling compressor, water is the chosen medium for heat exchange. The high heat capacity of water makes this a very effective medium for heat exchange bearing greater capacity for work.

  • Remote cooled compressors^

Despite what the name suggests, these are not compressors which work on remote control. Remote cooled compressors represent a class of compressor where the cooling mechanism is not internal to the setup itself, but lies outside. They are relatively cheaper than the other two, and thus represent a reasonable choice for low capped budgets.

The first two are known as internal or self-contained systems and are good for almost any application and offer user friendly “plug and play” operations. The last type, however, is known is an external system and is good for kitchens with limited ventilation, significant problems with heat and/or low ceilings.

Water Filters^

water filterIce is water-water in solid form, and as such should have no taste. The reality is that water that has not been filtered will give rise to foul-tasting and often bitter ice. Water, even tap water is seldom pure, and is often host to several impurities such as salts and chlorine, or sometimes even worse, bacteria! The obvious solution to this is a proper water filter, preferably, one that you change often. Six months tops. There are some manufacturers even offer extended warranty if you can prove that you change your filters every month. Why is this? Because it is important!

Properly filtered water leads to healthier, purer, and on the whole, better tasting beverages

Properly filtered water is usually free of sediments and deposits or slime and lime which, in addition to being the main contributors to foul and bitter tasting water, can often rest or settle on the evaporator surface of the ice machine leading to reduced efficiency and more energy costs for operation.

Proper filtration eliminates bacteria which are often found in water.

On the whole filtration leads to fuller experience and prolongs the life-span of your machine.

There are many types of water filters for ice machines, some emphasising certain functions over others. You will normally have to choose amongst the one cartridge, twocartridge, and three cartridge water filters, and the choice usually depends on the size of the machine: one cartridge filters are a good fit for undercounter and smaller modular machines. Medium sized modular machines need two cartridges, while 3 cartridge water filters are best used for large modular units and remote condenser types.

Bins for Modular Machines^

Modular machines have come a long way over the years, no doubt. With the sophistication and impressive work rate of those machines today, it is commonplace for some of these commercial appliances to easily produce several hundred pounds of ice per day. This delightful advantage brings an accompanying need which is the need for a convenient receptacle for all the available ice. This is especially important if your business depends heavily on availability of suitable ice throughout the day. The choice of ice bin to go with your modular ice maker is a crucial one to say the least.

Your choice of ice bin should depend largely on the capacity of your modular ice maker or on the volume of ice it produces in a day. Another very good indicator towards making a choice would be the volume of ice you will need on hand during a typically busy period. The average bin will hold up to half of the daily production, but since they are generally not insulated, melting can ensue after a few hours. Thus, it is vital that you try to the best of your ability to match the rate of ice production to the rate of use, so that the situation does not arise where ice sits long enough in the ice bin to start melting.

How Do Ice Machines Work?^

The ice maker runs on a relatively simple mechanism, the same mechanism on which all refrigeration works. Every unit is composed primarily of four basic components namely: The compressor, popularly called the heart of the refrigeration process, the condenser, the evaporator, and the throttle valve. Every other thing evident on an machine serves only to make the job of these four more user friendly. To start off a refrigeration cycle, the compressor compresses low-pressure refrigerant vapour to high-pressure refrigerant vapour. This vapour is passed on to the condenser which condenses this high-pressure vapour into high-pressure liquid. The resulting high-pressure liquid is passed through the throttle valve to escape as low-pressure liquid which is passed over to the evaporator where heat exchange occurs and ice is resultantly formed. This is the principle-the skeleton if you like which is to say that you will not see all this happening; a delightful experience involving the main ingredient water, the filter, the ice tray, immersive pins, thermostats and an ice bin is what you should expect, and are likely, rightly so, to get; a simple “plug ‘n play” scenario in which you plug your machine, pour in water through the filter, and wait a short while for all your ice problems to be solved.

Take a closer look at the ice making process