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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Make Clear Ice Cubes

By May 16, 2013

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This ice cube is clear enough to use as a reading lens. (Anne Helmenstine)


While you are making glow in the dark ice, why not make some clear ice? There is a 'trick' to making clear ice cubes, but it isn't complicated and doesn't require an expensive restaurant ice machine. You need pure water and you need to control how it cools. The icemaker in my freezer has a water filter, but the ice cubes that it makes are opaque. My filter is relatively new, so I think that water doesn't cool at the right rate to produce clear ice or else there is a lot of air in the water. The clear ice cube in this photo was made using bottled water that had been purified using reverse osmosis (distilled water would be fine). I boiled the water to remove most of the dissolved air. I have heard that ideally you want to boil the water, let it cool, then boil it again. I got good results just boiling the water once. I let the water cool slightly so that I wouldn't burn myself spilling it, then poured it into an icecube tray and put it in my freezer. My unscientific investigation confirms that you can make clear ice by boiling and freezing purified water. I tried another tray, this time chilling the water more slowly, but that ice was milky on the bottom and clear on top. I also tried to make ice with unfiltered tap water. Let's just say the results convinced me I don't want to drink water straight from my faucet.

What can you do with clear ice? I guess you can use it as a magnifying glass. I can't say that I recommend using an ice lens for reading, unless you are reading outdoors in the dead of winter. In a pinch, you can use an ice lens to start a fire. Also... unless you like the taste of quinine, clear ice tastes a lot better in drinks than glowing ice.

Photo: This ice cube is clear enough to use as a reading lens. (Anne Helmenstine)

Comments

February 21, 2009 at 2:42 pm
(1) Bob Geldroy says:

Very interesting but who actually asked you to bore us with ice?
And why did google bring me ti this page when i wanted to find out what is inside an icecube not how to make clear ones?

March 3, 2009 at 3:14 pm
(2) Justin says:

Bob: Google did not bring you to this page, your incompetence at searching did. Just because this information is not what you sought does not make it boring, as your insultingly stupid comment suggested.

March 21, 2009 at 8:20 pm
(3) Des says:

Bob is obviously a moron.Something can’t be “very interesting” and “boring” at the same time.

May 18, 2009 at 3:13 pm
(4) Johan says:

Thanks, this is just what I’m looking for, I’m going to photograph drinks with ice so I want some nice looking cubes… going to try it right now :)

August 14, 2009 at 10:11 am
(5) Steve O says:

I have recently installed a simple 3 stage RO system under the sink and have teed it into the water delivery system to the fridge ice maker. Water quality is great but would love to have it dispense clear cubes. It has definitely helped but the disolved gas, I believed, is the culprit. Anyone know of a residential degassifier or simliar to get me my cleear cubes? Thanks all
Steve

October 7, 2009 at 12:07 am
(6) Wes says:

zero water filters will give you Clear Ice… their filtration is so good that all you have to do is pour it in the trays and freeze it. Mine comes out clear everytime…

January 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm
(7) Katie says:

Love it Mr. Hobo!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 16, 2010 at 4:39 pm
(8) Katie says:

Love it Mr Hobo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

December 17, 2010 at 9:00 am
(9) Not Bob says:

Thanks for posting your experimental results. I can start with your technique and see if that is sufficient.

September 18, 2011 at 5:29 pm
(10) Dan says:

I like clear ice, especially when I drink whisky in crystal old fashioned tumbler.

I’ve tried all the techniques listed here and elsewhere on the web and have finally come to what for me is the easiest solution, since there’s no way I’m going to boil water and wait for it to cool once, let alone twice.

I put about a gallon of filtered water in a stainless steel pail and put it in my freezer. Depending on when I ‘catch’ it, the ice may be frozen solid, in which case I simply chip the ice, saving the clear ice; or if I open the freezer at the right time, almost all the ice is clear and the rest is still water.

In that case I save the ice and refreeze the remaining water.

This method works even using tap water.

It is also better for my purposes than using an ice maker or buying commercial ice because I want chunks of ice about 2″ in diameter so they chill my drink without adding too much water to dilute the flavor.

January 29, 2012 at 6:17 am
(11) Phanes says:

And you put that ice cube on Conan of Aquilonia? That’s one of my favorite books!

September 13, 2012 at 3:02 pm
(12) Richard Cocca says:

This was EXACTLY what I was looking for ! Thank you for your knowledge and testing ! My friend uses it for Scotch, etc. It supposedly melts slower? another test ? ,and of course its a pretty cool thing !
I found SQUARE ICE CUBE forms at CHEF CENTRal
THX RC

October 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm
(13) Joey says:

Did Bob really ask what’s in an ice cube? Think about that question.

