Complete Guide to Making Ice Cubes

Almost everyone likes a nice cool drink from time to time. That often involves putting a lot of ice in the drink to cool it or keep it cool. Many people don’t give a lot of thought into how all that ice is made or the wide variety of ice types available. 

Types Of Ice

There are many different types of ice you can get or make. While most ice is just frozen water, the shape can make a difference in the way it cools or how you may want to use it. Some types work better than others for certain things.

Standard Cube

This is the typical ice cube that most people are accustomed to seeing. You’ll find it in ice trays in freezers everywhere. This type of ice is great for things like a tall glass of ice tea or packing in your cooler for a weekend at the lake. You can crush this ice easily, toss it in a plastic bag to use on a swollen ankle, or use it as your go-to for almost anything. 

Standard cubes melt slowly, which makes them ideal to keep drinks cool without watering them down. This also means they don’t cool quite as quickly as some other types of ice. Because of their size (typically 1-1.25 inches on the long side), they work well when you need a large volume of ice.

Dice Or Regular Cube

These are typically symmetrical cubes, usually around the same size as standard dice or just slightly larger. This kind of ice is common at restaurants, in bagged ice, and gas stations. Many ice machines and ice makers built into refrigerators produce this kind of ice.

This kind of ice melts slowly, like the standard cube. It provides some of the best cooling over time, and doesn’t water down drinks as much as some other kinds of faster melting ice. Dice shaped ice works well in most of the areas that standard cubes work, such as filling a cooler or icing wounds.

Half Cube

Half cubes are typically around half the size of the dice. Think of the dice shaped ice split perfectly down the middle. Some people compare them to a pat of butter in size. Many restaurants and drink dispensers use this kind of ice. They melt faster and cool faster than the larger cubes, but they last much longer than the flakes or nuggets. 

The size of this kind of ice makes it a common type in self-serve drink machines and home ice makers. It dispenses easily and works well all around. 

Nugget

Nuggets are small, cylindrical chunks of ice. Some people may also call this type of ice pellets or pebbles. It is easy to make, cools quickly, but also melts quickly. Many restaurants use this kind of ice because of its quick cooling abilities. Being small, the individual nuggets pack more tightly into a cup, allowing more ice for the amount of liquid. 

Nugget ice is much softer than many other kinds of ice, making it popular with people who like to chew their ice. It also lasts a lot longer and melts slower than flaked ice. One advantage nuggets have over many other kinds of ice is that they tend to absorb the flavor of the drink they are in.

Flakes

Flaked ice is ice shaved into tiny slivers. The flaked ice is similar to what you would find in a sno-cone. This kind of ice melts quickly in a drink, but lasts a longer period of time if used dry to cover produce or fresh poultry in a market. It is light and airy, almost like snow. 

Flake ice is often used when shipping seafood and vegetables. You can find this kind of ice in buffets, where they pack it in around bowls to keep things like salads fresh and at a safe temperature. You can also use it to make sno-cones, though those are commonly made with slightly larger ice crystals.

Crescent 

Crescent shaped ice is thinner ice, shaped basically like a half moon. Some restaurants use this kind of ice because of its ability to fill in a glass and conform to the curved sides. It melts slowly and doesn’t pack together. 

You might find this kind of ice in a bar or convenience store. Many people like it because it tends to produce less splash when pouring than you get when you use cubes. But these ice pieces are large, so they may not work well if you are placing them in small containers.

Other Shapes

There are a variety of ice trays and ice makes which make ice in different shapes and sizes than those above. While they all have their uses, most of these are just for the appearance or the novelty factor. Ice shaped like a star or ice shaped like a fish may seem unique, but for the most part cool similar to their nearest-sized common shape from above.

The exception to this may be some specialty ice. There are trays designed to make ice that fits through the neck of a bottle, for example. Special use cases like this are not the most common, but there are many novelty trays available with fun shapes for kids.

