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How Does an Ice Maker Work?

If you are curious to know how does an ice maker work, this article can give you the answers! All until the early 20th century, our ancestors didn’t even have a clue about ice makers. Luckily, we live in the modern era that brought us the convenience of keeping our food cold and making delicious beverages (cocktails, yummy!).

I bet some of you think making ice is as simple as freezing water in a plastic ice tray. However, there’s a lot to tell about ice production so let’s dive deeper into the kingdom of ice.

Automatic Ice Makers vs Ice Trays

How Does an Ice Maker WorkLet’s break down the basic operating principles of ice trays and automatic ice makers. Automatic ice makers beat other ice making appliances on several grounds but we want to play fair and point out the pros and cons of each.

1. The Time Needed to Make Ice

With ice trays, you have no other choice but to wait for 2 to 4 hours to have your ice cubes ready. Automatic ice makers reduce the time needed to make the same amount of ice to only 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Quantity

Most automatic ice makers (commercial appliances in the first place) produce 9 ice cubes within 6 to 8 minutes or 24 to 26lbs of ice daily. Some of them are capable of producing up to 100lbs of ice per day. Now, with ice trays, you have no other choice but to wait a few hours to get those 9 cubes, which is a rather modest quantity.

3. Convenience of Use

Making ice in plastic ice trays requires more time as you have to fill trays with water all the time. On the other hand, you also have to extract cubes manually. Automatic ice makers are a breeze to use. If you do the installation part properly, the machine is doing all the hard work for you. Simply fill it with water, press the power button, and it will make ice continuously.

4. Ice Cube Size

With ice trays, you can’t choose between different sizes of ice cubes. If you want to experiment, you will have to buy several molds. On the other hand, automatic ice makers give you several options to choose the size of your cubes.

5. Dimensions

If you have a small, cute kitchen, fitting a bulky commercial ice maker in there may be quite troublesome. In this case, it would be better to give up wasting that precious space and avoid large machines. However, if you run a café, bar, or restaurant, you would have to sacrifice it for the sake of delivering the best cold juices and cocktails.

6. Price

One more thing ice trays beat automatic ice makers at is their price. However, despite the fact you can have one for a couple of bucks, the overall performance of ice cube molds can’t compare to multiple benefits automatic ice makers provide.

How Does an Ice Maker Work?

Best Margarita MachinesThe most popular models of ice makers include countertop, undercounter, nugget, clear, shaved, and margarita ice makers and they operate in a pretty similar way. If you are a margarita enthusiast, you might want to check out some of the best margarita machines.

You can make ice the hard way or the easy way. If you want to go the easy way, opt for an automated ice maker, a handy appliance that simplifies the ice making process.

Alternatively, you can make ice the old-fashioned way, with plastic or silicone ice molds. Fill an ice cube tray with water, deep freeze it, and – wait for a couple of hours.

On the other hand, a great deal of modern ice makers features a more complex construction. Most units in this category come with an electrical heating unit, water valve, and electric motor. Once you connect the machine to the plumbing line and electrical circuit powering your refrigerator, it can start producing the ice.

How Does My Commercial Ice Maker Work?

The principle by which commercial ice makers operate is different than the principle by which regular ice makers work.

Portable ice makers feature the inlet section in which you pour the water from the top. Commercial ice makers use inlet pipes and water enters the machine at the rear of the unit – via a water pump. Some models come with fitted water filters that eliminate minerals and purify the water so you get crystal clear ice.

The water then continues its way towards the ice mold. Each commercial ice maker has the evaporated coil attached to the back of the ice mold. The compressor then pushes the refrigerant through the coil and heats up the refrigerant.

The coil absorbs the heat as the refrigerant turns into vapor and cools down the mold, which makes the water extremely cold as well. Within just a couple of minutes, the water turns into ice.

When the ice bin is full, the compressor stops pumping the refrigerant. One the machine stops making ice, it releases it into the ice bin. It is always better to find an ice maker with a refrigerator section that will prevent the ice from melting away.

Commercial Ice Makers vs Refrigerator Ice Makers

Commercial Ice Makers vs Refrigerator Ice MakersWhile commercial ice makers are appliances designed exclusively for making ice, refrigerators are rather multi-functional units that can preserve our food and make ice. Yeah, you can say refrigerators come with ice cube dispensers but their purpose is far from producing ice.

It would be absurd to expect your refrigerator to produce tons of precise, clear ice cubes. The best you can get is the foggy cubes. Refrigerators run at low temperatures that can cool down food and beverages but not as low as it is the case with ice makers. Water that flows into the ice cube dispenser and the inner temperature makes it freeze gradually.

However, as there is no water filter (as with commercial ice makers), the cubes end up blurred. On the other hand, the very shape of the cubes is rather messy as well, unlike uniformly shaped cubes professional ice makers produce.


Now that you know how does an ice maker work, you can admire its stunning performance even more! This fabulous appliance brought us the convenience of making loads of perfectly shaped ice cubes, flakes, and nuggets. However, we have created a lot more content if you want to know more about ice making. See you in one of the next pieces!

About Aaron Walters

Aaron Walters is a code writer by day, and a cocktail enthusiast by night. Once he realized that high-quality ice is equally important as other ingredients, he started researching ice machines of all types and sizes. is a library of researched topics regarding all things ice he made along the way.

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