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Why does beer suddenly freeze after opening?


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#1 patrick.rand

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 01:26 AM

This seems like a forum where I may be able to find the answer to the question that has been bothering beer drinkers for years. Can any one help explain the science behind this situation?

Often times in Maine, intentionally or not, we leave a can or bottle or two of our favorite beverage in our trucks, sheds, garages, etc. This works out very well when the weather is just above freezing and we later find a perfectly chilled beverage. However, since there is currently no BEER STORAGE ADVISORY publically broadcast over all media sources, sometimes the weather drops well below freezing and we find ourselves in trouble. An experienced beer drinker will exercise caution, but sometimes even the best of us sometimes take a chance and end up with quite a mess. I am convinced that many times the beer is still in ilquid form. Whether by feel from squeezing the can or viewing through the glass or tilting the beer so it moves inside the container, it often seems to be not frozen. However, immediately after opening the beer, before our very eyes it instantly freezes and starts to overflow, covering our laps, cup holders, work benches or steering wheels with our precious Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Can anyone explain the scientific process which causes this to happen. Your help will provide long awaited closure to beer drinkers like me around the world who ponder this very topic every winter.

Much Obliged.
patrick.rand@us.army.mil
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#2 Dudde

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 02:20 AM

If I remember correctly, it's because the freezing point of liquid (beer) is much lower with the pressure inside the bottle before it's been opened, and much higher after opening due to the decrease in pressure.

Thus, when you release the pressure on the liquid inside the bottle by opening it, the freezing point goes much higher, and freezes if the temp is already below that.

Higher pressure = lower freezing point
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#3 Mr Skeptic

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 03:04 AM

And in addition to the pressure, there is carbon dioxide dissolved in the beer (for bubbles). Dissolving stuff will lower the freezing point as well.

Some liquids can get supercooled, and the formation of bubbles on opening it would count as a big disturbance. I don't think this would be it though, otherwise it would also freeze when you shake it (not that you'd want to test that).
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#4 swansont

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 11:25 AM

It's also beer, which means that there is some alcohol in it as well, and that lowers the freezing point. It's possible that the water is turning to ice, leaving the alcohol as a liquid.

But I've seen this with soda-pop, too. Sugar and coloring dissolved in water, along with the CO2. The pressure change and CO2 coming out of solution means that you might not be below the freezing point before opening the container, but you are afterwards. So strictly speaking you might not have supercooling, but it could also be that you do, and that's why it happens quickly.

There's a video here (there's also a product for sale; feel free to ignore that part.)
http://www.slush-it.com/

Might have to film something like this with my high speed video camera.
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#5 DeltaNu1142

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 03:00 PM

This seems like a forum where I may be able to find the answer to the question that has been bothering beer drinkers for years. Can any one help explain the science behind this situation?
Often times in Maine, intentionally or not, we leave a can or bottle or two of our favorite beverage in our trucks, sheds, garages, etc. This works out very well when the weather is just above freezing and we later find a perfectly chilled beverage. However, since there is currently no BEER STORAGE ADVISORY publically broadcast over all media sources, sometimes the weather drops well below freezing and we find ourselves in trouble. An experienced beer drinker will exercise caution, but sometimes even the best of us sometimes take a chance and end up with quite a mess. I am convinced that many times the beer is still in ilquid form. Whether by feel from squeezing the can or viewing through the glass or tilting the beer so it moves inside the container, it often seems to be not frozen. However, immediately after opening the beer, before our very eyes it instantly freezes and starts to overflow, covering our laps, cup holders, work benches or steering wheels with our precious Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Can anyone explain the scientific process which causes this to happen. Your help will provide long awaited closure to beer drinkers like me around the world who ponder this very topic every winter.
Much Obliged.
patrick.rand@us.army.mil

I tend to think, P-Man, that this phenomenon which you've described is something witnessed only after several UNFROZEN beers are consumed. I think some rigorous testing is in order. I will be happy to act as the control for this experiment, and volunteer to sit in your passenger seat consuming Pabst at 34 degrees F at the same rate that you consume beer cooled to 30 degrees F.

Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged
P.S. - I think the liquid you're seeing is alcohol and other chemicals with a lower natural freezing point than water. The water is very likely frozen, and due to the property of H2O to expand in solid form, the bottle is under pressure--ergo, explosion upon opening, messy steering wheel, and looking like you peed yourself. So I will open the beers while you drive.

Edited by DeltaNu1142, 10 December 2009 - 03:02 PM.
Consecutive posts merged.

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#6 patrick.rand

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Posted 11 December 2009 - 01:13 PM

That all sounds pretty reasonable, especially the rigorous testing procedure outlined above. We will have to do this soon, the scientific community is waiting...
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#7 mooeypoo

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 10:32 PM

Here:
n_H5ZIoZSBo
If you go over to the youtube video, the explanation on the sidebar is quite good, actually. When you open your beer bottle, you release the gasses - which is what happens when you "tap" the bottle too (and why this "trick" works).

If you want to avoid surprises, try tapping the bottle or can *BEFORE* opening it, wait a few seconds, and then open -- it should freeze prior to opening so at least you won't random unexpected spills anywhere.

That said, I can't believe no one noticed this bit before:

However, immediately after opening the beer, before our very eyes it instantly freezes and starts to overflow, covering our laps, cup holders, work benches or steering wheels with our precious Pabst Blue Ribbon.

(underline not in source)

Lovely, dude-with-military-email :eyebrow: Your beer shouldn't be close to your steering wheel whether it's freezing or not... just sayin' :cool:

~moo

Merged post follows:

Consecutive posts merged
Ah, an even better video with some tidbit of explanation:
3qFXyEFMwBE
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#8 CaptainPanic

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:28 AM

Mind that I didn't read the rest of the thread... (sorry!!)

Three things that come to mind: supercooling, gas solubility and nucleation
1. Supercooling. Obviously, the beer is below freezing point, although it remains a liquid.
2. Gas solubility. The lower the temperature, the better the solubility of gasses. That's why there is no "psssht" when the beer is opened, and no gas bubbles form in the beer either.
3. Nucleation. When the beer is tapped on the top however, gas bubble do form (a tap on the top creates large differences in pressure, causing a low pressure at the bottom which causes bubbles to form). Gas bubbles create a place where the bulk of the liquid is not completely homogeneous. The ice will form there. 2nd movie confirms that after the beer was tapped on the top, the ice floated to the top and then got stuck there.

Pretty cool actually. Might have to try this myself. I love experiments where you get to drink beer afterwards.

Edited by CaptainPanic, 15 December 2009 - 08:34 AM.
adding links

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