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Beer Science

Condensation On Your Beer != Good 275

Posted by timothy
from the except-in-england dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Turns out that condensation on your favorite chilled beverage is a bad thing for keeping it cold. Two researchers conducted an experiment in their bathroom proving that condensation can raise the temperature of your beer by nine degrees!"
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Condensation On Your Beer != Good

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  • by therealkevinkretz (1585825) * on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:44AM (#43609081)

    By the time there's any condensate to wipe off the glass, hasn't the damage (i.e. heat from condensation) already been done? That's what warms the glass and its contents, not the water remaining on the side. So wiping it off won't prevent the warming.

    • by pchasco (651819) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:49AM (#43609149)
      For the most part, but I expect the droplets of water increase the surface area of your cold beer container, thereby accelerating the warming process.
    • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:50AM (#43609163)

      By the time there's any condensate to wipe off the glass, hasn't the damage (i.e. heat from condensation) already been done? That's what warms the glass and its contents, not the water remaining on the side. So wiping it off won't prevent the warming.

      What you said is correct: wiping will not help, as the condensation process is what causes the heating. The most telling bit comes from TFA:

      “Probably the most important thing a beer koozie does is not simply insulate the can, but keep condensation from forming on the outside of it,” said Dale Durran, a UW professor of atmospheric sciences.

      So either we start seeing stein-shaped koozies at our local dive bar... or nothing will really change from this "finding".

      • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:06AM (#43609383) Homepage Journal

        They're drinking beer out of a can?? Well I guess that makes since. You have to keep the standard mainstream American beer very cold so you can't taste it.

        • by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:14AM (#43609493) Homepage Journal

          Most beer shouldn't be ice cold to begin with. Good beer at least. I agree with your sentiments about the mass market fizzy piss they call beer though.

          • by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:30AM (#43609701)
            This is true. You will taste much more of the beer when you drink it slightly warmer. Also the reason why the supermarket bulk beer contains phrases such as "drink ice cold!!" -- you can't taste how crappy it is.
            • I use the trick every time I have a batch of homebrew with a funny taste. The reason macro brew tastes so bland is that they use a bunch of corn and rice instead of barley to save money.
            • by period3 (94751)

              The taste isn't diminished THAT much by cold unless you're serving it ice cold. (colder than fridge temperature).

              You may taste more of warm beer, but for some (including me) this is outweighed by the fact that it's warm. I find near room-temperature drinks (or food) of any kind pretty gross. It feels like drinking from a still swamp. Ugh. It's got nothing to do with the taste.

              The same observation about 'warm' beer can probably be made about anything. Probably room-temperature sorbet has more taste tha

          • by Tx (96709) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @10:01AM (#43610095) Journal

            Every country has its fair share of fizzy piss lager, but credit where credit is due, I was just reading about how American craft beers have inspired [bbc.co.uk] British brewers in recent times, so I think the days of scoffing at US beer should be over.

            • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Thursday May 02, 2013 @10:12AM (#43610251)

              American craft beers are also quite influential in Scandinavia, among both beer drinkers and as an influence on the local brewing scene. Brooklyn Brewery is popular enough that they're opening a brewery in Stockholm [brooklynbrewery.com] to fill local demand without having to ship the beer.

            • by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Thursday May 02, 2013 @10:18AM (#43610333) Homepage

              Yes, speaking as a British beer snob who's travelled the US coast-to-coast, there are astonishingly good craft beers in shops throughout the US. They tend towards the very hoppy pale ale, which I absolutely love, and they have inspired more of that kind of beer in the UK.

              However, Bud Lite, PBR etc. are definitely blander than any of the mainstream British/European lagers served in British pubs.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Anonymous Coward

                Yes, speaking as a British beer snob who's travelled the US coast-to-coast, there are astonishingly good craft beers in shops throughout the US.

                Speaking as a science snob, the mass market American beers are some of the most impressive feats of industrial and chemical engineering today. When you talk to a craft brewer and ask them what makes their beer special, they'll tell about the effort, the love, and the hops. If you filter out the hippie bullshit, and if they have a clue, they'll patiently explain ab

                • by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @01:11PM (#43612229)

                  Because they aren't as expensive to make and reasonably easily replicated by someone else who will sell it cheaper?

                  Take your $500 bottle of scotch. It's probably aged for 25 or 30 years. So if I decided to make a competitor it would take me 25 years from when I started to bring it to market. And on every one of those 25 years I'd have to decide "I won't sell it all this year and make some money to pay the bills, I'll instead age it some more".

                  Though I suspect the real answer is that wine and whiskey snobbery are off the charts. A $500 bottle of wine is quite possibly nicer than a $25 bottle of wine - it's not $475 nicer though. Wine just happens to be a luxury good that people use to show off wealth and hence the wealthy will spend a lot of money on it just so that everyone knows they have a lot of money. Beer doesn't have that status and hence people won't pay such ridiculous sums for it.

                  That doesn't mean that "premium" beer isn't much better than "non-premium" beer. In fact it's a great thing for people who happen to like "premium" beers.

