Clear ice cubes

How to make clear ice cubes at home

By Timo Torner / Last updated on August 30, 2022 

First published on July 8, 2021 

Clear ice in cocktails is becoming increasingly popular. Not only because it looks spectacular, but it also improves the quality of your cocktail and the drinking experience.

Have you ever wondered if the large chucks of see-through crystal clear ice cubes in those fancy cocktail bars are fake or not? 

And have you then realized that it actually is ice and wondered how to get that? If the answer is yes, you came to the right place. The ice used in cocktails is an essential part of the drink.

These clear ice cubes come in all sorts of forms like regular cubes, spheres, shards, or diamond shapes. Some even have a pattern from using ice cube stamps on them. 

Clear ice is such a clever way to turn your drink into something truly amazing.

However, if you now look into your freezer, you will probably see these cloudy, murky ice cubes. So time to learn how to turn them into something elegant and perfect.

Why your ice cubes are always cloudy

Presumably, you make your ice cubes at home with water from the tap in your favorite ice cube tray. And I imagine the outcome usually is more or less cloudy -probably more rather than less. 

The reason behind this is impurities and tiny gas bubbles inside the ice. 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.

cloudy ice cubes

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.

The good news is that 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 caused by impurities and tiny air bubbles inside the ice cubes. Luckily, there are some ways to address this issue.

However, even though all these methods work considerably well and reduce impurities and bubbles, they don't all deliver a completely clear ice cube. 

So if you want your ice to be perfect, there are two techniques that will bring the best results and the outcome you are after, which I will get to in a minute.

The science behind it and the key to making clear ice is a slow freezing process. If ice can freeze over a longer time, impurities won't get trapped and gradually move to the surface. 

clear icicles

For instance, you may already have seen 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 must imitate this process.

How to make clear ice at home

To make clear ice at home, we need to decrease the freezing speed of the ice. And the best way to do this is to use an insulated cooler that fits in your freezer. 

Water held inside this insulated container will freeze much slower, and the air bubbles and impurities in water have the chance to escape. 

However, not everyone has enough room in their freezer to put a cooler inside. So, luckily, there is also a plan B.

Plan A - The cooler method

So, as I said, for this, you need an insulated cooler and a freezer big enough to fit it in. 

In the end, you will get a large block of ice that you have to cut into ice cube size. That, by the way, is also a nice training session to improve your ice carving skills. 

So, 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 that water contains all the impurities and air bubbles.
  4. Let the cooler sit 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 now should have some perfectly clear ice cubes at home!

Plan B - The boiled water technique

If you don’t have enough space in your freezer, there’s one promising option left: 

You have to try and remove as many impurities as possible before you start your freezing process. And in order to achieve that, you have to boil your water.

Generally, in my experience, boiling the water twice will give you much better results than just boiling it once.

To improve the quality of your ice further, consider slowing down the freezing process by increasing the temperature of your freezer. Setting it just below 0° Celsius (around 30° F) will improve the result a lot. 

clear ice cubes

If you are hesitant to set the temperature that high because of other things you might have in your freezer, simply increase the temperature as much as you feel comfortable with.

Additionally, you can put your ice tray on the top shelf in your freezer. Every degree helps to make your ice less cloudy. -Every degree that is still below freezing point, of course.

If you apply one of the two methods described above, your ice cubes should look a lot clearer than they did in the past. It might practice, though, to get the perfect result. 

Nevertheless, even the first try should improve your ice situation a lot and allow you to serve beautiful cocktails and drinks that won't water down faster than you can mix them.

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