Chill a Beer in 5 Minutes With This Time-Saving Hack

Drinks can make or break a party, and things start veering toward "break" when you've forgotten to put your 12-pack in the fridge before guests arrive. But don't fret! If you've got ice and salt, we've got good news: You can save your beers, and consequently your party, with a little bit of chemistry.

Break It Up, Kids

This salt-and-ice trick works for the same reason you salt your sidewalks in the winter: Salt lowers the freezing point of water. To figure out why, think about water as a middle-school dance floor. The dancers always want to partner up, but at room temperature (or during an upbeat song), they're moving past each other so fast that they never get the chance. But as the temperature drops, the dance gets slower, and soon the dancers can't escape their desire to embrace. When a bunch of water molecules "embrace," they form the crystalline structure we know as ice.

You can think of salt, then, as the chaperones. They come in and physically get in the way of the partnered water molecules, keeping them from embracing — and, therefore, from becoming ice, at least until the temperature gets even lower. In the case of your sidewalks, this process drops water's freezing point from 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) to a temperature that's hopefully lower than the ambient air temperature — boom, no ice.

What's Cooler Than Being Cool? Ice Cold!

But wait! you might say. If salt makes ice melt, how is that going to keep my beer cold? Good question, dedicated party animal. It will make your ice melt, it's true, but because it's actually lowering the temperature at which water freezes, that runoff can be far below 32 degrees and remain liquid.

And liquid is what you want. Solid ice has limited points of contact with any given bottle or can, but a super-cold saltwater slurry can completely surround the containers. Water just so happens to be an excellent conductor, so it'll quickly draw out any heat and leave you with an ice-cold brew in as little as five minutes. Just make sure to replace the ice as it melts to keep the whole shebang from warming up to room temperature.

Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

For more scientific kitchen hacks, check out "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained" by Robert L. Wolke. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase through that link, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Ashley Hamer July 19, 2017

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.