The video above is not camera magic – I actually poured a bottle of water into a room-temperature glass and watched it instantly turn into ice.  I stumbled upon this phenomenon when I was experimenting with the optimal temperature at which to serve Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.  Long ago, I modified the freezer in my basement to maintain precise temperature control using a PID controller.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sampling cans of PBR at different temperatures.  Incidentally, I have concluded that PBR is best served right around –8.5C.  At that temperature, the beer is still liquid, but has a small amount of ice crystal formation (which is just delightful).  I just happened to have some small bottles of Arrowhead water in the freezer and I noticed that a few of the bottles remained liquid while others were already frozen solid.  I wondered if these bottles might be supercooled: chilled beyond their freezing point but not yet frozen because the ice didn’t have a nucleation point from which to form.  Turns out, they were.

And I have video proof.

From now on, this is what I want when I order “ice water” at a bar.

Reading time: 1 min

After the previous round of experiments, I assumed that the source of my problems was the water itself.  Several folks left comments suggesting that only distilled water will yield clear ice, and tap water or filtered water was simply too impure.  So, I grabbed a bottle of distilled Arrowhead water and tried freezing it.  Fail.  Then I tried boiling twice it and freezing it.  Fail.

Then, I came up with another idea… a radical idea.

Reading time: 2 min

failed clear ice balls

The ball on the far left was made from plain tap water – never boiled, never filtered.  The 2nd ball from the left was made from tap water which I boiled for 3 minutes, then cooled, then boiled again.  The 3rd ball was made from water I filtered through my Brita then boiled once.  The ball on the far right was made from filtered, double-boiled water. 

Can you see the difference in clarity? Yeah, me neither.

My goal was to make clear ice – that is, ice that is totally transparent without any haziness or white fissures.  I know that commercial ice makers use fancy processes like upside down freezing, but several websites propose that you can make your own clear ice just by boiling (or double boiling) water before freezing.  I put this to the test, and as you can see, my results were less than stellar. 

The complication may have to do with the ice ball molds I was using.  The molds are sealed, so it’s possible that some gasses (or evil spirits) weren’t able to escape during the freezing process.  I’ll try again with regular cubes or blocks, but for now, I’m a little pissed that I’ll have to chill my morning gin with cloudy ice.

Reading time: 1 min