While most people give little thought to the quality of their ice cubes they can play a major role in how good a drink tastes.
For high end restaurants and bars having the highest quality ice is an important part of their cocktails and other drinks. At home, improving the quality of your ice will improve your drinks for yourself and your guests.
We've all experienced ice diluting a drink as it melts and with low quality ice this can make your drink taste absolutely terrible. Even worse is when your ice cubes actively smell or taste bad.
You can get better tasting ice and there are a variety of ways you can do this. The good news is it isn't even that difficult.
1. Filter Your Water
Tap water often contains a variety of chemicals that can seriously affect the flavor of your water and therefore the flavor of your ice.
Chemicals like chlorine that are used to keep your water clean and free from bacteria can taste terrible and many people like to remove other additives like fluride.
Filtering your water through a carbon filtration system will take out a lot of these chemicals leaving you with better tasting water and ice.
You can get small filter jugs that you fill up and keep in your fridge or even larger filtration systems for water to your home or business.
2. Soften Your Water
“Hard water” is water that contains calcium and magnesium salts and these can cause your ice to taste metallic and can even cause a buildup of white residue on your ice cube trays over time.
This white residue can even end up back in your ice and float on top of your drinks as it melts…yuk!
If you're in an area with known hard water that contains lots of minerals or if you're finding your water or ice tastes a bit metallic then investing in a water softener could be a good idea.
These are generally fairly large installations and are designed to remove the dissolved salts for your water, which regular filtration doesn't get rid of.
3. Distill Your Water
Distilling water can be one of the best ways to filter your water as it removes chemicals and minerals from the water as well as the dissolved salts that appear in hard water.
Distilling water involves boiling the water and then trapping the steam as condensation and discarding the remaining water.
Distilled water is recommended if you're trying to make clear ice. Because it contains the least impurities bubbles are less likely to form in the ice and you'll get the clearest ice possible.
You can purchase a countertop water distiller to easily make distilled water on demand. I recommend the CO-Z CounterTop Water Distiller at Amazon because it's affordable, stainless steel and has one of the highest ratings.
If you just want to make a small batch of better tasting ice then you can distill water at home without a machine by placing water in a large pot and floating a stainless steel bowl on top of it.
Place the lid of the pot upside down on top and place the entire thing on the stove.
The water will boil and the steam will condense on the upside down lid and drip down into the floating bowl. This water is distilled.
Once you've got enough in the floating bowl leave it to cool and use it for your ice cubes to get amazing tasting ice.
4. Make Clear Ice Instead of Cloudy Ice
Clear ice is frozen omni-directionally (from the top down or bottom up) pushes all the air bubbles and impurities out of your ice making it crystal clear.
Another benefit of clear ice is that it melts a lot slower than regular ice because it is denser. It's also usually made with filtered or distilled water.
This all leads to clear ice tasting a lot better than regular ice.
Cloudy water has it's place in some drinks and can absorb the flavor of your drink better than clear ice. But because clear ice is harder and melts slower it is better than cloudy ice when it comes to drinks like whiskey, which you don't want to dilute.
5. Make Nugget Ice Instead of Regular Ice
Nugget ice cubes are small crunchy ice cubes that are great in sweet drinks.
Because of the increased surface area nugget ice cubes will cool down a drink a lot faster than a large clear ice ball. However, they will also melt faster and dilute your drink – which can sometimes be a good thing and sometimes be a bad thing.
Most nugget ice is made from compressed ice flakes, giving it a soft and crunchy texture but also allowing the ice to absorb the drink and it's flavors in all it's tiny cracks. This can lead to your ice tasting sweet and being extremely delicious.
To make nugget ice you can see my list of the best ways to make nugget ice at home but really nothing quite beats the nugget ice made by a nugget ice maker.
For the kitchen counter the best nugget ice maker is the GE Opal Nugget Ice Maker (Walmart). It's extremely high quality, can make 1 pound of nugget ice every hour and it starts making ice in as little as 15 minutes.
So many people love and swear by this at home nugget ice maker. If you and your family love nugget ice then you can't go wrong with this one.
6. Cover Up Your Ice With A Lid
When you're making ice, smells and flavors from the food in your fridge and freezer can be absorbed into you ice making it smell and taste bad.
This is the #1 reason your ice smells bad and it can be easily fixed by getting an ice cube tray with a lid.
The lid will keep out the bad smells and odors and will keep your ice tasting fresh a lot longer than a regular ice cube tray without a lid.
I personally love the OXO Good Grips Ice Cube Tray (at Amazon). It's one of the best easy release ice cube trays – meaning the ice comes out super easily – but you can also put your ice in the freezer at angels up to 45º and it won't spill.
I personally own this ice cube tray and I love it. The only downside of this ice cube tray is that it's a bit pricier than other trays and it has a wide profile so if you have extremely limited space in your freezer it might not be the best option.
I've got a list of the best stackable ice cube trays with lids which has a variety of different trays in different price ranges. You'll be sure to find one that suits your needs.
7. Seal Food In Your Fridge Properly
One of the major reasons your ice tastes bad even if your water is fine is because smells and odors from food in your fridge or freezer gets into your ice.
You can put a lid on your ice cube tray (like we've already talked about) but something else you can and should do is seal up the food in your fridge properly.
Most refrigerators only have one compressor that works for both the fridge and the freezer. This means air gets circulated between your fridge and freezer section.
So the smell of last night's garlicky leftovers can easily waft into your freezer and get imparted into your ice.
To make your ice taste better seal up your food in plastic bags or reusable tupperware containers so the smells don't get into the air in the first place.
8. Clean Your Ice Cube Trays
Over time ice cube trays can absorb smells and flavors themselves and then when you go to make ice they can impart these flavors into your ice.
