picture of ice cubes

non-shattering ice cubes

a good cube is hard to find

picture of two ice cube trays stacked together on the
	      upper shelf

I make ice cubes using two trays. I stack them together in my freezer, usually on the upper shelf.

When the cubes are finished freezing, I empty them into a bin. Yes, I am one of those people and their damned bins. Others prefer to loosen the ice cubes in place and pick them out one or two at a time. That’s fine.

picture of ice cube and thumbs-up

Either way, a simple truth is observed: Sometimes the ice cubes pop out of the tray cleanly, easily, and in whole cubes. These are good cubes, and leave me feeling happy and rambunctious.

picture of hand crushing fresca can in frustrataion

Sometimes, though, the ice cubes stick in the tray. These are bad cubes. Not only are they harder to get out, but usually they break into pieces. When I next pour myself a Fresca™ and reach into my lovely, precious bin for a few ice cubes, my eager hand encounters chips and jagged pieces. Sometimes it’s enough to spoil the whole Fresca Experience™.

For many years I’ve silently suffered the ignominy of bad cubes. Recently, though, I noticed something which has changed my life. When I freeze water in two stacked trays, the top tray always has good cubes. And the bottom tray always has bad cubes.

Two of my co-workers, David and Jess, confirmed this behavior in their freezers, also. Perhaps you have had the same experience.

What can explain this madness?

have you ever looked, really looked, at a sunset

A good cube ends up with transparent edges and an opaque core. The opaque part is usually nearer the bottom of the cube—the part that was deepest in the tray. The opaque core often has cool designs in it. Sometimes, there’s government writing in there telling you to burn things and increase governmental power.

Good cubes don’t bond too strongly to the tray. They are rigid enough to pop out when you twist the tray, and strong enough (internally) to stay in one piece.

a picture of a good cube

Here are three views of a good cube.

another picture of a good cube
yet another picture of a good cube
and another picture of a good cube

Here’s a different good cube. This one has some sweet spiky patterns in the opaque part, although apparently I’m not good enough with a camera to show them.

A tray that makes good cubes usually ends up with a thin layer of frost on the inside.

A bad cube bonds somewhat well to the tray and somewhat poorly internally. When you try and twist it out of the tray, it would rather break into pieces than relinquish its hold on the tray.

Here are some bad cubes.

The opaque part of a bad cube often extends from top to bottom.

In fact, the opaque part of a bad cube is often more intense at the top.

It would be nice if I had held these cubes in a consistent orientation so you could see for yourself. In this picture I’m holding the cube upside-down. In the next picture, up is up.

Here, the top of the cube is flat against the table.

A tray that makes bad cubes has lots of little pieces of bad cube left in it.

Page 2 has an elevating discussion of crystallization. Page 3 has some sweet experiments on it. Page 4 has the awesome conclusions.