After figuring out the perfect cocktail recipe, many at-home mixologists move on to presentation, which is an equally important aspect of great cocktails. This mission to craft a cocktail that’s not only tasty but good-looking often leaves DIY bartenders with one nagging question: how to make clear ice?
Clear ice is something you’ll see in high-end cocktail bars or restaurants. For many cocktail enthusiasts figuring out how to make clear ice is endlessly frustrating to attempt at home. Ice is naturally cloudy due to impurities in the water used to make it. In a normal ice mold, the ice freezes from the outside in, pushing impurities to the center and creating cloudiness.
But the reward of crystal-clear ice in your Old Fashioned or Negroni is too good to give up. And luckily, clear ice is possible with a little elbow grease and/or the proper equipment. In this article, we’ll outline and explain all your options for how to make clear ice, including:
- How to make DIY clear ice
- The best clear ice makers
- The best clear ice machines
Once accomplished, making clear ice is easy — not to mention satisfying and endlessly impressive for guests.
How to Make DIY Clear Ice
1. Remove impurities and air bubble from your water
Before attempting to make clear ice by any method, you’ll want to ensure you have the purest water possible. If you have a reverse osmosis water tap, that will work great. If not, start by acquiring purified, distilled water. Check labels on bottles at the store, or pick up a water purifier and use distilled water. This should ensure little to no mineral deposits and microscopic debris in the water. Next, boil your purified, distilled water twice to remove any air bubbles that can hinder the freezing process.
2. Directional Freezing
As mentioned, ice typically becomes cloudy because the impurities have nowhere to go, so they end up in the center as the cube or ball freezes inward. Directional freezing ensures that the ice will freeze in a certain direction, pushing the cloudy impurities out of the ice or to the edge where you can chip off the murky bits.
There are two methods for directional freezing: cooler freezing and saltwater freezing.
Cooler freezing requires a silicone ice tray and a small cooler or baking dish. Puncture the bottom of each compartment of the tray and place it in the cooler or baking dish, ensuring that the ice tray isn’t touching the bottom of the cooler (prop it up or attach it to the cooler’s lip). Next, fill the ice tray and cooler with clean water and stick it in the freezer. This process will freeze the cubes first while forcing impurities out of the holes and into the surrounding water.
Saltwater freezing is similar to cooler freezing, except it freezes ice from the bottom up. First, fill a baking dish or cooler with tap water and mix in about half a cup of salt. Place this saltwater in the freezer for a few hours (saltwater takes much longer to freeze). Then fill a regular ice tray (no holes) with clean water and place the tray in the near-freezing saltwater. Let the whole thing freeze. Finally, remove the tray of ice and chip off any cloudiness that might be left on the top of the cubes.
Does all this sound like too much work? Or maybe you don’t have the necessary equipment? Read on. Below are some specialized ice trays and even ice machines that effectively make clear ice and require much less labor.
The Best Clear Ice Makers
1. glacio Clear Cube Ice Duo
This highly-rated clear ice cube maker from glacio essentially gives you the tools for the same process as the DIY options above. Just fill the whole contraption with water, place the cube mold in the top, let it freeze and remove large, clear ice. When buying the glacio kit you get two mold options; one for cubes and one for spheres. The kit is great for any cocktail or whiskey lover and makes a great gift as well.
2. ClearlyFrozen High Capacity
If you want a clear ice maker with a higher capacity, check out this kit from ClearlyFrozen. The tray yields 10 two-inch ice cubes which are sure to come in handy for making multiple cocktails (say, at a party). The only downside is that the whole contraption is larger than the glacio, requiring about a foot by six inches of space in your freezer.
3. Sentern Portable Countertop Clear Ice Machine
The best option for making clear ice is a dedicated countertop machine. They yield far more ice in as little as 15 minutes and require almost zero effort. Some, such as this one from Sentern, even produce ice of three different sizes. To use the Sentern, simply fill the 2.2-liter water tank and switch it on. In 15 minutes you’ll have clear ice, with enough for the whole family or a small party. Plus, the Sentern comes at a very reasonable price tag of $200 (most clear ice machines are much more expensive).
4. Luma Comfort Portable Clear Ice Maker
Another great clear ice maker is this machine from Luma Comfort. It’s slightly more powerful than the Sentern, producing 28 pounds of clear, cubed ice per day. Plus, the minimal stainless steel design looks good in most kitchens, offices or man caves. Reviewers say the storage capacity is great and the machine is very easy to use, although they do recommend using reverse osmosis or pre-filtered and distilled water as the machine’s built-in filter isn’t the best.
5. NewAir ClearIce40
The best at-home clear ice maker is this ClearIce40 from NewAir. The high-quality machine boasts a professional output of 40 pounds of ice per day, ensuring more than enough for most households and parties. NewAir’s machine also scores well in terms of filtration, using chilled coils that remove impurities. Still, using pre-filtered water will up the quality even more. And even though the machine puts out far more ice than our other picks, the size remains approximately the same.