I am an engineer. I confess. We like to have the answers, but sometimes the questions can be, well, questionable. In college, I spent many hours on a porch debating higher questions. And one that we squeezed the life out of was “Just what is the quickest way to chill a beer?”.
Plenty of smartasses are engineers, so every debate included the answer of putting it into the freezer. Well, ok…but first, it’s not the quickest . Two, I’ve done it and more often than not, I forget about the damn thing and find an exploded beer in the freezer later in the day. And third, the context of the question is what you should do when a freezer is not readily handy…like at a tailgate.
The best answer is a four step process that can be easily handled out of the back of a tailgating vehicle. This answer cost plenty in tuition over five years (yes, five), so read carefully to capture all of the nuances.
First, apply ice. I agree that this is a no brainer, but bear with me. There’s more science to this, I promise. You want to add ice to your beer from the top. Don’t set your beer down in the ice, pour the ice on top. Heat rises and cold sinks. You want that sinking feeling for colder beverages.
Second, add some water to your ice / beer mixture. The water quickly chills and increases the surface area between chilled material and beer bottles. This is a common theme as much of this has to do with increasing the surface area for heat transfer. Sound properly technical?
Third, add salt to your ice and water mixture. The salt lowers the freezing temperature of the ice and creates a colder interaction.
Most people stop here. Which may be the best process if you want to stay passive. But there is one more step that shortens the chill time, and you’ve got to take a more active role. Fourth step, spin each of the bottles in your cooler for about 3 minutes each. Roll the top of the bottles between your hands and get ’em spinnin’.
Now, let me get engineeringly technical. A beer sitting still is being cooled only by conductive heat transfer. The liquid is being cooled mostly from the outside in and the path traveled of heat transfer from the center of the bottle is long. A spinning bottle brings new material to the surface area of the bottle – icy mix; thereby, shortening the path of heat transfer.
Voila! A four step process to a faster cold beverage that can be done in the outdoors of tailgate land. And this process can shorten the cooling to under 5 minutes versus at least 40 minutes in a fridge. Added bonus? When folks see you spinning your bottles, just say, “it’s okay, I’m an engineer”.