Understanding the Different Types of Ice Maker Machines

Most people assume that all type of ice maker are the same. All it takes is a bit of water in, and ice comes out. Simple, right? Think again! In fact, there are many ice machines types on the market today. Not all of them are built the same, so it’s important to understand the differences between them. While the basic premise is constant they all make ice, after all their individual qualities are quite different.

In this guide, I will provide a quick breakdown of the main differences between the various types of ice machines on the market. With this knowledge in mind, you can make better and more informed purchasing decisions the next time you are looking to buy an ice maker machine. Now, let’s get right into it!

Types of Ice Produced by Ice Makers

Contrary to popular belief, not all ice is created equally. There is no one specific variety of ice cube that is the universal standard. In fact, there are about six or seven ice cube varieties that are commonly found in restaurants, bars, fast food restaurants, and backyard barbecues all over the world.

To list them off quickly, here they are list:

  • Gourmet Ice
  • Crescent Ice
  • Bullet Ice
  • Flake Ice
  • Nugget Ice
  • Full Cube
  • Half Cube

Each of the above varieties of ice are used to chill drinks and fill coolers, although they differ in size and shape. Clearly, since there are so many varieties of ice out there, there are also differences in the ice machines as well.

Different Types of Ice Maker Machines

If you want to be an expert on ice and ice making, you need to know the ins and outs of the various machines involved. If you need large quantities of ice, then commercial ice maker is the right one. But if you just consider adding an ice maker to your home kitchen, you will likely have to choose between a portable ice maker or built-in unit.

To get you started, here is our in-depth guide to the many types of ice machines on the market today, and what each are used for.

Commercial Ice Machines

Every business food establishment has their own ice machine. However, most establishments have what are usually called “commercial ice machines”. Commercial ice machines are typically large stand-alone pieces of equipment that manufacture large quantities of ice for use in beverages and for chilling food items.

Commercial ice machines are universally found in bars and restaurants around the world. They can produce flake ice, cube ice, gourmet ice, or just about any kind of ice you can imagine.

These machines are the cream of the crop when it comes to ice making, and for this reason they are typically the most expensive too. Here is a quick list of some of the best commercial stand-alone ice machines on the market.

Manitowoc QM-45A

The Manitowoc QM-45A is a commercial ice maker designed for the most serious of power-users. If you run a large-scale restaurant or dining establishment that serves chilled drinks on a regular basis, this unit may be the one for you. It has a bin capacity of 95 lbs., which is well above the industry standard. It comes in a subtle dark grey color too, which makes it inconspicuous if housed in the front of the store.

It is possible to stow this unit under high counters if you are interested in conserving space. It also has a stainless-steel interior and an innovative self-cleaning system, which makes maintenance a breeze. To order your own Manitowoc QM-45A, visit its Webstaurant listing here.

Scotsman CU3030MA

The famous Scotsman CU3030MA-1A is the masterpiece of Scotsman’s Prodigy Series ice makers. It produces a whopping 313 lbs. of ice every day if used to its maximum potential. This makes the CU3030MA a beast of an ice maker. It is air cooled, stainless steel throughout, and can storage up to 110 lbs. of ice in its bin. To order your own, visit its product listing here.

Whynter Freestanding Ice Maker

The Whynter Freestanding Ice Maker is a smaller, and more affordable, commercial ice maker option. Unlike its competitors, it is a sleek cream-white color that can blend in easily with neutral wall colors. Since it is only capable of churning out 44 lbs. of ice when used at max capacity, this ice maker is best used at restaurants that do not specialize in drinks or cocktails. For ordering information, visit their Home Depot product listing.

Ice Machine Head or Modular

The ice machine head is a variety of ice machine that is usually wide and heavy and stands on its own without a dispenser attached. Ice machine heads can produce large quantities of ice very quickly. However, they require another unit to store and dispense the ice that it produces. They range in size from 22 inches to 48 inches across. Heavy-duty ice machine heads can create up to an imperial ton of ice every day.

Ice machine heads are part of a growing trend in the commercial ice machine industry. By purchasing a stand-alone ice machine head, a restaurant owner is given the freedom to purchase whatever storage device or dispenser that suits their budget and preference. In other words, ice machine heads are one part of a “modular” ice machine.

There are few ice block maker brands or stand-alone ice machine heads that are fully modular and customizable. It is recommended that you purchase an ice machine head only if you intend to do heavy-duty ice making.

Undercounter & Built-in Ice Machines

As its name suggests, an undercounter ice machines are a compact variety of ice machine. Unlike freestanding ice machines, undercounter ice machines fit comfortably under a standard countertop. This makes undercounter ice machines ideal for businesses that are short on space and need to conserve room in the drink preparation area.

Undercounter ice machines are recommended for small-scale restaurants and bars, as well as fast food locations. This is because they are more affordable and generally smaller than the colossal stand-alone ice makers that are necessary for high-volume restaurants that serve hundreds of drinks a day.

EdgeStar 45

One of the advantages of an undercounter ice machine is that none of your restaurant’s guests have to look at it. Because face it, most ice machines are an eye-sore when displayed at the front of the house. However, the EdgeStar 45 undercounter ice maker is so sleek you will want to proudly put it on display. To boot, it comes at a rock-bottom price point which makes it especially attractive for dining establishments that are just starting out.

KitchenAid 18

The KitchenAid 18 takes its name from its storage capacity. Although it is only capable of storing 18 lbs. of ice at a time, it is a gorgeous stainless-steel ice machine that automatically fills and dispenses according to its internal sensors. As part of the “smart appliance” trend, the KitchenAid 18 may be a sign of things to come in the industry.

Portable & Countertop Ice Machines

Countertop ice makers are highly compact ice machines that sit on top of a standard-sized counter. These ice makers are commonly found at lunch bars, breakfast restaurants, and other small dining establishments that do not typically serve chilled beverages. Though they are small, they are still mighty. High-end countertop ice makers can spit out hundreds of pounds of ice if used at maximum settings.

Countertop ice makers are the ideal choice for “mom and pop” restaurants, as well as self-serve cafeterias and lunch eateries. It also helps that these ice machines typically have the dual function of acting as a water dispenser. Not bad, huh? If you are interested in picking up a countertop ice maker, here is a list of some of the best out there today.

Scotsman HID525A-1A

The Scotsman HID525A-1A is one of the premium Scotsman countertop ice machines. As part of their premium Meridian line of air cooled ice machines, it produces up to 500 lbs. of nugget ice every day when used on “high” settings. With two dispensers and a beautiful stainless-steel finish, we recommend this countertop ice maker for high-end restaurants that have more of an emphasis on food than on chilled drinks.

Manitowoc RNS-20AT

The Manitowoc RNS-20AT is a thin, low-profile ice maker that punches far above its weight. It produces nugget ice at high-capacity volumes with minimal water intake. In fact, this Manitowoc model is known to produce industry-standard amounts of ice with only 10% of the water! This ice maker is not only a premium option regarding appearance, but it is a marvelous feat of engineering.

Follett 7CI100A-IW

The Follet 7CI100A-IW is a top-quality stainless steel ice machine. It is one of the very few countertop models to feature an LED screen that displays its internal settings and its storage level. This makes the Follett one of our all-time favorite ice machines. Plus, it is at a more affordable retail price than most others in its class.


To summarize, there are four main types of ice machines: freestanding, modular, undercounter, and countertop. Each has their unique advantages and drawbacks. For large restaurants and bars, we recommend selecting a freestanding or modular ice machine. Small dining establishments and cafeterias, on the other hand, should opt for a countertop or undercounter solution.