How Long Does it Take for Water to Freeze?

by Charlie
Frozen Ice Cube Tray

If you need to make a quantity of ice, for an upcoming party or event, for instance, you might be wondering how long it will take you to make the ice you need. On the one hand, you can keep checking and time it yourself, but this needs to be planned. The other problem with just checking your freezer is that every time you open the freezer, you warm it up and it has to cool down again, which slows the entire process.

So what do you do? You need to make sure you allow plenty of time for the trays of ice to freeze so that you can have a reasonable supply of ice on hand for your guests. After all, nobody is going to stick around very long if you only have lukewarm refreshments, right?

So how long will it take water to freeze? Well, the short answer in practical terms is the average ice cube tray will need approximately 3-4 hours of uninterrupted freezer time to freeze all the way through and be ready to use. Keep in mind this is in a regular freezer set at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

This 3-4 hour estimate also assumes you are using room temperature water, in a small plastic ice cube tray. All of the spaces in the tray are filled with room temperature water and placed in the freezer. Trays will often have 12 spaces, some more, some less. The time it takes to freeze can sometimes be reduced by using a metal container, smaller container, shallower container, or a colder or simply more powerful freezer.

How Long Does it Take Water to Freeze in the Most Common Ice Trays?

In the majority of circumstances where a regular upright home freezer is used, it will require approximately 3 to 4 hours for the water to freeze into usable cubes. This is only an average time for standard ice cube trays with 12 square spaces. Water freezes at 32°F and O°C, but the time it takes may differ from even close-by neighbors due to the many factors that can influence you.

Container Size and Design

The container size and shape will need to be taken into consideration. The size of your tray or cubes is not the standard, which can affect the time needed to freeze.

Some trays, for instance, have smaller square cubes, which will take noticeably less time than the larger rectangular cubes with tapered sides. Some trays have spaces for larger cubes or other shapes for putting into water bottles, for example, These will all add to the standard.

The shape matters nearly as much as the size. Shallower ice cubes or will freeze incredibly fast. The deeper water gets, the longer it will take for it to freeze enough to be of any use. Some trays have tapered cubes that are only separated by thin dividing fins, while some have larger air spaces between the cubes.

Designs that expose more of the water’s surface area to the cold air are the ones that will facilitate faster freezing. Ice forms and develops from the outside in, so if you can start the ice forming on more than just the top, then your ice cubes will form much quicker overall.

Freezer Temperature

The temperature of the freezer holding the water is also incredibly important. Most residential freezers have a default temperature setting of right around 0°F, but if you are one of those people that s always in and out of the fridge or freezer, that temperature will go up quickly, and it will be difficult for the freezer to maintain sufficiently cold temperatures. The more time the freezer spends trying to keep the freezer cold, the longer your ice is going to take.

How Long Does it Take Water to Freeze in an Ice Maker?

Many people use enough ice that they consider a stand-alone or dedicated ice maker. Residential ice makers are similar to the larger commercial units you may see in a hotel, but they are much smaller. They are even called countertop ice makers, since they are small enough to fit on a counter, and can often make ice faster than the average fridge or freezer.

A dedicated ice maker can freeze water for ice in only about 2 hours. They are able to freeze water much faster since they do not count on the temperature of the surrounding air to freeze the water, they frequently have a metal tray that is directly cooled, over which the water runs. This freezes the water almost immediately and results in a much quicker ice production.  

Another benefit to using an ice maker is the super-clear ice that you often see due to the lack of many of the impurities, since the water freezes from the outside in, any gasses, debris, or impurities are pushed to the center of the tray. This is why in most home freezers, the ice from the tray has a small white occlusion or cloud in the center.

How Long Does it Take a Bottle of Water to Freeze?

Sometimes you don’t need cubes, you want to freeze whole plastic bottles so that they can be tossed into a cooler or even a lunch box for work. A standard 16-ounce bottle will need about 90 minutes at the usual 0°F, but the time will be highly dependent on the bottle style and size. So, smaller bottles will be quicker to freeze than larger bottles. With the regular home freezer, an 8-ounce plastic takes about 30 minutes, while freezing a large 1-liter generally takes about 2 hours.

Helpful Tips for Freezing Water Faster

  • Freeze water on a cookie or baking sheet, the surface area helps water freeze quickly in the tray
  • Use metal ice trays, they are fare more efficient at transferring the heat out of the water
  • Use distilled or bottled water, the impurities in municipal tap water can lengthen the time to freeze.

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