Continuing with our commercial kitchen design guidelines ice machines are a requirement for every restaurant kitchen design. Navigating the various sizes and options however, can be a tedious task for anyone. Here at Mise Designs, we do not typically utilize many “rules of thumb” in specifying equipment, but when it comes to commercial kitchen design guidelines ice machines are one of the few items that we utilize those rules for.
Ice machines are used primarily for two different purposes in restaurants. Obviously, we need an ice machine to generate ice for our guest’s drinks, but more importantly, an oftentimes underestimated amount of ice is also used in the process of cooling down soups and stocks in a format that is acceptable to the health department.
The process of cooling down soups and stocks in a commercial kitchen is a relatively simple one. You take your finished product that requires cooling, preferably in a steel container such as a stock pot to maximize the transfer of temperature more rapidly, place it in an empty sink on an elevated platform such as a wire rack. You then begin filling the open area left in the sink with a mixture of ice and water. Many chefs will also add kosher salt to this ice and water mix to create brine, which will actually help lower the water temperature below the freezing point. Think salt on a frozen driveway… This process of creating an “ice bath,” coupled with frequent stirring, speeds the cooling process of the finished product by transferring the hot and cold temperatures much more rapidly by exposing the hotter center of the product to the cooler exterior of the steel vessel.
As many of you have undoubtedly witnessed in your experience, some chefs simply take their hot items and place them into the walk-in refrigerator to cool. This process does not cool the product down quickly enough to meet sanitation requirements and may in fact create an environment where bacteria can proliferate to a level that may be dangerous for your customers. This approach also overworks the compressors on the refrigeration units to compensate for the temperature fluctuations, subsequently shortening the usable life of the compressor.
Commercial Kitchen Design Guidelines Ice Machines “Rules of Thumb”
In a typical restaurant environment that uses this process of cooling, the commercial kitchen design guidelines ice machines are specified with a rule of thumb, “to start,” of three pounds of ice for every seat in the restaurant over the course of one day. I realize this may seem like a lot of ice per person, but once you understand the full calculation, it will make much more sense. For example, if you have 100 seats and you turn those tables three times, you have a seating capacity of 300 people. Multiplied by three, gives you an ice machine sized to generate 900 pounds. Ice machines are sized based on their capacity to generate ice in a 24-hour time period. Since it will take 24-hours to generate that amount of ice, ice machines will continually generate ice as long as there is room in the ice bin so typically we will specify an ice bin of a smaller capacity than the maker above it so as not to waste valuable utility dollars by requiring the maker to constantly produce ice to fill the bin.
This “rule of thumb” is exactly that and should not be considered gospel in determining the size of your ice machine. Other factors such as having a liquor bar, or a smaller commercial kitchen design such as for a coffee shop will alter these rules greatly. Utilizing a qualified restaurant consultant to determine the commercial kitchen design guidelines ice machines can be sized appropriately to ensure you have the ice you need without breaking the bank.