How to Keep Beer Cold on Ice

How to Keep Beer Cold on Ice

We ran an experiment to determine the best way to keep backyard brews chilled—it’s science!

There are people out there in the world who actually enjoy the experience of drinking a warm beer. But Canadians? Nope. Let’s just say we consider cold beer a more pleasant option by far.

How not to chill

When you’re hosting a get-together, the last thing you want to do is hand your guests a warm one. But there’s one big mistake people often make. Perhaps you’ve done this, too: You bought room temperature beer for a backyard party and put it straight into an ice bucket. No problem, you think; the ice will cool it down, right?

Wrong! Believe it or not, warm beer usually won’t get perfectly cold if you put it directly on ice. Plus (the worst part): It will cool down very slowly. No speed-chilling with this method.

The experiment

We decided to try a little scientific experiment*. (OK, maybe not exactly scientific, but we tried this technique out at home.) We started with two groups of beer—four bottles per group, all brown glass. One group was at room temperature, and the other we purchased cold at the Beer Store (where all brews are sold already chilled). We placed each group in a small plastic bucket with half a standard 2.7-kilogram bag’s worth of ice, and put the buckets in a 28°C environment. After 30, 60, 90 and 150 minutes, we opened a beer from each bucket and measured the temperature using a digital probe thermometer.

The results

It wouldn’t be science without a chart, right? Here what we measured and when.

  Starting temperature 30 mins. on ice 60 mins. on ice 90 mins. on ice 150 mins. on ice
Room temperature beer 22°C 10°C 7°C 6°C 6°C
Already cold beer from the Beer Store 6°C 5°C 4°C 3°C 4°C

Already cold beer: The brews that started out cold from the Beer Store were already at a pleasant drinking temperature, and only took half an hour to get to the super-refreshing 3° to 5°C range. By 90 minutes (roughly the time when a party would be in full swing), the beer reached a very chilly 3°C. After 150 minutes (2½ hours) in the bucket, our final test beer was still in that deliciously cool range.

Room temperature beer: When we placed this group in the bucket, the ice immediately started melting. After 30 minutes, the beer had reached a cool, but not cold, 10°C. (Certain people might enjoy that temperature range for an English-style ale, but most prefer their beers a lot colder.) After 60 minutes, it had reached 7°C, and between 90 and 150 minutes, it stayed at the 6°C mark—not quite in the refreshing range. By then, at least half of the ice had melted, and that last beer likely wouldn’t have chilled any further, no matter how long it stood in melty ice water.

The conclusion

Start with already cold beer if you want you brews to get and stay perfectly cold for a party. Simple!

More beer-chilling tips

  1. If you have time, you can chill room temperature beer in the fridge before putting it on ice. Bottles will take about an hour to cool down to an acceptable 6°C or so; cans, slightly less time.
  2. Never put beer in the freezer. If you leave it too long, the liquid will freeze and expand, which may break the can or bottle.
  3. Many Beer Store locations sell ice for your convenience. Stock up while you’re there! And be generous—for 24 beers in a large bucket, use three bags of ice (one for every eight standard-size cans or bottles).
  4. To keep cool longer, place your ice bucket in the shade, not in direct sun.

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