In this yet another post on our cooler blog, we'll explain what is clear ice, why is it so special and what are the key differences of clear ice vs white ice (or clear ice vs cloudy ice, if you prefer this call the regular ice this way).
We recently published an in-depth guide to choosing the best clear ice maker for home, and we thought it makes sense to elaborate a bit more on this type of ice.
Here we go!
What is Clear Ice?
Clear ice, also known as gourmet ice, is exactly what the name suggests. The ice is crystal clear without a hint of cloudiness to it.
Of course, many people think that the only reason it’s so popular is how good it looks. Of course, there’s more to the story, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Let’s take a minute to explore the process of freezing, and why clear ice is so clear in the first place.
Why is Clear Ice So Clear?
When you freeze regular ice (or rather freeze ice the regular way), the freezing water tends to push the contaminants and the air away to the unfrozen part. This is because pure water has a set freezing point, which is 0 degrees Celsius.
At this temperature, the water molecules begin to band together and arrange themselves in a regular crystal lattice. There is no room in this lattice for invaders such as minerals, dust particles, and air, so they are pushed out of the lattice.
Now, as this happens, the freezing water is left clear. This would be well and good, and the majority of water would be clear.
The reason the ice cubes in your home aren’t so clear is that they freeze in a very particular direction, which is from the outside in.
The water on the outside freezes first, and pushes the contaminants and air further in, and so on until all of those are trapped in the center, where they cannot escape As a result, all the impurities are contained in the ice cube and it becomes cloudy when it might have been clear. From this, you can see that clear ice is actually the natural state of ice. Cloudiness is the abomination.
Clear ice forms in layers. In fact, it forms quite frequently in nature. If you’ve ever seen icicles in the winter, then you’ll have noticed how remarkably clear they are. So beautiful!
Now, there are a couple of reasons why icicles are the way they are.
Pure Water & Slow Freezing
The first is that icicles are made out of pure water, which comes from the melted snow. The second is that icicles are formed in layers. Water freezes in a seed layer, then more water drips down that layer and freezes, then more, and so one.
The freezing doesn’t happen all at once, and so no bubbles or impurities are trapped in the water. In fact, as the water freezes, any possible impurities that may be contained in it are pushed out.
And since the water freezes from the inside out, the impurities end up on the outside of the icicle, rather than the inside.
The clear icicles formed in ice makers are very much the same. The water freezes in a single direction, rather than omnidirectionally (when water freezes from the outside in, it mimics a sphere, which is like freezing from all directions at once as it moves inward).
The ice maker freezes it in layers to remove any bubbles that may be contained in it, as well as impurities.
All these impurities and air bubbles are pushed to the outside to avoid them being trapped in the ice.
In this way, how clear an ice cube is can act as an indicator of how clean it is. Cloudiness indicates either trapped air or trapped impurities, or both. Sometimes these impurities will even contain unpleasant odors.
This type of ice is therefore much healthier than cloudy ice to consume. It has fewer impurities, less air, and even fewer bacteria.
Perfect For Drinks
Whatever your ice needs, whether you love to do some mixology in the comfort of your home, happen to be a serious drinker, or just happen to prefer healthy ice overall, this type of ice is a great choice for all of your ice needs.
Clear Ice vs White Ice (Cloudy Ice)
There are lots of great plusses to clear ice vs white ice, or the regular, cloudy ice, depending on how you call it.
First, clear ice is formed in layers and has little to no air trapped inside it. It is, therefore, denser than regular ice.
Also, air trapped in ice tends to accelerate the melting of the ice. This is a huge advantage as this type of ice can melt up to 5 times slower than regular cloudy ice. Your drinks will stay longer for way longer on clear ice than on regular ice.
Regular ice can also contain some bad odors, especially when the water used has too many impurities. Because the lack of impurities is built right into how clear ice is made, you don’t have to worry about odors.
