How to Make Clear Ice at Home

How to Make Clear Ice at Home


Top mixologists have long been crafting cocktails that make use of crystal clear ice cubes and spheres. Meanwhile home bartending enthusiasts have been trying to recreate these visually stunning, slow-melting marvels without much luck. That’s because regular ice trays simply aren't designed to make perfectly clear ice. But not all is lost!

What makes ice cloudy in the first place?

Water naturally contains some trapped air and impurities. As water starts to freeze, the water molecules that are free flowing in the liquid state start to get into formation. The resulting crystalline structure has no room for air and impurities, so they get squeezed out. This pure water becomes crystal clear ice. At a certain point, however, there is nowhere left for the impurities and air to go within the ice tray. The rest of the water has frozen into clear ice, and the air and impurities become trapped as water molecules struggle to form a less-than-perfect crystal structure around them. When this mix of water, air, and impurities all freeze together, the result is the cloudy, white ball you've become accustomed to in your normal ice cubes.

How do professionals make clear ice?

If you can't completely remove air and impurities, then how do bartenders (and their professional ice vendors) make clear ice? Well, they don't! They simply mine the naturally clear part of the ice for their bar service and discard the naturally cloudy part. In practical terms, typically they will fill a cooler with water, leave the lid open, and put it in their walk-in freezer overnight. The water is insulated on all sides by the cooler, but the surface of the water is exposed to the cold freezer air. As a result, the surface starts to freeze first in a clear layer of ice, and the whole freezing process cascades downward to the bottom of the cooler, where a cloudy ice ball forms. This is called directional freezing, and mimics the process by which lakes freeze over in winter. The next morning, the bartender removes this giant ice block from the cooler and harvests the large section of clear ice off the top half of the block. They then cut and carve the clear ice into cubes, spheres, and other unique shapes, often by hand.

How can I make clear ice without needing to renovate my house?

If you're not in the mood to try your luck at ice sculpture, or don't own a freezer big enough to fit your cooler (who does?), a much easier method is to use a compact device called a clear ice maker, which also harnesses the power of directional freezing, but uses silicone molds to shape the water into cubes or spheres as it freezes. The molds are inserted into an insulated box, which controls the freezing so it occurs from the top down. The impurities and air in the water are pushed downward out of the silicone molds (out of the ice cubes or spheres) and into a discard basin below the molds. What results in the silicone molds is crystal-clear and perfectly shaped ice!

How can I make ice from regular ice trays look better?

If you don’t have a clear ice maker and want to stick with your regular ice trays, here are some suggestions for how you can reduce the cloudiness in your ice cubes. If followed to a tee, these will make very good looking ice, but it will never be absolutely clear. Everything starts with the water. The more impurities, the more cloudiness in the ice! The key is to reduce, or eliminate, as many of the impurities as possible. One way to do that is to use distilled water, which is completely pure water. It's readily available at grocery stores for about $1 per gallon. This makes a (mostly) clear difference in your ice, pun very much intended.It's also critical to remove air bubbles. Tap water coming from a faucet is often aerated, meaning it is full of air bubbles. Boiling water is believed to remove a lot of the trapped air from water. Regardless of how your tap water comes out, pouring water into ice trays will introduce and trap some air. You may see bubbles clinging to the sides of a silicone mold. Pop them or lift them away from the sides of the mold with a butter knife or chopsticks.

That sounds tedious. What clear ice maker should I get?

If clear ice is really important to you, we highly recommend going with a dedicated clear ice maker. And if personalization is going to set your ice cubes apart, then you must check out the first-of-its-kind Personalized Clear Ice Maker from Siligrams. This compact device makes it easy to craft elegant clear ice adorned with your monogram or graphic, effortlessly raising the bar on your next cocktail night. You can find it at: