Chill Your Beer In A Flash With One Salt Hack

It's a real buzzkill when you find yourself stuck with warm bottles of beer. Sticking them in the freezer could ruin the brew's flavor and land you with a mess to clean up (liquid expanding as it freezes leads to the wrong kind of "popping bottles"), and it can take hours to bring bottles to a refreshing temperature in the fridge. Luckily, with three simple ingredients and a little basic chemistry, you can get that warm beer perfectly chilled in just 30 minutes. 

A mixture of salt, ice, and water is the secret to quickly cooling your favorite beverages. This is because saltwater has a lower freezing temperature than freshwater, allowing the mixture to become (and stay) colder than plain ice water. You want an ice-to-water ratio that allows the bottles to be submerged fully without overflow (and if you don't have enough ice for this, check out our tips for making ice cubes without an ice tray). 

Any watertight container will be suitable for storing the bottles and water, but something insulated, like a cooler, locks in the chill. Once the water has enough salt in it to taste like the ocean, the solution will cause beer to cool by 66 degrees Fahrenheit in just half an hour.

How salty science can help chill your beer

While it's not the only way to get your beverages chilled in a pinch, the icy saltwater method is the most effective. There are many different types of salt you may have lying around, but simple table salt works great for this method. Don't use a light hand when adding it to the ice bath; in fact, it would be hard to over-salt the mixture. Plain ice water cannot get below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, as it will freeze at that temperature, but plenty of salt changes that.

Thanks to its chemical properties, salt can lower the freezing point of water so that remains liquid, even when it's literally as cold as solid ice. When sodium chloride (table salt) comes into contact with water, frozen or liquid, it breaks down into sodium and chloride ions. These ions interfere with the water's ability to form the physical structures of ice, and at the same time, the salt dissolves the ice cubes you add to the beer-chilling mixture. The cubes melt into water that's the same frigid temperature as ice, but in a liquid form that better encapsulates the drink bottles, chilling them quickly and effectively.

This is why it's best to mix salt into room-temperature water before adding ice cubes. The combination of salty water and solid ice makes an ice bath colder than plain water and ice could ever be on its own. 

Agitate the bottles for a quicker chill

As long as you have a container large enough, the icy saltwater trick works for drinks of all kinds, from sodas to bottles of wine (wine and salt mix surprisingly well in other ways, too). And while 30 minutes isn't too long a wait for a chilled beverage, there is a way to speed up the cooling process even more. Larger bottles can take longer to cool, but gently agitating or spinning it gets the liquid moving, bringing more of it in contact with the cold glass for rapid chilling.

Rotating a bottle constantly while it's submerged in a sodium-saturated ice bath can bring it to a pleasant drinking temperature in as little as five to ten minutes. This depends on how warm the bottle was to begin with, and how cold you would like it to be. For instance, white wines are said to be best between 45 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, while many popular American lagers are meant to be enjoyed at 33 to 40 degrees F. So while drink temperature preference may vary, with some simple science and just a bit more handiwork, you can quickly chill any beverage in a matter of minutes.