Cold beverage dispensers specialize in storing and dispensing cold beverages such as juice, slushies, iced tea, lemonade, and similar drinks with built-in refrigeration systems, several hoppers, and user-friendly designs. In addition to their operational functions, cold beverage dispensers are great display tools. By displaying the colorful drinks you have prepared, they lead customers to impulse purchases and improve your sales! In this buying guide, we help you decide on the type, capacity, size, mechanism, and similar features you need from your cold beverage dispenser machines.
What is the Components of a Cold Beverage Dispenser?
Refrigerated beverage dispensers are made up of 5 main components: the base, bowl/hopper, agitator, taps, and drip pan. While the specifics may vary, most fridge drink dispensers have 5 following parts.
- Base: The base is typically made from stainless steel for durability and houses all the refrigeration components. It forms the foundation of the machine.
- Bowl: The bowl, tank, or hopper is the removable container for pre-made drinks. It is generally made of clear material to form a merchandising effect. Bowls come in various numbers and capacities. Multiple-bowl models allow you to simultaneously serve different flavors, and their capacities reach up to 10 gallons (37.85 Liter) per bowl.
- Agitator: The agitator plays a crucial function in refrigerated beverage dispensers. It works with a paddle and circulates the contents to adjust drink thickness, thus helping maintain the drink’s freshness, dilution, and flavor consistency.
- Taps: Taps are drip-free, pull or push-operated dispensing valves. They are easily removable for cleaning.
- Drip Pan: Stainless steel or plastic drip trays under each pouring valve catch spillage and thus ensure a sanitary and safe operation. They are also removable and dishwasher-safe.
What are the Types of Cold Beverage Dispensers?
There are 6 types of cold beverage dispensers that you can invest in based on the products you intend to make and serve. While some models are only for storage and dispensing purposes, others are designed to aid with the production stage through features such as blending.
1. Carbonated Beverage Dispenser
Carbon beverage dispensers are specialized equipment designed to manage and serve carbonated drinks like sodas, sparkling waters, and fizzy juices. These refrigerated drink dispensers are uniquely engineered with advanced mechanisms to ensure that the carbonation levels of the beverages are consistently maintained, providing the perfect fizz with every serving.
Key features of these dispensers include:
- Carbonation System: Carbonated beverage dispensers have a carbonation system that infuses CO2 into the beverages, keeping them effervescent. This system is calibrated to maintain precise carbonation levels, which is crucial for delivering drinks that meet customer expectations in terms of taste and texture.
- Pressure Control: Carbonated beverage dispensers typically include a pressure control mechanism. This feature is essential for regulating the CO2 pressure, ensuring that it remains at an optimal level. Too much pressure can over-carbonate the drink, while too little can result in a flat beverage.
- Temperature Regulation: The ideal serving temperature for carbonated drinks is between 38°F to 42°F (3.3°C to 5.5°C). These dispensers are designed with cooling systems that keep the beverages at this temperature range, which is critical for maintaining carbonation. Cold temperatures help CO2 to remain dissolved in the liquid, ensuring the drink stays fizzy longer.
- Multiple Valve Options: Carbonated beverage dispensers come with multiple valve options, allowing the service of different carbonated drinks from the same machine. This versatility makes them ideal for establishments with various carbonated beverage offerings.
- Energy Efficiency: Modern carbonated beverage dispensers are increasingly energy-efficient. They use advanced insulation and refrigeration technologies to maintain the required temperatures without excessive energy consumption.
- Usage Data: Advanced carbonated beverage dispenser models have digital monitoring systems that track beverage dispensing data. This feature aids businesses in inventory management, understanding consumer preferences, and planning for restocks.
2. Juice Dispenser
Juice Dispensers are an efficient and attractive way to serve a variety of juices in settings like buffets, breakfast bars, and catering events. These dispensers, often equipped with multiple hoppers, enable the simultaneous service of different juice flavors, enhancing the customer experience by offering a range of choices.
Investing in a juice dispenser with multiple hoppers is a strategic decision for businesses looking to offer a variety of juice options while maintaining quality and efficiency. These dispensers not only streamline the service process but also add an element of sophistication to the beverage serving area.
Key aspects of these juice dispensers include:
- Multiple Hoppers: Juice dispensers can come with multiple hoppers or containers, each capable of holding and serving a different type of juice. This multi-hopper design can vary, with some models offering two to four or more separate containers. The capacity of these hoppers can range from a few liters to larger volumes, catering to different business sizes and customer footfalls.
- Temperature Control: Juice dispensers come with built-in cooling systems to keep the juice at optimal serving temperatures. This feature is crucial for maintaining the freshness and flavor of the juice, especially important for natural or freshly squeezed juices.
