It's Saturday afternoon, you've made it through the long week and it's time for Happy Hour, Gizmodo's weekly booze column. A cocktail shaker full of innovation, science, and alcohol.
Today we're keeping it simple with beer. But a warm beer is no good, especially now that summer has well and truly made its presence known. Wouldn't it be great if there was a quick way to cool your beer?
Well, you're in luck.
#1: Salt, Water, n' Ice
This is the beauty of chemistry. Salt lowers the freezing point of water significantly. Fill a cooler with plenty of ice, salt and water. It should be nice n' soupy. Cubes of have only so many points of contacts with a can of beer, whereas a solution like water can completely cover it in coldness, plus the solution will be about -3°C. Using this technique, it's possible to get room-temperature beer below zero in less than five minutes.
The only drawback to this technique is that by lowering the freezing point of the water the ice is going to melt fast, and once it's all melted the temperature will rise again. This means you going to have to drain some liquid out of the cooler and continue adding more ice at regular intervals. Not ideal in the middle of a close game. That said, it's a reliable solution that's safe for cans or bottles, and it's probably your best bet.
#2: The Rag N' Freezer
This one is has the benefit of convenience. You might not have a cooler that you can fill with a load of ice, water and salt, but there's probably a freezer nearby. Just putting it in the freezer commando isn't going to help your situation very much — you need to wrap it up, son! Take a couple paper towels and wrap them around your beer, then douse it in water. It should be soaked but not dripping (you don't want ice forming in your freezer). Air is not a very good heat-conductor. Water is a better conductor, plus you get a little boost from evaporation. Pop it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes, depending on the freezer's temperature (err on the side of caution).
There are definitely drawbacks to this method, the number one being that you must not forget about the beer in your freezer, which, y'know, you're likely to do when you're drinking beer. Set a timer and don't forget it. If you leave it in too long the can or bottle may explode. Which is bad. In fact, you probably shouldn't try it with bottles at all. Also, it's no where near as efficient as the salty ice-water technique. It takes longer, it won't get as cold, and you have to wrap each beer individually, which wastes time and paper. But, y'know, it's not the worst option out there.
#3: The Instant Beer Coldifier (Experimental)
OK, so I thought I invented this, but then moments ago I saw that the Mythbusters did it already. I hate those guys (and by hate, I mean love). But mine is actually better, I think. Here's what you need:
- One large cooler
- One funnel
- 3.7m of 0.95cm copper tubing
- 100 per cent non-corrosive silicone sealant
- ice, water and salt
- Duct tape
- Scrap styrofoam (optional)
Get a length of 0.95cm copper tubing from a hardware or plumbing store. I just found a 7.6m roll for $US27. Perfecto. Attach one end to the inside of your cooler's spigot (that lets excess water out) and seal it in there with 100 per cent silicone sealant. Make sure it's non-corrosive and non-toxic. This must be water-tight. If you have a better idea than silicone sealant, do it. At the other end of the tube, attach the funnel, using sealant or duct tape — this one is a little less critical. You'll have to let it set for 24 hours.
Once it's dry, space out the loops a bit so they're not touching each other, but make sure they are stacked correctly, so that the spiral is continuously going downwards. I'm going to see if I can space them out by cutting holes in scrap styrofoam. How much tubing you'll need depends on how big your cooler is, but to a certain extent, the longer the tube, the colder the beer will be when it comes out.
Now put the cooler on a table (or a stool in the bathtub, if you want to be careful) and fill it with ice. As much as possible, remembering to keep the coils straight. Have it so the hose comes out of one of the sides, so you'll be able to mostly close it later. Now add a bunch of salt. A cup? Two? Depends on how big your cooler is. Fill it the rest of the way with water. If you sealed everything correctly there should be no water leaking out of the spigot. Close the lid as much as possible (with the funnel still sticking out), and tape the lid to the rim to help prevent heat-loss. Flush the tube out with water once (if you haven't already), and then you should be ready for game time.
This method should allow you to pour a warm beer into it and have it come out icy cold in less than a minute. What's the point? Your cooler and fridge can only fit so much beer. This way you have unlimited storage and unlimited cold beer. You can do one at a time and your friends will be wowed by the geeky scienciness of it. The reason this one is better than the one made by the Mythbusters (no offence Adam) is on their first try they used dry ice, which froze the beer. The second time they just used regular ice, which didn't get it cold enough (and it leaked like crazy). This should be the happy medium. When the game is over, you should be able to scrape off the silicone sealant and your cooler will be back to normal.
The Disclaimer: I haven't tried this yet. But I'm going to this weekend, and I will document how that goes.