Whiskey Stones And Reusable Cubes

What whiskey stones, and reusable cubes have in common is that they are types of reusable, non-melting ways to cool your drink. They aren’t technically ice, they take the place of it. A major advantage all of these have is that they do not melt into your drink, and therefore do not dilute it.

Whiskey stones are actually small stones. You place them in the freezer to chill. Then just place them into your drink, where they take the place of the ice.

Reusable cubes can come in many forms, but many of them are stainless steel. With these, just like the whiskey stones, you place them in the freezer to chill them. Then, when you are ready to use them, place them in your drink and it will cool it in place of normal ice.

You can wash both the whiskey stones and reusable cubes, then place them back in the freezer for use again later on.

Light-Up Cubes

These are usually reusable, like the whiskey stones and reusable cubes. How they differ is that they have small lights inside. You can drop them into drinks to add a little dazzle to your glass.

Be cautious when using light-up cubes. You shouldn’t freeze most of them before use. They only add decorative flare to your drink and will not cool it. 

Clear Vs. Cloudy Ice

When you go to a restaurant or get your ice from a convenience store you may notice that it is almost completely clear. This is in contrast to a lot of ice you make in a tray at home, which may come out frosted looking or hazy. Whether it is clear or cloudy can make a difference in the flavor of the ice, not just the appearance.

Clear ice often tastes better than cloudy ice. Sometimes cloudy ice tastes freezer burned or musty. Part of the reason for this is how it is frozen. Air particles trapped inside the water while it freezes can cause cloudy ice. This causes a structural change in how the ice crystals form, affecting the appearance and flavor.

One way to get clear ice at home is to raise the temperature so that the ice freezes very slowly. To do this, set your freezer temperature as high as 30 degrees. This makes the ice freeze over many hours instead of the quick freezing you are used to. But this method could cause problems if you have a freezer full of food, since this is not an ideal temperature to keep frozen foods.

A better method may be to use a cooler in your freezer. Just use a typical small cooler you’d take to a picnic or to keep your drinks cool when you head out to a ball game. Fill an ice tray with water and place the tray into the cooler. Add more water around the outside of the tray to help insulate it. Then place the entire cooler–lid open or removed–into the freezer. This will cause the ice to freeze from the top-down and freeze more slowly, which will create clearer ice.

Another method is to ditch the ice tray altogether and just fill the cooler with water. This uses the same kind of cooler as above, but creates one large block of ice. You can then chip it away with an ice pick to a size that fits your needs.

Whenever creating clear ice, it is best to use distilled water. Minerals in normal tap water can cause part of the cloudiness, so it is best to eliminate that as a possible cause. You can also boil your water to remove air bubbles before freezing. Some go as far as letting it cool, then boiling it again to make sure to remove even more air bubbles. Once cooled, you can put it in your tray or cooler and freeze it as described above. 

Ways To Make Ice

The option to purchase a premade bag from a grocery store or convenience store is a good choice if you are attending an event and need a larger supply of ice than your freezer or ice maker at home can easily supply. But if you want to make your own ice at home, try one of the methods below.

Ice Tray

This one is simple, and nearly everyone already knows how this method works. Fill a tray with water and put it into your freezer. After a couple of hours you have ice. There are standard ice trays, but you can also find trays of different sizes and shapes, and there are also trays with a cover to help prevent spilling the water before it freezes.

Bowl Or Cup

You can fill a small bowl or cup part of the way up and place it in the freezer. One downside to this is that the ice produced may be quite large, depending on the bowl or cup size. This may be an advantage if you are using the ice inside a large cooler.

Resealable Bag

If you need large or medium chunks of ice to cool inside a cooler or to ice an injury, this is a good option. Just take your simple resealable, water-tight plastic bag, fill part of the way with water, then place in the freezer. 

Egg Carton

This is a little more work than the previous alternatives. Use aluminum foil to line each cup where the eggs would normally sit. Then fill carefully with water just like a normal tray. 

