It never fails; you’re running late to your buddy’s backyard cookout when you realize you forgot to pick up a six-pack of delicious craft beer. In a last-ditch effort to save face, you dash into the nearest store and grab the first decent IPA you see. Unfortunately, instead of in the cooler with the tasteless, mass-produced fizzy, yellow water, your sixer is on the shelf chillin’, but not chilling. If only there was a fast way to cool those hoppy bottles of summertime salvation and simultaneously impress your friends with your MacGyver-like prowess.
Never fear, I have just the science you need to turn tepid bottles into icy liquid bliss. And the best part? You need only a few things already lying around the house.
First, find a container large enough to hold all the beer and allow plenty of room between each. Then grab some ice. You’ll need enough to reach about halfway up the bottles. Next, get a box of salt from the spice cabinet. It doesn’t really matter what kind–kosher, pickling, table or rock–and pour a healthy amount into a pitcher of tap water. The idea is to get the water very salty, like the ocean. Finally, pour the saltwater into the container until it reaches the bottlenecks. In five to 10 minutes, your beer will be icy cold, your hero status will be assured.
Why does this work? That, my friends, is some serious science called freezing-point depression. Adding salt to ice causes the ice crystals to pull apart or melt. This process uses energy and, since energy is the same as heat, the water gets colder as the salt melts the ice. Salt also lowers the freezing point of water, thus it does not refreeze. This is why salt is used to de-ice roads during winter storms. If you put as much salt in water as the solution can hold, the freezing point can be depressed to as low as six degrees below zero. So, the more salt in the water, the lower the temperature can go without freezing. Typically, you can expect to cool the water to about 20° to 24°F.
Cooling beer in a solution also works faster than ice alone because more of the surface is in contact with the cooling substance. Think about it: When you put beer in a cooler full of ice, only the portions of the container that are actually touching the ice are getting any cooling benefit. But when you submerge the container in water, the entire surface is touching the cooling agent, achieving maximum cooling effect. Just be sure to rinse the bottles off before drinking so you don’t get salt in your beer.
There’s more science to the thermodynamics of this, but for now, it’s enough to make you look really smart when your friends ask you what, in the name of all that is holy, you are doing.
All that’s left to do is to put your shades on, find a lawn chair and slip your frosty beverage into a coozy to sip at your leisure.
Science, hell yeah!