How To Make Gourmet Ice Cubes At Home
With the festive season fast approaching, many people are likely to engage in lots of celebratory feasting and drinking. When it comes to drinks, few things matter as much as the quality of ice used. After all, keeping the drinks cold for as long as possible with clean, clear ice cubes is of absolute importance.
With the houses in America having open-concept floorplans, hidden designated space for a large commercial ice maker is turning into a rare and expensive option. Luckily, gourmet ice making at home can still yield great results, even without using big commercial-grade machines. Check out Ice Makers Hub for many possibilities.
Anyone who has ever watched a liquor or whiskey commercial will notice the perfect gourmet ice cubes used in those commercials. It is not uncommon for people to assume that the advertising company has heavily edited or photo-shopped the cubes. This is until one goes to a premium cocktail bar and notices that the ice cubes are just as clear. They look like they are right out of a commercial.
Most cocktail bars use relatively expensive commercial grade machines to make huge ice blocks, which then break up into more sizable chunks. While homeowners looking to make perfect gourmet ice can opt to buy these ice-making machines, it is a costly option and one that requires lots of space. However, as an alternative countertop or under-the-counter ice machines are affordable options for the American homeowner.
Explanations of Cloudy Ice
Most people who attempt gourmet ice making at home soon realize that the resulting ice appears cloudy and sometimes even turns into a pale white shade. For many, this cloudy appearance is aesthetically unappealing, while others may falsely point it out as proof that the ice has gone “bad.”
The truth is that it is not dangerous, and most importantly, there is a science behind the cloudiness. One of the most commonly cited reasons for the cloudiness is the impurities in the water.
According to some experts, when water that has impurities such as dissolved minerals and gases is frozen, the impurities are pushed to the center of the cube. All this is based on the fact that water normally freezes from the outside going in.
Nonetheless, many critics are quick to point out that those impurities are the bottom of the list when it comes to the causes of cloudy ice. According to these critics, there are three other significant explanations behind the cloudy appearance.
1. Ice Crystal Formation
Ice cubes are water molecules that have undergone crystallization. In most cases, ice-making at home involves fast freezing to cater to immediate demands. When rapid freezing takes place, different crystals form in multiple locations at the same time. This results in a misalignment of ice crystals. For example, some crystals may form inside other crystals.
Subsequently, this misalignment leads to cracks and imperfections at the points where the different crystals meet. The cracks and imperfections leave the ice cubes with a cloudy appearance.
2. The Effects of Super-Cooling
As noted earlier, ice making at home often involves people cooling ice fast to meet immediate demands. In fact, many freezers pride themselves on the ability to super-cool. Super-cooling is best defined as the exposure of liquid water to temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. Water exposed to super-cooling forms smaller crystal structures that are also less clear than those of water frozen slowly. In fact, scientists are in consensus that large and clear ice crystals only form when ice freezes at the normal freezing point of water, i.e., zero degrees Celsius.
3. The Expansion of Water
Research has long established that liquid water is denser than ice. This means that ice occupies more space for the same mass of water. Simply put, as water is undergoing the freezing process, it also expands.
It is important to note that these three factors have one thing in common; they all depend on a great deal on the speed at which water is frozen. Super-cooling or fast freezing undoubtedly results in cloudy ice.
Why Bother With Perfect Gourmet Ice Anyway?
Some argue that ice-making at home is a process of convenience and that there are no notable differences between the clear and cloudy ice. The truth is that these sentiments do not hold any water. There are some notable differences between clear gourmet ice and cloudy ice.
Foremost, the beauty of clear ice is that people can see right through. This clearness is associated with purity and exquisiteness. The lack of cracks and impurities also makes clear ice more aesthetically pleasing than cloudy ice.
Secondly, and more significantly, the lack of impurities and gas bubbles in clear ice cubes means that they take longer to melt. This is significant for one main reason; people can keep their drinks colder for longer.
Thirdly, clear ice has fewer or no cracks and air bubbles. Subsequently, perfect ice does not break into smaller pieces easily. This is unlike cloudy ice, which quickly disintegrates into smaller chunks of ice. These smaller chunks of ice dissolve and dilute the drink faster. Clear ice, therefore, helps to maintain the flavor of the drink for longer.
Ice Making At Home: A Comparison Of Techniques
Perfect gourmet ice is not only accessible at classy cocktail bars. On the contrary, homeowners can clearly (or, in some cases, near clear) ice right in the comfort of their homes. Over the years, people have proposed some techniques meant to help homeowners make perfect ice at home. Some of the most common of these techniques include;
Using Boiling/Boiled Water
According to proponents of this technique, boiling water reduces the water of impurities such as dissolved gases. They believe that the removal of dissolved gases leads to clear ice cubes. Other proponents of this technique recommend using a boiling filter or bottled water to get the best results. Some even suggest boiling water twice. Boiling water and letting it cool before freezing it is also known as degassing.
Unfortunately, available evidence suggests that homeowners may not get good results in their pursuit of perfect ice using this technique. For example, some experts have established that boiling tap water once does not affect the clearness of the ice. On the other hand, boiling tap water twice yields slightly clearer ice with the cloud noticeably at the center.
