Ice for the Coffee Professional

by Michael A. Rice, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Follett Corporation

Every busi­ness is look­ing for ways to pro­vide more value to its cus­tomers, and the office cof­fee busi­ness is no dif­fer­ent, espe­cially in today’s chal­leng­ing times. Operators are upgrad­ing their cof­fee offer­ings, includ­ing higher qual­ity blends, sin­gle serve cof­fee, and iced cof­fee to cap­ture more of the after­noon bev­er­age expe­ri­ence. Others are start­ing to offer new ser­vices such as water dis­pensers and other bev­er­ages to pro­vide more value to their clients. One approach for cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als to sup­port an upscale office bev­er­age pro­gram is to pro­vide ice to their clients.

For the office cof­fee pro­fes­sional, ice is a nat­ural busi­ness exten­sion because (1) it is essen­tial to an iced cof­fee or iced tea pro­gram and (2) ice is noth­ing more than frozen water, the liq­uid that is a pri­mary ingre­di­ent in their cof­fee offer­ing. Coffee pro­fes­sion­als skilled at pro­vid­ing high qual­ity water can apply the same skills to ice and expand their busi­ness. Ice can already be found in many offices around the coun­try as well as on count­less fac­tory floors and road crew dis­patch cen­ters – loca­tions that cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als already serve. The key is to pro­vide the right ice offering.

Ice – A val­ued amenity
Ice can pro­vide sev­eral ben­e­fits to an office cof­fee pro­gram. Most peo­ple in this coun­try like ice, with about 250 bil­lion pounds per year con­sumed in food­ser­vice appli­ca­tions out­side the home. Ice makes drinks colder and keeps them colder longer. People also like to chew ice when their drinks are fin­ished. Several stud­ies have revealed that over 50% of the pop­u­la­tion enjoys chew­ing ice. Many peo­ple enjoy their bev­er­age chilled. Ice will keep bev­er­ages cooler, mak­ing it more likely that peo­ple will drink more.

Ice also pro­vides health and well­ness ben­e­fits. The ben­e­fits of good hydra­tion on men­tal acu­ity, pro­duc­tiv­ity, and gen­eral well­ness have been well doc­u­mented. Ice water also pro­vides a meta­bolic ben­e­fit. The caloric require­ment to metab­o­lize 40 degree water to body tem­per­a­ture for some­one drink­ing the rec­om­mended 8 glasses a day is the equiv­a­lent of 3 to 4 pounds a year.

For office cof­fee and water clients, ice can solve the prob­lem of run­ning out of chilled water at break times. Most water cool­ers only have lim­ited capac­ity to chill water and, often, the first few peo­ple with large mugs will use up all the avail­able chilled water, leav­ing the rest of their co-workers dis­ap­pointed. With ice, you can pro­vide your clients with an almost lim­it­less amount of ice cold water, even at peak periods.

Ice com­ple­ments other bev­er­ages. Iced cof­fees, iced teas, fla­vor pack­ets, soft drinks, energy drinks, and other bev­er­ages all ben­e­fit from the avail­abil­ity of ice. As com­pa­nies look for enhanced refresh­ment ser­vices to keep their asso­ciates on-site and pro­duc­tive, ice can be a part of the over­all solu­tion. Ice is a key com­po­nent to expand­ing ice cof­fee pro­grams and grow­ing cof­fee sales.

With ice, water and other bev­er­ages will stay cold for much longer peri­ods than if they come from a chilled water dis­penser or some other refrig­er­ated dis­penser. Ice makes all cold bev­er­ages more appeal­ing to employees.

There are a num­ber of con­sid­er­a­tions when choos­ing ice­mak­ers for employee refresh­ment. Machines need be sized appro­pri­ately to serve the client pop­u­la­tion: num­ber of peo­ple, daily pat­terns, cli­mate, inter­est in ice, cup sizes, are all impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions. Ice type and util­ity con­sump­tion (water and energy) should be eval­u­ated. Installation needs to address water sup­ply and, if required, drains or con­den­sate pumps. However, the most crit­i­cal fact to remem­ber when con­sid­er­ing adding ice to your prod­uct offer­ing is that ICE is FOOD. As food, ice requires the same con­cern for san­i­ta­tion as any other water or food prod­uct you may offer.

