How to Make Clear Ice at Home

If you’ve ever wondered how to make clear ice, you’ve come to the right place. Learn how to use a clear ice maker with the directional freezing method.

A large square ice cube resting in whiskey.

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How to make clear ice at home

When you’re at a cocktail bar, it’s not unusual to be served a drink with a crystal-clear ice cube that’s almost so invisible, you don’t even know it’s there.

Many cocktail bars either make their own clear ice — with the help of special pumps, motors and specialty refrigeration — or subscribe to commercial ice programs. A company freezes large quantities of clear ice and delivers already-frozen cubes in different shapes and sizes to the restaurant’s door.

If you’ve ever wondered if you could have perfectly transparent ice at home, you’ll be glad to know you absolutely can!

You don’t need a lot of special equipment for this recipe, but you will need a special ice cube tray designed for making clear ice. I’ve got some recommendations for you below.

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Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Clear ice melts slower than regular ice, so it won’t dilute your drink as quickly.
  • With fewer bubbles and cracks, clear ice provides a quieter and more pleasant drinking experience.
  • You’ll learn to make beautiful, perfect, crystal clear ice in a regular freezer at home.
  • Regular water is what’s needed for clear ice. No boiling, distilling or filtering required.
A hand holds a large clear ice cube.

What makes ice cloudy

Ice cubes have a cloudy appearance for several reasons, and the most common is water impurities. Minerals, tannins and other dissolved solids can contaminate the ice, making it look cloudy. The speed at which the water is frozen is another reason.

Ice from an ice machine or ice tray tends to have a cloudy center, with bubbles and cracks inside the cubes. There’s a scientific reason for that: The cubes freeze from the outside in.

The purest water freezes first, trapping air bubbles and impurities inside the middle of the cube. The center is the last to freeze, making the ice cube cloudy.

In this sense, using purer water — such as boiled water, distilled water, filtered water and reverse osmosis water — can help to give ice a clearer look.

There’s absolutely nothing inedible about cloudy ice cubes, but they’re not as pretty or photogenic as the clear ones.

Clear ice cubes in a silver container.

Directional freezing method

Directional freezing is the best way to make clear, restaurant-quality ice at home.

You can purchase your own clear ice maker to make clear ice at home with the directional freezing method.

Insulated on the sides and bottom, the water in the ice tray freezes from the top down, forcing air bubbles and impurities downward through holes at the bottom into a cavity underneath the tray, leaving behind clear ice cubes in the mold.

This type of ice making is the best way to make clear ice at home.

Ice crystals on ice cubes in a blue mold.

Best clear ice makers

Directional freezing ice trays are the best clear ice molds for home use. There are a number of brands selling them for making large cubes and ice spheres.

They are a great addition to the home bar or a lovely gift for a cocktail lover.

My top pick is the ClearlyFrozen Ice Tray. I purchased one a while ago and haven’t looked back. (This post is neither sponsored by them nor did they provide their clear ice cube maker to me. I simply just love it.)

It makes 10 cubes, but you can also find other molds with different sizes, quantities and a compact design. You can even get molds for making clear spheres.

Here are some other highly-rated ice makers that use the directional freezing method:

I hope to see more molds on the market with varying ice sizes, beyond large cubes and ice balls, such as the long, skinny Collins ice cubes, smaller cubes and other unusual shapes.

Best water for clear ice

Boiled water, distilled water, filtered water and even reverse osmosis water all create water with fewer impurities.

Those are a great start to making clear ice because the purest water always freezes first.

According to ClearlyFrozen, while boiled or distilled water can help to make clearer ice, directional freezing is a better option because it produces the clearest ice.

Using the directional freezing method, you can use regular tap water to make transparent ice.

How to make clear ice

Perfectly clear ice is all about timing when using a directional freezing tray.

Here’s how it works:

Water in the white base of an ice mold.

Place the plastic liner inside the insulated foam box and fill it with water, about 2 inches deep, to where it will meet the bottom of the mold.

An ice mold sitting on a blue dish towel.

Set the mold atop the liner and fill it to the top with tap water.

A closeup view of a blue ice mold filled with water.

Place the whole thing in the freezer for 16 to 18 hours, give or take. The exact time will depend on your freezer. (This may take a few tries to get right.)

Carefully, release the ice from the mold. Run cold water over the outside of the mold (trying not to get any on the ice) to help separate the ice from the mold.

A blue ice mold is pulled off of completed ice cubes.

As you can see from the photo above, the water in the bottom bin froze a little bit (but not entirely — it’s still hollow). I used cold water from the tap to melt it off the mold.

This likely happened because I waited too long to take the ice out. This was after precisely 16 hours, so I’ll need to take it out sooner next time. Freezing time will vary for everyone!

A rocks glass of bourbon with one large ice cube sits next to a gold cocktail jigger.

Tips for the clearest ice

For the clearest results, remove the tray before the ice on the bottom layer completely freezes. The bottoms may be a tiny bit uneven, but the ice will be very clear.

