Home » Food and Drink

The History Of Ice Makers

Apr 15, 2008
Nowadays when we go for a drink at the pub or eat out at a restaurant we take it for granted that ice will be on offer to chill our drink of choice, but less than 200 hundred years ago ice was a luxury afforded only to the rich and affluent, until then ice was only available from local ponds and rivers at certain points of the year. Ice could be stored for a surprisingly long time in a large underground ice store, there was no mechanical refrigeration available until the turn of the 19th century.

Ice was a commercial business selling to restaurants and fishmongers who used the ice to keep food chilled. But the ice that was gathered from lakes and canals was of poor quality and in too little quantity Ice started to be imported into England around 1900 and a purpose built ice well was built in the new wharf road in London to store and dispatch ice by horse drawn delivery carts this lasted until about 1920 when refrigeration became available.

Until then ice was imported from America and Norway horse drawn ploughs were used on lakes to cut the ice and handled with ice tongs and cranes to get the ice from the source to the ships ice was pushed or slid along wooden ice slides with curves and brakes. Once the ice arrived by ship at regents canal dock in east London it was taken by horse drawn barges to its final destination and old to customers by an ice man who would chip off a block or piece to the size you wanted.

It was at this point that ice cream and other luxury items became more affordable. But nowadays we take the production and supply of ice and ice cubes as part of our daily life, we are at the point now where ice machines are small enough to put into our kitchens and take no more space than a small microwave. Ice is also available to buy in large bags from our local supermarkets and corner shops. Domestic tabletop ice machines are an affordable option nowadays readily available from many suppliers and high street department stores for under 200 pounds.

Most countertop or tabletop ice machines are filled manually from a jug and will require 5 litres of water on average at time of first fill; they will require no drainage outlet like their mains water fed counterparts. The draw back with countertop ice machines is that the storage compartment where the ice is collected from will normally not be refrigerated; this will mean that your ice will melt over time and the melt water will be circulated back around the ice machine to produce more ice.

For a domestic ice cube requirement these units are fine and can be switched on in times of greater need (such as parties) and will produce about 0.5 Kilos an hour when switched on. Ice produced can be bagged up and stored in a freezer for later use. Larger ice machines are available to purchase from suppliers across the world the larger ice machines are mains water fed and will be permanently connected to a drainage outlet as waste water and melted water is not recycled back into the unit for reuse.

Larger ice machines can be founding nearly all pubs, clubs & restaurants ranging from 20kilos production per 24 hours up to 100s of kilos per 24 hours. So next time you are asked whether or not you would like ice in your drink remember that not too long ago ice was a luxury item.
About the Author
Shaun Parker has been a pub landlord for many years. He is a member of the campaign for real ale and offers advice on ice makers to aspiring publicans.
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