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It's happened to the best of us: you really want a nice hefeweizen or maybe a good bitter, but all you have are room-temperature bottles. Short of waiting an hour or so or (god forbid) putting ice in it, how can a bottle or can of beer be effectively cooled quickly?

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Take a bucket. Or a bowl. Or a cooler. Or any other similar vessel. Put your beer bottles or cans (sealed! For the love of god, sealed!) at the bottom of the bucket.

Fill it most of the way with ice. Then fill in with water until the bottles are submerged. Then throw in any remaining ice.

Finally, add a volume of salt commensurate with the quantity of water, both solid and liquid, you've already got in there.

Wait anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on desired coldness and quantity of beer.

Enjoy!

(Rinse the rim of the bottle if you're finicky. Also, this will probably ruin the label. Sorry. Why do you care about that anyway? You weirdo.)

  • 5
    I'd pour the salt at the bottom, then the ice and water, to dissolve that salt as evenly as possible. Otherwise you're pouring salt over the tops of ice and beers... Also, the reason this works is that ice alone would barely contact the beer (in terms of total surface area)—there'd be a lot of air in between, and air's a very effective insulator (hence double-pane windows). Adding water maximizes the surface area of contact, and adding salt lowers the freezing point of water to make the transfer of cold (technically, heat) more efficient. – Andrew Cheong Jan 24 '14 at 16:04
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Another option might be some what less conservative, but instead of using ice cubes you could also use chilling rocks. This is also often used as an alternative for cooling whisky without diluting it.

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Soapstone is a non-porous, odorless and inert stone. It is tasteless and will not absorb odors from your freezer like ice cubes do. Soapstone has a high thermal mass, giving it the natural ability to retain its temperature for extended periods of time.

If you are a bit more patient, you can just put the beer in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

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    Note thermal capacity of these is much worse than ice cubes. 0.98 J/gK vs 2.11 J/gK for ice, 4.18 for water + a whooping 334 J/g of melting latent heat! So, 1g "reusable ice cube" frozen to -10C melting and heating to +5C will absorb 376 J while the stone will absorb mere 14.7J making them about 25 times more efficient! – SF. Jan 24 '14 at 10:13
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    @SF. - it looks like you may not be completely correct (as Great Bear says here: physics.stackexchange.com/q/63164/2498 ) but the main reason is so you don't dilute the drink. – Rory Alsop Jan 24 '14 at 10:56
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    @RoryAlsop: That's why I suggested "reusable cubes", ones where the 'coolant' is sealed within, for example, stainless steel case. BTW, where did I make a mistake? (10*2.11 + 334 + 5*4.18) / (15 * 0.98) = 376 / 14.7 = 25.578. True in case of "gel filling" the thermal capacity is worse, but the melting point is lower -> higher temperature gradient -> faster cooling. – SF. Jan 24 '14 at 11:03
  • I take it back - I missed the word reusable in your comment. Sorry – Rory Alsop Jan 24 '14 at 11:24
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    @LucasKauffman: Probably because the rocks are a marketing gimmick with really little practical value. Let's round things a little and count: Beer (water+alcohol) thermal capacity is around 4J/gK; rock 1J/gK, density of rock about twice that of water. Using 0.5l beer of 20C and 0.5l rock (1kg!) of -10C you get the beer to 10C. Using (as pictured on the site) one 1.25" cube, or 20cc (40g) of rock per 1 bottle of 500cc of beer, you get 1:50 ratio (40J/K to 2000J/K), frozen to -60C would bring the glass merely from 20 to 18C. – SF. Jan 24 '14 at 17:18
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One method I know is to have large, heavy steins kept in the freezer. That way as soon as you bring beer, you can cool it by pouring into the stein. It won't cool your lukewarm beer to optimal temperature but it will give it a good few degrees drop.

You can use "reusable ice cubes", which are essentially tiny plastic bags with water - that way you won't dilute your beer. There's also a stainless steel variety, it has slightly worse heat capacity but sinks to the bottom, which is less annoying than plastic bags floating in your stein.

I read somewhere about making ice cubes from beer somewhere, so that they don't dilute your beer (you need a good freezer for that though). I can't vouch if they don't affect the taste though.

A smart method though, is to use the buffer beer. Remove the "buffer beer" from the fridge, put the the lukewarm beer in the fridge, drink the buffer beer - meanwhile the beer you put in the fridge becomes your new buffer beer ;)

edit: if you go with reusable ice cubes, use ones that contain water inside. Don't buy in to the scam of granite ice cubes or solid steel ice cubes. Their thermal capacity is abysmal. To provide the amount of temperature drop a single normal ice cube provides, you'd need to fill your glass with granite cubes to nearly the brim.

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At the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas, the Beverage Cooling Contraption Contest is an exciting outdoor event.

Over the years, techniques have included adiabatic cooling (using a jet engine), dry ice, liquid nitrogen etc.

In 2008, this team managed to cool a keg of beer from 80F to 33F in 35 seconds using air power, dry ice and alcohol.

  • Trick is not to freeze the beer and not to dilute it. Tossing a chunk of dry ice into your beer might sound like a very simple and very efficient idea except you freeze some of the beer and it's not so good afterwards. – SF. Jan 24 '14 at 10:17
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    You don't put the dry ice in the beer - that's crazy talk :-) But you can pump the beer through a coil embedded in dry ice, for example. – Rory Alsop Jan 24 '14 at 10:53
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    This is all very nifty, but also highly impractical. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 25 '14 at 1:04
  • Haha - actually adiabatic cooling is very practical. I agree with you on the others though – Rory Alsop Jan 25 '14 at 23:25
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It takes a lot of time to cool a beer bottle in fridge. But it takes much less time if you put them in freezer. However, you shouldn't forget about such bottle, if you don't want the beer to freeze and explode the bottle.

If it's not fast enough, take a few glasses, pour a bit beer into each and put them all into fridge. They will cool down much faster than the whole bottle, but the risk of making mess with broken glass is bigger, so it's better to check them each few minutes.

  • why do you have a risk of broken glass if you pour the beers into glasses? – warren Jan 24 '14 at 21:54
  • @warren if beer freezes in freezer, it can break the glass.. – Danubian Sailor Jan 24 '14 at 23:15
  • It sounds like you'd release a lot of carbonation (and expose a lot more surface area to oxidation) by pouring the beer into separate glasses. I think that would affect the taste even in a few minutes... – Andrew Cheong Jan 25 '14 at 7:07
  • A glass shouldn't break in the freezer, the expanding ice has room to move. In a bottle it has nowhere to go, so it cracks. – Robin Sheat Jan 25 '14 at 9:09
  • And then what, are you going to drink the beer from several glasses or pour it all back into one, releasing more carbonation? – JohnP Jan 26 '14 at 15:57
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One method I've used seen to good effect is to wrap the bottle in wet paper towels, and then put that in the freezer. Once the paper is frozen, the beer is quite cool, also the paper can be removed just by twisting it and it comes right off.

Obviously, don't forget that you put them in the freezer to start with...

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