Chill Choices: How To Choose a Cuber

Versatile in fit and function, cubers remain a standby as makers target tech and refrigerant adaptations.

Crescent Ice Champagne close up copy
Cubers can make full cubes, half cubes and crescent cubes, the latter of which melts up to 20% slower in the bin, says its maker. Courtesy of Hoshizaki.

As familiar as they are necessary at many operations, cubers remain plenty cool.

Touted as being ideal for beverage dispenser setups—with less clumping than other ice types—and versatile enough to chill assorted beverages as well as temperature-sensitive sauces and soups, the classic ice has some well-established perks.

Still, cubers have their differences—among them evaporator formats (vertical or horizontal and stainless or nickel-plated, respectively), condensing type (air-cooled, water-cooled and remote), cube shapes and assorted approaches to easier cleaning.

“Cool”ectively, makers are focused on transitioning to more eco-friendly refrigerants, as mandated by Environmental Protection Agency regulations on hydrofluorocarbons that go into effect Jan. 1, 2026. Most operators buying a machine today need not worry about refrigerants (any units sold this year would be grandfathered in), but for those with green goals, more eco-friendly options are here and in development. At least three makers offer models with R-290 refrigerant while another says its first unit featuring the refrigerant is set to hit the market by April.

Melon Drink 01

Beyond beverage uses, consider prep needs for cube ice. Courtesy of Ice-O-Matic.

Pre-Harvest Homework

For those who need a cuber here and now, makers suggest the following:

Frozen math. Choosing the right cuber is a weighty decision, with the proper capacity being paramount to your satisfaction. Makers say operators tend to undersize more often than they oversize, but then again who’s to complain when you never run out of ice? As changed as today’s restaurants may be, makers’ recommendations remain steady: Restaurants should plan for 1½ pounds of ice per customer, with your busiest days of the year as the benchmark. Bars, meanwhile, should double the equation. Don’t forget to account for non-beverage needs for ice, like at prep stations and salad bars—and consider when you need that ice, too. Operators who want plenty of ice at opening may want to tweak machines in their favor. For example, if you put a 1,000-pound machine head on a 500-pound bin, the bin can reliably fill up afterhours, says one maker. Several manufacturers offer online capacity calculators, but those replacing an existing cuber should be able to tell if their current capacity is standing up to demand with some certainty. “If it’s a 10-year-old machine, and say you had 500 pounds production and it’s been keeping up, actually it’s probably making a little less than that,” says one maker. From the get-go, some machines can make less ice, too, depending on conditions. Makers calculate machine capacities for 70°F ambient air with 50°F water as well as 90°F air with 70°F water, with the latter conditions yielding less ice; “there could be a 30-plus difference in percent for those values,” says one maker. If your capacity calculation is unclear, or if you’re on the fence about buying multiple units, let a trusted dealer help; it’s time well spent.

vwebimage 0FA4EC65 8C21 429B 97C03366EE9D2B33

Consider unit location, particularly with air-cooled cubers. Courtesy of Manitowoc.

Your space. Makers say width is the most important measurement, with options starting around 22 inches. Dimension considerations can morph with condensing type. An air-cooled machine (aka a self-contained machine), for example, shouldn’t be tucked in a closet, or it will recirculate hot air, hurting production. Also consider the HVAC impact of an air-cooled machine. “The numbers pale in comparison, in terms of heat, to a stove, but it still needs to be considered because it puts a burden on the HVAC system and that can slow down performance,” explains one maker. For this reason, remote condenser units can be “an excellent solution,” they say, since heat isn’t added to the building. Water-cooled machines also have their place, with a LEED certified building that’s using a chilled water loop being the best of them. In most operations, however, the units waste quite a bit of water. Finally, triple check your electrical specs to ensure you have enough available power.

Cube type. There are generally two different sizes of cubes for most brands: half cube or full cube (aka half dice or full dice). Half cubes are more versatile, says one maker, and displace more liquid than full cubes for potential cost savings on beverage syrups. One maker differentiates itself with its crescent cube—comparable to a half cube in size (and boasting increased liquid displacement), but with a curve on one side and made differently; these cubes drop individually from the maker’s vertical, stainless evaporator. And while most ice machines have just one ice-making surface, this type has two—one on each side of the evaporator, resulting in less electricity use. “Your actual operational costs are lower, because it’s running half the amount of times,” they explain. “That has an impact on wear and tear, so the product life right from the get-go is significantly higher than the traditional grid cell.”

Cool to be Clean

After sizing considerations narrow your search to a point, consider machine cleanliness. Makers recommend cleaning your machine every six months, or more often in a yeast-heavy location.

Several makers pride themselves on making cleaning easier and simpler for operators and/or servicers, with assorted approaches. One maker touts its 14-step cleaning process as being less labor-intensive than competitors’ processes.

Some cubers also feature front-facing evaporators and components (the latter of which might go in a dishwasher), offering quicker and easier access than models that open on the side or top.

Also look for easy-to-clean air filters, with one maker’s units offering toolless access, to keep units running efficiently and meeting production requirements.

Finally, one maker reminds operators to add a water filtration system, which will improve cleanliness, reduce scale buildup and boost the quality of ice.

Parting Words

Makers urge operators to consider brand reputation as well as the actual lifetime costs to run a machine vs. just upfront costs. While some cheaper import brands gained business amid international supply chain delays, makers we spoke with say those struggles are behind them. Plus, they say, those lesser-known companies likely won’t offer the same quality of after-sales perks, such as expert-staffed 24/7 manufacturer hotlines, parts availability and service networks.

At the end of the day, neither ice machines nor ice are meant to last forever, but a well-thought-out purchase sure can up the quality of both.

Technically Speaking

MC AC ProductFeature ICELINQ2


“Reducing downtime is the No. 1 thing with ice machines, and operators really want to set it and forget it,” one maker says. “The sky is falling when it stops making ice, because every table in every restaurant is going to have a glass with ice.” One way to potentially circumvent or shorten that worst-case scenario is by accessing select makers’ mobile apps, two of which were introduced within the past three years. Both offer free, Bluetooth-enabled access to live machine performance, and one of the two makers also has on-unit indicator lights that can signal an issue for which the app can further diagnose. The apps also aid in troubleshooting, helping operators communicate issues with technicians. Additionally, these apps offer data on cleaning history—an important area of oversight for all ice machines—whereas at least one app-free maker lets users access that all-important log via touch screen. Yet another manufacturer offers a remote monitoring accessory that provides similar, real-time data via email or text, plus an ice-production scheduling feature that lets operators reduce water and energy use.

Crunching Numbers

Evaluate dimensions, capacities and add-on options across seven makers’ cubers.



03 26 2024 EVERSTEEL (1200 x 800 px)

Setting New Industry Standards

In the fast-paced world of foodservice, prioritizing customer satisfaction is non-negotiable. That’s why choosing plumbing solutions made of high-quality material isn’t just a choice – it’s essential. While other options…

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -


- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -

- Advertisement -