Clear Ice Balls.
A while back we looked at a way to make clear ice and, while it works extremely well, it does have a couple of drawbacks. Not everyone can spare a whole shelf in their freezer for 24+ hours without seriously pissing off their family/flatmates. Some effort is required to shape the huge block into manageable sizes which tend to be a bit irregular (although I think that’s part of the beauty of them). And finally, the optimal shape for chilling a drink without diluting it is a sphere as it has the minimum surface area to volume ratio. Thus I have been directing my efforts to find a method of making appropriately sized clear ice balls with the minimum of equipment, expense and hassle for some time now. A variation of the directional freezing approach was always going to be the solution yet achieving that on a smaller scale is no mean feat. Various methods and devices I tried have failed for reasons too many and varied to discuss (although examples are; too cloudy, too small and too egg-shaped) but at last I have achieved my elusive goal. Or should that be “grail”. The method that follows uses a minimum of freezer space and churns out one perfectly clear and spherical ball every 24 hours with almost zero effort. It’s clearly not going to be much use for a busy bar but for home use it is truly the testes of the canine. If you too would like balls of diamond-pure ice proceed as follows:
Buy a silicone ice ball mould of the desired size. If you wish to duplicate my technique exactly use one that makes 6cm balls and is physically about 7.5cm in diameter. Ebay or Amazon are good sources. Yes, if you really want you can get one in the shape of the Death Star, or a diamond or whatever will fit snugly. Part 2 of your kit is a squat double-walled vacuum flask. The Thermos Funtainer™ (with a slightly smaller ball mould) is often used for this method but I found this Proof (you can’t make this shit up!) branded one at Target for about $15 that was the perfect design being slightly wider at the top end (see picture below). When shopping for such a container take your ice ball mould with you to ensure a good fit. You want the mould to fit snugly into the container without dropping to the bottom or poking out too much at the top. And make sure that it’s not too tall for your freezer. Once you’ve acquired both parts of your kit simply fill the container with water (tap, filtered or bottled – whichever you would normally drink*) right to the brim. Put it in your sink or a bowl as there will be some spillage. Now fill the assembled ice mould to the brim and tap a few times to remove any bubbles. Put your finger over the fill hole and place it upside down in the container allowing it to displace some water. Once the fill hole is under water you can remove your finger. Push down gently to seal and, if the seal is good, tip out the excess water. Simply place in your freezer for about 24 hours (depending on your freezer). You don’t need the whole container to freeze solid just the contents of the mould. Next day remove from the freezer and gently lever off the bottom half of the ice mould – which is now, of course, on top. If you have any difficulty it’ll do no harm to run some hot water over the mould to loosen it. Place your perfect sphere of clear ice into a clean freezer bag (or a fresh drink) and repeat – after removing the remaining ice and mould half with warm water. If your ice shape has a little stem from the fill hole simply chip it off with a kitchen knife. Try not to hold the ice with your fingers as the warmth can make it crack – I handle it by keeping it in a (still cold) mould half. After a few cycles you’ll have a small supply in your freezer and you can simply replace them as they are used. Simples. Use your beautiful clear ice ball in any cocktail where a large ice block is called for (such as a Negroni, Old Fashioned or Moral Turpitude) or as a way of chilling your favourite sipping spirit with minimal dilution.
Oh, and clear ice balls are much easier to make – at least with this method – than they are to photograph as they mist up a bit at room temperature and show all sorts of reflections. The full clarity is only revealed when they’re floating in an ice cold stirred drink. Slight surface imperfections will also disappear once in a drink. If you’re wondering exactly what you’re supposed to do with a clear ice diamond – tune in next week for the next exciting episode of Proofcocktails.nl
Note: There are various pre-made solutions that claim to make clear ice balls but they are expensive, usually bulky and don’t seem to work for everyone – they certainly didn’t for me.
*There is a theory that water that has been boiled recently has less air in it and makes clearer ice. Despite some initial scepticism I’ve tried it and I think there really might be something to it. Although the improvement in clarity is marginal it can make the difference between almost clear ice and truly clear ice and it doesn’t take much extra effort.
By Jeff 22nd March 2019 - 11:33 pm
I have been making clear ice balls for a while now with the molds and 5 qt cooler method. Even though they are clear I can’t seem to get rid of bubbles. There arnt many but it looks like 10 or so bubbles are streaming through the ice. I even double boiled distilled water and still getting them. Any ideas?
By Andy 23rd March 2019 - 11:38 am
Normally I would suggest boiling the water first but you’ve already done that. Have you tried tapping the container a good few times after you fill it to dislodge any small bubbles clinging to the base and sides?