How Do Commercial Ice Makers Work?

Spread the love

Making ice is something our parents have been doing quite easily over the last century or so. The method used was simple, they fill a tray with water, stick it in the freezer, wait for about half an hour or so and, magically ice appears.

Commercial ice makers work differently and are light years ahead of our parents’ generation. In this article the question of “ how do commercial ice makers work?” will be answered. 

Since the good old days of our parents and grandparents technology has increased by leaps and bounds. Lets just say it has increased significantly, now we have automated machine that makes ice in an instance. We are are even spoilt for choices, we have machines that are able to make different types of ice: clear ice, cloudy ice, nugget ice, shave ice, ice flakes, ice cubes and crescent ice.  

We don’t even have to wait very long. In some cases, we can get ice in as quick as six minutes, wait six minutes and there is enough ice to cool the our drinks on a warm summer’s day or chill an alcoholic beverage in our glass as we relax by the fire on a winter’s afternoon.   

Whether we make the ice manually, in the freezer, or rely on the convenience of an automatic ice maker in the refrigerator, or use one of those portable ice machines the end result is pretty much the same. Lovely ice to chew on, to mix in our drinks or keep stuff cool in an igloo. 

The ice making process can be quite different as there are some variations in the methods used to make ice. Let us now explore the question of how do commercial ice makers work?

How to make ice in portable ice machine?

How to make ice without a tray?

How to manually make clear ice?

Who needs ice?

As the summer is closing in and most people are preparing their beach gear and swimsuits, there is one huge concern — how to cope with the heat of the days during this season. While for some people taking a cold shower or a dip in the sea or swimming pool is enough, others can’t go without a nice refreshing drink. While at the bar we just enjoy ice on tap.

You know what, who doesn’t like an ice-cold cocktail or an iced coffee on a 35°+Celsius day? It is a lifesaver that the restaurant have their own commercial ice maker to supply the thirsty troop with lovely super cold ice.

What are Commercial Ice Makers?

Commercial ice makers are vertical standing ice making machines that make a vast quantity of ice in a very short period of time.

Commercial ice machines makes way too much ice for an individual family home but are perfect for a place that caters to a large number of individuals such as in restaurants, hotels, stadiums, and other such places that requires ice quickly.

The ice demand at these locations are very high because customers are impatient and are not willing to wait forever for a glass of ice cold drink. 

While this product is quite popular, and the market is swirling with different models, one question still remains— how do commercial ice makers work?

How Do Commercial Ice Makers Work?

The commercial ice machine setup is much different from the portable ice makers. Here we will go through the process of how commercial ice makers make clear ice in a few steps. 

 # 1: How water enters the ice machine at the start of the process

The bigger commercial ice makers uses an inlet pipe, which is dissimilar to the portable ice machines where water is poured through the inlet section a top the machine, water enters the machine via a water pump at the rear of the unit. In some cases a  water filter is fitted to the water line before it enters the unit. This purify the water pre freezing to eliminate all minerals ensure lovely clear ice. 

# 2: Heat is absorbed from the water as it passes through the mold

The water then passes through to the ice mold which has the evaporator coil attached to the back of it.  This mold along with the evaporator is simply called the evaporator. The copper coil that is attached to the mold acts as a heat exchanger that absorbs heat from the surrounding pipes and mold.

# 3: The transformation: Water turns into Ice

The evaporator absorbs the heat from the mold and surrounding air causing the mold to get super cold causing the water becomes extremely cold until it freezes and turns into ice.  

# 3: The ice is then released into the ice bin

When the ice is formed inside the mold it is then flash heated by the refrigerant passing the bypass valve without being cooled through the coil at the back a the evaporator causing it to flash heat and thus the ice is released into the ice bin. 

# 4: What happens when the ice bin is full?

The machine will stop making ice when the ice bin is full. The ice bin keeps the ice cold until it is required. The unit stop making ice when filled. If the ice maker does not come with a refrigeration section the ice will slowly melt.

What type of ice do commercial ice makers make?

These commercial ice machines tend to make clear ice that is much colder than regular ice made at home in the freezer or in most ice makers.

There is no magic behind clear ice, instead of freezing whole pockets of water at a time like the typical refrigerator, clear ice machine freeze ice from the inside out.

