The summer heat is upon us and I’m sure I’m not the only one asking: What’s the fastest way to chill a drink?
Depending on the starting temperature, cooling drinks in the fridge takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Not nearly fast enough when you’re parched.
To speed the process, you can wrap a wet paper towel around them and stick them in the freezer. That’s faster — like 20 minutes. And the physics of the wet paper towel is pretty interesting. It works the same way that perspiration cools you down: evaporation draws the heat away from your skin — or away from your drinks. Just don’t let your drinks freeze all the way.
But 20 minutes is still too long.
Putting your drinks in a bath of ice water chills them even faster than a freezer. Why? Because water conducts heat more easily than air. Compare sitting around in a 68-degree room to sitting around in a 68-degree tub and you’ll quickly see what I mean.
To make sure, I started with cans of soda that had been sitting outside — about 78 degrees. After eight minutes in an ice bath, they got down to 50°F. That’s way better than the fridge or freezer, but 50 degrees is still a bit too warm to be refreshing.
I had read that putting salt in the ice water can chill your drinks even faster. Why would this work? Salt water has a lower freezing point than fresh water (which is why salt is often put on roads to prevent icy conditions), and adding salt to a bowl of ice water actually decreases the temperature of the water.
Still, I had to put this to the test. Sure enough, after 8 minutes in salted ice water, the drinks dropped to 44°F. Ah, nice!