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January 27, 2014 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Mefi's Own Rob Cockerham tries...and tries...and tries to make a block of really clear ice.
posted by Chrysostom (29 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
My own experiments were constrained to the Igloo cooler method which concentrates all the bubbles at the bottom. Once extracted I chipped off the cloudy underside which left a great block of clear ice. You can see the results in this cocktail photo.
posted by komara at 8:41 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


As I recall boiling water once, letting it cool, boiling it again and then freezing it, results in clear ice.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:53 PM on January 27


Heh - "In conclusion, WikiHow sucks and Instructibles is unreliable, but the rest of the internet holds great promise."
posted by awfurby at 8:54 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


"As I recall boiling water once, letting it cool, boiling it again and then freezing it, results in clear ice."

From the first page of the FPP link:

"The filtered, double-boiled water still has a lot of white gas trapped in the ice."
posted by komara at 8:55 PM on January 27 [6 favorites]


Rob is so great. I love that he's been around for a million internet years and still going strong.

All those shots of random containers filled with bubbly ice remind me of a photo series I did years ago. I spent a lot of time trying to get *just* the right amount of gas trapped in there...
posted by gwint at 9:01 PM on January 27 [3 favorites]


When we degas solutions in the lab we often do multiple freeze - vacuum - thaw cycles. Or pull vacuum and stir vigorously with a magnetic stirrer. The other trick (cheating, that is) is to mix in a glassing agent - a 60% glycerol solution freezes clear.
posted by 445supermag at 9:14 PM on January 27 [2 favorites]


I suppose the vapor deposition approach is too expensive for hobbyists.
posted by ceribus peribus at 9:16 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


"In conclusion, WikiHow sucks and Instructibles is unreliable, but the rest of the internet holds great promise."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:23 PM on January 27 [1 favorite]


The dedication involved is nothing short of astounding. I wonder if he has a "day job" or how he finds the time. I also liked the shot at the end, which I interpreted to be his wife (or daughter?) who seemed really happy with the result-- if that were my wife (or daughter) I think they'd be really annoyed with me for spending so much time on something so trivial!
posted by cell divide at 9:24 PM on January 27


From reading the article in detail, I don't think he really spent so much time on it in any given day. It seems like he set up about two dozen tries, each of which took him less than an hour of actual work - some of which took him only a few minutes - but then had to wait overnight...

It's patient dedication that gets results, not long hours all at once.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:26 PM on January 27


Some of the bars around here freeze very large hunks of ice, and then use an electric chain saw to slice it into smaller, clear, acceptable chunks to use in their cocktails. This is how I spent part of one morning drinking my coffee and watching a bearded dude with goggles and a chain saw slice up a block of ice that started out larger than he was.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:29 PM on January 27 [4 favorites]


The dedication involved is nothing short of astounding. I wonder if he has a "day job" or how he finds the time

cell divide, if you like this, you might like to check out his effort at making a fire without matches. I remember reading it back when he first posted it, and it sounded pretty exhausting (no, I haven't tried it myself).
posted by marble at 9:57 PM on January 27


gingerbeer, what bar? I totally wanna go watch that.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:28 PM on January 27


For those who enjoy geeking out about ice making, I recommend the delightful, if dated, Principles and practice of artificial ice-making and refrigeration. (Several of the related books listed below the link are also fun.)

I discovered that book while spending an embarrassing number of hours attempting to create a pleasing sounding ice xylophone to play at the south pole. I finally managed to achieve crystal clear 12 by 5 by 1 cm blocks using a motor-driven agitator and a metal tray cooling slowly inside a styrofoam insulated cooler placed outside, but I never quite got a sound worth recording and eventually abandoned the project. Degassing with both a sonic bath and a vacuum jar proved disappointing. I never considered a water pump, which is a great idea.
posted by eotvos at 10:31 PM on January 27 [10 favorites]


I wonder if three freeze pump thaw cycles would work well, but to make a huge block of ice like that it would take forever to do and also be rather unsafe due to the large glassware size required. I think the best way to try and make clear ice would be to degass it as best as you can then cool it to 1C and place it on a metal pan sitting on a metal block that is cooled to -1C and let it very slowly freeze from the bottom up. It would require rather specialised equipment to do well though, but it probably wouldn't require much agitation.
posted by koolkat at 2:34 AM on January 28


I think he works as a web developer for Intel at this point. He's married with two kids.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:49 AM on January 28


There are special freezers for making clear ice sculpting blocks. Can't recall how they do it though.
posted by Halogenhat at 5:51 AM on January 28


In summer I vacation up in Quebec and we belong to an outdoor club that cuts ice from the lake in the winter, to be used all summer long. The ice in our gin and tonics is amazingly clear.