These machines lay down thin layers of water, freezing it from the inside out, sort of like how icicles form, so that there are no microscopic crack formations as a result of escaping particles.

This process ensures that the ice stays clear. Unlike the ice in your freezer that are cloudy because it has air bubbles in it due to it freezing from the outside in. 

Clear ice has proven to take much colder and take longer to melt, it keeps your drink much colder, without quickly melting and diluting your drink.  Unless of course you want you drink watered down. 

What are the mechanics behind the working of a commercial ice machine. 

# 1: The Compressor turns the refrigerant into vapours

When the unit is turned on the compressor compresses the refrigerant and pushes it through the copper coil at super high pressure.

The increased pressure created by the compressor increases the temperature of the refrigerant in such high temperatures it turns the refrigerant into vapours.

# 2: Refrigerant is then condensed through the condenser

As refrigerant goes through the narrow tubes, the refrigerant loses heat and is condensed in the condenser.

The vapours become liquid again as it cools. The cooled refrigerant then goes through a dryer.

The dryer cleans the refrigerant of moisture and dirt particles.

# 3: The refrigerant passes through the Expansion valve

As the fluid travels through an expansion valve it begins to evaporate and turn into a gas.

When this happens, the process creates energy in the form of heat from the copper pipes and any air that is surrounding the refrigerant and pulls the heat from the pipes and the evaporator (ice mold).

At this point, the water which is flowing over the evaporator begins to freeze.

# 4: The ice are released from the mold and is ready to be enjoyed

After the ice cubes form, the evaporator sensor triggers a valve which tells the compressor to stop forcing heated gas into the condenser and instead directs it to a bypass valve.

The hot gas then cycles through the evaporator, from the bypass valve, without cooling off and this process allows it to quickly heat up and loosen the ice from the tray without melting it.

The ice then falls into the ice bin where it can be scooped by hand or dispensed automatically. Once the ice is dropped, the process starts all over again. 

The Difference Between an Ice Maker and a Common Refrigerator

Before we get into the construction and process of an ice maker, it is wise to look at the differences between an ice maker and a common refrigerator.

It is quite popular for a refrigerator to include ice cube dispensers. Still, if you would compare this ice making system to the one that comes with an ice maker, you would notice a few major differences.

The first difference is also a major concern because of the fact that a refrigerator is not made to produce ice.

It has the equipment necessary to refrigerate food and beverages down pat, but that doesn’t mean that the ice cubes will come out as good as with an ice maker.

This is due to the fact that it runs on low temperatures (not as low as an ice maker) and cools the product from the outside in, which can result in the formation of foggy ice caused by air trapped in the cubes.

The process is quite simple – you add water which then falls into ice cube dispenser trays. Once that happens, these refrigerate (according to the inner temperature) over the course of the next few hours.

The bottom of the dispenser is then heated up and the ice cubes fall onto a plate making the ice cubes set and ready to use.

The Mechanics of a Commercial Ice Maker and the common refrigerator

While the common refrigerator process is quite simple, the question of how commercial ice makers work still remains unanswered.

The first thing that you should know is that most common ice makers are vertical, which allows for the inside-out freezing system, which results in clear and uniformly shaped cubes.

It is true that there are hundreds of different models on the market – still, most use the same system.

First, the water is pumped from the back of the unit to the evaporator, while the compressor pumps out the refrigerant to the copper pipes, thus heating the ice maker and cooling the water.

As it is condensed and turned into a gas, the copper pipes and the evaporator both release heat which cools down and freezes the water. Once the ice cubes have been formed, the sensor signals the compressor to stop pumping the refrigerant and direct it towards the valve.

As the gas travels through the evaporator it heats up the tray, which then leads to the uniformly shaped ice cubes to fall onto a dispenser plate. The higher capacity a commercial ice maker has, the more ice cubes will be made in a process of 10 minutes.


While most customers are fascinated with the result of using an ice maker, not many know how an ice maker actually works. Because of this, we have done our best to explain the process and give you a good insight into the critical components of an ice maker – the evaporator, the compressor, and the refrigerant gas, as well as how a commercial ice maker works.

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: