Undercounter Ice Machine Buying Guide

An undercounter ice machine is a must-buy if you often find yourself in need of ice. Most importantly, such a unit allows you to maximize the space you have at your disposal. So, an undercounter ice machine is installed into the cabinetry, similarly to a dishwasher or anything of the kind. 

However, how can you be 100 percent sure that you’ve made the right investment? Of course, you should evaluate the market considering a range of essential factors. In this brief guide, we will talk about the main characteristics that an undercounter ice machine is likely to have. At the same time, we’ll outline what your top considerations should be.

1. Important Factors to Consider

Finding the Right Placement

Even if any undercounter ice machine should be located inside a counter, it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Before making an investment, you should have a specific spot in mind. This will allow you to purchase the unit that has the ideal size for the space you have at your disposal and not only.

In addition, if you’re considering installing the ice machine outside, then you should select a unit that is created for outdoor storage. Such a unit will do its job even in extreme temperatures.

Types of Ice

Do you have particular preferences when it comes to the type of ice you want your ice maker to generate? You should know that there are machines that produce nugget ice, cube ice, crescent ice, and the list may go on.

This individual specification might matter to some people; if you this is important for you, make sure the unit you’re eyeing produces the type of ice you’re looking for.

Type of IceCharacteristics 
Cube Ice
- Most commercial businesses utilize cube ice because it melts much slower than other ice assortments.
- It can diminish customer ice consumption, allowing you to regulate your expenses, in the long run.
- It is available in three sizes: full cube, regular cube, and half cube.
Nugget Ice
- Also referred to as chewable ice, it is typically utilized in health care facilities.
- It melts at a slow pace; similarly to cube ice. However, it is easier to chew.
- It works great when combined with cold beverages, smoothies, or blended drinks. 
Flake Ice
- For the most part, it is utilized in ice-displays for chilled salads or meats. However, it may be used for creating blended drinks, as well.
- Soft and easy to chew.
- It cools rapidly and can be molded to any shape. 


Typically, the size of an undercounter ice machine is linked with its capacity. So, in the case in which you’re dealing with limited space, yet you are looking for a unit that can produce significant amounts of ice, you might face a challenge.

With that in mind, it’s critical to measure the space you have at your disposal beforehand. Otherwise, you will encounter difficulties during the installation process.

Production Rate

Moving on, an equally important element is the production rate of the ice machine. If you don’t factor this in, you might end up buying a machine that doesn’t address your needs. To be more precise, if the unit produces ice at a slow pace, then you will eventually need supplements with ice from the story, or you’ll simply have to make do without ice. Evidently, this defeats the entire purpose of investing in an ice maker.

To that end, manufacturers usually provide information concerning the production rate of the units. The rate is determined considering the quantity of ice the unit can generate in a 24-hour timeframe.

Bear in mind that the production rate that a machine is expected to meet is usually calculated if the unit operates in optimal conditions – namely is installed correctly, the environment is proper, the ventilation and the temperature surrounding the machine are right.

In case you place the machine in a location that tends to get overheated, you could expect the production rate to diminish. 

Compressor Type

Type of CompressorCharacteristicsPotential Drawbacks
Air Cooled Ice Machine
- A high degree of efficiency, as it doesn’t imply any additional water costs.
- Most models have the Energy Star Compliance.
- It requires approximately 6’’ of clearance in the proximity of the discharge areas, which could pose some challenges. 
Water Cooled Ice Machine
- Suitable for areas in which the air circulation is poor, or if you have limited space at your disposal.
- It is compatible with areas in which the air comprises significant levels of grease or other contaminants. 
- The level of water consumption is much higher, involving significant costs.
- Some municipalities have restrictions concerning this type of machines. 


If you expect to utilize the ice rather quickly, then you should invest in a unit with a high production rate. In this view, the storage capacity is not as important as the production rate. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should overlook the capacity of the machine you’re considering.

If you want to invest in an undercounter ice machine for your business, then getting a high capacity unit is highly recommended for obvious reasons. This way, you’ll have immediate access to ice whenever you need.

Energy Efficiency

Many appliances nowadays are created to conserve energy. Therefore, if you want to keep your costs low and you want to protect the environment, you might look for an energy efficient unit. Typically, these machines are certified by Energy Star.

Another way in which you can keep your energy costs under control is by ensuring that you get the unit that addresses your individual needs. In other words, this means you shouldn’t get a machine that produces more ice than you actually need. This will only add more costs. 

Water Filtration System

Certain ice makers are equipped with a built-in filter. This filtration system contributes to eliminating sediment and other potentially harmful contaminants from the water, before the freezing process.

This contributes to making the ice cubes healthier for consumption. At the same time, this enhances the taste and smell of the ice. As a matter of fact, it is highly recommended to consider getting a separate water filtration system for the models that don’t originally have one, specifically due to these reasons.

2. The Design and Style of the Ice Machine

While it is definitely true that the functionality of an undercounter ice machine should be your priority during the shopping process, the look and style of the unit shouldn’t be overlooked. To that end, these units come in a range of styles and colors.

The most popular colors are black, white and stainless steel. Other models come with doors that are meant to match the authentic look of wood. If you want to invest in a commercial unit, the aesthetic appeal of the machine is important as it allows you to convey the right message to your audience.

3. Considering the Drain Options

It goes without saying that an ice machine requires drainage – right? In this view, you have two options to choose from. Considering that you have a drain in the proximity of the place in which you want to install the ice machine, then selecting a gravity drain might be a good option. Remember, though, the drain should be within two feet of the ice machine.

So, gravity will do its job in the sense that it will direct the condensate to the drain pot. Afterward, it will empty the appliance down the drain.

Nevertheless, if the location doesn’t facilitate this alternative, then it would make sense to select an ice machine with a drain pump. How does this pump function? Essentially, it directs any excess of water out of the machine to the nearest drain.

Even if some machines may come with built-in drain pumps, this isn’t the case with all units, as you can expect. So, keep in mind that you might be required to get a drain pump as an external attachment if needed.

4. Maintaining an Undercounter Ice Machine

Whether you purchase portable ice machines or undercounter ice machines, maintaining them is of great importance for a number of reasons. Water – hard water, in particular – features a wide range of distinct minerals and microscopic sediment components. When left unfiltered, these sediments will inevitably build up inside your machine.

In fact, over time, you can actually see that the water inside the machine overflows with numerous particles. Dirt and rust may also contribute to clogging the machine in time, and the same can be said about mold and limescale. Evidently, all these will contribute to the premature wearing out of the machine. This applies even if you use a filter.

When it comes to commercial ice machines, the law requires you to clean them on a regular basis. That’s primarily because ice is classified as food. With that in mind, you should factor in the FDA food code. Concurrently, you might need to get information concerning the local ordinances in your area on how often you should sanitize the ice machine.

Basically, in order to clean the ice machine, all the parts of the unit have to be thoroughly cleansed as presented in the instruction manual. Everything should be rinsed with clean water and all the surfaces must be wiped down with a soft rag.

On a different note, if you’re investing in a commercial unit, make sure it is compliant with the American with Disabilities Act design guidelines.

As for how often an ice machine should be cleaned, there are several signs. For example, if the ice has a cloudy appearance or is smaller than normal, then this might mean you should clean it. Also, if the ice has an odd smell or it feels soft and melts much faster, this should also raise a question mark. If you use a filter, you have to consider the manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to changing it.

5. Conclusion

Nothing compares with a cold, refreshing drink, right? And ice can definitely make a beverage more savory and enjoyable. So, if you’re considering investing in an undercounter ice machine, make sure you get the one that meets your individual needs.

More specifically, factor in the size of the unit, its capacity, the drainage option, as well as the maintenance steps you need to follow to prolong its lifespan. These are all aspects worthy of consideration in order to make the right investment.

Share This!