Experts have made the same observations with distilled water. When boiled once, the cubes were still as cloudy as regular cubes. When boiled twice, however, distilled water yielded far much clearer ice than double-boiled tap water. However, many people who have attempted this technique still observe a small cloud towards the bottom side of the cube.
This technique is based on the argument that impurities significantly contribute to cloudiness in ice cubes. While it is true that impurities in the water contribute to the formation of cloudy ice cubes, experts agree that it is not a significant factor.
To prove this, experts point to the crystal clear nature of icicles found hanging from trees or drainpipes during winter.
The water that forms these icicles is not boiled, but it is also exposed to numerous impurities in the environment.
Despite all this, these icicles still end up with a crystal clear appearance. Homeowners can, therefore, not depend wholly on this technique to make perfect and crystal clear ice. However, for relatively clearer ice cubes, boiling distilled water twice offers the best results.
Slow Cooling using a Cooler
Science dictates that when water is cooled too quickly, it cannot push away impurities from the freezing interface, hence affecting the ice’s cloudiness. It ensures that water freezes at a slower pace allowing air bubbles to escape.
The technique is also based on the premise of water cooling from the outside to the inside. Therefore, the technique tries to ensure that impurities are pushed towards one direction rather than in multiple directions. This is known as directional cooling.
The process starts with one purchasing an insulated cooler that can fit in the freezer. Many experts also recommend buying a cooler that has hard-sides. The next step is to remove the lid from the cooler and next, to fill it with water at least three-quarters full.
Many experts recommend using boiled distilled or filtered water to eliminate the possibility of impurities increasing the ice’s cloudiness. The third step is to place the cooler into the freezer without the lid on and leave it for between 12 and 14 hours.
Although one could wait until all the water freezes, some experts suggest getting the ice out before the cloud starts forming at the bottom of the cooler. If one chooses to let the cloud form, it is still possible to scrape it off with a serrated knife.
After removing the cooler from the freezer, homeowners should let it rest for between 5 and 30 minutes. This allows the ice to melt a bit and subsequently allow the person to slide the ice out of the cooler. Lastly, one should place the ice block onto a cookie sheet (or any other sufficient surface) and break it up into smaller chunks or cubes.
Some advocates of this technique recommend using an ice tray or mold to make lesser quantities of ice. One should then fill the tray/mold with water. It is also important to ensure that the area around the tray is filled with water. This ensures that cold air does not freeze the tray from the sides or the bottom.
For the best results, experts recommend setting the freezer temperature between -3 degrees Celsius and -8 degrees Celsius. This method also yields clear and perfect gourmet ice cubes with the cloudiness pushed to the bottom where one can scrape it off.
Putting water into the cooler ensures that the freezing process only takes place from top to bottom. Additionally, the cloud of impurities often forms during the end stages of the freezing process. This means that not letting the ice-block freeze completely may result in significantly less cloudiness.
Most importantly, however, the combination of slow and directional cooling ensures that the cloud of impurities is collected at one end of the cube. One can then cut off these cloudy parts away and remain with a crystal clear ice block.
Another huge advantage of this technique is that it allows homeowners to make a huge amount of ice in one go. Based on results that experts have experienced with this method, it is, by far, the most reliable ice-making technique at home.
Using Salt as an Insulator
Most people are unaware of this technique. However, just like the cooler method, it is founded mainly on the concept of directional cooling. This technique is also based on the premise that adding salt into water lowers its freezing point to below zero degrees Celsius. Advocates of this method suggest two main methods.
In both methods, two containers are needed; a larger one for the saltwater and a smaller one that acts as the ice tray. Alternatively, one could use a container large enough for the ice tray to float in completely. In the first method, one fills the smaller container with water, floats it in the container containing saltwater, and places it in the freezer.
In this method, the saltwater acts as an insulator and ensures that the ice freezes from the top going down. Experts recommend using big amounts of salt to achieve better results. Like the cooler method, this technique pushes the cloud of impurities to the bottom, where one can then scrape it out easily.
In the second method, individuals are meant to place the saltwater container into a freezer for at least 3 hours to lower its temperature. The second step then involves one boiling water and letting it cool before pouring it into an ice tray/smaller container.
Thirdly, one should float the ice tray or container over the ice solution in the freezer. Adherents of this technique claim that the cold saltwater allows for the ice tray to cool from bottom to the top. According to these experts, this form of directional cooling eliminates air pockets. Subsequently, they assert that this technique yields perfect ice cubes that are crack-free and strong.
This technique and particularly the first method of the technique is quite similar to the cooler technique. Therefore, it is very likely to yield good results for those interested in ice making at home. Although the second method seems to make sense, theoretically, not many experts can confirm its reliability. The second method of using salt water as an insulator is subject to more experiments and trials.
As established, gourmet ice making at home is often a tricky task. However, with the right technique and attention to detail, homeowners can comfortably make perfect gourmet ice cubes in their homes. Perhaps it is also advisable to note that many experts consider sphere-shaped ice better than ice cubes. This is because sphere-shaped ice takes longer to melt thanks to its smaller surface area to volume ratio.