Informational Guide

Types Of Ice Machines

We look at the main types of ice makers to help you choose.

by Ian Haynes

When we think of summer, the clink of ice cubes against glass comes to mind. Ice makers are the unsung heroes that ensure that we get refreshing drinks anytime. There are different types of ice machines that are perfect for different scenarios – but which is right for you?

Read our guide to find out. 

No matter your situation, there will be an ice machine that is perfect for you. 

From commercial juggernauts to sleek fancy machines to small portable ones, we will break the types of ice-making machines down for you. 

Modular, Or Iced Machine Head 

Modular or iced machine heads are used with a separate unit that can store or dispose of the ice. These units are often 22-48 inches wide and can create 230-1000 pounds of ice per day. You will often find these sitting on top of ice machines or soda dispensers in hotels or other places that need to serve a lot of ice.  

Undercounter & Countertop Ice Machines  

Under the counter models  and countertop ice machines are both smaller machines that can typically be found in bars, hospitals, and offices. These models typically consist of ice machines and storage bins and can fit under most 40-inch countertops. 

Many under and over countertop ice machines can make up to 350 – 400 pounds of ice cubes per day. There will typically be different sizes of ice available, with some having chewable ice that is perfect for hospitals and care facilities. 

Types Of Ice Machines

Portable Ice Machines 

For the cross-country road trip fans and regular party hosts, having a portable ice machine may make your summertime beverages even more refreshing. These compact ice makers don’t need permanent water or power lines; just plug them into an outlet and fill them with water. 

Ice is made quickly but is not always able to be stored for long periods. Most portable models can make up to 35 pounds of ice per day. 

Combination Ice/Water Machines 

As implied by their name, combination ice makers can create and dispense water and ice simultaneously. This style of ice maker is typically on the smaller side and can produce nugget-style ice alongside other more standard types. 

Typically used in cafeterias, office break rooms, and other similar places, combination machines produce 500 pounds of ice per day on average. Combination machines can be a convenient and simple solution for your office or communal beverage needs. 

ice in glass

Different Types Of Ice Machine Condensing Units 

Air Cooled

Air-cooled ice makers are a common, cost-effective style. As air is used rather than water, water bills are significantly lowered. Some air-cooled machines have an Energy Star compliance certificate, making them great environmental options.

One potential issue to bear in mind is that these machines need around six inches of clearance around the air intake and discharge areas for them to function as intended.  

Water Cooled 

Less common than their air counterparts, water-cooled ice machines are only better than air-cooled ones when: 

  • The ambient temperature of the room is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • There is a high number of air contaminants like smoke and oil 
  • There is not enough room for adequate air clearance 

As water consumption is so high for this style of ice maker, not all counties or municipalities will allow them to be used. 

Remote Cooled 

Remote control ice machines are air-cooled, but the cooling process occurs in a different location to the basket. The cooling process typically happens on the roof of the establishment, and a refrigerant line runs between the two. 

This type removes extra heat and noise from your workspace but is typically more expensive to install and maintain. Most people who purchase them will only do so if air- and water-cooled machines are prohibited.  

Types Of Commercial Ice Machines

Most Common Types Of Ice Made From Ice Makers (Which Is Best?) 

While ice "cubes" are often considered the only ice cube shape, there are plenty of others to choose from. Ice cubes can go a long way to impressing guests and saving you money on expensive drinks.

If you want to know exactly what is out there, we break down the different types of ice from the ice makers below. 

  • Half/Full Ice Cubes
    Half ice cubes are the smallest rhomboid type available for most machines. It blends quickly and easily into drinks and cools them quickly. Half cubes have a moderate melt rate and work fast due to their large surface area. Full ice cubes are a classic choice and work for various drink types. Their slow melt rate makes drinks less watery but does cool them slower. Full ice cubes can also be bagged and are cheap to make. 
  • Large Ice Cubes
    Large ice cubes are statement pieces that are often used in whiskey or other on the rocks type drinks. They melt slowly and keep drinks cool and refreshing for an extended period.  
  • Gourmet Ice Cubes
    Often used at high-end restaurants and cocktail bars, gourmet ice cubes are pretty and designed to make a big impression. This style of ice won’t water down the drinks and has a slow melt rate. These are suitable for bagging but not for dispensers. 
  • Crescent Ice Cubes
    Crescent ice cubes are slender and often found in hospitality or fine dining establishments. As they are so thin, more crescent ice cubes can fit in a glass and displace the drink, saving you money per glass. Their slow melt rate means that crescent ice cubes keep their shape for longer and are suitable for bagging.  
  • Chewblet Ice Cubes 
    Chewblet ice cubes, also known as nugget ice cubes, are uniformly shaped compress ice measuring roughly 2.5 cm long. This ice is porous and chewable, making it a great option for care facilities. It is also often used to display fresh produce or in convenience stores. These small cubes melt much faster than their larger counterparts.  
  • Top Hat Ice Cubes 
    A rather dapper style of ice, top hat ice cubes are shaped like top hats. This type of ice is best used at home or in personal undercounter machines. They are not common but are a cute option if you can find them. 
  • Flake/Shaved Ice 
    Flake or shaved ice has a soft, moldable texture that is flexible but melts fast. You will most often see shaved ice used in produce displays, to cool concrete, or in certain desserts and dishes.  

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What shape of ice lasts the longest? 

The length of time an ice cube lasts depends on a variety of factors, including the ambient temperature of the room and whether it is in direct sunlight. However, those with a large surface area, such as full and large ice cubes, tend to last the longest. 

How much does a big ice machine cost? 

The cost of a big ice machine varies depending on your area, the brand, and the model, among other factors. However, most large ice makers will often cost between $1,000-$10,000.  


There are many different types of ice machines available to suit anyone. Consider your choices carefully, try to find a sale, and maintain your ice machine regularly to get the most bang for your buck.  

If you are looking for detailed ice maker brand reviews or more information, you can find plenty of advice on our website 

Ian Haynes is an expert writer who has successfully deployed over 500 plumbing pages and other related content. He has an excellent understanding of home plumbing issues and translates his experiences via Plumbing Lab so readers can have a better understanding of common household problems. Outside of his work, Ian likes exploring Brooklyn with his Labrador.