Blending ice is a great way to quickly make icy drinks like smoothies, milkshakes, or frozen cocktails. With the right blender and technique, you can pulverize ice into fine pieces that blend easily into cold and creamy drinks.
Whether you’re making a post-workout protein shake or an adult piña colada, learning how to properly blend ice can take your blended drinks to the next level. Read on for tips on choosing the best blender for ice, preparing ice for blending, and techniques for getting a perfectly smooth frozen drink.
Choosing the Best Blender for Crushing Ice
Not all blenders are created equal when it comes to handling ice. Blenders need a powerful motor and sharp blades to crush ice thoroughly. Here are the key features to look for:
- Motor power – Look for a blender with at least 500 watts or higher for crushing ice. More powerful motors with 1,000+ watts will pulverize ice more quickly.
- Blade design – Blenders with short, stubby blades are better for chopping and grinding while tall, narrow blades are optimal for blending liquids smoothly. Look for blades that are both sharp and durable.
- Pitcher design – Blenders with narrow jar bottoms and tapered containers direct ice toward the blades more efficiently than wide jars.
- Speed settings – Blenders with pre-programmed settings specifically for ice-crushing are convenient for making frozen drinks. Look for pulse, ice crush, and smoothie modes.
Some of the best blender models for ice include:
- Vitamix 5200 – With a heavy-duty 2-peak horsepower motor and aircraft-grade stainless steel blades, this professional-grade blender is powerful enough to blend the hardest ice.
- Ninja Professional Blender – The 1,000-watt motor and Total Crushing Technology in this popular blender pulverizes ice to snow-like texture.
- Oster Versa Pro Blender – This affordable blender has a 1,400-watt motor and reversed blades ideal for icy drinks. The wider jar is good for larger batches.
- Hamilton Beach Commercial Blender – Designed for bartending, this rugged bar blender crushes ice effortlessly for cocktails.
Preparing Ice for the Blender
Starting with properly prepared ice makes all the difference in getting a smooth blend. Here are some tips:
- Use cubes – Standard ice cubes are easier to crush than irregularly shaped ice. Cracked ice and bagged ice contains more air which results in a frothier blend.
- Avoid hollow cubes – Cubes from icemakers with hollow centers don’t fully crush. Purchase solid ice cubes or make your own solid cubes by filling ice cube trays completely.
- Watch the size – Larger cubes take more power to pulverize. For easier blending, keep cubes around 1-2 inches. Shake off any excess frost before adding.
- Don’t overfill – Allow space between ice cubes for them to move around for even crushing. Fill the blender only half full with ice at maximum.
- Add liquid – Pour in a small amount of liquid before adding ice – about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup. This gives ice cubes something to grind against for faster crushing.
Technique for Blending Ice
Blending ice requires the right technique to end up with a smooth consistency. Follow these tips:
- Start on low speed – Pour liquid into the blender jar, add ice cubes, then start on the lowest speed setting. This prevents the ice from flying up and hitting the top.
- Use short pulses – Pulse the blender for 2-4 seconds at a time to gradually break up the cubes before ramping up to higher speeds. This keeps ice from getting stuck under the blades.
- Crush then blend – If your blender has an “ice crush” function, use that mode first to break up cubes. Then switch to regular or smoothie mode to fully incorporate and blend.
- Blend in stages – If ice is not fully blending, stop the blender and stir the mixture. Start again on low to draw ice back down into the blades before going back to higher speeds.
- Don’t walk away – Stay by the blender while crushing ice. The consistency can change quickly from chunky to smooth so monitor closely.
- Add ingredients gradually – When making smoothies or frozen cocktails, add softer ingredients like fruit, yogurt, or alcohol after the ice fully crushes. This prevents them from sticking to unblended ice chunks.
- Use a tamper – If available for your model, use a tamper to press ingredients into the blades while blending ice. This is key for high-performance blenders.
Tips for Making Icy Drinks
Using these tricks will ensure your icy blender drinks turn out frosty and refreshing:
- Chill ingredients first – Blend will be colder if ingredients like fruit, juice and dairy are pre-chilled before adding ice.
- Adjust ingredients to taste – Add more or less liquid to achieve desired thickness. For cocktails, tweak alcohol amounts to your liking.
- Garnish it up – Top blended drinks with festive fruits, candy sprinkles or mini umbrellas! For adults, rim glasses with sugar, salt or liqueurs.
- Serve immediately – Blended icy drinks start melting quickly. Pour into chilled glasses and drink up right away for maximum refreshing flavor.
- Store properly – Leftover blended drinks should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the freezer, not refrigerator. Never leave icy blender jars sitting out between batches.
Troubleshooting Issues Blending Ice
Having trouble getting ice to fully crush? Here are some common issues and solutions:
Ice chunks remain – Increase blender power by pulsing. Let ice spin faster between pulses. Reduce ice cube size or fill jar less full.
Drink isn’t cold enough – Increase ratio of ice to liquid. Chill all ingredients ahead of time. Make sure ice is crushed finely by pulsing blender before adding other ingredients.
Ice gets stuck – Stop blender and use a tamper to dislodge if available. Add more liquid to help ice flow. Drop a few cubes in at a time while blending.
Blender is struggling – Don’t overfill with ice. Maintain even gaps between cubes for blades to catch. Upgrade to a more powerful blender if under strain.
Blender leaks – Ensure lid is securely sealed before blending. Check if rubber gasket needs replacing. Do not overfill blender jar past the maximum fill line.
FAQ About Blending Ice
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about blending ice:
What is the best ice-to-water ratio for blending?
For smoothies, use a 2:1 ice to liquid ratio. For cocktails that won’t be diluted, do a 1:1 ratio. Adjust amounts as needed to reach the desired consistency.
Should you use crushed or cubed ice in a blender?
Cubed ice blends more smoothly than crushed or bagged ice. The small pieces in crushed ice make it prone to getting slushy or frothy.
Can you blend ice in a NutriBullet?
While the NutriBullet is convenient for small smoothies, it may struggle to blend larger amounts of ice due to less power and narrower blades.
Is it bad to put hot liquids in a blender with ice?
Yes, the extreme temperature change can damage the plastic pitcher. Always let hot liquids cool before adding ice and blending.
Why is my blender smoking when crushing ice?
This likely means the motor is overheating from straining to crush too much ice. Stop blending immediately and let cool before resuming with less ice.
Whether you’re hosting a cocktail party or whipping up a post-workout protein shake, blending ice to frosty perfection is easy with the right blender and technique. Choosing a blender with enough power and blade strength to pulverize ice is key. Prepare solid ice cubes and use pulsing bursts and tampers to gradually crush ice to a smooth consistency. With some practice and these tips, you’ll be an expert at blending crunchy ice into deliciously cold blender drinks.