                • by Quirkz (1206400)

                  If that doesn't impress the holy fuck out of you, then engineering probably isn't for you.

                  There's no arguing there's some serious *science* that goes into the precision and consistency of a macrobrew. But there's a difference between appreciating the engineering and enjoying a flavor.

                  I've paid $25 for a bottle of beer. I think I've heard of people paying $50 for limited editions. That's probably a factor of 50 - 100 over the cheapest stuff, and in line with the examples you cited. Now you won't find that in restaurants very much, true, but I think the fancy beer market just goes on in other aren

                • by MrHanky (141717) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @03:01PM (#43613483) Homepage Journal

                  Expensive wine takes ages to age, and it's rare. It's not necessarily fantastic compared to more reasonably priced wine. Same with whisky. Beer? Yeah, I suppose you could hand-select your grains and hops, and use your private limited supply well water ... but, as you say, water chemistry for brewing is pretty straight forward science (and common knowledge even among homebrewers, so I suppose there's nerd spooge in your average craft beer as well), so it's not like you can't get identical but more consistent results with reverse osmosis and a handful of mineral salts.

                  The reason why beer snobs dislike your Bud is because it doesn't taste much like all. It's designed primarily to be inoffensive. You might as well ask why music snobs prefer Arnold Schönberg to Justin Timberlake, when the latter has had contributions from market research and advanced statistics to make music that's perfectly acceptable to a much larger share of the market.

                  Of course, you're also full of shit when talking about craft brewers. Hardly any of them know anything about the soil their hops come from (they source them from the same farms that grow for the macros), and if you hear much hippie bullshit, you're most likely talking to their PR guy. Brewing is geeky stuff, the big guys just have bigger toys.

                • by nebular (76369)

                  There are $500 bottles of beer, they're just rare. Actually that's the reason they're $500.

                  Expensive wines are expensive for two reasons: They're very good wines and they're rare. Only so many bottles can be made in a particular year and so they are sought after when they're good. So the price goes up.
                  Beer doesn't last as long, you can't have fifty year old vintages of a beer. A fifty year old oak keg of beer will have some nasty swill in it rather than anything you'd want to drink.

                  Since beer goes bad, you

        • by Quirkz (1206400) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:24AM (#43609629) Homepage

          Your reflexive disdain is outdated. Lots of craft brewers are going to cans, at least here in Colorado. Much easier to take camping, lighter, probably cheaper and just as easy to recycle. Also, unlike even brown glass, and much better than pale glass, a can won't let *any* light through, so the beer is less likely to skunk.

          • by alfredo (18243)
            A local craft brewer, http://www.westsixth.com/ [westsixth.com] has gone to cans for the brews. I still like my long necks because they can be capped for the next day if needed.
          • by TheCarp (96830)

            However, the staple american beers are still crap piss lagers.

            Outside of major cities, you still find many bars where the options are "Bud, Bud Light, and Miller", to quote one bartender that I ran into a few years back (A friedn and I, we walked in to grab a beer and use the bathroom, he saw us on our way to the bathroom first and commented that it was for customers only, we planned to have a drink anyway so we asked what they had, after he answered we looked at eachother and walked out)

            There is a reason t

            • by Quirkz (1206400)

              I'm not arguing at all about the low quality of the majority of macrobrews, and I also don't argue that the majority of American beers sold are cheap.

              My point was that you can't assume just based on the form factor that what's inside is one of those cheap macrobrews. One reason they don't sell a 30-pack of Fat Tire in cans is because it would retail at around $40, and few people want to shell that out at once. Also, it's got a higher alcohol content, so maybe you don't need to drink quite as many in a given

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Your reflexive disdain is outdated. Lots of craft brewers are going to cans, at least here in Colorado. Much easier to take camping, lighter, probably cheaper and just as easy to recycle. Also, unlike even brown glass, and much better than pale glass, a can won't let *any* light through, so the beer is less likely to skunk.

            Think of a can as a small hand held keg. No real difference in the storage container other than size.

            Of course the storage conditions have an affect so be careful where you buy your beer. Kegs stay in a cool location. Cans sometimes are kept cool and sometimes are 'stored' in rather warm conditions.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Craft and imported beer comes in cans these days.
          Much safer to drink in my pool than glass bottles.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        So either we start seeing stein-shaped koozies at our local dive bar... or nothing will really change from this "finding".

        At least, just drink from a smaller glass. That way, you can finish it sooner and replenish it from the original low-temperature supply. How this works out from a price perspective is between you and the bartender.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:55AM (#43609239)

      The condensation pays a latent heat penalty, warming the beer when the beer is super cold. But conversely the evaporation pays back the latent heat penalty at some higher temperature. Where the equilibrium point is I'm not sure.

      But there is an easy solution to this problem: mist the outside of your beer glass with cold water. This will tie up all the condensation nucleation sites without paying the latent heat penalty.