Ice – Keep it san­i­tary
When it con­cerns ice, san­i­ta­tion takes two basic forms: san­i­ta­tion in dis­pens­ing and in clean­ing of ice machines. Traditionally, ice has been avail­able in offices from either the refrig­er­a­tor or an ice­maker that is installed under a counter. Larger oper­a­tions may have an ice­maker on top of a large stor­age bin. More recently, some offices have cho­sen to install small, low capac­ity coun­ter­top ice­mak­ers. These ice­mak­ers are con­ve­nient (they come in either plumbed-in or pour-over mod­els) and rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive. Unfortunately, these ice­mak­ers all have open bins from which indi­vid­ual users scoop ice out. Many employ­ees com­plain of cross con­t­a­m­i­na­tion from unsan­i­tary Co-workers who scoop their cups through the ice bin or who may store their lunch or other food in the ice stor­age area. Since the ice is exposed to air every time the bin is open, there is greater like­li­hood of bac­te­ria, yeasts, molds, or algae grow­ing in the ice­maker and/or bin.

Sanitary dis­pens­ing of ice
One way to min­i­mize the poten­tial for con­t­a­m­i­na­tion of ice is to use ice and water dis­pensers where the ice is both made inside the machine and stored in a sealed bin to pro­tect it from hands, dirty scoops, or unnec­es­sary expo­sure to air. These ice dis­pensers will have some type of mech­a­nism to dis­pense the ice out of a bin with­out the need to touch the ice. Many of these will also dis­pense water using a vari­ety meth­ods such as lever, but­ton or infrared sens­ing. They are also easy to install and main­tain by plac­ing on a counter or on a base stand for easy util­ity and drain con­nec­tions. Some don’t even require a drain, mak­ing instal­la­tion eas­ier and place­ment more flexible.

Cleaning the ice­maker
In addi­tion to using equip­ment that improves san­i­ta­tion by min­i­miz­ing the poten­tial for expo­sure when dis­pens­ing ice, main­tain­ing proper clean­ing and main­te­nance prac­tices is crit­i­cal to pro­vid­ing a qual­ity ice offer­ing. Most pre­ven­tive main­te­nance pro­grams involve (1) daily/weekly wip­ing of the exte­rior sur­faces, (2) monthly clean­ing to remove dust from the con­densers, and (3) semi-annual inspec­tion of crit­i­cal parts, clean­ing to remove scale from the ice­maker an acid cleaner, and san­i­tiz­ing the ice­maker with the manufacturer’s rec­om­mended san­i­tizer. In some areas, par­tic­u­larly if the water is hard or if there is yeast or bac­te­ria in the air, more fre­quent clean­ing and san­i­tiz­ing may be needed as well as pre­treat­ment of the incom­ing water to reduce scale. When select­ing an ice­maker, look for those that are easy to clean and main­tain. A well main­tained ice­maker pro­vides the great­est return on your investment.

The same prin­ci­ples apply to cof­fee houses.
The right type of ice and the right type of ice­maker will ben­e­fit the cof­fee shop oper­a­tor as well as the office cof­fee provider. Ice san­i­ta­tion and clean­ing pro­ce­dures are just as impor­tant in a retail estab­lish­ment as in the office cof­fee envi­ron­ment. While some­what more expen­sive than tra­di­tional icemaker/bin com­bos, some retail­ers have cho­sen to invest in the hands-free ice maker/dispensers to reduce the poten­tial for cross-contamination. The choice of ice type can also con­tribute to both high rev­enue and lower costs. In the foun­tain bev­er­age arena, stud­ies have shown that more peo­ple will pur­chase more bev­er­ages if offered the choice of chew­able nugget ice, and the same should hold true for iced cof­fee and iced tea. Additionally, nugget ice­mak­ers, either in dis­pensers or in icemaker/bin com­bos, typ­i­cally use less energy and sub­stan­tially less water than com­pa­ra­ble sized cube-type machines found in most retail establishments.

In con­clu­sion, the cof­fee pro­fes­sional has a num­ber of new oppor­tu­ni­ties relat­ing to ice. When pur­su­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ties, always remem­ber that ice is food and needs to be dealt with in a safe and san­i­tary manner.

Michael Rice is Senior Product Marketing Manager for Follett Corporation. Follett Corporation is a lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing of ice machines, ice and water dis­pensers, and ice stor­age and trans­port equip­ment focused on inno­v­a­tive solu­tions that pro­mote health, safety, and well-being in food­ser­vice, health­care, and office envi­ron­ments. Mike is also Adjunct Faculty at DeSales University where he teaches courses on Ethical Issues in the Workplace, includ­ing top­ics of Corporate Social Responsibility. Contact Mike at

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