The Aviary has a Clinebell machine that makes 300 pound blocks of sexy, clear ice that they then cut up into various shapes for drinks, so they don't need to use the slow-ass cooler method, BUT they also have a blast freezer.
I'd always wondered if you could make clear ice fast using the cooler method in a blast freezer, and luckily Joly was curious as well, so he gave it a try.
The cooler was a 10qt Rubbermaid with the lid off. Time was about 13 hours at a low of -40F and on average a bit warmer than that (-30-40F), as the blast freezer was opened and closed during service.
I was surprised it didn't freeze the entire block in that time. As you can see from the side view, it was about 60% frozen with side walls and a thin top layer beginning to form.
I cracked off the soft shell from the bottom, drained off the water and knocked of the thin side walls that were holding the pool of water. The remaining block had good clarity.
I would say the clarity is relatively close- say 85% that of the clinebell.
In conclusion, he says:
For home use or a one-off event, this ice is great. For venue use, we would need a lot of coolers. The Clinebell provides our hand chipped ice spheres (large, one rock per glass) and our ice shards that go into every glass of water served.
I think the technique is awesome for the home bartender, if you're doing punch service or simply as an alternative, although much more labor intensive and lower yielding, than the Clinebell.
So yes, it works. And maybe if you don't need too much block ice and have a blast freezer with space in it this could actually be useful. Just not at The Aviary.
Thanks for the effort, Charles!
An index of all of the ice experiments on Alcademics can be found here.