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Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser Buying Guide

Refrigerated beverage dispensers store and distribute a variety of pre-made drinks, such as juice, tea, and lemonade. Depending on where you operate, they are also used to serve alcoholic beverages and mixed drinks. Utilizing an internal refrigeration system, they keep drinks at your desired serving temperature to ensure consistent results and maximize customer satisfaction. They also act as efficient merchandising tools, enticing customers to try drinks and increasing impulse sales. These versatile appliances lend themselves to many commercial settings, including juice bars, concession stands, and convenience stores. We'll outline how they work, their parts, and the different forms they come in so that you can make informed purchasing decisions.

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Parts of a Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser

Refrigerated beverage dispenser diagram

While refrigerated beverage dispensers aren't as large or complex as other types of restaurant equipment, they still have several key components. We'll outline the important parts of a refrigerated beverage dispenser and what they do below:

  • Hopper: The hopper stores beverage within the dispenser. It is typically a transparent container that allows for easy monitoring and identification of drinks. Depending on which model you purchase, you may have several hoppers.
  • Agitator: The agitator uses a stir rod to keep drinks mixed, ensuring they are well blended and have a consistent taste. Without an agitator, your drinks may separate or become too thick.
  • Base: The base encompasses the entire refrigeration system, which keeps your beverages chilled. It also protects mechanical components, like the condenser, evaporator, and motor, from exposure or tampering.
  • Handle: The handle allows users to control the flow of beverages and ensures precise pouring without any spills or mess.
  • Drip tray: This component is positioned below the dispensing area to catch any drips or spills, keeping the surrounding area clean and preventing slip hazards.

Types of Refrigerated Beverage Dispensers

The main distinction between refrigerated beverage dispensers is their circulation method, or how liquids circulate within the hopper. Circulation methods play a significant role in maintaining optimal drink consistency and quality and ensure customers receive a refreshing and well-mixed beverage every time. There are two main types of beverage dispenser circulation: paddle circulation and spray circulation. We'll outline both types below so that you can identify which one best fits your beverage needs.

Restaurant Equipment

1. Paddle Circulation Beverage Dispensers

Paddle circulation systems utilize a paddle or agitator mechanism to mix beverages continuously within the hopper. This method is particularly advantageous for beverages that require gentle mixing, as it helps prevent foaming and agitation that can compromise the overall quality of the drink. By ensuring a consistent and gentle mixing process, paddle circulation systems help maintain the integrity of the beverage, ensuring that every pour is smooth and flavorful.

  • Used for: Coffee, tea, fruit juices
  • Number of bowls: 1-4
Restaurant Equipment

2. Spray Circulation Beverage Dispensers

Spray circulation systems utilize a spray mechanism to disperse drinks evenly, ensuring consistent quality with each pour. They are not recommended for beverages that will foam easily, as the spray mechanism can cause frothing and affect the overall texture of your drinks. These systems offer a smooth and controlled dispensing process, minimizing the risk of uneven distribution or flavor variation. They are used in establishments with a wide range of drinks and can accommodate several liquid viscosities and densities.

  • Used for: Processed juices, drinks from concentrate
  • Number of bowls: 1-4

Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser Materials

Refrigerated beverage dispensers can be made from two different materials: plastic and stainless steel. Not only will the material you choose impact how much the unit costs, but it also impacts durability, functionality, and aesthetics.

  • Plastic dispensers: Plastic beverage dispensers are popular for their affordability and light weight design. They lend themselves to casual or temporary settings where durability isn't critical. Plastic dispensers are easy to clean and come in various colors and styles, making them versatile for different beverages and environments.
  • Stainless steel dispensers: Stainless steel beverage dispensers are known for their durability and sleek appearance. Stainless steel is corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for long-term use in high-traffic areas such as restaurants, cafes, and catering events. They also offer a more upscale look that can enhance the overall presentation of your beverage service.
Restaurant Equipment

Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser Purchasing Considerations

There are many factors to consider to identify the refrigerated beverage dispenser that best fits your culinary needs. The right dispenser can boost your productivity, while the wrong one can negatively impact your business. Take the following considerations into account before you purchase to narrow down your list of options:

  • Flavors: Consider how many drink flavors you want to feature. Some dispensers handle multiple flavors simultaneously, while others are better suited for single-flavor use.
  • Drink volume: Determine how many drinks you plan to make daily. Select a dispenser that can meet the demand without causing delays or breakdowns due to overuse.
  • Target audience: Understand your target audience and their preferences by analyzing your location.
  • Training: Determine if you must train your staff to use the dispenser. Some models may have more complex operating procedures that require proper training for efficient use.
  • Front-of-house vs. back-of-house: Decide whether you need a dispenser for front-of-house or back-of-house operations. Front-of-house dispensers should be visually appealing, while back-of-house models prioritize functionality and ease of use.
  • ADA compliance: Check if the dispenser is ADA compliant to ensure all customers can use the dispenser comfortably.
  • Available space: Evaluate how much space you have for the beverage dispenser. Consider the machine's dimensions to ensure it fits within your existing layout without causing obstruction.
  • Electrical needs: Ensure you have the proper electrical outlets to power the beverage dispenser. Some models may need specific voltage requirements for optimal performance.

Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser Maintenance

Keeping your drink dispenser clean and maintained can extend its service life. We've compiled a list of cleaning and maintenance tips below to keep your dispenser operating at peak performance. It's important to note that individual units will have varying needs, and you should always adhere to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Clean nozzles: Remove all nozzles and diffusers and soak them in warm, soapy water daily.
  • Sanitize exterior: At the end of each day, wipe down all exterior surfaces using soap and water to remove any build-up. Refrain from using harsh chemicals and cleaners high in chlorine content, which may cause rust on stainless steel units.
  • Clean drip tray: Clean the drip tray using soap and water when necessary.
  • Clean water lines: If applicable, flush and sanitize water lines regularly.
  • Check valves: Remove any coagulation on the valves annually.
  • Sanitize hoppers and chutes: Wash and sanitize beverage hoppers and chutes monthly.
  • Lubricate O-rings: Using a food-grade lubricant, lubricate O-rings as needed.
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.

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