Other Containers

Almost any container you can think of you can use to make ice. Be creative. Look around in your kitchen and see what kind of containers work well for water. If they will hold up to freezing, you can likely use them to make ice.

Ice Maker

One of the easiest ways to get ice in your home is an ice maker. This can be a standalone or built-in to the refrigerator. There are a variety of different ice makers available, and different ice makers can make different sizes and shapes of ice. 

Stand Alone ice makers vary in how much they cost, the type of ice they make, and the amount of ice they can make each day. These models vary from the light weight portable models to the heavier countertop models.

A typical lower cost model, such as the Frigidaire EFIC103 produces bullet-shaped cubes. That model produces three different sizes of ice, while some similar low-cost ice makers like the Magic Chef MCIM22 produce two sizes. 

Most of the lower cost models produce the bullet-shaped ice. They usually produce around 26-27 lbs. of ice per day. A majority of these cheaper models have less features than the higher-cost models, and they tend to be louder. These models tend to have a small water reservoir, meaning you may need to add water every few hours. But they all tend to weigh in around 25-30 pounds, making them reasonably portable.

At the higher-end you have models like the GE Profile Opal. That model produces Nugget ice. It has a much larger reservoir, so you don’t have to add water as often. While it only produces 24 pounds of ice per day, it is one of the only nugget makers you’re going to find for the home.

High-end models typically have a more appliance-like design, which lets them fit into your kitchen design better. The GE model above weighs in at 47 pounds, so the portability can be much lower on these models.

There are some mid-range models, like the EUHOMY IM-F Portable. These are more affordable than the high-end models, but usually offer better capacity and features than the low-cost ice makers. The EUHOMY will make up to 40 pounds of ice each day, which is massive. It makes dice-shaped cubes, and it’s one of the few home ice makers to produce clear ice. 

Mid-range models ten to be a little heavier than the low-cost makers, but not much. The EUHOMY, for example, comes in at 33 pounds. Models like that one usually cost about 50-75% more than the low-end models, but still less than half of the high-end makers. 

Other Uses For Ice

While ice is great to cool your drinks or food, there are a lot of other uses for it. Below are just a few, but with a little research, you can find many other uses.

Remove Gum From Clothing, Hair, Or Carpet

Gum is often difficult to remove from soft surfaces. One way to remove from surfaces like clothing, hair, or carpet is to cool it down with ice. This makes it easy to use a dull scraper, such as a spoon, to scrape it out of the carpet or off of clothing. It also makes it easier to pull loose from hair.

  1. Place an ice pack on the gum and let it sit for 15 minutes. If the gum is still sticky at that point, you may need to hold the ice against it for up to half an hour.
  2. Remove the ice when the gum has hardened.
  3. Use a spoon or similar object to scrape the gum away from clothing or carpet. If removing from hair, gently pull the hair away from the gum.

Reduce Inflammation 

If you’re injured or have sore muscles after a workout, you can use ice to help prevent the inflammation from getting worse. Simply place a cloth around an ice pack and hold it against the area of pain. It may not completely prevent the pain, but it can reduce inflammation, making it less painful and damaging in the long run.

Reheat Rice Or Pasta

If you are reheating rice or pasta in the microwave, you may notice they have a tendency to end up really dry. To prevent this, put an ice cube or two on top of your rice or pasta dish when you microwave it. The ice will melt away and turn to steam as it heats, which adds moisture to your food.

Remove Dents From Carpet

This doesn’t always work, but some people find that it can help. Just place enough ice on the carpet to cover the dent. Let the ice melt completely. A few hours later, use an absorbent cloth to soak up whatever water remains. 

Water Plants

Using ice to water your plants lets the soil and roots time to absorb the moisture. Just place some ice cubes in with your plant and let it water your plant as it melts. 

Make Medicines Easier To Take For Children

If your child has a hard time downing gross-tasting medicine, have them suck on an ice cube first. This will numb their taste buds, hiding the taste of the medication.

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