- Easy Dispensing Mechanism: Juice dispensers are designed for easy use, often featuring simple push or pull levers or taps. This user-friendly aspect allows for self-service, reducing staff workload and enhancing customer experience in self-serve environments.
- Durable Construction: Juice dispensers, typically made with robust materials like stainless steel and high-quality plastics, are built to withstand frequent use. The materials are chosen for their durability and ease of cleaning.
- Aesthetic Appeal: Juice dispensers are designed with a focus on aesthetic appeal. Their transparent hoppers not only allow customers to see the available juice options but also serve as an attractive display, with the vibrant colors of different juices adding to the visual appeal of a service area.
3. Cold Water Dispenser
Cold water dispensers are fundamental cold beverage dispensers in commercial settings, providing a constant supply of chilled water for customer comfort and convenience. These dispensers are characterized by their simplicity and functionality, offering clean, cold water with minimal maintenance. A cold water dispenser is more than just a basic amenity; it’s essential to a hospitality-focused business environment. These dispensers meet a fundamental need by providing clean, chilled water while enhancing the overall customer experience.
Key Features and Benefits of Cold Water Dispensers:
- Water Filtration Systems: Modern cold water dispensers have advanced filtration systems. These filters can remove impurities, chlorine, and other contaminants from tap water, ensuring the water’s taste and quality are significantly enhanced. The filtration system’s complexity can vary, ranging from basic charcoal filters to more advanced reverse osmosis systems.
- Temperature Control: Cold water dispensers maintain water at a consistently cool temperature, ideal for immediate consumption. The temperature settings are adjustable in some models, allowing businesses to cater to specific preferences.
- Capacity and Size Variations: Cold water dispensers come in various capacities to suit different commercial needs. Smaller units are suitable for compact spaces or lower-traffic areas, while larger models can serve high-demand environments like cafeterias, gyms, or large office spaces.
- Health and Hydration: Cold water dispensers offer easily accessible cold water and encourage hydration, contributing to a healthier environment for customers and staff. This is particularly important in fitness centers, schools, and healthcare facilities.
- Customization and Add-ons: Cold water dispensers offer additional features like hot water dispensing or integrated cup dispensers, adding to their functionality and convenience.
4. Iced Tea Dispenser
Iced tea dispensers are specialized units tailored for brewing, storing, and serving iced tea, a popular beverage choice in many restaurants and cafes. Their design and functionality cater to the aesthetic and practical aspects of serving iced tea.
Iced tea dispensers offer a practical and efficient solution for serving this classic beverage. Their features are tailored to ensure the tea is brewed correctly, maintained at the right temperature, and easily served while offering the flexibility to cater to individual customer preferences. This makes them an indispensable piece of equipment in settings where iced tea is a menu staple.
Key Features and Benefits of Iced Tea Dispensers:
- Brewing Capability: Iced tea dispensers have built-in brewing systems, allowing tea preparation directly within the unit. This integration simplifies the process by combining brewing and dispensing in one device, ensuring freshness and flavor consistency.
- Adjustable Sweetness Levels: Iced tea dispensers enable the customization of tea sweetness with user-friendly controls. This feature is particularly beneficial in catering to diverse customer preferences, from unsweetened to varying degrees of sweetness.
- Large Capacity Options: Iced tea dispensers are available in various sizes, with larger models capable of holding significant volumes of tea – essential for high-traffic establishments. This capacity ensures a steady supply during peak service hours.
- Temperature Maintenance: Iced tea dispensers are designed to keep iced tea at the optimal serving temperature. This aspect is crucial for maintaining the quality and taste of the tea over extended periods.
- User-Friendly Dispensing: Iced tea dispensers allow for quick and mess-free serving. This feature enhances efficiency, especially during busy service times.
- Versatility in Use: While primarily used for iced tea, these dispensers can often accommodate other cold beverages, making them versatile additions to a commercial kitchen.
5. Multi-functional Dispenser
Multi-functional dispensers are the epitome of versatility in commercial beverage equipment. These dispensers are designed to handle a wide range of drinks, making them valuable in diverse foodservice settings, from cafes to large-scale catering events.
Multi-functional dispensers are an excellent investment for commercial kitchens looking to maximize their beverage offerings without sacrificing space, quality, or efficiency. Their ability to adapt to various drink types and maintain consistent quality makes them an indispensable tool in modern foodservice operations.
Key Features and Benefits of Multi-functional Dispensers:
- Versatile Beverage Options: Multi-functional dispensers can accommodate an array of beverages, including juices, iced teas, lemonades, and even more complex drinks like smoothies or slushies. This flexibility allows establishments to offer a broad menu from a single piece of equipment.
- Adjustable Settings: Multi-functional dispensers often have adjustable settings for different beverage requirements, such as temperature control and mixing options. This adaptability is crucial for ensuring that each drink type is served at optimal quality.
