What Is The Point Of Crushed Ice?

The standard 1 inch cube has stood the test of time and still remains the go to ice cube, when fancy ice has run out. Why bother stocking any other ice at your home bar? Because ice is an important part of any drink. Crushed ice looks great in a glass, but what is the point of crushed ice?

The ice trend has seen several types of ice hit the market, from huge boulders down to crushed. The large cube, these are big, only one is needed in your drink. Ice spheres, also quite large just look cool. Ice chards or spears for those long drinks. Your standard ice continues to serve tirelessly without complaining. Then we have the crushed ice.

What Is The Point Of Crushed Ice?

You either love it or hate it, but crushed ice does have a purpose. The science of crushed ice is that it has a bigger surface area than your standard or large cubes. What this means is that it will cool a drink much quicker. Ideal if you want your drink super cold. But, there is a negative to crushed ice too. It will melt quicker, consequently diluting your drink way quicker than a larger cube.

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Knowing this can determine when not to use crushed ice, or when it is the go to ice.

Why Do You Need Crushed Ice?

Simple, because it looks really cool. Okay, that’s not the real reason, although it does look really cool. Each type of ice cube (even though not all of them are cubes) has a place. Lets say they have a specific role to play when it comes to fixing your drinks.

Not just alcoholic drinks either, ice is for all drinks, long or short. Although there are many different types of ice molds to buy now, they are not all just a gimmick. Different ice shapes and sizes will perform differently in your drinks.

Starting from the big ones and working down to the ice dust, lets find out their worth.

The Big Ice Cube

The Big Ice Cube

Large ice cubes which are typically 2 inch blocks will melt slowly in comparison to smaller ice cubes. This is because it has less surface area than small ice. That doesn’t make sense, right? Surely a larger ice cube has a larger area than a smaller cube.

I know, confusing, but it’s just science.

Because I am not a scientist, I will not go into the practical activity of the structure and behaviour of an ice cube. Mainly because I can’t, but I will lay it out as I understand it.

A large ice cube is obviously bigger than a small piece of crushed ice. But take two equal sized 2 inch ice cubes and crush one. They are still equal in volume, but the crushed ice is more exposed. What this means is that the crushed ice has more area exposed to the liquid it is submerged in. The middle of the large cube is not exposed, so it will melt slower. Probably not technically correct, but kind of explains it in a clumsy way.

Kevin Liu explains more on Serious Eats.

The bottom line is, a large ice cube will melt slowly and dilute the drink less. Ideal for a drink that you like to sip and savor, such as a nice Whiskey on the rocks, or in this case rock.

The Sphere Ice Cube

Similar in size to the big ice cube, but obviously round, the sphere will be even more efficient. It will melt even slower than the large cube. Because of its shape it has even less surface area, so will stick around longer.

Because of this it will fit with the same kind of drinks as the large cube does. Drinks to be drunk over a longer period of time, and that require less dilution. A choice between the two literally boils down to aesthetics, do you prefer round or cubed?

The Collins Ice Cube

The Collins Ice Cube

The long tall glass, also known as a Collins or highball glass is ideal for this style ice cube. Being long rectangular blocks they fit perfectly with a long drink, such as a gin and tonic, or a Mojito.

Just like the large ice cubes, these are pretty slow on the melting front. Being long they run the length of the tall glass, so keep the whole drink cool. They also look really cool.

The Standard Ice Cube

The good old standard ice cube, the go to ice when the fancy ones are out of town. A 1 inch cube that will fit with any drink. They may not have the wow factor of say the round ice, but they are practical and get the job done.

A standard ice cube will melt faster than a large one and obviously dilute more too, but not as much as crushed ice. They are great with short or long drinks, any drink you want to add ice too. Hail the standard cube.

What Is The Point Of Crushed Ice?

What's The Point Of Crushed Ice

Back to the crushed ice then. So if crushed ice melts quicker and dilutes the drink too quickly, what is the point?

The point is that it does serve some drinks well, a Mint Julep or a long Tiki cocktail. Because dilution is higher with crushed ice more than other ice it works perfect with these spirit forward drinks. It adds the perfect dilution to take the edge off of the strong booze. It also helps with thinning out added syrups that are found in these types of drink.

Above all crushed ice makes for a refreshing cold drinking experience. Although it melts quicker, it also cools the drink quicker than larger ice cubes will.

The point of crushed ice then, is it takes the edge off of strong spirits, blend syrups and juices better and cools the drink quicker. It looks cool too.

Ice Molds, Top Picks

Final Thoughts

Who knew there was so much to know about ice cubes? There are many types of ice molds now that create a great many weird and wonderful ice shape. Skulls, golf balls and snakes to name just a few. Apart from the many shapes you can get, it all boils down to size.

The larger the ice cube, the slower it will melt, the less it will dilute over time. But also they take longer to cool the drink. Hence, crushed ice being on the other end of the scale will do the opposite. So crushed ice has a purpose, there is a point to it, and it does the job it’s meant to do very well.

What ice do you prefer, boulders or crushed? Share your thoughts below.

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