A New Clear Ice Ball Maker That Seems To Work Okay
March 02, 2015
You may recall from a billion years ago I found a clear ice maker that works similarly to the directional freezing/Igloo cooler method. It was the Polar Ice Tray and I wrote about it here.
Now the same company has launched a clear ice ball maker and they sent me one to test out. So that's what I did.
Long story short: It worked great on my first trial, but not every time.
The Polar Ice Tray works just like the directional freezing method of making clear ice balls (read about that here or all the ice experiments on Alcademics here): The container is insulated on all sides but the top is not. The ice freezes from top-down, pushing trapped air and impurities downward.
What this product does is offer an easy way to get the water into the molds and the balls out afterward. It's shaped like a little tug boat.
The outer blue container is just softish foam. Inside there is a top and bottom half of the ball mold (this model comes with animal shapes that are pressed into the top), and a bottom water receptacle.
The bottom half is perforated so the cloudy part is pushed into the receptacle. To use it, you fill water in the little spout and then let it freeze for a day. Here it is after freezing.
The cloudy part of the ice is on the bottom.
Now for the big reveal.
It is super easy and the spheres are nice when they come out perfectly. It may be more space efficient than the insulated mug method for two spheres, depending on whether your freezer offers more horizontal or vertical space.
However, on subsequent uses, I've found the tray can separate during freezing, spilling water out the sides and making incomplete ice balls - only partial spheres because the water has leaked out the sides. So you need to make an effort to get a really good seal on the different parts that fit together. I tried and still failed twice.
So far I've used the tray 10 times and 7 of those times it worked and 3 times it failed. (For the record the insulated mug method has never failed me.) If I discover a good way to ensure a seal I'll update this post.
The tray is a bit pricey at $55 plus postage, but I spare no expense for ice! You can buy them on the Polar Ice Tray website.
Would a little canola oil help make (and keep) a seal?
Posted by: Mike | March 07, 2015 at 11:17 AM
Well as I do it more times the seal hasn't been as much of a problem - I keep updating the number of times it works and doesn't and the ratio is getting better.
But in general I don't think oil would help as the seal separates due to the interior pressure of the ice expanding rather than just a regular leak. That said, if it continues to be a problem it might be worth a shot.
Posted by: Camper English | March 07, 2015 at 12:28 PM
Is there enough of a lip on the parts that you could use binder clips to help hold them together?
I find that my sphere molds also separate a bit since the water expands as it freezes, so I don't fill them all the way to the top. Determining exactly how much to fill takes a bit of trial and error, but I've pretty much got it down so it expands just the right amount to fill the sphere without pushing the mold open. But that's on harder plastic, rather than flexible silicone, so what do I know.
Posted by: JenTiki | March 12, 2015 at 07:57 AM
I've been using Wintersmiths IceBaller and Ice Chest for months - great results - http://www.wintersmiths.com
Posted by: Mike | March 12, 2015 at 08:13 AM
Heh. I'm not sure a clip would work, as they fit into the insulated piece beneath them obscuring the lip. But maybe I was just sloppy with putting them together before, I'm having better results and I'm updating my numbers on the blog as I do. The ratio of success to failure seems to be getting better.
Posted by: Camper English | March 12, 2015 at 10:45 AM
Hello all --
Joy @Polar Ice Tray here. Camper, thanks for a great article and excellent pictures!
If I might, I'd like to echo the 2 tips offered in this thread:
1) Try filling the tray ~90% full of water (instead of all the way to the top). As Jen Tiki mentions, the water expands as it freezes and sometimes that pushes the molds apart.
2) Snap the pieces together snugly and try not to spill too much on the way to the freezer!
*For me, NOT spilling is the hardest part!*
Posted by: Joy @PolarIceTray | April 06, 2015 at 11:49 AM
Thanks - I'll give these tips a try.
Posted by: Camper English | April 06, 2015 at 11:52 AM
I own this product as well.
For the longest time I am using the insulated mug method as well. Somehow the mug is expanding so much that I can't get a good seal anymore. That was when I got this.
What I noticed is that the holes are too small for air bubbles to escape properly. I've tried making the centre hole bigger and it did help a bit. I will update this space and post pictures after I get back from work.
Posted by: Ricson | April 11, 2016 at 09:28 PM