Have you ever bought a six-pack of beer from the local store just to find they weren’t as cold as you expected them to be?
Maybe you popped into the bar on the way home for a sneaky cold beer or two and forgot about the beers in your trunk? Now the Sunday football game is due to start and your beer is still warm. What to do?
Most people would automatically think to throw the beer in the freezer. But one, that’s not going to chill it quick enough (there’s only an hour to kick off!), and two, if left in the freezer too long beers have been known to explode (once that game starts I don’t want to leave the sofa to be checking on my beers all the time!).
So what other quick ways are there to chill or freeze my beer? Can a beer go from room temperature to icy cold in 5 to 10 minutes?
And talking about freezing the beer, I don’t actually want it frozen solid, so how long does it take before beer freezes?
What Is the Freezing Temperature of Beer?
Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in the world. It is consumed by millions of people every day and is often enjoyed chilled, especially during the summer months.
However, there are times when beer is accidentally left in the freezer for too long, or when you intentionally put it there to chill it faster. In these situations, the question arises: how long does it take beer to freeze?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the temperature of the freezer, the container in which the beer is stored, and the ABV of the beer.
Let’s get back to basics first with a few things we may remember from our school days.
Odd things can happen to alcoholic drinks when they are placed in a freezer. As you are probably aware most of the content of a beer is water, which freezes at different temperatures to alcohol or ethanol.
The water freezes at 32°F (0°C), which is well within reach of the domestic freezer, but alcohol freezes at a whopping -173.5 degrees F, which is way colder than most domestic chiller units can reach.
The freezing point of a beverage is based on the combined freezing points of the individual parts, ie the water and the alcohol. The vast majority of beers, approximately 4% to 8% ABV beers, will freeze between 27ºF to 29 F, while those imperial ales or stouts at over 10% will freeze below 25ºF.
A light domestic beer will normally freeze completely in about 2-3 hours (the water content anyhow), while a stronger beer like an IPA may take over 4-6 hours.
Spirits which have nearly 50% alcohol by volume will normally take a couple of days to resemble anything frozen and will often just be a slushy mess.
In your domestic freezer, the beer will never freeze totally solid, and the alcohol will always be slushy with ice crystals found in it. The German Bock beers, the Eisbock, use freeze distillation to remove a large part of the water content of the beer for a more intensely flavored beer with a higher ABV.
In a typical home freezer, which is kept at around 0°F (-18°C), beer will begin to freeze if left in the freezer for an hour or two. Additionally, if the beer is stored in a container with a lid or cap, the freezing process can be delayed by a few extra minutes.
This is because the container will prevent air from coming into contact with the beer, which will slow down the heat transfer and reduce the rate of freezing.
How Long Does It Take To Chill Beer in a Freezer vs Refrigerator?
However, we’re not putting our beers in the freezer to freeze them, the average beer lover doesn’t want a slushy beer. You just want to cool off that beer as quickly as possible, preferably before kick off!
Assuming it is room temperature beer, or maybe even trunk temperature cans of beer, it should take about an hour in the freezer for you beer to reach that perfect drinking temperature.
By perfect temperature for beer, we mean about 35ºF for a light beer or lager, 40-45 degrees for most craft beer such as IPAs, and for Dark beers or heavier beers, stouts, and Porters, slightly warmer at up to 50ºF.
Using a domestic refrigerator is all well and good for chilling your beer, but isn’t ideal if you need to chill larger quantities of beer and can often take between 7 and 9 hours to get the beer down below the 40ºF most cold beers require.
Not great at a party when the first batch of ice-cold beer runs and you have to wait for the next batch to chill down. And certainly no good for the game which kicks off in an hour.
What Happens When You Freeze Beer for Too Long?
For most beer lovers popping your beer bottle or beer cans into the freezer is a convenient way of keeping your beer cold. To make a beer frosty in your domestic freezer will take about an hour, while two to three hours or longer will result in a beer which is frozen.
Just remember the freezer is not a storage place for your beer but rather a super-rapid beer chiller which you should take the beer out of it when it reaches that optimal temperature.
Beer cans and glass bottles tend to chill in about the same time in most freezers, however, glass bottles are much more likely to explode so shouldn’t be left in a freezer for too long.
We’ve all had a beer explode on us at some time or another in the freezer. This is because water expands when it freezes, and if there is not enough room for expansion within the container, it will put pressure on the walls of the container and cause it to break or explode. This can create a mess and potentially cause injury if anyone is nearby.
Just because your beer explodes doesn’t render it totally useless. If the can or bottle explodes you should definitely throw it away as you don’t want to be drinking shards of a broken beer bottle or burst tin.
However, if the container is still intact, bottle or can, you could use the beer for cooking purposes or making slushies or popsicles and many other cooling ideas too. Anybody for an IPA slushie?
Is Frozen Beer Dangerous?
In most cases, frozen beer won’t present a risk to your health. Yes, as the water expands in the beer it can alter the taste and texture of the beer, but it shouldn’t be life-threatening.
I’ve never heard of anybody dying from a frozen Pale Ale, although you might get a beer-slushy headache in much the same way Ice cream can cause “brain freeze” if consumed too quickly.
In addition to the risk of exploding containers, frozen beer can also have altered taste and texture.
When beer freezes, the alcohol and water in it can separate, leading to a change in the taste and texture of the beer. This can result in a flat and watered-down taste, which may not be desirable to drink.
Moreover, the freezing process can also cause the carbonation in the beer to dissipate, which can further affect the taste and texture. This can result in a beer that is flat and lacks the refreshing carbonation that many people enjoy.
