Use The Paper Bag Method To Stop Ice Cubes From Sticking Together

So you're throwing a big bash and need buckets of ice to chill your cocktails — more than a simple 12-cube tray can freeze at a time. You could either make several batches of ice cubes ahead of time and keep transferring them to a container as they freeze, or you could buy a giant bag of ice at the store. No matter what you choose to do, you're very likely to run into a problem: The ice will stick together in massive clumps.

Rather than hacking away at the clusters of ice with a hammer, you can prevent the problem by storing the cubes properly. All you need is a trusty paper bag, the kind that usually carries packed lunches to school or work. You can also use a paper grocery bag. Transfer the ice cubes into the bag once they're frozen and seal the bag by folding the top, then tuck it into the freezer. When it's time to remove the ice cubes and put them in your drinks, you'll find them sitting nice and separated inside the bag — no stuck-together clumpy bits in sight.

Why ice cubes clump together

Finding your ice cubes stuck together is a common occurrence caused by a few factors. Ice cubes have a thin layer of water coating their exteriors, which is constantly melting and refreezing. When you pop your ice cubes out of a tray and place them all together in one giant bag or container, this layer of water essentially turns into glue that sticks the cubes together. 

It's even worse when there is pressure on the cubes, which is why even store-bought bags of cubes often have icy clumps that are stuck together, especially at the bottom. Ice cubes on top squish the ones below them, so the pressure at the bottom is the greatest. Even the temperature of the freezer can play a role, since any change in temperature will cause the ice cubes to melt and re-freeze enough to stick together.

The moisture present inside a freeze is another culprit, as moisture is basically the same thing as water, and this may be why paper bags can prevent sticking. Though there's little research on exactly a paper bag prevents clumping, one possible explanation is that the bag absorbs excess moisture. By reducing the moisture that surrounds the cubes in the freezer, a paper bag greatly reduces the ice's chance of sticking together.

More ways to prevent ice cubes from sticking

While paper bags are one of the best ways to prevent ice cubes from sticking, it isn't the only measure that you can take. Once you've transferred the ice.  to the bag, keep it in the coldest part of your freezer, which is at the back. Crank the temperature of the freezer up so that it is as cold as possible, and keep the bag away from the door, where it can be exposed to temperature fluctuations. If you're willing to go the extra mile, you could even surround the paper bag with dry ice, as that will further ensure that the cubes are always cold and aren't melting and re-freezing.

Pressure is also an ice cube's enemy, so it's best to ease any extra weight off the bag. It may be worthwhile to divide the ice cubes into smaller quantities stored in several bags, so the pressure doesn't stack up. Shake the bags before freezing them to remove any pressure, and don't store anything on top of the bag that could cause the ice any duress. 

Cling-wrapping each cube of ice and sealing it individually inside ziplock bags is high-effort but effective, though this method may be more worth it with ice spears and ice balls that you'd use for cocktails, rather than small cubes. It might seem like more hassle than it's worth, but you'll be glad for it when you have picture-perfect ice to chill your fancy drinks.