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Making ice is simple: You only need one ingredient, water, and all you have to do is freeze it. But for special occasions and fancy cocktails and spirits, dressing up a drink with a crystal clear cube of ice is a great way to impress your guests.
Most ice makers and ice cube trays make ice that’s cloudy at the center, which is why plunking a perfectly clear cube or sphere into a glass can really set it apart. However, cloudy ice is the norm for a reason — it’s how ice naturally sets in most situations. Achieving something different requires some effort.
And while Sonic-style ice made in uniform pellets is perfect for some drinks, any spirit you’d serve on the rocks looks truly glam poured over a large, clear cube (or other shape). If you want to learn how to make clear ice at home to step up your beverage game, there are a few ways to do it, ranging from clear ice cube systems to truly DIY methods. Here’s how.
Why Is Ice Cloudy?
According to LiveScience, the clear water we use to make ice at home turns white or cloudy for two reasons: impurities and how water freezes.
Water that comes out of our taps, even filtered ones, can contain microscopic minerals and particles. These invisible objects become a source of cloudiness.
“Because all objects freeze from the outside in, the center of the cube is the last to solidify,” LiveScience contributor Benjamin Radford wrote. “Water free of minerals and impurities freezes first, pushing the cloudy parts containing the sediment (and tiny trapped air bubbles) toward the center. The result is a harmless (but not particularly photogenic) ice cube clouding.”
How To Make Clear Ice At Home With An Ice Maker
Looking for the least labor-intensive way to make clear ice at home? You can choose from a variety of specialized clear ice makers. You can try the Forge Clear Ice System, which produces lovely ice spheres … and sells for around $1,500.
If you’re not willing to spend that kind of money on ice that isn’t diamonds, you might try the 4.5-star-rated Crystal-Clear Ice Cube Maker on Amazon, which starts at only $19.99. The product claims you can use regular tap water and still get a clear sphere of ice (or other shapes, depending on which one you choose) to drop into a tumbler.
How To Make Clear Ice At Home With A Portable Cooler
There’s a science-based technique that will help you make clear ice at home, and it relies on directional freezing and a household item you probably already have — a cooler!
Alcademics explained the concept behind directional freezing: “Allow water to freeze into ice from only one direction (one side of a container) and the ice will be clear until the very last part to freeze. The last part to freeze (if allowed to freeze at all) will be cloudy.”
Directional freezing makes it harder for impurities in the water from freezing at the same time, which reduces the cloudiness.
To use this know-how to make clear ice at home, you’ll need a portable picnic cooler, either boiled or purified water (to get rid of as many impurities as possible before freezing it) and a freezer. A hard cooler freezes from the top down because the sides and bottom are insulated. This encourages directional freezing.
Pour your purified water into a cooler, then place it in the freezer. Once frozen, simply chip off the cloudy part of the block — the rest should be clear.
TikTok user QuickTails gives a quick tutorial on how to make clear ice, as well as how to chop the block into nice even cubes:
@quicktailsHow to make CLEAR ICE 🧊 #drink#cocktails#clearicecubes#learnontiktok#tiktoktaughtme#quicktails#mixology#LiveForTheChallenge#fy#fyp#foryoupage#perfect♬ She Share Story (for Vlog) – 山口夕依
Alcademics also has full directions on how to make clear ice at home using an Igloo cooler. The basic premise is the same as the video above, but Alcademics digs deeper into the science and different freezing methods and water types. The author ran experiments with varying temperatures in the freezer, different types of coolers and even different shaped containers.
The next time you want to serve up some crystal clear ice at home, consider starting with a small cooler. It isn’t just for keeping drink cans cold anymore!