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The Fastest Way to Cool Down Beer

Beer. I prefer to drink it cold.
Unfortunately, sometimes the beer which I have is warm. This usually happens when we are planning a party, because I buy a bunch of beer on pallets at Costco.

I mean, I don't buy it on pallets. It is on pallets at Costco, and I buy one case of 24 bottles.

The time-tested way to cool down some beer is to put it into the freezer. That works, but has three shortcomings:

1) it takes an hour.
2) frozen beer.
3) exploding beer.

My recent experiments with the heat transfering properties of water (Hairdryer vs. Bowl of Water) encouraged me to try improving on this beer-cooling method. Instead of cooling the beer with very cold air, I decided to try cooling the bottles with very cold water.

I was certain that cold water would work better than the freezer. I prepared three bottles of Heineken. All three bottles started in a 12-pack in the garage, where I assume they settled to the same temperature. I opened the first bottle and took the temperature of the beer inside. It was 82°F (28°C). Warm. This was my starting temperature.

I prepared a cold bath. For the "ice bath" beer, I used three cups of tap water (24 oz) and ten ice cubes.

I cleared out a little spot in the freezer and was ready for the test to begin. With superhuman agility, I dropped one bottle into the ice water and stood one up in our freezer.

The race. was. on.

Cooling beer takes FOREVER. Luckily I had some rum and Coke handy to pass the time.

Even with 10 cubes, the ice bath wasn't very impressive. The beers were still sealed shut, but I could check the temperature of the ice water bath. The temperature was falling. As the ice melted, it quickly cooled the water from room temperature, 75°F, down to 60°F. Condensation began to form on the outside of the ice bath. In 15 minutes, as the last ice cube disappeared, the water approached 52°F.

After 20 Minutes

After 20 minutes, it was time to check the results. I opened the beers and tested the temperature of their contents.
The ice bath beer was colder.

Although both glass bottles felt cold, the beer from the freezer had only dropped to 63°F! (17°C) The icewater-cooled beer was down to 56°F! (13°C)

It wasn't even close. Why hadn't I been cooling beer like this before now? The freezer is for fools!

The bottles were open now, but I decided to continue the experiment for another 20 minutes.

The freezer beer went back into his freezer and the ice-water bath got another ten ice cubes. I mixed myself a singapore sling... and waited.

Twenty minutes later, the freezer was starting to have a genuine deliciousing effect.

I measured the bottles. The freezer beer was now down to 48.5°F (9°C), just a shade warmer than the ice bath beer (47.5°F (8.6°C)

The ice water was almost at its limit when it came to cooling power. It was hard to imagine the beer getting any closer to freezing temperature (32°F 0°C) when the ice water itself wasn't there yet.

Opinions vary on the subject, but I pretty much draw the "cold enough" line at 55°F (13°C). If the beer is warmer than that, I'll pass. Of course, it is hard to judge the temperature until after you open the bottle...

The results of this experiment demonstrates that if you only have 20 minutes to cool down beer, use an ice-water bath instead of the freezer. It is faster.

If you have 40 minutes, both setups work with about the same level of effectiveness. After 40 minutes, the freezer will work faster, eventually dropping the temperature of the beer to freezing.

I really like the ice-water bath method. Next I wanted to try aluminum cans!


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