Words by: Simon Difford
Photography by: Dan Malpass
Chunks, cubes and columns of crystal-clear ice considerably improve the appearance of cocktails but blocks of ice are expensive to buy and making your own crystal-clear ice is a faff. Not anymore, Bar Innovator of the Year, Stephan Hinz has made a compact and simple to operate block ice machine that will fit any bar.
Stephan’s machine has a similar footprint and height to a domestic dishwasher but doesn’t require plumbing or drainage. Simply plug into a standard power socket and fill with water from a bucket. The machine makes a block of ice 480mm x 595mm x height that varies between 100mm-220mm depending on how much water you pour into the machine. Depending on the thickness, you can make a block of crystal-clear ice in 8 to 50 hours.
1. The Ice-Forward machine is 752mm wide x 720mm deep x 928mm high, but you should allow 1530mm height to allow the door on the top to lift open and sit upright while you fill the machine.
2. The machine must be levelled prior to using. Simply raise or lower the adjustable legs while watching a spirit level placed atop the machine. There’s plenty of adjustment on the legs so accommodating even the most uneven floors.
3. Only a standard 13amp 240 volt socket is required to power the Ice-Forward machine which comes with a 230cm long flex fitted with a European plug (so UK readers will have to fit a UK plug or use an adapter).
4. Prior to filling with water the machine must be lined by placing one of the supplied Ice-Forward clear plastic bags into the machine. This retains the water and also allows easy removal for the ice block when made. If you're careful, you can reuse these bags a number of times so reducing waste. However, from experience I recommend watching for small leaks in the bag if you are reusing them. It’s easy to deal with a puncture if you spot in time and it’s obviously better for the environment to reuse the bags as many times as possible.
5. The Ice-Forward machine doesn’t require plumbing and can simply be filled with water from a sink tap using a food-safe bucket. The level you fill the machine to will determine the height of your ice block (recommendation: approx. 15 to 22 cm).
For ease, our friendly plumber has installed a water filter supplied tap and hose next to the machine (thanks Craig). So now to fill we simply put the hose into the machine and turn on the tap until the level of water required in the machine is reached. When the machine first arrived I operated it a number of times simply filling with unfiltered water using a bucket and there is no noticeable difference in the clarity of the ice between filtered and unfiltered water.
6. Close the lip and adjust the height of the two water pumps to their lower position. You’ll need to raise these above where the ice forms to prevent them becoming encased in ice so damaging them. These two pumps keep the water moving as the ice forms and they are essential to produce crystal clear ice.
7. Press and hold the red start button for five seconds to start the machine. The temperature display will illuminate showing the temperature in the machine. Obviously, this will start with whatever temperature your water is and then fall as the water starts to cool and then freeze. I leave the machine to work automatically buy you can manually adjust the operating temperature, in which case start at a moderate -12°C, and reduce the temperature to -25 °C after 4-5 hours.
8. Press the black button for 5 seconds to start the two water pumps. Watch to ensure they have both started and both are moving the water in-front of them. I have found that very occasionally only one pump starts. In which case I have found that turning off and then turning on again fixes the issue. Much like anything else that’s electrical.
9. Ice forms from the bottom and due to being so clear you can’t see the ice through the water. However, if you look carefully at the stainless-steel sides of the machine you may see a faint line where the growing ice meets the water above. Lowering the pumps until they hit the ice will also allow you to gauge how ice formation is progressing. Remember to raise the pumps to a safe level above ice formation to prevent them being frozen into your block.
10. When ice formation is completed turn off the pumps and freezer.
11. If you still have some water remaining on top of the ice then use a plastic tube to syphon this off into a bucket. The more patient you are the less water there will be but expect to have some water sitting on top of your block.
12. Release the front catches and open the door.
13. Disengage the side partition walls and allow the ice block to be at rest and temper for at least 5 minutes (more if you have made a thick block).
14. Slide the block out over the front door – ideally straight onto a low wooden table where you can start carving up your block.
I have the first machine in the UK at our office in Sussex and I’m happy to show it in action to anyone who is interested. Please email me at Simon@DiffordsGuide.com. The machines cost EURO €3,450 delivered directly from Germany and I must declare that a small percentage of the cost of UK delivered machines will go towards to the cost of operating this website.
For more information see IceForward.com.