Clear ice cubes

How to make clear ice cubes at home

By Timo Torner / Last updated on March 19, 2022 
Have you ever gaped at one of those fancy cocktails with see-through crystal clear ice cubes and thought that it must be fake? Just to realize a little later, that it is actual ice. These clear ice cubes not only exist, but they also come in all kinds of shapes like large cubes, ice spheres, […]

Have you ever gaped at one of those fancy cocktails with see-through crystal clear ice cubes and thought that it must be fake? Just to realize a little later, that it is actual ice.

These clear ice cubes not only exist, but they also come in all kinds of shapes like large cubes, ice spheres, shards, and even diamond shapes. Some even have a beautiful ice cube stamp pattern on them. What they all have in common is that they turn your drink into something truly amazing -already before tasting it.

If you now look into your freezer and probably see these cloudy, murky ice cubes, you might want to learn how to turn them into something elegant and perfect. And if so, then this article is for you.

Why your ice cubes are always cloudy

Habitually, you would make your ice cubes at home using tap water and your favorite ice cube mold. But they all usually look more or less cloudy -most of them probably more rather than less. The reason behind this is impurities and tiny gas bubbles inside the ice. And these bubbles do not only make the ice cloudy, but they also make your ice cubes melt much faster due to the impurities and air inside them. And this also causes your beautiful Whiskey to turn into a watery mess in next to no time.
As a rule of thumb, the clearer the ice, the better the ice quality. Therefore clear ice will melt slower than a regular ice cube.

The good news is, you can create clear ice cubes at home. It is a bit of work, but it is no rocket science. So let me explain how you can solve this problem at home and impress your friends with your bar-grade ice cubes.

The science behind clear ice

As said already, the problem of having cloudy ice is coming from impurities and tiny air bubbles inside the ice cubes. There are many ways to address this issue.

They all probably work considerably well because all of these methods reduce impurities and bubbles. But they will not result in a completely clear ice cube. So if you want your ice to be perfect, there are only two techniques that will bring the outcome you are after.

The key to clear ice is a slow freezing process. If ice can freeze over a long time, the impurities won’t get trapped. For instance, you may already have seen super clear icicles hanging from drainpipes. These icicles are so clear because they could freeze for a long time, molecule by molecule. So to get the best homemade ice cubes possible, you have to imitate this process.

How to make clear ice at home

For this, we obviously need to decrease the freezing speed of the ice. The best way to do this is to use an insulated cooler - that fits in your freezer. No matter what you now put inside, it will freeze much slower, and the air bubbles and impurities in water have the chance to escape. If you should now realize you don’t have a freezer with enough space to put a cooler inside, luckily there is also a plan B.

The cooler method

For this, all you need is an insulated cooler and a freezer - I repeat myself- big enough to fit it in. In the end, you will get a massive block of ice that you can cut yourself into ice cube size. That is also a nice training session to improve your ice carving skills. And here is a step-by-step guide to getting your crystal clear ice cubes.

  1. Fill the cooler with water (use filtered water if possible)
  2. Put the cooler in the freezer with the lid open for approx. 24 hours
  3. Remove the cooler from the freezer. The bottom part of the content will still be liquid and needs to be drained, for the water contains all the impurities and air bubbles. And as you know now, you do not want to have in your ice.
  4. Let the cooler rest for 30-60 mins before you slide out the ice block
  5. Use a serrated knife to score the ice before cutting it into smaller pieces with a mallet and pick.

Congratulations, You managed to create your perfect ice cubes at home!

The boiled water technique, or plan B

If you don’t have enough space in your freezer, there’s only one promising option left. Try to get rid of as many impurities as possible before you start your freezing process. In general, boiling the water twice will give you much better results than just boiling it once.

To reduce the speed of the freezing process, you can also increase the temperature of your freezer. So setting it just below 0° Celsius (around 30° F) will improve your ice quality a lot. If you are reluctant to set the temperature that "high", just increase the temperature as much as you feel comfortable with and put your ice on the top shelf. Every degree will help make your ice less cloudy.

And that's already it. This way, your ice cubes should look a lot clearer than they did in the past, and you can serve beautiful cocktails and drinks that won't taste watery faster than you could mix them.

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