World's First Heated Ice Press Makes Crystal-clear Orbs in a Minute

Image: FirstBuild / GE Appliances

Life as an operator in this business is a rollercoaster—it’s nonstop ups and downs, peaks and valleys.

The peaks—like picking out design elements and discovering new equipment—often help mitigate the effects of diving into an inevitable valley. Of course, making more money is one of the best mitigating factors.

Innovation in today’s hospitality business often brings us new equipment that serves as an attractive, guest-facing design element and a way to increase revenue. One such device is being launched by FirstBuild and the presale is now open at

FirstBuild is a global co-creation community supported by GE Appliances, and their latest creation is the Forge Clear Ice System. This isn’t FirstBuild’s first venture into ice-making devices; the incubator came up with the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, an ice machine designed for home use.

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The importance of large clear ice spheres to craft cocktail and high-end spirit programs shouldn’t be news to operators, bar managers or bartenders. This industry has been serving consumers who are endlessly curious about most aspects of bar operation for several years now.

It may seem odd to some—and even induce an eyeroll here and there—but the term “ice program” is now very much a part of this industry’s lexicon. Another term that’s taken hold? “Instagrammable.” Large, clear ice spheres free of impurities hit both of those marks.

Operators can pay a service to deliver ice spheres—there’s nothing wrong with that. A smile still stretches across guests’ faces when the bartender making their drinks selects a premade sphere from a plastic bag in a freezer.

But there’s more theater (remember, an aspect of this business is entertainment and guest engagement) in preparing a drink while an ice press is producing a crystal-clear sphere. Finishing the ice off with a custom monogram adds to the presentation. Out come the phones, up go the tagged social media posts, and in come more orders.

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An ice press on the back bar excites guests in the know. Some will go so far as to ask what they have to order to get the bartender to set it on the bar and make them a sphere, increasing guest engagement. It’s an attractive, eye-catching piece of equipment that can inspire guests who are less knowledgeable to inquire about it, providing a chance to upsell.

It’s in that upsell opportunity that an ice press makes sense. It’s not unusual for bars with real, thoughtful ice programs to charge more for large spheres (or blocks). Some bars will state in the menu or have bartenders explain that drinks with perfectly formed, perfectly clear orbs (or again, blocks) command an upcharge of $2 to $4.

FirstBuild’s Forge Clear Ice System consists of two components: a self-contained ice maker, and an ice press with integrated heaters, a world first. The first component makes large, gem-shaped ice in mere hours and keeps them at the idea temperature. The heaters make it possible to press the gems into crystal-clear ice spheres in roughly one minute. According to FirstBuild, there’s basically zero preheat time required, nor is there any need to worry about recovery time in between spheres.

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Pulling the trigger on a specialized bit of bar kit can be stressful. If it helps, revered whiskey expert, best-selling author and editor-in-chief of Bourbon+, Fred Minnick signed on to be a spokesperson for the Forge Clear Ice System. People familiar with Minnick’s work know that he’s not a big fan of putting in whiskey, which makes this endorsement—the first product Minnick has endorsed, in fact—all the more intriguing.

Forge Clear Ice System by FirstBuild

Now available for crowdfunding, the Forge Clear Ice System comes with the clear ice maker, the heated ice press, and tongs engineered specially for the system. The tongs add an additional element to drink presentation, reminiscent of the lifting and skidding tongs used to maneuver large blocks of ice many decades ago. The Forge’s MSRP is $1,499, but Nightclub & Bar readers will receive a discount of $500 during the initial crowdfunding phase if they use the code FORGE.

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