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What Did We Do Before Ice Makers?

Jun 10, 2008
Ice machines are an essential piece of kit for any organisation that serves cold drinks or has to keep items such as fish cold with ice. Ice machines are regularly found in all kinds of establishment meaning that items can be kept cool and drinks can be enjoyed cool. Whereas ice is now considered a cheap commodity it used to be the case that ice was only available to rich people as the methods of sourcing ice were much less readily available. Over 200 years ago ice was only available from natural sources at certain times of the year. It would have to be sourced from rivers and lakes and there were no refrigeration devices to keep it cold. Nevertheless it could be stored for extremely long periods of time. This meant that the ice was kept in underground storage rooms and in many cases could be stored for a long period of time and used to keep things cool into early summer. It wasn't until the early years of the 19th century that methods of refrigeration were fully developed into mechanical devices.

The early periods of refrigeration and ice creation became more and more beneficial to people such as fish mongers who used ice to preserve their fish on their fish stalls. This meant that ice became a saleable commodity and as a result many businesses were created to sell ice to fishmongers and restaurants. This meant that people could keep food chilled for longer periods of time. The previous problem of ice being a seasonal commodity was less of a problem and more and more people could benefit from the use of ice. Before the advent of machine based ice machines the UK would import ice from Scandinavian countries. This ice would be transported from lakes and canals in Scandinavia, shipped to the UK, and transported across the country on horse drawn carriages.

The ice that was taken from the lakes in Scandinavia was cut out by hand using large ice tongs and ice saws. The ice was craned onto ice sleds and wooden sleds would transport the ice from the frozen area to the barges that would then transport it. Once the large chucks of ice would be delivered they would be broken into sizes that the customer wanted by an ice man who would chisel off the desired amount. This saw an increased production of ice creams and other ice based foods. The mechanical methods of storing and preparing ice made this even more possible and the business for ice based foods and drinks increased rapidly.

Modern ice machines are available in a vast range of sizes and different capacities. Many ice machines are even available that are the size of a small microwave and are suitable for use in a domestic kitchen. There are also ice machines that have been developed to fit in the door of a refrigerator. These can be used to dispense ice as cubed ice or as crushed ice. The majority of ice machines are used on a commercial scale and most bars and restaurants have large ice machines that can store large amounts of ice. These ice machines usually differ in the amount of ice that they can store as most of the machines can create a similar amount of ice. The storage space available is often the defining factor to whether the ice machine is a big machine or not.
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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