Which is the best Slush Machine? A Buyers Guide & Advice from the team at Beverage Genius
The chaps at Beverage Genius have over 50 years’ collective experience in the frozen beverage business and have the following advice for those of you considering the purchase of a new machine.
Where do you start?
Firstly make sure you have enough space and a sturdy surface to locate the machine! This may sound obvious but remember that you must allow at least 10cms clear space all around for ventilation – this applies to all machines! You’ll also want to consider visibility to your customers. Slush is very much an impulse buy so be sure to locate the machine where it will catch the eye.
Power – you must use only a dedicated power socket – no extension leads or multi-plug adaptors!
Decide if you want a one, two or three bowl machine.
The most popular choice by far is a twin bowl machine; this allows you to serve two flavours (obviously!) and most machines have a bowl capacity of either 6 or 10 litres. As a guide, a popular cup size is 199ml (7oz) which equates to around 5 cups per litre of slush (1000ml ÷ 199ml). So, each 10 litre bowl would hold just over 50 cups.
There are machines available with larger capacities but, in our experience, these have longer freeze-down and recovery times which negates the advantage of larger capacity (and they’re more expensive to buy, of course)
If you are looking for a machine for home use or low volume there are ‘proper’ slush machines available with 3 litre capacity. (We’ve heard nothing but criticism for the cheap ‘home’ machines so can only advise to avoid these..)
What’s the difference between all the Slush Machines on the market?
The short answer is – “A Lot!”
Cheap machines are cheap for a reason but be aware of paying over-the-odds too.
With regular maintenance we’d expect a good machine to last for 10 years so don’t be tempted to save a few quid at the outset by choosing a machine on price alone, it is false economy.
So, a few key points to consider:
The vast majority of machines are sold online now so it’s difficult to get a ‘feel’ for the quality of build but, have a good look at any images; try to determine whether the machine looks of good quality – a good benchmark for this is the material the outer panels are made of; If they’re stainless-steel rather than plastic that’s probably indicative of the overall materials & attention to detail; if they are powder-coated stainless steel then even better.
Try to see images of the machine without stickers on it; Many suppliers ‘dress-up’ the appearance with gaudy stickers & branding which takes the attention away from what could be a poorly-engineered machine underneath all the make-up!
If you can see the machine ‘in the flesh’ even better – some suppliers will even offer a demo dependent on location
Think about routine maintenance and longevity for the machine
Many machines use a shaft driven paddle which, crucially, uses a seal to stop the slush leaking along the shaft. To maintain this seal properly, the machine must be emptied, cleaned and the seal re-greased with food-safe lube. Recommended intervals vary for this (as does the quality of the seals) but every 2 weeks should be the maximum period of time between services (this is not a complicated process but it can be messy and takes 30-40 minutes for a 2 bowl machine).
Most of the slush syrups available are good for an 8-10 week lifespan (before the machine needs sanitising) so the magnetic-drive system means an 8-10 week sanitise schedule. It also significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination.
There are magnetic-drive machines available with an ‘open’ (i.e. hollow) evaporator that uses two paddles; although this is an ingenious design the plastic supports are prone to cracking and leaking (this is generally not economically repairable).
We are asked a lot about how long does the machine take to freeze down; we normally quote around 40 minutes from liquid as an average; the truth is there are so many variables that can affect this, here’s a few;
- Ambient temperature of the room
- Temperature of the diluted slush
- Ventilation of the machine
- The syrup that’s being used (as a rule of thumb, the more sugar that’s in the syrup, the longer it will take to freeze down)
- The capacity and efficiency of the machine; (e.g. A 3 bowl machine will generally take longer to freeze, especially if all 3 bowls are re-filled at the same time)
- The insulating properties of the bowls (generally the thicker the plastic, the better insulated it will be) one manufacturer has patented a ‘twin-wall’ bowl for maximum efficiency which also virtually eliminates condensation on the outside of the bowl
Check the power consumption of the freezer (Watts) – generally the higher the rating the more powerful the machine is; the main component of any machine is the compressor, if the machine has a cheaper compressor it will likely need less power to run it. This does not necessarily mean higher running costs as the more powerful compressors will run for a considerably less amount of time.
