“Machine” or “Maker?” That really is the question.
So you found an ice maker for less than $999 and then you see an ice machine for $2900. The ice machine looks a little bigger but has a drain and seems a little more difficult to install. Is that really the difference? Is it the number of pounds it can generate? No… not at all. In this case, in the outdoor world, I feel that you should go big or go home.
What is an ice maker? An ice maker is probably already in your home. It’s in your refrigerator in your kitchen. An ice maker basically creates cubes of ice and then drops them into a ice bucket of some type and when you are ready for them they have already been made. That’s nice except for one thing. If you leave the door open for even a small amount of time then the bucket of ice becomes a sold mass of ice not individual cubes so when you’re ready you have to break them apart. Ever wonder why the ice maker in your indoor refrigerator makes that terrible sound when you hold your glass up to the door dispenser and “ask” for a few cubes. You are hearing your maker break the mass apart for you so that it can come through the opening in the door; it has to because the last time you opened the freezer door the ice cubes melted just a little and when you closed the door they froze together as one. Well, when you go outside and leave it there for a year you will find that in August you don’t even have to open the door for this to happen. When it is 95 degrees outside the ice inside the low-cost/low-insulation unit will thaw out a little and then that night, when the temperature drops, it will all freeze together again. When you open the door you will have a bunch of ice… but it’s all one solid piece. Why doesn’t an ice maker have a drain? That is because all the water goes to the bottom of the cooler box where it also freezes as one large mass of ice. At this point someone out there is saying, “This is crazy! I have one of these ice makers and it works great.” Indoors, where the air temp is the consistent 70 degrees that the unit was designed around, or in climates where you have similar temperatures, you will be fine with this machine. I live in Georgia and we range from 25 in the winter (a few nights) to 105 during the summer with humidity as high as 99%, an ice maker just can’t cut it outdoors in that environment.
What is an ice machine? An ice machine is what you see in restaurants, and you can use at the hotel with which to fill your ice bucket. It makes a bunch of ice really fast and somehow it is always in small nuggets and really easy to scoop out. It’s really easy to scoop out because of several big differences; it drains the melted water out of the unit immediately so it doesn’t solidify as one big mass, it also has a very well insulated cooler box so that less ice melts in the first place. The machine itself is very different. It has an actual condenser motor and not just a refrigeration plate. These machines are significantly nicer products and can even be purchased to create a specific type of ice, nuggets, flakes or cubes that are solid or cubes with holes through the middle.
Why do some include a pump? There are a couple of reasons for pump-assisted ice machines. The obvious reason is that the machine is below the drain line from and the water must be pumped uphill to get it away from the area where the unit resides. The less obvious reason is that in many cases local building codes require pump-assisted units. This appears to be because someone in the coding department believes that the pump will help prevent the back-flow of sewage into your home in the event of a flood or other plumbing disaster. To my knowledge this is simply not going to be effective at all. That said, I do prefer a pump-assist because an appliance that will drain water forever scares me a little and I want to be sure all that water goes somewhere else, and not on my floors while I’m out of town.
Who makes good ice machines? Scotsman is the machine of choice in our humble opinion. They are the builder of the product, they have tons of commercial experience, and they do a good job of standing behind the product. They also have a great selection of specific ice types so you can get wild with your ice cube selection. Perlick also has a very nice machine but they don’t make it, it is the Hashizaki machine in pretty skin. You may notice on the Perlick website that they call the unit a “maker.” It is not a “maker.” It is, in fact, a “machine” so you don’t have to worry. Why not just buy a Hoshizaki? The Hoshizaki product is really a commercial line and simply isn’t that attractive. In most cases in an outdoor kitchen, pretty is very important. True recently introduced their True Ice machine with pump assist included. We have found it to be extraordinarily good and actually use one in our store daily. There are many others but the most important variable is to avoid a cheep ice machine, if it leaks in your house and you saved $500 buying it, that isn’t going to pay for your wood floors to be replaced. Again, go big or go home. If you’re aren’t’ going to do this right just don’t buy ice.
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