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First Generation Machine
on August 30, 2012
After two weeks with this machine, here's the skinny on clear ice and the Luma Comfort clear ice cube maker. For what it's worth, I'd consider this machine a moderate success.
You can call it a number of things - bar ice, clear ice, restaurant quality ice, or winter icicles, but the bottom line is that you typically have to leave home to get perfectly clear ice. The ugliest (worst?) ice you consume is the cloudy ice you make at home in a typical refrigerator ice maker. Once you leave the house, every business that serves cold drinks will have better looking (perhaps better quality) ice than you have at home. That includes McDonald's, 7-Eleven and your local diner at 2 AM. It's really a shame, and if this fact bothers you then this machine may be of interest. You shouldn't have to leave your house to get quality looking and tasting ice that is free of trapped air and stale freezer odors.
You can kid yourself and try to boil water a number of times before freezing it to make clear ice but the success rate is hit or miss (at best). The way to achieve clear ice 100% of the time is to buy a commercial ice maker that runs a continuous stream of water over a cold cube making surface, or in this case a lower cost home version of a commercial ice maker. Ask anyone in the restaurant business and they'll tell you that commercial ice makers frequently need service. Every restaurant has a service contract with an appliance repair company, just as every office has a service contract for their unreliable Xerox copier. Whether or not these home clear ice machines will work long term repair-free remains to be seen.
Some of the sales claims for clear ice don't hold water (sorry for the pun). Clear ice does not melt five times slower than cloudy homemade ice. You easily can prove that by weighing clear ice cubes versus cloudy ice cubes and putting the equal competitors side-by-side in identical glasses on your kitchen counter. Since ice cubes come in wildly different sizes and cloudy ice has more trapped air than solid clear ice, a kitchen cooking scale is the only way to make sure the ice cubes being tested are the same volume of frozen water.
Watching ice melt is not the most exciting activity imaginable, but what you'll find is that your typical cloudy ice will melt at the exact same rate as clear ice. No difference whatsoever.
It has also been said that carbonated drinks don't fizz as wildly when poured into clear ice as they do with regular home ice cubes. Again, it's easy to do a side-by-side test in your kitchen which proves they react exactly the same with carbonated beverages. The difference is simply in the clarity of the ice and the presentation of it when serving it to your family or guests at a party. For purists, since this clear ice is made outside of your refrigerator/freezer and the resulting ice doesn't have air channels throughout the cube (as usual ice maker ice does) it resists taking on the odors inside your freezer cavity, even after you transfer the clear ice into your freezer for long term storage. From that moment on you can relish the fact that 7-Eleven and Hardee's don't have better ice than you do at home.
￼￼It's unfortunate to see a number of these machines arriving in an inoperable state (based on earlier buyer reviews). Since my machine has worked flawlessly over the last two weeks I would chalk it up to basic quality control issues. As far as operating the machine, the power button has multiple confusing modes and the user manual is a glaring example of offshore production. Since the operating manual is the cheapest part of the package and most easily corrected, it's most disappointing to find it is written in an unprofessional if not childish manner. It sets a bad tone from the start. Even less reassuring is the fact that Luma Comfort has the identical embarrassing manual online to download from their site. The manual could be rewritten in 15 minutes and the corrected version posted as a PDF on their site. At least fix it on your website product sales/support page!
The Power button and bright power indicator light seem to have been designed by a creature from another planet. The bright green light pulses on and off without really indicating much of anything. Using trial and error, pressing the power button for two second turns the machine on and ice making starts. The power button ignores quick presses. Holding the power button down for five seconds or more does not turn off the unit but rather sets the machine to make thicker ice cubes. The thicker ice cube mode really does work, as it lengthens the time interval of ice cube building. With the machine running, holding the power button down for two seconds turns the machine off - sort of. If you put your ear to the machine you can still hear it humming when "off" so there is more going on electronically than just the flashing indicator light. Maybe holding the button down in other ways can completely shut down the machine, but who the hell knows as the manual is cryptic at best and the power light continues to brightly pulse on and off as if it's ready to engage again after you leave the room. It's downright wacky. I can think of no other home appliance that has a bright pulsating light after you power it down. Hopefully the next generation machine will give us:
A) A user manual that clearly explains what the single button on the machine can do.
B) More than one button.
The single button also has a "lowest bidder" feel to it that could lead to issues down the road if pressed too hard. The only sure way to turn the unit off is to unplug it from the wall.
In the end this machine does exactly what Luma Comfort claims it will do - so I have to give it at least 3 stars. (Minus one star for documentation issues & one star for build quality/reliability concerns) It quickly makes perfectly clear ice cubes and loads of them, although you'll have to empty the small ice collection tray frequently with every ice making session (presumably by dumping the tray into your freezer ice cube tray or ziplock bags). That's the tradeoff for a small, affordable, portable commercial ice maker. But with the mixed reviews ranging from outright pitiful to glowing, at this point it's probably a machine for early adopters who have that yearning desire for clear ice at home.