Why Is My Ice Cloudy?

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Wondering how to get your ice at home as clear as the restaurant version? Making perfectly transparent ice requires a lot more than just a freezer and some water. When you dig into the science of cloudy ice, you’ll start to see that timing is everything.

Filtered Water

The first step in getting clearer ice at home is to use filtered water or water purified by reverse osmosis. As with any recipe, it’s important to use the best ingredients possible. The formula for ice is no different. If you’re noticing cloudy drinking water, be sure to check your water quality. Installing the right water system can help you get rid of any impurities in your tap water and it’ll help make your ice look and taste a lot better.

That being said, you might still have problems with hazy ice cubes even if you already have a good home water filter. That doesn’t necessarily mean your ice is dirty. That’s just the way ice forms. Sure, unfiltered tap water tends to make cloudier cubes, but clear filtered water can still look cloudy when frozen. That’s because the ice is full of tiny air bubbles. Filtering your water gets rid of impurities, but it can’t stop the cloudy bubbles from forming when water crystallizes into ice. In order to make clear ice, you have to really pay attention to the freezing method.

Traditional Methods

Some people try to minimize the amount of air bubbles clouding up their ice by boiling their water first. The idea is that a hard boil will release extra air from the liquid and encourage the water molecules to bond even closer together in the freezer. You simply boil your water once, let it cool, and then boil it a second time (and let it cool) before pouring it in your ice molds. This helps a little bit, but the boiled water method isn’t exactly earth shattering. With clear ice, it’s more about the way the water is frozen.

The professional ice makers use filtered water and special machines to get clear ice. Tiny jets spray water into their ice molds so the water can freeze at a slower pace than our home freezers. This stops bubbles from forming in the first place. Their freezing process is more complicated because they form their ice in layers. It’s pretty similar to how icicles form—they’re completely clear because they’re frozen slowly, layer by layer.

Clear Ice at Home

Getting a similar crystal-clear look with your ice cubes at home is tricky, but not impossible. While the layered method of ice making is best, you can significantly reduce the amount of bubbles in your home ice just by slowing the freezing process. Some people focus on directional freezing, or freezing from the top-down. They put their ice molds in a cooler, then place the cooler in their freezer. Rather than freezing from all around (or outside-in) the insulated cooler forces the freezing process to start from the top, kind of like a lake. This helps gets rid of the cloudy center that most home ice cubes have.

Unfortunately, directional freezing can still leave you with a semi-cloudy ice cube bottom. It’s not as noticeable as the regular home ice methods, but still—it’s not completely clear ice. The solution? Ice nerd Mike Palmer suggests punching a small hole in the bottom of each ice cube mold before surrounding the entire tray with water. That way, the air in the bottom of each cube can still escape.

Definitely give his clear ice method a try if you’re really bothered by your foggy cubes. Boiling water and other cooler freezing techniques just don’t give you the same results for making clear ice at home. It does takes some extra time (and some extra freezer space), but when you hear those cubes go clink in your glass, you’ll have the ice-cold satisfaction of a job well done.

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