Picture this: it’s been a long, hot summer day. You’re tired. You’re sweaty. You’ve had enough. All you want in the entire world is a cold beer. Bad news, you forgot to put some in the refrigerator yesterday, and you don’t have a single cold beer in the whole house.
I know, it’s a waking nightmare. Unlike cocktails (or wine, if you’re one of those awful people who puts ice in white wines, or worse, in red wines), you can’t throw a few ice cubes in a beer to cool it down in the glass. Trust me, ice is not good for the taste of the beer.
Don’t worry, we have got you covered. Here’s how long it takes to chill a beer, and the fastest possible way to give a beer a quick chill so that you can enjoy it right away. The times we list are approximate, and depend on a few variables, like:
- The size of the beer bottle or can
- The current temperature of the beer
- The alcohol content of the beer
- The specific type of beer
- Sugar content
- The average temperature of the fridge or freezer
Make sure you don’t cool beer past the right temperature. The ideal temperature to serve beer is usually between 40 and 43 degrees.
How Long Does it Take to Chill Beer in the Fridge?
If you’re lucky enough to have thought ahead and you have 7-8 hours before you want to drink the beer, just throw the room temperature beer bottles or beer cans right in the fridge. Beer will chill from room temperature (about 70 degrees) to drinking temperature (about 40-45 degrees degrees) in 7-8 hours.
Because it takes so long, this isn’t a great solution for someone who wants a beer now or within the next hour. So, while you use other methods to quickly chill a beer, make sure you put a few more in the refrigerator for tomorrow! In fact, if you’re trying to chill a whole case of beer, or even a six-pack of beer, it might make sense to quickly chill a few using one of the following methods, and then putting the rest of the case in the fridge to be consumed later.
How Long Does it Take for a Beer to Get Cold in the Freezer?
The time it takes for a beer to get cold in a freezer depends on the temperature of the freezer and the amount of alcohol in the beer. A single bottle or can of beer at room temperature (about 70 degrees) takes about 40 minutes to reach drinking temperature (about 40-45 degrees) in a freezer set to zero degrees fahrenheit, which is the standard temperature for a typical household freezer. This is just enough time to start cooking dinner or grab a shower, so the timing is often perfect. The temperature drops quickly at first, and then starts to approach the proper temperature slowly.
At What Temperature Does Beer Freeze?
Be careful! If you leave the beer for too long in the freezer it will start to freeze. Beer is mostly water, and water freezes at 32 degrees. While the exact freezing temperature of beer depends on the residual sugars in the beer and the alcohol content, an average beer of 5 percent alcohol by volume freezes at about 27 degrees. Some types of beer, especially those with higher alcohol concentration, may have a lower freezing temperature. Lower temperatures than 27 degrees, like those of a freezer, pose a risk of freezing, even for alcoholic drinks.
Remember to set a timer and make sure you don’t let your beer get too cold by leaving it in the freezer for a long time! If you want to be extra safe, it might be a good idea to put the glass bottles or cans in plastic bags prior to placing in the freezer.
If 40 minutes feels like too long, there is a way to speed up the process. Wet a couple of sheets of paper towel and wrap them around the can or bottle before placing it in the freezer. Wrapping the glass bottle or metal can in a damp paper towel or damp cloth will bring the chill time down to 20 minutes or so. Be careful, though, because this method increases the chances of accidentally freezing the beer and causing the bottle or can to burst. This also isn’t an economical solution for chilling a lot of beer all at once. It’s a lot of damp paper towels!
How Long Does it Take for Beer to Explode in the Freezer?
Like water, when beer freezes it expands, which can cause it to explode. This can be quite a mess, and if you’re chilling a glass bottle, dangerous as well. Unlike 70-proof liquor, beer cannot be stored in a freezer compartment for an extended period of time. Make sure to always set a timer when you put a beer in the freezer to keep it from freezing and exploding. Beer will chill to drinking temperature (40-45 degrees) from room temperature (about 70 degrees) in 20-30 minutes.
The exact freezing point of alcoholic beverages depends on a few variables. The short answer is that, for beer, any more than 40-60 minutes, and you are risking ice crystals and ultimately a messy frozen beer explosion. Big word of warning: from experience, exploded frozen beer creates a sticky mess of your freezer. It’s a big mess that isn’t fun to clean, so this problem is worth avoiding. Even if the cans or bottles of beer somehow avoid exploding, the freeze-thaw cycle is bad for the beer.
How to Quickly Chill Beer
So now we have a 7 hour solution, a 40-minute solution, and a 20-minute solution. But what if you want a cold beer now? Like, RIGHT now? Here’s the fastest possible method to chill a warm beer to serving temperature. While this is the fastest, it’s not a convenient way to chill a lot of beers all at once, so you might want to use it in combination with one of the easier methods above.
Here’s the fastest way to get a can or bottle of beer to optimal temperature. You just need a big bowl or bucket of ice, cold water, and a lot of salt, stir it up, and place the bottles or cans in the solution. We’re not talking about a pinch of salt here, either. More like a cup of salt, or a few cups of salt depending on how many beers you’re trying to chill at once. How much ice you use is important as well. While you don’t need 10 pounds of ice to chill a single bottle of beer, you want as much as will fit in the bucket along with the water and beer.
While a bucket of ice water works without the salt, the salt makes a big difference in the time it takes to chill beer compared to pure water.Because salt reduces the freezing point of water to a lower temperature, it will allow the water surrounding the cans or bottles to be colder than 32 degrees, which increases the heat transfer from the bottles. This is the best way to chill a beer in under 15 minutes. In fact, it only takes between 7-15 minutes to get a room temperature beer to optimal drinking temperature.
What NOT to Do
Here are a few ways to chill beer that we do not recommend.
First, don’t be one of those crazy people who tries to use a fire extinguisher to chill beer. They’re full of chemicals, make a mess, and need to be on hand for when you actually need one.
We don’t recommend using dry ice, either. Dry ice is essentially solid, frozen carbon dioxide and may chill drinks fast, but it’s somewhat dangerous, dirty, and can cause the beer inside the can or bottle to be at different temperatures based on how close the fluid is to the dry ice.
We don’t recommend products like these that you stick into the beer to chill it. They’re unpleasant to drink from and don’t really work well anyway.
Don’t want to read all of that without a cold beer? We get it! Here’s the recap:
- If you want a cold beer in 7-8 hours, put room temperature beer in the refrigerator.
- If you want a cold beer in 40 minutes, put room temperature beer in the freezer.
- If you want a cold beer in 20 minutes, wrap the can or bottle in a wet paper towel and put it in the freezer.
- If you want a cold beer in 10 minutes, mix ice, water, and salt together and place the beer in the mixture.
And there you have it! Now you have a nice cold beer. Don’t forget to start chilling the next one, and make sure you throw a couple in the fridge for tomorrow!
Thanks for Reading!
Still have questions about getting your beer cold in a hurry, or anything else beer and brewing related? Leave a comment below or post in the forums!
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