This is especially true with silicone ice cubes trays but can happen with other materials too. Silicone is porous and notoriously bad for absorbing smells and flavors. If your ice tastes bad in your silicone tray then this may be the cause of the issue.
By cleaning your ice cube trays properly you can remove a lot of these built up smells and flavors and this will lead to better tasting ice.
Click here to learn how to properly clean silicone ice cube trays so your ice cubes taste better.
9. Use Metal Trays (Instead of Plastic or Silicone)
Metal ice cube trays are starting to make a comeback as people are looking to move away from plastic.
While silicone is a good option not everyone (myself included) likes silicone ice cube trays. Silicone ice cube trays have some problems – most notably the way they can absorb food smells and impart them into your ice plus how the ice can be hard to get out.
Metal ice cube trays are usually made from 18-8 kitchen grade stainless steel and are safe to use and by their very nature don't contain any BPA or harmful plastics. They are eco-friendly ice cubes trays and you can even recycle them if you're don't using them.
Some people also find they make their ice taste better. I personally found they seemed to make clearer and harder ice than my plastic ice cube trays and they also make ice freeze quicker.
Metal trays do have their downsides though. They are a lot more expensive than plastic or silicone ice cube trays and you can't really stack them. They also create unevenly proportioned ice cubes and can create a lot of ice flake mess.
But if you are finding silicone or plastic isn't working for you metal ice cube trays is worth a go. Check out my list of the best metal ice cube trays on the market.
Or if you want to go ahead and grab one I recommend the Vintage Kitchen Ice Cube Tray 2 Pack (at Amazon). It looks identical to most other metal ice cube tray brands out there but it's basically 2 for the price of 1.
10. Store Your Ice Properly
After you've made your ice, if it's going to sit in the freezer for some time, then it's a good idea to properly store that ice in an airtight container or bag so it doesn't absorb smells and flavors from your freezer.
There are quite a few different ways you can store ice cubes in the freezer that will keep them fresh and will also stop the ice from sticking together.
I store my clear ice balls in a tupperware container (as you can see above) and I'll also store nugget ice for the kids in ziplock bags.
Some frost tends to develop on the ice over time when I store them in ziplock bags. I don't know why exactly but it doesn't seem to affect the flavor at all.
11. Make Your Ice Colder
Making your ice colder is a unique way to also make it taste better, and it's something a lot of people don't think about.
We think of ice as being 32ºF (0ºC) but ice can be much colder than that. Most freezers keep ice at 0ºF (-18ºC) and often your freezer can go even colder than this.
But turning your freezer down to the coldest setting your ice will melt slower as it needs more energy to warm it up to melting temperatures. It also tends to taste better too.
12. Clean Your Fridge and Freezer
I opened my freezer door the other day and discovered mold hiding under the magnetic strip that connects the freezer door and stops it from opening.
I was disgusted to find this and went through a few cloths cleaning away this black mold.
Mold and mildew buildup can occur in your fridge and freezer and this can be one of the reasons your ice smells bad.
But giving your fridge and freezer a thorough clean you're making sure no mold spores are being imparted into your ice and your ice will taste a lot better as a result.
13. Make Extra Large Ice Cubes
The larger your ice cubes are the slower they will melt.
Lots of small ice cubes, even if they have the same overall volume as a single larger ice cube, will melt a lot faster and dilute your drink quicker than a single larger ice cube.
This is why I like large ice balls in my whiskey and ice coffee and other drinks where tastes really matters and I don't want the ice to dilute my drink.
There are loads of great large ice cube trays designed to make big ice cubes. A lot of them actually make crystal clear ice which melts even slower, tastes better and looks better than regular ice.
My favorite large ice cube tray is the True Cubes clear ice cube maker (Amazon). It's one of the best designed clear ice makers and it does a really good job. It's used by a lot of restaurants and bars to make clear ice and I highly recommend it.
14. Throw Out Old Food
We've all done it and saved some leftovers or put some fruit or veges in our fridge or freezer only to forget about it and find it months later with hairy mold growing all over it.
This old food (and the mold spores it houses) will make your ice taste really bad.
Remove any old or outdated food from your fridge or freezer and give it a good clean and you'll notice your ice cubes will start tasting better as a result.
15. Add A Fridge/Freezer Deodorizer
If you're finding your fridge continues to smell bad after you've given it a good clean, or if you're someone who puts a lot of strong smelling leftovers in your fridge, then you might want to consider a fridge or freezer deodorizer.
These will absorb the bad smells in your fridge or freezer and tray them so they don't make their way into your ice.
This will result in ice that tastes better.
Some people suggest natural products like bicarb soda while there are also a variety of products you can buy online.
16. Air Out Your Fridge/Freezer
If you've got a new fridge or freezer then it can sometimes smell like plastic or chemicals from manufacturing.
If you've left gross food in your fridge or freezer then sometimes even a good clean doesn't completely get rid of the bad smells and you need to air out your fridge.
Put your items in a cooler with ice so they don't spoil, turn your fridge off and leave it with the doors open in a well ventilated area for a couple of days.
It's amazing how effective airing out a fridge can be and it'll help to make your ice taste better.
There are a lot of things that go into great tasting ice.
To make the best tasting ice start with the highest quality water that is filtered, softened and/or distilled. Make it in clean ice cube trays with lids in a clean freezer to stop smells imparting into the ice and make the ice as cold as possible.
Make larger ice cubes for less melting and dilution or make small nugget ice cubes if you want the ice to absorb the flavor of your drink and be delicious to munch on.
Follow these recommendations and you should have amazing tasting ice that improves the taste of your drink, not take away from it.