It’s easy for manufacturers and suppliers to quote the fastest freeze down times, now you know the questions to ask, if you’re told different then you’re probably dealing with a fibber!
Look at the bowl fastening system – many machines rely on the bowls just hooking and snapping into place – get a failsafe locking system – it is all too easy for the bowls to be nudged and pop-off, resulting in 10 litres of sticky blue raspberry… everywhere! This is particularly important in a confined space and absolutely essential if the machine is self-serve. You have been warned!
Your slush machine is your greatest advert so make sure it looks the part – go for a machine that has lights, most do these days but make sure they are LED as others generate a fair bit of heat around the slush. One machine has an ingenious backlit front panel to really draw the eyes;
Check which control system you need:
Some machines use an electronic system to control temperature; some use the traditional mechanical (or “torque”) control.
Our advice is the mechanical system is perfectly fine for slush products however, if you are planning to offer other products, such as a milk-shake or a sorbet, then opt for the electronic models as they are more versatile.
Check the noise rating (dB) some can be quite noisy and intrusive!
So, you’ve decided which Slush Machine is best, what next?
Hopefully the above has been helpful, obviously you want to pay the best price you can, no doubt there are dozens of suppliers available and all at varying prices so consider this;
Check the background of both the seller and manufacturer:
Think worse-case scenario, if something goes wrong or you need to order spare parts (you will need seals at some point) can they supply you?
Are they an official agent/distributor for the manufacturer?
Do they appear to be service-orientated? For example, do they have a free helpline?
Every machine should come with a 12 month statutory warranty but is there an extended after-care package on offer?
Do they include installation and on-site training within the price, or do they just send it in a box?
There are ‘bundle’ deals available that include free slush syrups; these are worth looking out for.
Other points to consider and FAQs:
Which slush syrups are best?
There are certainly plenty on the market; our advice is to go for a reduced-sugar recipe; any reduction in sugar is a good thing as are natural flavours and no artificial colours. There has been a lot of concern about AZO Dyes in recent years as they have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Choose slush syrups that comply with the above and use this to promote your slush offer.
Slush syrups are generally supplied with a long ‘Best Before’ date and can be stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight (check the manufacturers guidelines) They are a concentrate that is diluted with water – once diluted the product must be put in the machine – do not store diluted product at ambient temperature (again, check the manufacturers guidelines)
Before purchasing slush syrups check the dilution ratio. Most are 6-1 (6-parts-water to 1-part-syrup) But some are 5-1 or even 4-1 which means a lot less ready-to-drink product.
It is possible to use different products in some slush machines, here are some examples;
Milk-Shake; We have successfully used thick milk-shake in a machine, the liquid, pre-mixed, type is best; It is essential that this is used in a magnetic-drive machine as, in our experience, the milk works its way through the shaft seals in a few days. Electronic control is also preferable to keep dairy products at a constant chilled temperature.
Mocktails & Cocktails; These have got very popular over the last few years with some of the major pub-chains offering a mix of slush and cider or a spirit. pre-mixed Mocktail syrups available to purchase that are perfect for drinking on their own or adding a spirit to. Be cautious about putting alcohol directly into the machine; remember the higher the ABV the lower the freezing temperature which means that a strong mix will effectively act as an anti-freeze. If you are planning on making your own cocktail mix then ask your supplier to test the product in a machine before you buy!
Sorbets & frozen yoghurt; these will generally work in a slush machine but again, opt for the magnetic-drive system
Remember that dairy based products will need sanitising frequently – refer to the suppliers guidelines for this
Some useful links:
For quality equipment and products please visit our shop.
Finally, we hope this guide has been useful and informative, if you have any questions or queries please do give our friendly team a call on 0333 987 4995 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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