Using Salt and Ice Water to Cool Down Beer
The stirring vats spun their ice water around, sometimes rattling against the floating beer cans. We waited.After 10 minutes, Odie checked the temperature of the water vats.
- ice water. 57°F
- ice water + salt between 50 & 62°F, depending on the height of the thermometer in the water
- ice water + stir 55°F
- ice water + salt + stir 55°F
Stirring and salt seemed to both be having a cooling effect on the water, although the tub with both salt and stirring didn't seem to be experiencing both effects. Also, none of these baths were particularly cold. 55°F is the upper limit of palatable beer temperature.
Ten minutes later, all the ice was melted. The vats with salt hadn't been particularly aggressive at melting the ice cubes. Maybe a half-cup of salt wasn't enough to make a difference in 16 cups of water.
At the twenty minute mark, our thirst could no longer wait. We pulled out the cans. Here are the results:
- Beer in ice water. 57.3°F (14°C)
- ice water + salt 56.7°F (14°C)
- ice water + stir 55.6°F (13°C)
- ice water + salt + stir 55.9°F (13°C)
- ice cold (10°F) whiskey 43.4°F (6°C)
Round those numbers off and here is the chart you get:
All the ice water tubs had significantly lowered the temperatures of their beer cans. Unfortunately, five cups of ice per vat had not been enough to chill the water and the beer down to a pleasant temperature.
Stirring and adding salt had had a temperature-lowering effect, but it was within a few degrees of regular ice water. I know salt helps lower the melting point (lower than 32°F), but in this experiment, the effect of the salt wasn't very dramatic.
The unrealistic cooling technique was, of course, the most effective. Ice cold whiskey.
The whiskey came out of my freezer, chilled to 10°F. It didn't turn to ice because the alcohol had decreased the freezing point from 32°F to -26°F! The alcohol in the whiskey was highly resistant to freezing, it remained liquid, which enveloped the beer can and was extremely effective at directly changing the temperature of the beer inside the can.
Experiment complete, we celebrated.
We poured ourselves shots of whiskey from the cooling jar and dropped them into awaiting pint glasses of beer.
Neither Odie nor I are big whiskey drinkers, but who can resist drinking a cold beer with shot of refrigerant?