What’s the most efficient way to chill a drink?

Nothing’s better than a cold drink. But how long does it actually take to chill your favourite drink? And what’s the most efficient way to chill a drink? I’ve conducted a scientific experiment to find the answer.

The methodology

The tests were conducted with a 0.33-litre can and a 1.5-litre bottle, each full of water with a thermoelectrical thermometer in the middle. Both can and bottle were 21°C at the start of each test. The cooling mediums tested were a tap water bath (8°C), snow (-2°C), freezer (-20°C) and fridge (4°C).

Tip 1: Snow melts, so be sure to add fresh snow a couple of times during the chilling time.

Tip 2: The temperature in fridges often varies by multiple degrees from hour to hour. You can check the temperature in your fridge by putting an electronic meat thermometer in a full glass of water and leaving it in the fridge overnight.

The results

The best method to chill a drink depends on how cold you want your drink to be. A 0.33-litre can in a water bath from the tap will be cooled to 9°C in just 15 minutes. This is the serving temperature for Bayer and pale ale.

If you prefer slightly colder drinks, snow is the fastest way to do it: 5°C in just 30 minutes. This is excellent for sparkling water, soft drinks and lagers. The freezer is a good alternative, but the cooling time increases to 1 hour.

If you only have your fridge, you need to start early. It takes 2.5 hours to reach 9°C and 10 hours to reach 5°C.

bottle and can in freezer
bottle and water in the sink
bottle and can in snow
bottle and can in fridge

Top left bottle and can in freezer, top right in snow, bottom left in water bath and bottom right in fridge.

Chill a drink in a 0.33-litre can:

  • Tap water bath: 9°C after just 15 minutes
  • Snow: 5°C after 30 minutes
  • Freezer: 5°C after 1 hour
  • Fridge: 5°C after 10 hours, 9°C after 2.5 hours

Chill a drink in a 1.5-litre bottle:

  • Tap water bath: 9°C after 30 minutes
  • Snow: 5°C after 45 minutes
  • Freezer: 5°C after 1.5 hours
  • Fridge: 5°C after 10 hours, 9°C after 5 hours

Other effective methods are ice water (with or without salt) or wrapping a wet towel around the drink before putting it in the freezer. Wrapping the drink in a wet towel can also do the trick if you’re at the beach.

temperature can

temperature bottle

Temperature in cables

Monitoring temperature isn’t just useful for refreshing drinks. At SINTEF, I research electric power components, including temperature inside cables.

In power cables, the temperature acts as a limitation on how much energy can be transferred through them. Most often, 90°C is used as the limit in order to avoid excessive aging of the insulation. Until recently, most cables were operated blindly, as how can anyone know what the temperature is inside cables that are several kilometres long, under the ground?

temperature in cable

The most elegant solution is to use optical fibers, which are often used in the newer power cables. The technology is called distributed temperature sensing (DTS), and is a useful tool for power cable owners. When using fibre, the temperature is measured every metre in real time.

In the example, the bottleneck is where the power cable is under a road. If you know the temperature, you know how much power it can transfer. This knowledge can save power utilities large sums of money in unnecessary investments, which in the long run can result in lower network charges for you and me.


Read more about SINTEF Energy Lab, where we test components for the future energy system.