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How we tested clear ice making
To find the best way to make clear ice, we tested different methods side-by-side in the Good Housekeeping Institute Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab. We began by comparing how different types of water (spring water, distilled water, tap and boiled tap water) performed in standard ice cube trays after being frozen overnight.
None of these options yielded perfectly clear results, though we found that all types of water produced clear edges and cloudy centers (instead of being cloudy throughout). We then followed up by freezing the same waters in a directional freezing ice cube tray, filling each column with a different type of water. We left these to freeze overnight as well, then compared them immediately after removing from the mold, five minutes after removing, ten minutes after removing and finally, 15 minutes after removing.
We found that spring water produced the clearest results, though both tap or boiled tap water were fairly clear (aside from a few bubbles and cracks). Only distilled water failed to come out perfectly clear. Instead, it appeared to be filled with cracks running down the middle of the cube.
After all that, we refilled both the directional freezing tray and a standard ice tray with spring water, froze them overnight and served each with a tablespoon of whiskey to see if there was a difference in taste. Our testers did not notice a discernible difference in quality, though they did report that the drinks with the directional freezing tray cubes tasted stronger.
Why make clear ice?
The benefits of clear ice are mostly aesthetic, though some bartenders and whiskey enthusiasts say clear ice melts more slowly, so your drink stays stronger for longer. (Though we think it’s important to note that the slower melting could be due to the difference in surface area between the different shapes of ice.) Some pros also say that ice becomes cloudy when there are “impurities” present and that in turn can affect the taste of your drink, though in our testing we found any taste difference between clear and cloudy ice to be negligible.
What is directional freezing?
In our testing, we found the easiest method of obtaining crystal-clear ice is through a process called directional freezing. That basically means the water freezes from top to bottom — not unlike how a lake freezes over in cold weather. As the water freezes, anything that would make the ice cloudy settles to the bottom, leaving the top clear. A directional freezing ice cube tray has excess space under the mold that allows for any sediment to settle, so you can pop perfectly clear ice out of the upper silicone mold.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
During her time working at the Good Housekeeping Institute, Abigail Bailey has tested, researched and written about everything from Japanese knives to hammocks. For this story, she spent several days conducting side-by-side testing of various clear ice freezing methods. She loves the look and taste of an expertly crafted cocktail, and often entertains her whiskey enthusiast father and brother.
Assistant to the General Manager
In addition to her job as the assistant to the general manager of the Good Housekeeping Institute, Abigail is also currently working toward her master of science in publishing in digital and print media at NYU. Prior to joining GH in 2022, she worked at LSU Press and The Southern Review. In her free time you can find her quilting, knitting, cross-stitching or working on any manner of craft.
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