If you’ve ever used ice cubes in your drink that has that terrible refrigerator taste, then you know just how much they can ruin a good drink.
In fact, pure water is such an important part of making clear ice that some clear ice makers go the extra mile and come with a water filter to make sure the water that makes the ice is pure.
Some units will even come with a specialized alert system that tells you when you need to clean your ice maker, or whether the quality of your water is right for making ice.
A point of caution should be made to hear, by the way: clear ice is much denser than regular ice. As a result, it’s not as easy to nibble on as regular ice.
This isn’t the chewy nugget-type ice you’re used to, and you could seriously injure yourself by chipping a tooth.
Perhaps on this one note, regular ice is better than clear ice. If you want chewy ice, or want to make slushies, then you’re better off with nugget ice (see our post about best nugget ice makers)
So, just to recap, what are the major advantages of clear ice over regular ice?
- It melts slower
Because of how dense this ice is, and the fact that it contains mainly water and not air or impurities, it can maintain its lower temperature for far longer than regular ice. As a result, it keeps your drinks colder for longer and is unlikely to water down your drink.
- It tastes better
Clear ice is made mainly of pure water and includes neither air nor impurities nor odors. It doesn’t have that bad refrigerator taste that we all hate. It helps your drink, whiskey especially, maintain its taste integrity.
- It’s healthier
This is based on the same points. Because this type of ice is lacking in impurities and air, it is overly healthier to consume than regular ice. It’s just pure water.
- It looks cooler
It has a greater visual appeal than regular ice. And since it isn’t as easy to make as regular ice, you’ll definitely be getting a lot of compliments and curious questions from your guests about how clear your ice is.
How To Make Clear Ice
At the heart of the process of making clear ice are three important things:
- water should be as clean as possible, preferably pure,
- water should freeze in a single direction,
- water should freeze at its freezing point and slowly so as to avoid getting air trapped in the ice cube.
If you think about it, as long as you can achieve these two, you should be able to clear ice in a variety of ways.
And there actually are a variety of inexpensive ways to do this. Here are some of the most popular methods.
This method involves boiling water twice to remove all the impurities and air. Boil it the first time, let it cool down (keep it covered so it doesn’t collect any dirt on the surface), and then boil it again. Let it cool down, pour it into an ice mold or tray, and cover it in a plastic wrap to prevent impurities collecting on the surface.
Put it in a freezer, set the temperature as close to 0 degrees Celsius as you can (usually the highest freezer setting is about -1 degree Celsius), and let it freeze over several hours. You should have your clear ice cube at the end.
This method depends on top-down freezing and requires a hard-sided cooler that’s small enough to fit in a freezer. The cooler insulates the water, forcing it to freeze from the top downwards.
Start by lacing an ice mold or tray at the bottom of the cooler and leave the cooler open. Fill the mold or tray with water. Distilled or boiled water is best. Pour some water into the bottom of the cooler to surround the ice mold and seal it off so cold air can’t freeze the bottom or sides of the ice mold.
Now place the open cooler in the freezer and set the freezer too as high a temperature as possible and leave it for about 24 hours.
At the end, take out the cooler, remove the ice block around your mold, and get your clear cubes. Each cube should have a thin cloudy layer, which you can easily chip off, but the rest of it should be crystal clear.
High Temperature Method
This method is probably the simplest of all. Start by setting your freezer to the warmest temperature setting possible, which should be just below freezing at -1 degree Celsius.
Next, fill an ice mold or tray with water (preferably boiled or distilled but tap water will also work) and put it in the freezer. Leave it there for 24 hours. The slow rate of freezing will force impurities out of the ice and produce clear cubes.
Here is the easiest way to make clear ice cubes at home.
All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. All company, product and service names used in this website are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.
It is our policy to make every effort to respect the copyrights of outside parties. If you believe that your copyright has been misused, please provide us with a message stating your position and we will endeavor to correct any misuse immediately.
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep this website alive. Learn more here.