If you let the water freeze more than that, a few tiny clear bubbles will form, which is still very pretty — and much clearer than your fridge’s cloudy ice!

If you have multiple trays, store them side-by-side in the freezer. Stacking them will affect the directional freezing of the lower tray.

Before adding the ice to a drink, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to help prevent cracking. This is called “tempering.”

Timing tips

If you put the ice maker in the freezer the night before you need it, it should be about ready to release the next afternoon.

If you start the ice in the morning (early), it might be ready to take out of the mold by bedtime.

And if you start in the afternoon, it should be ready the next morning.

If you are planning to make a big batch of ice for large gatherings, it’s a good idea to start making ice early to ensure you have enough ice on hand.

Ice sits in a mold in a freezer.

Storing ice

Store clear ice like any other kind of ice. You can keep them in a freezer-safe ziptop bag, ice bin or ice bucket in your freezer. However, do not store the ice in the directional freezing tray.

My directional freezing tray makes 10 large cubes. I like to make two batches, then store my clear ice in a bin in my freezer.

These stacking plastic bins are a great way to store my ice cubes. This lets me separate ice cubes of different size or shape as well. (I am a cocktail blogger after all! I need ice regularly.)

Sometimes I make specialty ice, like flower ice cubes, berry ice cubes or tea ice cubes, and it’s nice to keep those in another bin away from my clear ice.

Ice cubes do tend to stick together. The sides melt slightly when ice is removed from a tray, and they will stick together when that water re-freezes. Also, in a freezer, ambient water vapor condenses on the sides of the cubes, fusing them together. Storing ice in a paper bag will help to absorb the excess moisture.

This might go without saying, but if your freezer has a built-in ice maker, don’t store large ice cubes inside the ice basket unless it is turned off. Otherwise, the large ice cubes can get stuck and potentially break the mechanisms.

A hand pours whiskey from a gold jigger over a large square ice cube in a rocks glass.

Uses for clear ice

You can use your fresh ice in just about any drink you’d add ice to anyway!

In transparent or slightly clear drinks like lemonade, a gin & tonic or a vodka soda, the ice will be close to invisible. Feel free to even add it to glasses of soda, sparkling water or infused water, too.

Large, clear ice cubes are a staple of spirit-forward drinks like the old-fashioned or the vieux carré. Because clear ice melts more slowly, the alcohol doesn’t dilute as quickly.

For the same reason, clear ice is also perfect for those who like to sip spirits on the rocks. (My favorite is Irish whiskey and my husband prefers mezcal or scotch.)

Large square ice cubes in a silver container.

FAQ

How do you make super clear ice at home?

Making clear ice at home is popular with an ice tray that utilizes the directional freezing method. The ice freezes from the top down, forcing impurities out of the ice cube and resulting in a clear ice cube.

What water makes clear ice cubes?

Impurities like air bubbles, minerals and bacteria in water cause cloudiness in ice. Boiled water and distilled water contain fewer impurities than regular tap water, making clearer ice. However, directional freezing creates the clearest ice.

How do I get my ice to be clear?

An ice tray that utilizes the directional freezing method makes the clearest ice from regular tap water in a residential freezer. If you don’t have one, boiled and distilled water both contain fewer impurities and can make less cloudy ice than regular ice cubes.

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A large square ice cube resting in whiskey.

Clear Ice for Cocktails

Yield: 10 large ice cubes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 18 hours 5 minutes
Up your cocktail presentation by learning how to make clear ice.
5 from 42 votes
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ingredients

  • 1 gallon tap water boiled water or distilled water

instructions

  • Place the plastic liner inside the insulated foam box and fill it with water, about 2 inches deep, to where it will meet the bottom of the mold.
  • Set the mold atop the liner and fill it to the top with tap water.
  • Place the whole thing in the freezer for 16 to 18 hours, give or take. The exact time will depend on your freezer. (This may take a few tries to get right.)
  • Carefully, release the ice from the mold. Run cold water over the outside of the mold (trying not to get any on the ice) to help separate the ice from the mold.

notes

Remove the tray before the ice on the bottom layer completely freezes for the clearest results. The bottoms may be a tiny bit uneven, but the ice will be very clear.
If you let the water freeze longer than that, a few tiny clear bubbles will form, which is still very pretty — and still much clearer than your fridge's cloudy ice!
If you have multiple trays, store them side-by-side in the freezer. Stacking them will affect the directional freezing of the lower tray.
Before adding the ice to a drink, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to help prevent cracking. This is called “tempering.”

recommended products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.

nutrition information

Yield: 10 large ice cubes

amount per serving:

Serving: 1ice cube Calories: 1kcal Carbohydrates: 0g Protein: 0g Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g Monounsaturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 19mg Potassium: 0mg Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Vitamin A: 0IU Vitamin C: 0mg Calcium: 11mg Iron: 0mg
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