You’ve probably heard a lot of advice about making clear ice at home, including using boiling hot water, using distilled water, or using water from a filter.
The truth is, none of these methods work very well. They might produce slightly clearer ice, but you will still find a big cloudy patch in the ice.
The only trick to making clear ice is directional freezing, and this is where you freeze water from the top-down instead of outside in.
For this, ordinary tap water will do.
Why Ice Appears Cloudy
Most portable ice makers produce cloudy ice. So do refrigerator ice makers. A lot of store-bought ice is also cloudy.
What makes it so? It’s air.
As the water freezes, air dissolved in the ice is trapped inside, which creates numerous tiny bubbles that make the ice appear cloudy.
You may have noticed that in some ice cubes, the cloudiness is only at the center. This happens when the ice is frozen from the outside in. As the outer parts freeze, air moves to the center of the ice, eventually forming a cloudy patch when all the ice freezes.
Some portable ice cubes produce ice that’s all cloudy. That’s because these units freeze the ice really quickly, trapping air throughout the ice cube.
What Is Directional Freezing – And How Does It Produce Clear Ice?
No, hot water on its own will not produce crystal clear ice, and neither will distilled, softened, or filtered water.
As long as you have clean potable water, you can make clear ice balls or cubes. The secret is to freeze the water from one direction – the top – or what’s called directional freezing.
This pushes air and impurities (trapped impurities can also cause cloudiness) to the bottom, leaving clear ice on top.
There are several ways to make clear ice at home, ranging from simple hands-free methods to more involved techniques that you’ll likely find tedious.
How to Make Clear Ice (Balls & Cubes) At Home
We’ll start from the easiest and quickest ones to the most time-consuming.
1. Portable Clear Ice Maker
If you want an easy way to get clear ice without spending a lot of money on an expensive ice machine, get a portable/countertop clear ice maker.
A while back, compact portable ice makers only made cloudy bullet ice. Today, you can find several that make crystal clear ice.
- Affordable compared to full-size ice machines.
- Compact size fits on countertops.
- Portable clear ice makers make a lot of ice in a short time.
- They are great for large families and home parties.
- It costs more compared to a clear ice tray/mold.
2. Full-Size Gourmet Ice Maker
If you want a lot more clear ice at home, get an under-counter or standalone clear/gourmet ice maker.
These are the kind of clear ice makers you’ll find in many bars and restaurants, and they crank out lots of high-quality clear ice cubes.
If you make drinks that need lots of clear ice or often hold parties at home, an under-counter gourmet ice maker is great.
On the downside, the ice maker requires some work in installation since you have to install it under the counter and connect a waterline.
Undercounter ice machines are also expensive, with most being two grand or more.
Our favorite full-size clear ice maker is the Scotsman CU50PA-1A. It can make up to 65lbs of clear ice each day.
- Under-counter ice machines make a lot of clear ice.
- They also produce high-quality gourmet ice.
- They have a clean look when installed under the counter.
- No need to use precious freezer space to freeze ice.
- They need under-counter space.
3. Clear Ice Mold/Tray
If you don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an ice machine, the other option is a clear ice mold or tray.
If you want ice balls, look specifically for a clear ice ball maker. You can also find molds that make perfect cubes of clear ice.
Clear ice molds also work on the principle of directional freezing. You first add tap water to the main container then lower the ice mold into the container.
As the water freezes from above, air and impurities settle at the bottom of the container. Ice remaining in the molds is perfectly clear.
Clear ice molds work really well and are affordable, but it takes longer to get clear ice.
- Low price.
- No installation is required.
- Perfectly clear ice.
- Easy to use.
- It takes 24 hours or more to make clear ice.
- Takes up freezer space.
- You can only make a couple of balls of ice at a time.
4. The Cooler Method
If you already have a small picnic cooler, you can use it to make clear ice and just make sure it can fit in your freezer.
Add tap water to the cooler,then place it in the freezer. Leave the lid open to freeze the water faster.
Depending on the size of the cooler and the temperature of your freezer, it’ll take between 24 and 36 hours for the water to freeze.
Take the cooler out of the freezer and leave it on the counter. This makes it easier to remove the block of ice from the cooler.
Turn the cooler upside down to allow the block of ice to fall out. Note that there may be some unfrozen water at the bottom, so have some towels handy, or remove the block in the sink.
The frozen block of ice will be mostly clear at the top, with some cloudy sections at the bottom. Cut or break away the cloudy parts.
Using a serrated knife and mallet, cut cubes of clear ice from the block. Start by making shallow cuts on the ice blocks, then hit a mallet against the knife to complete the cuts and separate the ice.
- It costs nothing if you already have a cooler.
- Makes crystal clear ice.
- You can get a decent amount of ice cubes from one block.
- It’s a tedious method.
- It takes a long time to freeze ice.
- Takes up a lot of freezer space.
Is Clear Ice Better Than Regular Ice?
Why go to all this trouble just to make clear ice.
For many people, it’s the aesthetics. A clear ice ball or cubes looks elegant in a glass of whiskey.
But there are also some practical benefits of clear ice. Because it doesn’t have air trapped inside, it’s denser and thus melts slower than cloudy ice.
You can enjoy your drink slowly without worrying about dilution.