- Space Efficiency: Multi-functional dispensers save valuable counter space by combining the functionality of several machines into one. This is particularly advantageous for smaller establishments with limited space.
- Cost-Effective: Investing in a multi-functional dispenser is more cost-effective than purchasing multiple single-purpose machines. It reduces the need for separate equipment for different beverages, saving purchasing costs and maintenance.
- Customization and Creativity: The ability to handle various drinks encourages creativity in menu development. Establishments can experiment with unique beverage combinations and seasonal offerings, appealing to a broader customer base.
- Rapid Service: Multi-functional dispensers facilitate quick service, especially crucial during peak hours, enhancing customer experience and turnover with their capacity to store and dispense multiple beverages.
6. Slushy Machines
Slushy machines, a staple in entertainment venues like cinemas and amusement parks, offer more than a refreshing treat. These slushy machines are vital to creating an engaging and vibrant atmosphere, captivating customers with colorful displays and frosty concoctions.
- Powdered Auto-Fill Slushy Machines: These machines are ideal for high-volume settings. They automate the slushy-making process using powdered mixtures, which are stored and blended within the machine. This feature ensures consistency in taste and texture, which is crucial for maintaining quality across servings.
- Liquid Auto-Fill Slushy Machines: These machines use pre-mixed liquid solutions, reducing preparation time and designed for convenience. The liquid mixture is stored within the machine, ready to be dispensed as a perfectly chilled slushy. This type is especially suitable for businesses that value rapid service and ease of operation.
- Standard Pour-Over Frozen Drink Machines: This more traditional model offers simplicity and control. Operators manually prepare the slushy mixture and fill the hoppers. While this method provides flexibility in recipe creation, it requires more hands-on management and might result in less consistency than automated models.
7 Considerations When Buying a Cold Beverage Dispenser
Consider the cold beverage dispenser’s capacity, size, cooling mechanism, material quality, and efficiency. Considering these 7 features, you can make the most efficient investment possible.
- Capacity of Cold Beverage Dispensers: It hinges on how many hoppers it has and the capacity of each hopper. You can have as many as 4 bowls on a machine. While the more bowls you have, the smaller they will get, usually, you can find hoppers that can hold up to 5 gallons (18.93 Liters) of liquid. The smaller units will only hold 2.1 gallons (7.95 Liters) per bowl.
- Size of Cold Beverage Dispensers: These units have a width of 7 to 45 inches ( 17.78 to 114.3 cm). Invest in smaller models if you don’t have enough countertop area.
- Cooling Mechanisms: These systems ensure the refrigeration of the drinks within the unit. There are 5 methods that machines utilize to achieve this goal.
- Ice Bank System: Such units possess an ice chamber to cool down the beverage. Drinks either pass through or get stored enclosed by the ice chamber to remain cool.
- Classic Compressor-Based Refrigeration System: These systems are found in household coolers and fridges. These units expel refrigerant gases to trap the heat and cool the drinks.
- Cold Plate System: These units direct the flow of the liquid through or over cooled metal plates and coils to achieve the desired temperatures. The coil and metals are cooled through the refrigerating mechanism of the unit.
- Carbonation Systems: These systems have a carbonation mechanism to maintain the quality of the beverages in the unit. The release of carbon dioxide can contribute to the cooling efforts.
- Insulation: It is not a cooling mechanism but a cooling preservation system. Make sure that your dispenser has well-insulated compartments to prevent heat exchange.
- Material Quality: Most units are made with plastic and stainless steel. Opting for more stainless steel components ensures the unit’s durability, especially for storing soda and similar carbonated drinks.
- Dispensing Mechanism: The most common dispensing mechanisms are taps or buttons. Taps provide more flexibility than buttons since they allow you to arrange how much beverage you’ll dispense at a given moment.
- Certifications: There are 4 special certifications for cold beverage dispensers to certify their quality.
- BPA-free: This label indicates the absence of the BPA chemical component used in producing certain plastics. This component has been mostly phased out of use due to potential health hazards it might cause when in contact with food and heat.
- NSF: NSF refers to the National Sanitation Foundation, and an NSF certification indicates that the product has been certified by the foundation for meeting safety and sanity regulations.
- cULus: cULus refers to the Canadian Underwriters Laboratories and the United States, and the presence of this label indicates that the cold beverage dispenser has been rigorously tested and found compliant with the quality and safety standards by the cULus.
- ENERGY STAR: ENERGY STAR certification indicates that the unit’s energy spending has been optimized. By investing in such a model, you can save on electricity and water bills.
- Circulation Types: How the drinks are cooled and mixed varies from model to model with certain advantages.
- Low Aeration Magnetic Mixing System: These units keep the product mixed without creating unwanted foam in tea, cappuccinos, and similar products.
