Does beer get colder quicker in bottles or cans?

I’ve got one of those cooling machines that will cool a room temperature bottle or can in 30 seconds or so. It seems a longneck bottle of beer cools better then a 12 ounce can. I assume it’s either due to the glass of the bottle versus the aluminium can or perhaps the shape of either container.

Or, is this just due to randomness?

I’d assume aluminum cans would get colder quicker since aluminum is a conductor of heat while glass is an insulator. But I’m sure surface area to mass ratio has probably got something to say about it too.

To experiment, drink a lot of cold beer.

There is a plastic layer inside the aluminum which is a bad conductor of heat. This it’s not surprising that the cans are taking longer. The plastic is to avoid contact of the beverage with aluminum.

The same plastic layer results in dioxin emissions during melting (recycling) of aluminum cans

I’d prefer a thermocouple stuck into the liquid, after mixing. But:

Computational simulations also predict that when an aluminum bottle is immersed in an ice-water bath, the liquid cools more quickly than in glass due to the lower thermal resistance of the aluminum versus the glass

This is for aluminum bottles, so similar profile. I don’t know if the Al bottles have liners. But the liners are so thin, I expect them to be negligible.

Shortly after removal from the cooling bath, chilled glass will feel, to the hand, closer to the temperature of the cooling bath. Whereas aluminum will feel like the temperature of the fluid inside. So to the touch, glass may feel cooler even if the contents of the aluminum are actually cooler.

As mentioned, surface area is important. As is radius of the ~cylinder being cooled

I’d wager shape is the key here. while glass is a better insulator, the shape of a bottle presents a higher ratio of surface area to volume. so the rate of heat transfer would be higher.

The chief answer is thermal conductivity, modified by the thickness of the surface the heat has to get through.

Aluminum has a thermal conductivity of 205 watts per meter-kelvin, while glass has a thermal conductivity of 0.8. However, the plastic liner comes into play, with a thermal conductivity of plastic ranging from 0.45 to 0.2 for most common types of plastic.

The plastic liner is only there to keep the beer off the aluminum, and can be assumed to be extremely thin, which minimizes its ability to insulate. Considering the vast disparity between the aluminum can (nearly four orders of magnitude more thermally conductive and an order of magnitude thinner) and the glass bottle, I think the can’s plastic liner can be safely ignored.

So the conclusion is that your aluminum can would cool (and allow to heat up again) your beer much faster than glass. If you’ve got to cool your beers quickly, go with aluminum cans. If you want to enjoy them longer before they go warm, go with glass bottles.

What device is that? Not one of these.

Or just grab one of your 100s of beer coozies you scattered about, preferably one of the many Gwar coozies. Though honestly it’s mostly to keep my hand warm and dry. Though my Yeti certainly keeps beers cold a loooong time. I can fall asleep and find an opened beer from the night before and it’s still cold. Flat, but cold. Now only if Gwar would print up some yeti coozies…

I was wondering the same thing

Another experiment to ascertain whether a can or bottle conducts heat better, is to pour a hot drink into a can. Or, maybe I don’t mean “experiment”, maybe I mean “extremely dumb and painful mistake I once made”

Is it possible that after 30 seconds the bottle is cold on the outside but still warm on the inside, while the can is pretty much the same temperature all the way through? That is, could the fact that glass is a poor conductor of heat make it seem colder because the temperature has been lowered on the surface, and when you touch it you’re insulated from the warm beer inside?

Bwahahhaa, and that’s why I love this place. I wouldn’t have thought of that problem prior to experiencing it if I hadn’t read about it here first. Though, I imagine pouring hot coffee into a pint glass still wouldn’t be really comfortable after a short time - and I have bass player’s callouses that let me safely ignore my wife’s admonitions to use a pot holder from time to time. This annoys her.

Does GWAR have special beer-cooling properties? I suppose they do have a close connection to Antarctica and all. I just wouldn’t trust GWAR around my beer, even just in coozie form.

I feel like it bears further research. For science, you understand.

I’ll peer review your procedures.

Only in Sleazy P. Martini’s fridge.

Fun fact: back when I saw them in the late 90s, sleazy p was in line at the bar in front of me. He got a Budweiser.

I don’t like the reasoning in the last sentence, perhaps the wording is not what you intended. If the liner can be ignored, it’s entirely because of its own thinness (as you say in the first sentence). But the fact that heat passes quickly through the aluminum is not additional justification to ignore the liner, since the heat must pass through both materials.

What we have is a case of a Cheneysian “known unknown”. We know there’s a plastic liner, but we don’t know it’s composition (and by extension its thermal conductivity) or its thickness. We have a range of numbers for the former, and a vague idea for the latter, and thus we can conclude: The liner is inconsequential. Ignore it. We’re already dealing with margins of error so wide that my answer is barely past “i 'unno” already.

If this answer fails to satisfy because of poor editorial standards, the best I can do is tender an apology. My editor is well-unionized and can’t be easily fired. If the answer failed to satisfy because of the vagueness of the physical chemistry, then I’m willing to research this answer in more depth if you can source adequate funding. I haven’t drunk a beer from a can since my father-in-law with poor taste in beer came to visit, so you’ll want to start with that. Send a lot of beer. We’ll need a lot of data.

And maybe one of those GWAR coozies. Call it a retainer.

Let’s finish the specs.

Glass bottle
Thickness: 0.0024 meters
Conductivity: 0.8 W/m/K
1/R = 333 W/m^2

Aluminum can
Thickness: 0.00097 m
Conductivity: 205 W/m/K
1/R = 211,340 W/m^2

Plastic liner of can
Thickness: 0.000010 m (accounts for 5 microns inside can and 5 microns outside)
Conductivity: 0.35 W/m/K (epoxy)
1/R = 35,000 W/m^2


The combined 1/R of the plastic and aluminum layers is 30,027 W/m^2, which is about 90X better than the glass bottle. The total surface area of the bottle is greater, but maybe only by about 40%, not nearly enough to make up for that massive disparity in conductivity. If you subject a can of beer and a bottle of beer to the same ambient conditions, the canned beer is going to equilibrate with its environment far sooner.

Given the conductivity of the aluminum can, the high thermal capacitance of the beer within, and the low thermal capacitance of the air on the outside, the temperature on the outer surface of the can tends to hew closely to the temperature of the beer. A glass bottle, OTOH, can have an outer-surface temperature that’s noticeably different from the beer within. This is especially true if you’ve put one in a fridge or freezer to cool it down. If you’re impatient, you take it out too soon, rejoice that it feels cold on the outside, and then lament after you’ve opened your still-too-warm beer.

Same. Don’t leave us hanging!