Beer: Liquid to Ice

I had put a couple of beers in the freezer to get them cold faster. A little while later I grabbed one and the bottle was nicely icely. And when checked to see if I had in fact created a beer slushie I found the beer inside was totally liquid with no ice forming.

But when I popped the top, the beer turned to ice and even started rising out the top like some barley infused tower of Pisa.

My guess is that this had to do with the drop in pressure when I opened the bottle, but could someone shed some light on the physics/chemistry involved?


I believe it has to do with supercooled liquids, but I’ll let the braniacs sort it out.

I believe it has to do with wasting a bottle of beer and his request about the physics of the whole process is just his way of dealing with the guilt. :slight_smile:

Been there, done that. Think you’re going to get the coldest brewski of your lifetime and poof - you’re chewing it.

your beer was super cooled. Basically it’s colder then it’s freezing temperature. IIRC freezing requires a point of nucleation and an extremely still liquid won’t nucleate anywhere. Therefore your beer can be a liquid until you disturb it. In your case I find it odd that you were able to grab the beer and open it before it froze over. generally a ping to the bottle with your finger should be enough to start the freezing process.

It’s an issue of the freezing point of water (which beer is mostly made of) is lower when pressurized. This link explains it far better than I could ever do ( ).

The same thing happens to me and soda, I often leave a full, unopened 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke in the car during the winter… on those 15F nights, when I pick it up in the morning, it’s liquid, I open it up, and I’ve got slush.

One of my roomates in college accidentally made a beer slushie one weekend. What we all thought was an annoying accident, he thought was really cool, and he set out to replicate it (he was that kind of guy). He got the timing down to the point where he knew exactly how long to leave a beer in the freezer so that it would be liquid coming out, but would turn into a slushie as soon as you opened the cap. From then on out, it was beer slushies every weekend.

I don’t buy Harmonix’s nucleation theory. You could handle these bottles as much as you wanted and they would stay liquid, until you opened the cap. I’m going to have to go with butler1850’s pressure theory, since this seems to fit the symptoms much more nicely.

Think you could find out the time it took, so I can have a ballpark figure with which to start conducting experiments of my own? :smiley:

Nor do I buy the nucleation theory of beer freezing. Here is an experiment that disproves it.

Move to Minnesota. Get a snowmobile with saddle bags. Put a few cans of beer in the saddle bags, and go tearing around outside on a cold day in winter. When you stop, the beer in the cans will still be in the liquid state (“Ed, I don’t think this one is a slushy…”) before opening. The cans will be really, really chewed up from banging against each other (plenty of opportunity for nucleation). As soon as the beer is opened, freezing will commence.

The beer slushy is pretty good, if you like that sort of thing. You can also sample the other extreme. Come inside with the slushy beer after snowmobiling. Place the beer on the top of the hot wood stove. You can remove after a minute or so, after the slushiness has cleared. Or, you can lay down and take a nap for 45 minutes to an hour. When you awake, the beer will be steaming and extremely hot. Handle with caution.

Unlike the slushy beer, the steaming beer is gross.

I should add that I think it is a very bad idea to heat an unopened beer in this way.

I’ve had this happen before, it’s particularly good with carbonated soft drinks. Beer, eh, pretty good but kinda, well, funky. I like my beer liquid.

I have no cite or anything, but I always sorta assumed that the… er… de-dissolving of the gasses in the liquid cooled it just the little bit needed to actually freeze.

Ya know, expanding gasses get cold, ya got bubbles of expanding gas. Makes some sense.

I’m not sure how one would test this theory. You’d need some sort of canned-or-bottled non-carbonated beverage which was still under pressure, and most non-carbonated beverages aren’t. I don’t know one that is, actually.

Then again, it’s the pressure which holds most of the carbon dioxide in the liquid, isn’t it?


Hey. Everyone’s right.

Harmonix is certainly correct, as I have done the super-cooled experiment countless times at my brother’s shop (Things do get slow sometimes) with water bottled in plastic containers. We got it all done to a fair science, no pun intended, by leaving them in the freezer for 50 or so minutes. The bottles can then be removed, handled gently and no precipitation of crystals would occur. But give the bottle the magic “ping” and a nice looking wave of crystalization would sweep through the water. Hours of fun.

The difference for carbonated beverages is an addition of pressure, obviously. This allows an intermediate state of supercooling at a temperature above the type mentioned above. No amount of agitation in this state will precipitate crystal formation, but lowering pressure head will. That is, throw the beer to your buddy and it stays fully liquid; but pop the top and you get the perfect slushie.

Lowering the temperature further gets the liquid into the super-cooled state mentioned initially. At that temperature agitation is sufficient to cause nucleation and slushification. Of course, lowering the temperature even further will lead to problems with the SO and arguments about why there are exploded beers in the freezer.

Thanks everyone. I knew there was more to the physics of beer drinking than the sudden increase in gravity that occurs around beer 11 or 12. :slight_smile: