Ice has been used forever for cooling beverages and even though it might seem like a pointless detail, the aspect of the ice cubes can impact the aspect of the entire drink. Whether you are serving a glass of scotch on the rocks or a fancy cocktail, you will surely notice the design difference after adding a couple of clear cubes of ice. But getting the perfect ones is not as simple as freezing water because there are a few details that interfere with the transparency. To avoid that, you must get the hang of a few tips that will bring you to the perfect result. And you can do all that at home, too.
What makes ice cubes cloudy?
Everybody knows that water is transparent, clear, with no taste, color, or smell. So, how come, after it freezes, the cubes aren’t as clear as you would expect? The main cause is that, microscopically, the water has small particles of sediment and even minerals that, once frozen, affect the transparency of the cubes. When it freezes from the exterior to the middle, the water drives those tiny particles to the center, thus creating a clouding effect. Aside from the aesthetic impediment, frozen cubes made with unpurified water can change the taste of the drink, reasons enough to make you want to find the secret to perfectly clean and transparent ice cubes.
How to get clear ice cubes?
Ok, when you go to a bar, you are not surprised when you are served impeccable ice cubes, but how do you make clear cubes of ice at home? Luckily, this phenomenon can be avoided through some steps that are certain to guarantee frustration-free clear cubes.
- Before you start, make a list of the items you will need to have at hand: water, whether it is tap or distilled water, ice trays of various sizes and materials, an ice cooler, and a freezer. These are the basics of making ice cubes at home.
- You can use distilled water for optimal results. Distilled water is that type of water that has been cleaned of small debris and impurities, including mineral deposits, through the process called distillation. This involves boiling water and trapping the steam that evaporates in the process into another vessel where it will cool down and become liquid again. By cooling the steams back into a liquid state, the small particles remain at the bottom of the pot, leaving the steam free of sediment and debris. This way, you will have clear water to work with. Also, distilled water freezes faster than tap water that contains salts and impurities that lower its freezing point.
- The size of the ice tray you use can impact the way the cubes look like. It’s recommended that you use large trays because a bigger cube is more likely to turn out much clearer and it will melt slower so it won’t dilute your drink too fast. As for material, feel free to use whatever you want: silicone, plastic, with or without a lid, you can even experiment with interesting shapes like spheres or diamonds. The market is nowadays filled with eye-catching ice cube trays.
- Inside the freezer, it’s where the magic and chemistry are unleashed. There are numerous techniques that can be used, but we will depict two of them that are more intuitive and successful. The first method you can choose is called “top-down freezing” and refers to making ice cubes starting at the top and working their way to the bottom of the tray. For this, you will need an ice cooler, like the one you take with you at a picnic to keep your drinks cold. Next, place the tray on the bottom of the cooler and fill with water without exceeding the tray. Place the cooler in the freezer but let the lid off, with the temperature at approximately -17-25 °F (-3 -8 °C) for about 24 hours. After you take away the cooler from the freezer the next day, you might notice that the cubes have a thin layer of cloudy ice on top, but that is going to melt away in a minute.
- As surprisingly as it might seem, there is also a technique called “high-temperature freezing” but it doesn’t involve heat, it just refers to using a – 1°C temperature in the freezer, which is the lowest point at which you can set the freezer. This freezes the water slowly, thus forcing the debris and sediment to come out, the result being clear and clean icy cubes.
- In case you want to go the easy way and have hassle-free perfect cubes, you can invest in a clear ice maker, a machine that delivers optimal ice cubes with no effort from you. Their convenience is unmatchable as most models can deliver between 30 and over 60 pounds of ice in 24 hours. To be more precise, you can have your first batch of ice in 15-20 minutes, which is less than having a trip to the store. You can either go for a regular size unit or an undercounter version, depending on the space you have available. With this, next time you are having a garden party or friends are coming over, you will serve delicious beverages with commercial-like ice cubes.
It’s a known fact that perfection rests in the details, so no wonder that small aspects like the ice you put in your glass can interfere with how your drink looks and tastes. Ice cubes are usually cloudy, especially the ones that you buy from stores, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t easily have clear ice cubes at home. If you know the basics of the procedure, you can enjoy delicious and perfect ice cubes made at home.