The Liquor Fairy brings me many things, not just booze. But his little wings were beating mightily this week as he flew up with a box from Air & Water, Inc. The box contained a new model portable ice making machine called the NewAir Portable Ice Maker.
Among my most important rules for a successful Basement Bar setup is the importance of a ready supply of fresh ice. Cocktails and Ice are inseparable items, like chickens and eggs. One of the more popular posts I’ve ever written was my discussion of ice making options for your home bar. Therein, I strongly encouraged people, for a variety of reasons, to consider adding an automatic, stand-alone ice machine to their setup. I got two objections from most readers to this advice: the expense of the machines and the expense or sheer impossibility of plumbing them.
The NewAir holds at least the possibility of an answer to their pleas. I’ll talk about the machine, how it works, the ice it makes, who will want this machine, and who won’t.
The unit itself is fairly large, 17 inches by 17 by 15, and weighs about 45 pounds. It is a bit large to set on a countertop, but it really is fairly portable. It has well-placed handles, large, sturdy feet, and seems pretty durable. While it is actively making ice, you can hear it but it is not obnoxiously loud.
The way it makes ice is actually pretty ingenious. I made a YouTube video so you can watch it work.
The refrigerant is pumped through pipes connected to twelve vertical cylinders. The little bucket revolves up to contain those prongs and fills with water from the machine’s internal reservoir that doubles as a drip catcher below the finished ice bucket (not seen in the video). The NewAir holds enough water to fill its ice bucket several times.
The ice forms around the prongs. There are three ice size settings, and these merely determine how thick the ice is allowed to form. When the ice has reached the desired size (about seven minutes for the smallest setting), the bucket rotates away from the prongs and the remaining water flows back into the reservoir. You can see in the video that the refrigerant goes from cold to warm, and the ice slides right off the prongs.
After a moment, the bucket rotates back into position for the next round of ice, and the attached flipper shoves the new ice over the edge to fall into the ice bucket.
The machine is not designed to be on and running full time like a built in version that costs five times as much. The ice turns into a glob of merged pieces after a day or so, rather than cleanly melting away and being replaced. This isn’t a problem if you are using the ice all the time, but if you make a drink or two a day, take advantage of the automatic timer to ensure you have fresh ice ready for you at cocktail hour. On the other hand, it is very easy to maintain, with a swift and effective self-cleaning mode.
So what is all this ice like? Each piece is a rounded, hollow cone, about an inch and a half long. It is also filled with microbubbles so it’s white rather than clear. Finally, it is pretty warm ice, coming out of the machine right at 32 degrees. As an aside, the little flanges you see in the video on the top of the ice are due to leaving the door open while videoing the mechanism. The actual ice produced is much cleaner in appearance. The ice has a large surface area to mass ratio and is warm. This means it will start melting pretty quickly in a glass or mixing tin.
In short, the ice geeks and cocktail showmen are not going to like this ice.
But then, mostly they don’t like any ice from a machine, preferring to fill a freezer with all manner of fancy ice trays and molds, or hack away like Sharon Stone on a huge block of the crystal clear stuff, so the Camper Englishes of the world really aren’t the issue here.
First off, I think the ice is just fine in the tin for shaking and stirring. I know some mixers swear by “super cold” ice, but the science (and my own experimentation) says that most all of the chilling from ice comes at the moment it melts. Using cold ice may make your drink at most a degree or two colder, but actually takes longer to get there. “Warm ice”, especially with lots of surface area, can chill a drink faster than anything else, with only a very little more dilution.
Additionally, unlike with plumbed-in ice makers like mine, you can be as big a water snob as you like with the NewAir. Use Fiji water or even Perrier I suppose. I use water from my Brita filter and the ice tastes great.
For serving in a glass, the NewAir’s ice is less ideal. It really isn’t a pretty as cubes, and its propensity to melt quickly makes for dilution issues if you are a slower drinker.
OK, who would find this machine a great buy, and who won’t?
I see two main categories of buyer who will be happy with the NewAir. The first is a lot of the people for whom I’ve been writing my Basement Bar Design series. If you are putting together a bar for your home, don’t have a massive budget and/or can’t get running water into your chosen space, the machine will get you plentiful ice for everyday use at a great price. Home bar builders who have available plumbing and sufficient budget will be much happier with a built-in system.
An even better buyer for this machine is the mobile mixer. If you like to tailgate, camp out, or own an RV, a continuous supply of fresh ice will save you from the utter barbarity of no Martinis. Of course, if you want to run the NewAir in the woods so you can sip a Pegu while fishing in that remote stream, you’ll need power. The machine takes 400 watts, and most trees don’t have electrical outlets. Ditto for stadium parking lots. If this is your desired application, be sure to purchase a power inverter so you can run it off your car. Be sure to get one that wires into your battery directly, as the NewAir draws too much power for the inverters that just plug into the cigarette lighter.
The NewAir doesn’t make
perfect ice. If you enjoy being persnickity about your ice, or view it as a garnish, this machine will likely not meet your needs. If you need a lot of fresh ice for mixing cocktails, or chilling juices, sodas, or basic mixed drinks like Rum and Cokes or Screwdrivers, it will provide plenty of the cool stuff fairly conveniently and for a very reasonable price. I like the machine. It is an ingenious design, the maker has a number of previous models, so they have had the chance to refine and improve what they are doing. I haven’t had it long enough to really vouch for its durability, but as I mentioned before, both the stainless steel case and the mechanism seem pretty sturdy. If you need what a portable ice maker can give you, I can definitely recommend the NewAir. UPDATE: If you decide to get a NewAir directly from the company, you can get an extra 10% off the price by entering the discount code: “PEGU” at checkout!
The following product, NewAir Portable Ice Maker, was recently provided to me as promotional consideration to encourage me to discuss it.
For a complete disclosure of my policies regarding promotional items and all other financial interests, please click this link, or follow the
Liquor Fairylink in the header of this page.
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Here’s a list of the other articles in this series that have been posted so far:
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