- Agitators and Paddles: These are the most common systems. They mechanically stir the beverage to mix it well and prevent settling.
Cleaning and Maintenance of Cold Beverage Dispensers
Cold beverage dispensers require proper care, cleaning, and maintenance to extend their service life. You risk compromising your beverages’ quality and taste without proper cleaning and maintenance. Here are 12 tips on how to clean and maintain your cold beverage dispensers:
- Remove the drip pans, nozzles, diffusers, and any other easily removable pieces from the dispenser and soak them in warm and soapy water once a day.
- Clean any small piece that comes in contact with a customer or the beverage to reduce product build-up and germs once a day.
- Clean the drip tray using soap and water when necessary.
- Wipe down exterior surfaces with soap and water at least once a day, preferably at the end of it.
- Don’t use cleaners with high chlorine content on stainless steel because they might cause rust.
- Check the manufacturers’ guidelines to know the exact time between cleaning the container.
- Check the manufacturers’ guidelines to know whether you should hand-wash the units or place them in your dishwasher.
- Ensure the container is fully rinsed before using it again to prevent ingesting harmful cleaning chemicals.
- Flush and clean any potable water lines you have once a week.
- Remove and clean your syrup connections and anything similar once a week.
- Clean and wash your ice bins and remove any old ice at least once a month.
- Change cold beverage dispensers’ filters at least every 6 months.
Safety Precautions for Cleaning and Maintaining Cold Beverage Dispensers
It’s equally important to prioritize safety during the process while maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of cold beverage dispensers is crucial. Here are some essential safety precautions to keep in mind:
- Unplug Before Cleaning: Always disconnect the dispenser from the power source before beginning any cleaning or maintenance task. This precaution is vital to prevent any electrical hazards.
- Use Appropriate Protective Gear: Wear protective gear like gloves and, if necessary, eye protection when handling cleaning agents, especially chemical-based ones. This will help avoid skin irritation and other hazards from direct contact with cleaning solutions.
- Care with Electrical Components: Be cautious around electrical components. Avoid directly spraying cleaning agents or water on areas near electrical parts. Use a damp cloth instead to prevent the risk of electrical shorts or damage.
- Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions for Cleaning Agents: Use only the cleaning agents recommended by the manufacturer. Some cleaning solutions may be too harsh for certain dispenser materials and could cause damage or create a safety hazard.
- Ensure Proper Ventilation: Ensure the area is well-ventilated if you use strong cleaning agents. This will help prevent inhalation of any potentially harmful fumes.
- Ensure Proper Ventilation: Ensure the area is well-ventilated if you use strong cleaning agents. This will help prevent inhalation of any potentially harmful fumes.
- Check for Wear and Tear: Regularly inspect the dispenser for any signs of wear and tear, such as frayed cords, damaged plugs, or malfunctioning components. Address these issues promptly to prevent accidents.
- Handle Glass Carefully: Handle them carefully to avoid breakage if your dispenser has glass components. Broken Glass can be a significant hazard in the cleaning process.
- Proper Disposal of Cleaning Wastes: Dispose of any cleaning wastes, like used cloths or dirty water, safely and according to local regulations, especially if chemical cleaners are involved.
- Reassemble Correctly: Ensure all dispenser parts are correctly reassembled after cleaning. Improper assembly can lead to leaks, malfunction, or safety issues.
By adhering to these safety guidelines, you can ensure that the cleaning and maintenance of your cold beverage dispensers are conducted safely and effectively, protecting both the equipment and the individuals performing these tasks.
Choosing the right cold beverage dispenser is a crucial decision that can significantly impact the efficiency and profitability of your business. Whether you run a bustling cinema, a cozy café, or a large-scale catering service, understanding the unique needs of your operation is key to making an informed choice.
From the versatile carbonated beverage dispensers, perfect for serving a range of fizzy drinks, to the practical and straightforward cold water dispensers, each type offers distinct benefits tailored to different business models. Juice dispensers with multiple hoppers are ideal for venues that wish to offer a variety of flavors, while iced tea dispensers cater to establishments focusing on this refreshing classic. For businesses seeking a more diverse beverage menu, multi-functional dispensers and slushy machines are excellent choices, adding efficiency and flair to your service.
Remember, the capacity, size, cooling mechanism, material quality, and specific features of a dispenser should align with your operational demands and customer expectations. Smaller establishments might benefit from compact, easy-to-maintain units, while larger venues may require dispensers with higher capacities and advanced features.
In conclusion, investing in the appropriate cold beverage dispenser enhances your service quality and contributes to a more dynamic and appealing customer experience. By carefully considering your business type, customer base, and available space, you can select a dispenser that meets your current needs and supports your future growth and success in the ever-evolving food and beverage industry.