“How come I never made ice that looks like that?” Ken would wonder if he saw photos of how clear ice can make drinks look so sophisticated.
In addition to good looks, pure ice actually has practical value, as its higher melting point means slower melting, which won’t dilute the drink too much.
This is useful in whiskey tasting procedures known as “opening” liqueurs. Here the drink is intentionally diluted a little to release its flavor, which cannot be achieved with whiskey stones or stainless steel ice.
With the help of his wife, Ken began to try different methods that the internet could offer. They unsuccessfully froze the boiled, clean distilled and mineral water. After properly studying the science behind the pure ice, they fell for the answer: directional freezing.
Directional freezing repeats the way water freezes in a lake: from top to bottom slowly. Water freezes in this way because it is insulated from all surfaces on all sides. As a result, 99% of water impurities are pushed to the bottom, leaving the purest ice at the top.
The way to replicate this at home is by using the “cooler method”. The water is placed in a refrigerator (which has insulation), frozen without a lid for two days and sculpted into smaller pieces where only its transparent tip is used.
“This procedure takes hours and hours of hard work, by the end of the process you would freeze by holding the ice for too long, but sweating from all the sculptural and carpentry work,” Ken commented.
“Why would pure ice be so inaccessible? We can certainly make a household product that is convenient and affordable for us in this part of the world. “
And so, Pure as ice born.
The Clear As Ice mold comes in 3 layers that stack on top of each other:
- Ice cube tray,
- Insulation box.
Water is filled into the tray and parts of the vessel. Based on the directional freezing theory in the insulated box, the water on the upper tray will freeze into clear ice. There are 4 holes in the bottom of the drawer so that the dirt can be pushed down into the container layer.
When removed from the insulation box, the ice from the container layer is now glued to the tray as well. Once you knock it down with a spoon, all that comes out of the tray is pure ice.
All accessories are sold for the RM119 (RM109 is on sale), which is quite an investment for consumers who want to easily clean ice at home. However, this is because making this ice mold first took about 6 months while balancing a full-time job.
Making the mold was 10 times harder
First, the couple along with Ken’s father, an engineer, had to decide on the materials of the mold. It was supposed to be food with adequate flexibility.
To ensure that their ice cubes fit into a wide range of glass sizes, they approached friends and family to look for more sample sizes.
When the planning was done, creating the real product was where the real struggles began.
The first 50 pieces were made from components that were too narrow to fit together properly. “It was because we didn’t properly take into account the collection of materials that happened during the production process,” Ken recalled for the Vulcan Post.
Since they were dealing with real machines for shaping each mold, simply erasing their mistakes was not possible here. Each change required tool costs. “So even before we sold the unit at all, we started bleeding and making bigger losses,” he added.
And things didn’t get any better either. Two weeks before the launch launch date, their suppliers gave up. Since they still had a full-time job, the couple eventually took emergency permits to solve the problem.
They were not just looking for a new supplier who could make such a custom mold, but one who was willing to do it in such a short time.
“I think a hundred phone calls were easy that week, but in the end we arrived,” Ken said.
Now with a product ready for Ken to make as many clear ice cubes as he wanted, it finally dawned on him. Would anyone actually buy his product?
They could be Too bad for customers?
Note that Ken and his wife performed zero market checks before jumping into this venture. It was just supposed to be a hobby they invested in.
Ken admitted that their first customers were friends and family exposed to its clear ice when he served them drinks while visiting them. After launching their site in December 2020, his relatives immediately bought it and bought some as Christmas presents.
“It was really nice to see the support we got from the people around us. But for the first few weeks, we thought, maybe people are buying as a sign of pity or trying to be good, ”he shared.
For anyone who ordered, Ken and his wife would either recognize the names or know whose relationship they were.
After they finally received an order from a name that neither of them recognized, they were brought to tears. It was a validation that they needed to get on with the business.
Grateful, he said, “The idea of someone trusting our brand and product has given us the confidence that Clear As Ice can be a real business and that it’s not just my overblown hobby that I’ve invested too much in.”
Today, Clear As Ice has received a wider range of customers consisting of the older generation of Malaysia who buy ice molds. Because of the aesthetics of pure ice, Ken reported that most orders come from female customers.
For its future goals, she hopes that Clear As Ice molds will become a basic product in every household.
“We know we’re just at the beginning of the journey, but the feedback we’ve received from our customers, and some of them show off their favorite drinks that are now paired with Clear As Ice on social media, has really filled us,” Ken concluded.
Credits for featured paintings: Ken, co-founder of Clear As Ice