How to Make Clear Ice to Professional Standards!

Take your party hosting and cocktail preparation talents to the next level by learning how to make clear ice at home!

Getting ice that’s transparent is no accident, particularly when you see professional cocktail makers slinging shakers around the bar or preparing your favorite drink on the rocks.

In fact, to prepare the best drinks, perfectly clear ice is an essential ingredient for the recipe. 

Crystal clear ice not only looks great in a drink, but it’s much purer than cloudy ice. This allows it to retain its shape for longer, without diluting the taste of that delicious margarita you’ve just mixed!

Let’s explore the best ways to make clear ice at home!

Learn How to Make Clear Ice Cubes

There are several methods you can use when you’re learning how to make clear ice balls or cubes.

It’s important to remember that while throwing an ice cube tray full of water into the freezer is the easiest method, it’s not going to give you the results you desire.

For the most transparent possible ice, you need pure water and a few tested and refined ice making techniques.

With a little practice and the right equipment, it’s easy to make ice clear at home. 

What Makes Ice Cloudy?

Not all water freezes equally, so if you’re searching for perfect, crystal clear ice like your bartenders have in their freezers, then you need to start by looking at what makes it cloudy. 

The reason why some ice cubes become cloudy is because there are impurities present in the water when it’s frozen: the water freezes from the outside, inwards, and as this process takes place, the impurities are pushed further and further towards the middle of the ice cube.

This leaves you with a distinctly cloudy (although utterly harmless, if consumed) cube. 

The first step towards making clear ice, then, is simple: use the purest water that you can. 

What Makes Ice Clear?

You might well be asking, why are transparent ice balls or cubes so important? The reality is that cloudy ice cubes aren’t dangerous, but they can spoil your cocktail!

There are several reasons why you might want to go that extra mile and prepare crystal clear ice cubes rather than using the cloudy ones from your freezer tray. 

  • Transparent cubes are purer than cloudier ice cubes.
  • Pure ice cubes don’t melt as fast as cloudy ice cubes.
  • Using pure ice cubes keeps your drink cooler for longer.
  • Pure ice cubes don’t dilute your drink (and its flavor) as fast as cloudy ice cubes.
  • Crystal clear ice cubes just look better than cloudy ice cubes.

So, how can we realize all these fantastic benefits and make clear ice at home?

Once you’ve sourced the purest water you can (more on that below), there are a few tricks that help the water to freeze in the “correct” manner.

The trick we like to employ is known as “Directional Freezing.” 

  • This surprisingly simple concept involves having your ice made clear by freezing the water in one continuous direction.
  • Rather than freezing the water from the outside inwards, directional freezing causes the water to freeze from the top to the bottom or from the bottom to the top.
  • This ensures that any impurities are all pushed towards the top or the bottom of the ice cube, rather than to the center.
  • This gives you a much purer ice cube, and if there are any impurities remaining, you can simply chip them off the top or the bottom!

There are a few ways to try this at home, but the simplest method involves a handy ice ball mold, which makes excellent use of the principle of directional freezing to make crystal clear ice cubes.

  • Ice ball molds allow you to easily freeze the water into perfectly spherical balls by freezing the water slowly from the top to the bottom.
  • In fact, ice cube molds are modeled on the way nature freezes water too.
  • In lakes, the purest ice is always found at the top of the water. This is because the impurities are pushed down to the bottom of the lake because the fresh water is less dense than the impure water, which takes longer to freeze.  

How to Purify Your Water

How you freeze your ice is an important step, but the best ice also needs pure water.

While some critics argue that the quality of the water isn’t nearly as important as using the directional freezer method, there’s no reason not to use purer water, as long as you have the opportunity to do so.

  • If you’re on an unlimited budget, then the quickest way to source pure water is to simply head to your local store and purchase a few bottles of filtered water.
  • If you’re taking things to the extreme, then you could try to source pure, distilled water that is guaranteed to have zero impurities (this is the sort of water they use in distillation processes, as the water has a neutral flavor due to the lack of chemicals or impurities).
  • You don’t have to do this, though, because there are plenty of excellent methods that can purify your tap water.

We should note that the impurities present in tap water in the US aren’t ordinarily dangerous to human health – they just make it look cloudy when frozen.

We also don’t need our water to be one hundred percent pure or distilled, as the directional freezing method also helps to limit the cloudiness of the finished ice cube.

The simplest way to start purifying your tap water is to boil it:

  • You can just fill up your kettle and bring it to a boil.
  • Alternatively, you can fill up a large pot or saucepan and allow it to boil away on the stovetop.
  • For the best results, though, don’t just boil your water once. Instead, wait for the water to cool, then boil it all over again. 

What if I Don’t Have an Ice Ball Mold?

Ice ball molds really do make the job of freezing crystal clear ice cubes a whole lot easier, but if you don’t have dedicated molds, there are a few hacks you can test in your kitchen.

Keep in mind, though, that they are rather makeshift hacks, so they aren’t always reliable (a few minor changes in the process can throw the system off!).

  • One popular method involves combining the directional freezing method with a small cooler. You’ll need a freezer that’s large enough to fit a small cooler inside for this to work, though.
  • Boil your water, then once it’s cooled, fill up standard ice cube trays or any other containers you have handy.
  • Arrange the ice cube trays in the bottom of the cooler, then place the lid on top and seal the cooler in the freezer.
  • After 24 hours, you can remove the ice, and it should be remarkably clear, save for a cloudy layer on the bottom.
  • The cooler method works in a similar way to ice ball molds because the cooler itself is insulated (just like the molds). This allows the water to be frozen slowly and directionally, from only one end (just like in the lake in winter!). 

And That’s How to Make Ice Clear!

With the help of an ice ball mold, it’s never been easier to put the concept of directional freezing into purposeful action. You can quickly freeze tap water, even with its impurities, to produce crystal clear ice balls at home.

Liven up your cocktails, make that bourbon on the rocks taste better than ever before, or keep that cool lemonade fresh and chilled for longer. Be sure to bookmark our “how to make clear ice guide”’ for the next time you’re in need of crystal clear ice!