October 20, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(14) CW says:

How does hot water ever freeze

October 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm
(15) Joe says:

Johan, i realize it’s a little late to save you from the frustration of shooting real ice, but in the interest of saving others who come here for the same reason, you don’t want to use real ice on a photo shoot. since it melts it forces you to shoot fast. also if you’re using hot lights you might only have enough time to get off one or two exposures. what you want to use is acrylic fake ice cubes.

November 8, 2012 at 7:53 pm
(16) Brian says:

The fridge I have makes ice but they all come out white. It has two filters, one is in the main inlet from my water line into the fridge and the other is just before the freezer. How can I make my ice maker produce clear ice?

November 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm
(17) Jose Ortiz says:

Clear ice is insanely important for cooling carbonated beverages. Insanely.

January 19, 2013 at 1:51 am
(18) Ice Man says:

I just got these new Star Wars Death Star Ice Cube tray and looking forward to making a clear sphere.

January 26, 2013 at 11:25 pm
(19) Smarter than you says:

Well, Bob Geldroy, Google probably brought you to this site because the ‘keywords’ section contained the entry “ice”. This word was likely a word you used in your search for “what is inside of an ice cube?” (Ice cube is two words, by the way). In addition, that seems to be an obvious question, no? Isn’t frozen H2O inside of an ice cube? And furthermore, I found this site to be very descriptive of what I was looking for. I am attempting to make clear ice for a video. Why would you waste your time reading this page when the title is “Make clear ice cubes”, clearly not what you were searching for in the first place???

February 4, 2013 at 6:52 am
(20) Deathstar4ever says:

Funny enough, the Death Star moulds are the exact reason I came to this site ;)

February 27, 2013 at 10:13 pm
(21) travis says:

Great I am looking to make a clear ice lens so this really helps me.

March 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm
(22) CB says:

Far from “boring.” I was in a restaurant the other day and was drawn how the light filtered through my glass of ice water which was filled with crear ice. Now I know the secret behind this. Thanks !!

April 23, 2013 at 7:39 am
(23) Elsa B says:

I have recently discovered your webpage and am finding it so interestin g that I just want to try everything. Thank you so much.

May 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm
(24) Mike B says:

I have a mold for making ice shot glasses. thought clear ones might be fun. will have to try this, thanks for the info!

June 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm
(25) David says:

I wonder if you could “degassify” the water by placing it in a strong vacuum for a while. Someone really should invent a way to make clear ice via the built in ice maker in our refrigerators. They’d make a billion bucks!

June 25, 2013 at 10:22 pm
(26) James P. says:

Problem is, acrylic ice cubes don’t float!

July 19, 2013 at 11:24 am
(27) Mike says:

I thought it was very interesting on spot for a project that I am starting.

Bob Gelding is just a complainer. They are under every rock that one would turn over. Bob, just tap the I/O switch on your computer and take your meds.

July 26, 2013 at 9:20 am
(28) casa says:

thank you for exactly what I needed to know. Trying to make ice with fruit and flowers in it but you couldn’t really see them in the opaque Ice Cubes

August 2, 2013 at 7:17 am
(29) Whiskey River says:

AWESOME! Going to try this tonight with my daily dram! I just bought an ice sphere mold and I’ll be interested to see if I can make a perfectly clear 2.5″ sphere. Thanks for the tip!

Oh… and F*** Bob!!! What’s in an ice cube?! REALLY!?!

September 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm
(30) David says:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2TbWEEn9A

This is an easier method… directional freezing.

Note however that at the end of the demo the ice is actually not clear all the way through… there is a layer of white ice at the bottom. This is expected – this is where all the gas in the ice has finally frozen out. It would be a simple matter to cut off this frosted ice.

This I think is the best demonstration of how to do it.

October 21, 2013 at 3:50 am
(31) Chiller Thriller says:

I hate to say it but after countless tries, we actually just buy ice at the grocery store now. The science is interesting and there’s definitely the challenge, but sometimes (actually all the time) we just want clear ice in our drinks. We’re spoiled. The taste is good and pure and it doesn’t screw up everything else in the freezer. Keep up with the good fight though!

January 28, 2014 at 5:33 pm
(32) Physafilm says:

It is possible, under certain conditions, to make a microwave oven work in a particular way to generate cold and make ice cubes.

January 30, 2014 at 5:28 am
(33) Physafilm says:

It is possible, under certain conditions, to make a microwave oven work in a particular way to generate cold and make ice cubes.

February 9, 2014 at 12:44 am
(34) ADP says:

Some of the above comments made me laugh so hard. Awesome.

March 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm
(35) Karen Valentini says:

Some people just like to complain and thinks it makes them “cool” . Whereas just the opposite comes through. I choose not to validate them with a reply ! This was interesting even though I swayed from my original search, intentionally . Enjoy learning new things.. Thanks!

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