So, the secret to clear ice is to get a huge lake, chill it to below freezing for a few months, and then cut giant blocks of ice from it.

It is some sort of crime that Rob Cockerham doesn't yet have a show on the Discovery Channel immediately following Mythbusters.
posted by bondcliff at 6:15 AM on January 28 [8 favorites]


So, the secret to clear ice is to get a huge lake, chill it to below freezing for a few months, and then cut giant blocks of ice from it.

I hope that's a clean lake.


I can't wait to see the movie adaptation of this website post.
posted by Atreides at 6:40 AM on January 28


Rob is awesome, and he has been around forever.

Haha, I saw those frozen bananas, I wanna know how that banana bread was.
posted by Sphinx at 6:53 AM on January 28


"In conclusion, WikiHow sucks and Instructibles is unreliable, but the rest of the internet holds great promise."

Ice is not a truck. usually.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:53 AM on January 28


Back in the 1990s when I still had my first apartment, my roommate had one of those Brita Water Filter pitchers. Somehow it got pushed to the back of the refrigerator and blocked by other things. After a couple of weeks I noticed it back there and figured I'd get a nice drink of really cold water.

I got out a glass and went to pour the water in, and nothing happened. I was baffled until I realized that the water had frozen solid and was totally clear with no bubbles in it whatsoever. From looking at it you would have no way of knowing the water inside was no longer liquid. Since it was in the refrigerator and not the freezer I surmised that it must have frozen very slowly.

Being an old hat at keeping freshwater aquariums I know the best way to get suspended gas out of water is to age it. So from my experience 20 years ago I would say that the best bet would be to filter the water with a charcoal filter (or use distilled), then age it for a couple of weeks to get any dissolved gasses out, then freeze it really, really slow.
posted by smoothvirus at 7:23 AM on January 28 [4 favorites]


smoothvirus: I would say that the best bet would be to filter the water with a charcoal filter (or use distilled), then age it for a couple of weeks to get any dissolved gasses out, then freeze it really, really slow.

That's a really neat, relatively easy idea.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:27 AM on January 28


I swear, I thought I remember hearding that agitating the water through vibration while freezing was the key to clear ice, though I'm probably fabricating that memory from somewhere.

Fake edit: nope, searching for "clear ice vibration" gives lots of hits, though none of them look like particularly reliable sites.
posted by jpolchlopek at 8:41 AM on January 28


Polar ice tray This ice cube tray has been designed so your ice remains crystal clear by allowing opaque 'white ice' to be separated and removed.
posted by Lanark at 10:50 AM on January 28


thanks for the nice comments!

I think the "boil water twice" myth gets repeated and reinforced because it is just enough of a pain in the ass to not be tested. Also, both WikiHow and Instructables had faked clear ice results photos.

I can't recommend buying any kind of ice cube tray which is more expensive than a water pump, tub, and hand saw. ($12 + $5 + $16) The pump method makes an awesome amount of clear ice.
posted by cockeyed at 10:57 AM on January 28 [6 favorites]


Mollymayhem - it was Bar Agricole. They sell coffee in the mornings. I don't know how often they saw up their ice, though.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:48 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


then age it for a couple of weeks to get any dissolved gasses out

That reminds me; I once took a swig of water from a gallon jug of distilled water I had left in the trunk of my car through an entire Iowa summer - it was the flattest tasting water I had ever drank, a really weird sensation. It was even flatter than the double distilled and milliQ water from the lab.
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on January 28


I once worked for a company that produced a lot of ultra-pure water because reasons - like: reverse osmosis filter, charcoal filter, two deionizing columns, the whole works. That water tasted the least like anything can possibly taste. I wish I could go back in time and try freezing it.
posted by komara at 8:04 PM on January 28 [1 favorite]


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