How To Make Ice Cubes Faster (And The Weird Science Behind It!)

how to make ice cubes faster

One of the best perks of being a blogger is that I always have someone to share interesting information with. (Of course I’m referring to you, my wonderful readers!) And I recently learned about a fascinating ice phenomenon that I instantly wanted to share with you! It may not be something you end up using every day, but it could be very useful in a pinch.

how to make ice cubes faster

The next time you need ice in a hurry, try filling your ice cube tray with hot water rather than cold water. Due to a mysterious little phenomenon called the Mpemba effect (pronounced mem-PEM-ba), hot water is capable of freezing faster than colder water under the same conditions. It sounds backward, and maybe even a little crazy, but it really works!

how to make ice cubes faster

Why Is It Called The Mpemba Effect?

But what does the name actually mean? This phenomenon got its name from Erasto Mpemba, a Tanzanian student who observed that his still-warm ice cream mixture froze faster than his classmates’ colder mixtures. He teamed up with a physics professor named Denis Osborne to study the effect, and they published a paper about it in 1969.

And although the phenomenon was named after Mpemba and his research, he was far from the first person to take notice of it. In fact, Aristotle recorded observing the Mpemba effect all the way back in the 4th century AD!

how to make ice cubes faster

How Does The Mpemba Effect Work?

Between Aristotle’s time and now, scientists haven’t actually gotten much closer to a concrete explanation of how it works. One promising explanation is that hot water develops currents and temperature gradients as it cools. It loses heat more rapidly from its surface, which might contribute to a faster rate of freezing.

how to make ice cubes faster

But there are other promising explanations too, suggesting that several factors contribute to the Mpemba effect! It just goes to show that even something as seemingly simple as water can work in very mysterious ways! :-)

how to make ice cubes faster

So there you have it, your mini science-and-history lesson for the day! And if you ever find yourself in need of ice in a hurry, I hope you’ll remember the Mpemba effect and give this handy tip a try!

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Bright Ideas

  • Correction from a history nerd… Aristotle lived in the 4th century B.C., not the 4th century A.D. (Just in case any of the scientists here were wondering!) LOL

  • You want to warm cold water for this effect in a microwave or on the stove. Hot water from the tap contains bad chemicals from the inside of your water heater.

  • When I was in the 9th grade (1969 !!!) I won my 9th Grade Science Fail …. my experiment was comparison of laundry detergents (btw—TIDE won !!!). For some reason my science teacher thought I was a great brain …. and I remember her asking me … in class …. Ann, what freezes faster … hot water or cold water. “What was this woman talking about and why is she asking me ?????” … so I thought about it and I said hot water because when the hot water hits the cold air the temperature of the water would drop really fast. WRONG …. the temperature of the water would freeze at the same rate because once the hot water temperature reached the same temperature of the cold water …. it cools at the same rate ….. How come I can remember that but I cannot recall something that happened moments ago ?????

  • Actually, after thinking it through. I think my last post is wrong. Say you have 2 equal temperature freezers. You have one tray of hot water and one tray of cold. Put one tray in each freezer. The heat energy is going to leave the hot tray faster at first, but only until the hot tray temperature equals the cold tray temperature, at which time they will lose heat at the same rate of speed. So I can’t see how this would make the hot water freeze any faster than the cold. Actually, the cold water would freeze quicker, depending on how close to the freezing point it is. Add in other factors, such as the ambient temperature, humidity and air pressure changes in each freezer, and it’s hard to say which would reach 32 degrees first. This is a very challenging question!

  • RoxyBelle1: Actually, this theory is proven through physics and thermodynamics. As any substance is heated, the heat energy is causing the molecules to move faster and faster and are bombarding each other with more force, which is what you are seeing when water boils. Because of this, and the fact that heat moves to cold, the heat energy is going to leave the ice tray much faster (at first, until you reach equilibrium). The only concern I would have is slightly raising the freezer temperature and putting more strain on the compressor, thus using more electrical power. But with a small amount like this, it would be barely noticeable. I am not a college professor, but this is my best guess.

  • To anyone asking about making ice cream from this hot method would suggest you use the manufacturers instructions for your machine, unless you have an industrial machine. Have seen it made from a cold state to a hot state on Food TV and the churning time remains the same, roughly 8 minutes. If you can afford wasting the ingredients, go ahead and see what happens but don’t get too upset if it fails.

  • To me it makes sense because if you’re trying to thaw out something Frozen you put it in cold water and it will defrost faster than if you put it in hot water just like when the pipes are cold and it’s freezing outside you leave your cold water run so it doesn’t freeze

  • How long does it take to freeze into ice cubes using this method. We rented a cabin for a week this past Summer for our big family group. The fridge had an ice maker, which didn’t work very well. Anyway, we finally decided to make our own ice cubes, which took all day to form. It would be nice to know this little trick. I would probably just use very hot tap water vs boiled water. I agree that you have to be careful with the plastic water bottles in hot weather. Just look for the refillable ones that say bpa free .

    • It depends entirely on the water temperature and on the freezer itself. Ice freezes almost twice as fast in the freezer I have at home compared to the freezer we have at the office. There are just so many variables! :-)

  • Just check what the trays are made of…putting hot water in a plastic tray can cause toxic chemicals to leach into the water. It’s the same as drinking water from a plastic bottle that has been sitting in a hot car…don’t do it!

  • I’ve been doing this! It makes prettier ice cubes too. I use tap hot water because I worry about the safety of pouring kettle hot water into plastic ice trays though – I don’t want anything leaching out of the plastic from the unconventional use.

  • Back in the ‘olden’ days when I first had a physics class, The explanation was because of the molecules — its the same reason ice floats. There is more space between the atoms [air] so when it freezes and the molecules all line up and face one way you have the air between them to give ‘lift’. These air pockets are bigger [heat expands] when heated, more surface area and then a quicker freeze as the free space between the atoms is less dense. Who really knows?

  • I am in my mid-70’s and learned this theory when I was in Physics class in high school (oh so many years ago). My husband and I would argue about this until we finally did our own experiment and it does work.
    Way back then, we learned it was because of the molecules. When the water is hot, so theory goes, the molecules are all moving the same way thus making freezing faster. When the water is cold, the molecules are moving in every direction (somewhat similar to magnetizing a piece of metal).
    You can call me, “molecule Mama”.

  • I wonder – does it work with ice cream too? I.e., does putting in the ice cream maker a still warm mixture result in faster ice cream than using, as advocated in ice cream recipes, a cool mixture?

    • I also have concerns about dropping the temperature of the freezer-especially if it not a big freezer-how much cold would it take too make the ice cubes? How long before the freezer temp goes back up? Also as mentioned-pouring hot water in plastic does not sound good.

    • Some here – and if, then ppl should be concidered about the plast – not all plast are okay with heat…

      Another thing is that as har as I know, the cube will be less “clear” when it freezes faster.

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