The key to making clear ice cubes at home is directional freezing. In simple terms, this means freezing ice slowly from top to bottom. This method prevents air and impurities from being trapped inside your ice cubes and will make your ice cubes crystal clear.
The best thing is that making clear ice cubes at home is not that hard. You only need a cooler, a freezer with enough space, and a bit of patience. Fill the cooler with water, put it in your freezer, and wait for 24 hours.
How to Make Clear Ice
The basic idea of making clear ice is that by freezing from top to bottom the cubes do not capture air and impurities. Instead, you get crystal clear ice cubes you can add to your drinks. These impurities are pushed down the further the ice freezes until there is no more room. If you freeze the block completely, the lower bit will be cloudy.
1. Fill the cooler with water
Find a small-sized cooler that fits into your freezer. Fill it to 5 inches with regular tap water. Then place the cooler in your freezer without the lid. That helps freeze the ice from top to bottom, as only the top is exposed to the cold directly.
2. Freeze water for 24 hours
Let the ice freeze for approximately 24 hours. During this time the first few inches from the top will freeze to clear ice. The bottom will still be water which is excellent as this will contain all the impurities we do not want to have in our ice cubes.
3. Remove ice from the cooler
After 24 hours, take the cooler out of the freezer and put it upside down in your sink or on a large and clean worktop. Most of the time, the ice block will slip down itself. If it doesn't come out, help by shaking until it comes out. The result is a crystal clear ice block ready to be cut into cocktail-sized cubes.
4. Cut clear ice block into cubes
To cut the block of ice into portion-sized cubes, use a serrated knife and a towel for this procedure.
- Hold the clear ice block with a towel and use the serrated knife to score the ice into ice sticks.
- Move the knife back and forth in a sawing motion to score a line to the block. Continue that movement to separate a stick of ice from the ice block.
- Use the same technique to cut the sticks into cubes.
5. Store your clear ice cubes
After you cut the ice into cubes, make sure to put them in a closed container and store them in the freezer. If you use them, let them sit at room temperature for about two minutes to prevent cracking when you put them in your drink.
What is directional freezing?
The method of freezing ice in one direction from top to bottom is called directional freezing. It helps to create crystal-clear ice by not trapping impurities.
When water freezes, it pushes air, minerals, and other impurities away to freeze into a perfect crystal lattice. However, with regular ice cube trays, this happens on all sides simultaneously. That means the minerals, gases, and salts are transported into the center of ice cubes until there is no way out. The impurities are kept inside the ice and turn it cloudy.
Clear ice in cocktails
Different qualities of ice melt at different rates. When using ice in cocktails, the choice of ice will directly influence the dilution of a drink. Using clear ice is not only visually striking, but this ice is also denser and will melt at a slower rate. That helps to chill your drink without watering it down too much.
The type of ice you should use in your drink can vary from spheres to cubes to ice sticks. While forming ice sticks from an ice block may be doable, crafting ice spheres require some time and practice. If you want to see how to carve ice spheres, look at the video below.
Below is a list of cocktails we lately created using clear ice. Click to see the images:
Why your ice cubes are always cloudy
Cubes you freeze in ordinary ice cube molds would freeze from all directions simultaneously. As a result, the center is the last part that gets frozen and holds all impurities. That is why your ice cubes are cloudy and why it doesn't matter what kind of water you use.
Moreover, these bubbles not only make the ice cloudy. They also make the ice cubes melt much faster. That, in turn, also causes your beautiful Whiskey to turn into a watery mess within no time.
So, as a rule of thumb: the clearer the ice, the better the ice quality. Accordingly, clear ice will melt slower than a regular ice cube.
Can you make clear ice at home?
The good news is: yes, you can make clear ice at home. We tested different techniques, different water types, and ice molds. We used distilled water, tap water, and boiled water.
The water choice made for slightly different results, but using directional freezing is what will help you make clear ice cubes at home.
The best tools to use are:
- Cooler like explained above
- Clear ice maker molds that use the same technique
The difference between the different water types exists. However, the results differ only slightly when using conventional ice cube molds. Distilled water and boiled water contain fewer impurities than tap water. But all varieties still have impurities that are trapped in the middle of the cubes during freezing.
Alternative: Clear Ice Maker
The easiest and fastest way to get clear ice cubes for your homemade cocktails is by using a clear ice maker. You fill them up with any type of water, then store them in the freezer and pop out the perfectly clear ice once they are frozen.
These clear ice makers are not only easier to use but also smaller and fit almost any freezer compartment. A few products even offer different shapes. The only downside is that you will need to spend extra money and buy another tool.
How to Make Clear Ice with a Clear Ice Maker
Making clear ice cubes with one of these clear ice makers is a super easy process.
- Fill with water: Fill the bottom tray with water. Tap water is fine, but boiled water is better.
- Insert the molds: The ice cube molds have holes at the bottom. That lets the impurities sink so they won't turn your ice cloudy.
- Freeze: Leave the tray for 14-20 hours in the freezer. The exact time depends on the product you use. After that time, the cubes are frozen, and the lower part of the tray is still fluid.
Does Boiling Water Make Clear Ice Cubes?
The short answer is no. Using boiled water will not make clear ice cubes if you use standard ice cube molds. What it does, is that the ice cubes are slightly less cloudy than if you make them with tap water.
When boiling water, oxygen, and other gases trapped in the water are dissolved. Thar reduces the number of impurities by a bit but will not remove them entirely.
However, when you combine boiling water with directional freezing, you get the best results.
Crystal clear ice cubes come in all forms, like regular cubes, spheres, shards, or diamond shapes. If you want to make perfectly clear ice at home, you need to understand that directional freezing is essential. Using boiled or distilled water won't help to make those cubes clear and see-through.
Considering this, you have two options: Use a small cooler to create an ice block and cut the cubes yourself, or use a clear ice maker to save yourself a lot of work.