One of my favorite drinks on a warm summers day is iced coffee, but I absolutely hate it when the ice melts too quickly. It dilutes the drink and it warms up quicker.
The same goes for soda, alcoholic drinks or anything else you're having ice in. I've found the longer the ice lasts without melting the better the drinking experience is.
Below are a few simple tips I learned through working in a cafe and through personal experience that'll cause your ice to last longer in your cup and your drink to stay colder for longer.
1. Pre-Chill The Cup
A cup of room temperature contains a lot of heat and as soon as you pour your cold drink into your cup this heat will be transferred into your drink melting your ice quicker.
This is especially true when you're getting a cup directly out of the dishwasher after it's been through a hot drying cycle.
A good way to keep ice from melting quickly in your cup is actually to pre-chill your cup before using it.
If you've got the time you can pre-chill your cup by putting it in the freezer. Nothing beats a cold beer or cold brew coffee drunk from a cup straight out of the freezer. At the cafe we did this for all iced lattes and other cold drinks.
Alternatively you can put your cup in your cooler if you have one or even fill it up with sacrificial ice for 5-10 minutes and then discard that ice and refill with fresh ice.
If you have none of the above then simply running the cup under cold water can cool it down a fair amount and help your ice last longer.
2. Use More Ice
I was finding that when I used just a couple of cubes of ice in my drink the ice melted extremely quickly and was gone within 15-30 minutes.
However, if I used a lot more ice then overall the ice seemed to last a lot longer.
This makes sense because the more ice you use the more heat is required to completely melt it all. The ice cubes quickly bring down the temperature of your drink to freezing temperature and I find it then stays cold for longer.
Whenever I'm having a vodka lime soda or an iced latte I'll use a lot of ice in the cup. This keeps my drink ice cold until the last drop.
3. Pre-Chill The Drink
One of the biggest culprits of ice melting quickly in your cup is a drink that isn't pre-chilled.
When I make my kids lemonade and fill up their cups with room temperature lemonade their ice melts really quickly.
However, if I first put the lemonade in the fridge and then fill up their cups the ice will last a lot longer.
You can chill drinks in as little as 4-6 minutes in a cooler or in the freezer you can cool drinks in 20-30 minutes if you first wrap them in a wet cloth.
4. Use a Vacuum Insulated Cup
If you want to keep ice for an extremely long time in your cup then use a vacuum insulated cup like Yeti or another similar brand.
These cups are made from double walled stainless steel and in between the 2 walls they suck of all the air making a vacuum.
This is the best insulation you can get and vacuum insulated tumblers can keep ice frozen for up to 24 hours. Click here to see the best tumblers for ice retention.
There are so many brands and varieties to choose from and they all work very similar.
Hydro Flask has 16 oz insulated tumblers which I use when having cold drinks in my campervan and I absolutely love them.
5. Use a Plastic Cup (or Styrofoam)
If you don't have any vacuum insulated cups then look at using plastic cups instead of glass or metal cups.
Plastic cups are insulators and don't transfer heat well so they will keep your ice frozen longer and stop it from melting.
Check out the video below comparing ice stored in a metal bowl compared to ice stored in a plastic tub and how much longer the plastic tub kept the ice from melting. The difference is huge.
Styrofoam cups are also great insulators and will keep ice longer but I personally like to avoid them because they create a lot of unnecessary waste and there are some studies that indicate styrofoam can increase your chances of getting cancer…something I obviously want to avoid.
I cover the details on why this happens in my article on whether or not aluminum foil keeps ice from melting.
6. Use Larger Blocks of Ice
The larger the blocks of ice you use the slower it will melt in your cup.
So instead of using lots of little cubes of ice consider making fewer larger cubes of ice and using them in your cup.
If you want to get fancy and you have the time you can even slightly pre-fill your cups with water and put them in the freezer so you've got solid ice down the bottom of the cup.
This will keep your drink cold for a long time but the large solid block of ice won't melt as quickly as small blocks of ice.
7. Keep Out of Direct Sunlight
Direct sunlight contains a lot of heat and will quickly warm up any drink you have and will quickly melt any ice in your cup.
Where possible try to avoid having your cup in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Place it down in the shade when you're not actively drinking from it. The less heat your cup is exposed to the longer the ice will last.
8. Keep It Off Warm Surfaces
Placing your cup on a warm surface will cause it to absorb some of the heat of that surface and melt your ice faster.
Having your cup near hot food will do the same thing.
9. Use Cups With Handles
You hands can impart a decent amount of heat into your cup, causing your ice to melt faster.
If you use a cup with a handle then the heat of your hand is separated from the cup and your ice so it won't make the ice melt faster.
This only has a small impact but it could be worth doing.
For some great options check out my list of the best travel coffee mugs with handles.
10. Make Clear Ice Without Bubbles
High end bars make cubes of ice that are completely clear and free of air bubbles.
This gives them a cool look in liquors and cocktails but it also creates ice that last longer without melting.
Because the air bubbles are removed the ice is more dense and thus it takes more heat energy to melt the ice cubes.
I talked about how to make clear ice in my article on the 10 easy ways to make block ice at home.
11. Insulate Your Cup
You can make you own insulated cup at home (if you don't have a vacuum insulated cup) but getting 2 plastic cups, wrapping one in dry paper towel and putting it inside the other plastic cup.
The paper towel creates an air gap between the 2 cups making heat transfer harder. This will cause your ice to last longer.
You can also insulate your cup with a foam beer koozie which will help ice to last longer just like it helps beer to stay cold longer.
Which Cup Best Prevents Ice From Melting?
If you want to prevent ice from melting in your cup what is the absolute best cup to use?
Vacuum insulated cups prevent ice from melting better than any other type of cup on the market. The vacuum insulation is extremely good at keeping out heat and ice can last up to 24 hours. Alternatively, styrofoam cups are the next best option and are much cheaper.
In my article on the common materials that keep things cold I go into detail about the different insulating options and what keeps ice from melting for the longest.