We often take the ice for granted: It’s there in the fridge whenever we need it, whether it’s to cool down a drink or make our favorite iced coffee. But it makes sense that not everybody knows how to make good ice at home.
It all starts with having some water on hand. You don’t want any old water, though—you’ll want to be boiled, boiled water if you’re going for the best results possible. Then, all you have to do is freeze it! For best results, I’ve found that using a cube mold is best—fill your tray with cubes and then put them in the freezer until frozen through.
What’s the Difference Between Ice Made at Home and Ice in Restaurants?
There’s a big difference between the two. The ice you buy from a restaurant is generally made from water that has been filtered to remove dirt and impurities. The ice you make at home may be made from tap water or, if you’re lucky, distilled water—distilled water is also known as demineralized water, meaning it doesn’t contain any minerals. Distilled water makes for better ice because it doesn’t absorb flavors from food and beverages stored in the freezer—you may have noticed that fruit-flavored iced teas never taste as good out of an iced tea maker as they do in a glass. If you want the freshest ice possible, use distilled water.
If you want to make iced tea or iced coffee, I recommend using distilled water for the best results. Keep in mind that if your tap water is hard, it can be difficult to make chilled ice-chilled tap-water makes for better coffee iced drinks. If your tap water is soft or hard, don’t try to make it into ice cubes—it will taste terrible! If you’re making ice for drinks, I recommend making your ice in advance, although this isn’t necessary if you’re only making one drink at a time.
Why Is Good Ice Important for a Drink?
Ice is important because it provides us with an extra layer of coolness in the summer. However, ice is more than just a way to keep drinks cold. It also acts as a filter—in fact, many restaurants will use crushed ice in their iced drinks because it looks better and doesn’t dilute them as quickly (although there is some debate about this point). If you like your drinks strong and your ice to melt slowly, then crushed ice is probably your best bet for keeping things cool at home—it’s also better for frozen cocktails like margaritas and daiquiris.
Is It Safe to Make Ice at Home?
Yes! I don’t recommend it, though—brewing your own ice is a lot of work, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of making homemade ice, I recommend buying it from a store. Ice that’s made at home may not be as pure as ice that’s produced using professionals’ methods (and it certainly isn’t as pure as iced tea made with bottled water), but it’s totally safe.
But my friends drink iced coffee and iced tea at restaurants all the time! Why should I make my own?
Sure, they like their drinks at the restaurant, but your friends probably drink those same drinks at home too. Why use an iced tea pitcher that you’ve paid for when you can use a glass, or better yet, make your own iced tea? You can make your own iced coffee or iced tea at home too!
I don’t recommend buying ice trays (or making them yourself) ahead of time. It’s much easier to make chilled water and then chill it in the freezer—you’ll get better results that way. If you want to buy ice cubes, I recommend using cold-pack ice cube trays (I like the ones made by Bormioli Rocco).
You can also buy pre-chilled water—this is especially useful if you’re making large amounts of ice at once.
How to Make Good Ice at Home?
Now that you know why you should make good ice and how to do it, here’s what to do:
Chill your water as quickly as possible—boiled water is best for making ice. While the water is chilling, put all of your materials in a bowl or on a plate. For best results, take care so as not to introduce any dirt or other particles into the mixture. Then, measure out your water. As for how much to use, I’ve found that 1/8-cup fits perfectly into a cube mold.
Using a small spoon, dump the chilled water into the bowl or plate so that it mixes with all of your ice cube ingredients. You can use your hands if you’d like—just take precautions so as not to introduce any dirt or particles into the mix. Use a sharp knife or a spoon to cut out as much as possible. I generally use the backside of a butter knife, but you can also use scissors or anything else that’s clean and sharp. Make sure you tilt the ice cube tray so that the cubes will fall into the mold—if it isn’t possible, don’t make these cubes.
Once your mixture is ready, put it in the freezer immediately! You may want to cover it with plastic wrap if you’re worried about leaks from condensation. Leave at least 2 inches from the rim of any holes in your tray so that air can circulate around them enough to keep them from molding—they won’t form cracks if there is air circulation. If your ice starts to form water droplets, the temperature of your freezer is too hot. Adjust it accordingly.
Once your ice cubes are frozen, take them out of the freezer and use them immediately (remember that good ice melts quickly!). Heat-sensitive foods like milk will dissolve your ice cubes, however, which may be undesirable—if you’d like to use heat-sensitive foods with your cubes, then I recommend using crushed ice.
What Makes Cubes Cloudy?
If you look at your cubes closely, you’ll notice that they’re a little cloudy. What you see in the picture above is actually a layer of ice on top of the water—this is called scum. Ice in a drink melts slowly when it’s in a drink, but when it’s in an ice cube/cubes, it melts quickly, and because the water below the cube is already cold from being prepared earlier, there’s nothing to push these cubes from their frozen state into their melted state.
As long as you make good ice—in other words, make good water for use in your cubes—then your cubes will maintain their clarity well after they’ve been consumed.
Ice cube trays are an easy solution to this problem. Take your clear ice cubes out of the freezer, wash, dry, and store them in a clear container that will keep them dry when you use them. You can even put tweezers into the tray to grab the frozen cube when you need it, which is especially helpful when you are in a rush! Making homemade ice squares is actually quite easy.