Furthermore, consuming frozen beer can also be harmful to health. If the beer has been frozen and thawed multiple times, it can become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.
It’s important to note that even if the beer looks and smells fine, it may still be contaminated, so it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid drinking it if it has been frozen and thawed multiple times.
How Did People Keep Beer Cold in the Old Days?
We sometimes forget how lucky we are to have modern refrigeration methods.
For hundred of years in both Europe and the US the only way of keeping beer cold was ice caves, where the ice would be harvested in the winter months from nearby rivers and then beer stored in underground caves for the summer months.
The US has a rich history of ice caves for beer, especially in the Mid West in areas like Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, where many German and Belgian immigrants were brewing their own lagers.
In 1873, Carl von Linde of the Spaten Brewery in Munich invented a system of mechanically producing ice which meant cold lager beers become more accessible by the end of the 19th Century.
Modern refrigeration techniques mean cold beer is now available to everybody, but what about when you want to chill a beer in just 5 minutes?
Can You Really Chill a Beer in 5 Minutes?
If you want to chill your beer quickly, there are a few methods that can help.
Method 1: In a Freezer With Wet Paper Towels (7 – 10 Minutes)
One of the most basic methods is fairly straightforward and is the go-to method for many beer lovers. Using just some wet paper towels and a freezer, you can get your beer down to an optimal drinking temperature in just 7 to 10 minutes.
Simply grab 3 or 4 paper towels, soak them in cold water, and then let any excess water drip off them before wrapping them around your beer bottle or can.
Next, stash your beer in the freezer and as the water evaporates from the wet towels it will draw away heat from the beer causing it to cool even quicker.
If you haven’t got any paper towels to hand, you can always use a dish towel or any damp cloth to wrap the beer. Remember to set a timer for about 10 minutes as you don’t want the beer to freeze too much.
When your timer goes off, simply run the beer under cold water to easily remove the wrapper and, hey presto, you have cold beer, not frozen beer!
Method 2: The Ice Water and Salt Method (About 15 Minutes)
Another budget method (everybody has access to ice, salt, and water) is to add salt to a bucket of ice and water and then submerge your beer cans/bottles in the bucket.
The salt will lower the freezing temperature of the ice water, causing the ice to melt which in turn lowers the water temperature and will chill the beer much faster, in roughly 15 minutes.
It may not be the fastest way of chilling a beer, but is definitely one of the cheapest, and you could even use this method outdoors on fishing trips or camping trips when you quickly want to chill those beers.
Method 3: The Spin Chill Method (Under 5 Minutes)
A variation on the ice water and salt method is to add a handy affordable gadget called a “SpinChill” and your electric drill to rapidly cool your beer in under 5 minutes.
Available for under $30 online, this innovative device attaches to the top of your beer can or bottle and then rotates the beer in the ice water without creating too much additional carbonation.
According to the inventors, SpinChill works because the spinning adds convection which dramatically increases the heat transfer between the warm beer and the ice-cold salt water.
Method 4: The Rapid Chiller (1 – 2 Minutes Chilling Time)
The holy grail for beer lovers who want to chill their beers super quick is the Rapid Chiller. Not only are they compact units which are easy to transport for that next tailgating party, but they can also chill your beer in next to no time.
Operating by running near-freezing water around your beer cans or bottles, a good rapid chiller will bring your beer temperature down to under 40ºF in about 1 to 2 minutes.
Now that’s quick! And the only downside of these uber-fast auto coolers is the price. A decent rapid chiller can cost you anywhere from $75 to $300.
Method 5: Dry Ice (About 20 – 30 Minutes)
A more showy method that can be used at outdoor events uses dry ice inside coolers. The temperature of dry ice is around -109 degrees Fahrenheit, which will freeze your beer in a matter of minutes.
Try and get a few packs of dry ice for your next camping trip, but be sure to set up a divider in your cool box as you don’t want the bottle or can to come into direct contact with the ice.
You should also take the safety precaution of wrapping the dry ice in plastic, and never touch the ice without a pair of insulated gloves. Depending on how many beers you need to chill and the amount of dry ice you use, it will take 20 to 30 minutes on average.
How Long Does It Take for Beer To Get Cold on Ice?
Of course, there’s always the old-fashioned way of placing beer on a bed of ice in a cooler, if you really want to get back to basics.
For a beer that has been stored at room temperature, it will generally take up to 15 to 20 minutes to chill in a cooler box while covered with a bed of ice.
Using this method, cans will normally cool down more quickly as the aluminum comes into contact with the ice and will transfer the heat more easily than a glass bottle.
Is It Okay To Leave Beer on Ice?
Yes, it would be perfectly safe to leave beer on ice for as short or long a period as you like. Although the temperature may drop to freezing point or slightly below due to the alcohol in the beer, it will never freeze completely.
How Low Can You Go? (Beer Temperature Low!) Last Call
In conclusion, beer will begin to freeze in a typical home freezer after an hour or two, depending on the alcohol content and container.
If you want to chill your beer quickly, there are methods that can help, but it’s important to be careful not to leave it in the freezer for too long, as it can become dangerous to drink.
While beer is a delicious and refreshing beverage, it’s important to be mindful of the risks associated with freezing it. Drinking frozen beer can be dangerous, both in terms of exploding containers and potential health risks.
It’s best to avoid freezing beer if possible and to consume it at a chilled but not frozen temperature for the best taste and enjoyment.