In much of the U.S., this weekend is supposed to be like MTV circa 2002: Saturated with hot, hot heat. If you want to try to cool down with an icy beverage, but only have room temperature beer or soda on hand, we can show you a method that will chill the can fast, using stuff you already have around the house.
First, how cold you want your beverage depends on what you’re drinking. If you’re sticking with soda or light lagers, like a Budweiser, then its temperature probably doesn’t matter much to you, as long as it’s cold. But if you’re imbibing a craft beer, the ideal minimum temperature is in the low to mid-40s, according to Josh Noel, who writes about beer and spirits for the Chicago Tribune. Luckily, with this method, you can customize the chilliness by simply adjust your timing.
Here’s what you do:
- Take a bowl, fill it with water, add ice, and a couple tablespoons of salt.
- Drop in the can.
- Wait a minute, and stir up the mixture.
Water’s freezing and melting points are both at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. A bath of just ice and water will maintain this temperature. Adding salt lowers the freezing point of the water.
“When added to ice, salt first dissolves in the film of liquid water that is always present on the surface, thereby lowering its freezing point below the ice’s temperature,” writes chemical engineering professor Arthur Pelton in Scientific American. “Water containing a maximum amount of dissolved salt has a freezing point of about zero degrees Fahrenheit.”
A lower temperature bath means faster cooling, and this was reflected in our test. After two minutes, the temperature of the beer in our test was 55 degrees Fahrenheit, 20 degrees cooler than when it started at room temperature. If you wait a full five minutes, the beer drops to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit, six degrees cooler than in the bath without salt.
If you don’t have a container big enough for, say, a bottle of wine, you can wrap it in a wet paper towel and stick in the fridge. After five minutes, our can of coke was 64 degrees Fahrenheit, about six degrees cooler than the can of soda we put in the freezer without any covering. That doesn’t sound very chilly, but fair warning: Wine experts say we drink our whites too cold, too.