How to Make Clear Ice

How to Make Clear Ice for Cocktails

Clear ice is one of the easiest upgrades you can make to your home bar and cocktail craft. When I started making it at home, my cocktails instantly looked and tasted better. It was a magical feeling the first time I used a clear ice cube in my Old Fashioned. It looked like something from a high end cocktail bar, and to my surprise, it tasted better too.

Clear ice cube makers freeze the water from a single direction, pushing out air and impurities as it freezes. Forget myths about boiling the water or using distilled water – those don’t work. The only way to get clear ice at home is with directional freezing using specialized ice trays.

Why make clear ice?

Whether you’re sipping on whiskey or making cocktails, clear ice has three benefits:

  1. Better Taste. Water, especially tap water, is full of impurities including heavy metals, human waste, pesticides, and chemical waste. As normal ice melts, these impurities are released into your cocktail! The directional freezing method of making clear ice pushes these impurities out of the ice and into the reservoir at the bottom of the tray.
  2. Slower Melting. The trapped air in normal ice, or “white ice,” causes the ice to melt faster. With clear ice, the air is pushed out of the ice cube as it freezes, so it stays solid longer and doesn’t dilute your drink.
  3. Stunning Looks. Part of the pleasure of sipping a well crafted cocktail is how it looks. Clear ice looks exotic and luxurious when viewed from above, and practically disappears into your drink when viewed from the side.
Clear Ice for Cocktails
I can see straight through my ice!

Science of clear ice

In a traditional ice tray, the cold comes from all directions. The outside of the ice cube forms first, and then freezes inward – trapping all the air and impurities from the water and creating a cloudy center to the ice cube.

To make ice that’s crystal clear, you need to freeze the ice from one direction. This is called directional freezing and was pioneered by a blogger named Camper English. After years of experimentation, he created a way to freeze water from a single direction by putting an Igloo cooler in his freezer and then carving cubes off the ice block with a knife.

Today there are many products that exist to make this process easier. They use a special ice tray that is insulated on five sides and contains a reservoir at the bottom. The insulation keeps the water from freezing on the sides and bottom. That way, the ice only freezes from one direction, pushing out the air and impurities as it goes.

Clear ice for cocktails
Clear ice upgrades your cocktails

How to make clear ice

The easiest way to make clear ice is with a clear ice cube maker or a clear ice ball maker, depending on your preference. Using one of the products below, making clear ice is almost as easy as using traditional ice trays. You fill the reservoir with water, insert the tray, fill the ice tray, and pop it in the freezer.

It does take some additional effort on your part, because you have to pull the tray out of the freezer once the cubes are solid, but before the reservoir freezes solid. Then you empty the reservoir, pop out the ice cubes, and store them in a plastic container or bag until you’re ready to use them.

If there is unwanted ice in the reservoir, you can easily shave it with a serrated kitchen knife.

Clear Ice Tray Reviews

Clearly Frozen

The Clearly Frozen High Capacity tray is a clear winner when it comes to volume. With a single tray, you can make ten 2” cubes in 15-18 hours. The cubes are beautiful, clear cubes that look great. If you want to make a lot of ice cubes in a single batch, the price/volume of the Clearly Frozen can’t be beat.

I do have some concerns about the durability of the insulation, however. It is made of soft foam, like packing material, glued together. I’ve been using it several times a week for over five months without any issues, but be warned that it’s not the most durable insulator.

ProsCons
High Capacity (10 cubes)
Inexpensive (low price per cube)
Faster than other products (15-18 hours)
Durability is questionable
Large (takes a lot of freezer space)

True Cubes

The True Cubes clear ice cube tray is a very well-made option that makes four 2” cubes at a time. The freezing time for the True Cubes tray is 18-22 hours, depending on your freezer, at which point you separate the ice tray from the reservoir and have four beautiful ice cubes.

The BPA-free silicone tray fits into a heavy duty gray insulator, which is more durable than the Clearly Frozen insulator.

ProsCons
Durable materials
Smaller (takes less freezer space)
Capacity (4 cubes)
Slower than other products (18-22 hours)
Expensive (high price per cube)

Glacio Clear Sphere

If you prefer ice balls, or spherical ice, then the glacio Clear Sphere is for you! This tray makes two large, round ice balls which look striking in your cocktail or whiskey. The ice balls are about 2.5″ in diameter and take 24-28 hours to freeze. That’s a lot of time, effort, and freezer space for only two ice balls!

However, if you must have spheres, this BPA-free silicon ice mold will make stunning crystal-clear ice balls. These really will turn heads. The ice spheres are beautiful.

ProsCons
Makes round ice balls
Durable
Smaller (less space in the freezer)
Low capacity (only 2 spheres at a time)
Slow (24-28 hours)
Expensive (price per ice ball)

Conclusion

My clear ice cube maker of choice is the Clearly Frozen because it can make 10 clear ice cubes at a time. This saves time and effort, which means I’m only making ice a few times a week instead of every day.

Need to find a recipe? Try the new Cocktail Finder!

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