Inside Hoshizaki’s Ice Ball Machines

By Neat Pour Staff |

“It’s all b̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶a̶r̶i̶n̶g̶s̶ ice balls nowadays!” When the Cocktail Renaissance began, the concept of good ice was cutting edge, almost a novelty. However, after a decade and change of craft cocktails, perfect, clear ice is now the standard, not the exception. It is in this environment that Japanese appliance giant Hoshizaki is elevating their game with a line of ice-makers that produce beautiful ice-balls.

The balls look like those you’d make in your freezer with a mold—except they’re clearer (with a minor measure of marbling) and produced en masse. Maybe, you’ve seen the crystal spheres in bars across Europe where they are all the rage. For example, Joerg Meyer’s Boilerman bar in Munich is enjoying social media dominance after building an entire program around the ice.

The popularity of Hoshizaki’s balls was recently on full display (literally) at trade mecca, Bar Convent Berlin 2018 where the brand’s small booth was constantly packed. Fortunately, Marketing & Communications Coordinator Abby Debesay found some time to sit down and discuss the h̶o̶t̶ cold product with Neat Pour.

HighBALL, anyone? (Photo courtesy Hoshizaki)

Of course, the most obvious appeal of the balls is their spherical shape. Produced by the IM-65WNE-Q and IM-65NE-Q machines, each piece is a 45 gram ball (with a dimple) of clear ice. 

The shape means more more chilling power and less dilution. The balls are extremely slow to melt. Plus, the scientifically accurate portions allow for precise speccing of cocktail recipes.

As a bonus, the ice also looks really good. “In the end, it’s nice that it is a ball,” Debesay told NP. “It’s really flashy and the drinks look awesome with only one ball in them.”

Debesay was quick to point out that behind the aesthetics is some serious design. “I love the engineering that they [Hoshizaki] put in to make it so hard and as clear,” she explained. “There are other companies that make ball ice but they use different technology and they can never reach the amount in the cycle. If you only get three [balls] an hour it’s not sustainable for the bar.”

The Hoshizaki machines churn out an impressive 26 kilograms of ice in a 24 hour cycle. And, yes, it is super clear. 

The company credits that composition to their unique closed cell system. “Imagine a form that you sprtiz water into but don’t stop when it’s full,” elaborated Debesay. “Instead, keep pushing more water into it. That makes it as hard as possible.”

The closed system adds safety benefits as well. “Closed cell means that it’s shut off from air and other water,” noted Debesay. “It can’t be contaminated while it’s being frozen.”

(Hoshizaki also markets the machines for medical applications. The lack of contaminates is pushed heavily in this context.)

The ice makers also employ eco-friendly, natural refrigerants. Instead of the common carbon dioxide, Hoshizaki now uses hydrocarbon. “Our refrigerations lines have eliminated all harmful gases and replaced them with HC’s which are natural coolants with almost no harmful effects to the ozone,” added the spokesperson.

The IM-65NE-Q. (Photo courtesy of Hoshizaki)

The machines are designed for installation under-counter if desired.  The dimensions on the IM-65WNE-Q are 633 X 506 X 840and IM-65NE-Q measures 633 x 506 x 860 (mm). Of course, the ice makers also feature advanced filtration and a rinse cycle after every batch.

Currently, these systems are available all over Europe and Asia. A full scale North American push is expected soon.

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