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:57AM (#43609267) Homepage Journal
      By the time there's any condensation, it should have been drank already!
    • I'd think wiping it off would accelerate the warming - it allows for new condensation to form, bringing the temperature between the beer and the atmosphere closer to equal. It's like hugely accelerating the evaporation of the condensation.

      Not surprised that condensation warms the beer (duh!) but I'm surprised how great the effect is.

    • by CanadianRealist (1258974) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:21AM (#43609605)

      You're right. Water has a high heat of vaporization. The amount of energy required to vaporize a given amount of water is close to 5 times the amount of energy that would be required to heat that same amount of water from 0 C to 100 C.

      So think of it as being a bit like taking the amount of water in the condensate, heating that to 500 C* and adding it to your beer. (* heating to that temperature without vaporizing)

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      By the time there's any condensate to wipe off the glass, hasn't the damage (i.e. heat from condensation) already been done?

      Wiping probably makes it worse - expose fresh cold glass to the air for more condensate.
      .

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      It will But not for the reason you think. People who actually drink beer, and understand it will know that a cold beer is actually a bad for the taste. The colder the beer is, the less you will taste it. The idea that you should get beer super chilled (as opposed to just a bit cool in the fridge) is mostly propagated by the makers of such swill as Budd and Coors. They actively don't want you to taste their beer (just drink it), and hence try and convince everyone that super cold beer is wonderful.

    • Seems to me wiping it will do more harm than good. In Africa, where refrigerators were scarce, we would put damp cloth on our beer bottles. The evaporation of the water chilled the beer pretty nicely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:45AM (#43609101)

    Now how about an experiment about the optimal water quantity for a wet t-shirt contest? Something about capillary action certainly has to be discovered...

  • by paysonwelch (2505012) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:48AM (#43609121) Homepage
    Save the ales!
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:49AM (#43609133)

    >> Two researchers conducted an experiment in their bathroom

    A lot of my stories that end with "and then we were both grounded for a month" start that way too.

    • by mcmonkey (96054)

      >> Two researchers conducted an experiment in their bathroom

      A lot of my stories that end with "and then we were both grounded for a month" start that way too.

      I imagine a lot of stories that start that way end with "...and 9 months later, you were born!"

      (for fans of Sexy Loser)

      (for those who don't know, don't look it up at work)

  • by gentryx (759438) * on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:51AM (#43609169) Homepage Journal
    Phase transition from gaseous to liquid dissipates thermal energy. News at 18:00.
  • That's incredible.
    They should file a patent in order to protect their original research.
    They would get billions from fridge/heat pump/cooling tower manufacturers or anybody who sweats!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:52AM (#43609189)

    Note to international readers: That is 9 degrees Fahrenheit. It's not as bad news for the summer days as it looks!

  • Nice submission. News for Nerds, Stuff That Matters indeed.

  • by Wapiti-eater (759089) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @08:57AM (#43609273)
    You chill beverage to hide the unpleasant flavors. Good beer is best served just at or slightly below room temp. Keep it in a cool, dark place - it's ready when you are. Colonials ::sigh::
  • Beer is certainly "stuff that matters." And the fact that condensation transfers heat to the surface of the glass may be "news" to some folks. But the number of "nerds" who didn't already know this must be quite small.

    OTOH, it's an excuse to talk about beer. Matter of fact, I'm having one right now. ;-)

    Cheers!

    • OTOH, it's an excuse to talk about beer. Matter of fact, I'm having one right now. ;-)

      Well, what did you have? I just enjoyed a couple of cheap-ass Grafenwalder [ratebeer.com] from Lidl, Finland.

  • ... but, there's a solution at hand: Drink fast!
  • Most beer is served way too cold, since bars tend to keep everything at piss water lager temperature.

    Proper beers are better at celler temperatures instead of near to freezing. Anything that helps get a beer back up is fine by me. Most places I have to order two beers to start so I can let one warm while I drink the other.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A man walks into a bar and orders three beers.

      The bartender brings him the three beers, and the man proceeds to alternately sip one, then the other, then the third, until they're gone.

      He then orders three more and the bartender says, "Sir, I know you like them cold, so you can start with one, and I'll bring you a fresh one as soon as you're low."

      The man says, "You don't understand. I have two brothers, one in Australia and one in the Ireland. We made a vow to each other that every Saturday night, we'd still

  • Leaving it in a salted ice medium in a cooler is bad for it too? It can get pretty wet that way.
  • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:07AM (#43609403)

    While on a float trip in Arkansas many years ago, a friend in a bikini offered me a titty. Shock turned to disappointment when I learned that in parts of the South Central US, those foam beverage sleeves are known as "Tiddies" for the Texas-based manufacturer of such foam-rubber products. But my beer did stay colder longer, so it wasn't a total loss.

  • by nimbius (983462) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:09AM (#43609417) Homepage
    this is simple highschool physics. the real problem we need to research and investigate is why do beer bottles unexpectedly and inappropriately become empty.
    I have, as a scientist, conducted extensive research myself and have to date been unable to conclude a definitive cause. I implore slashdotters, if you have any experience in this phenomenon or have experienced it personally, please adhere to your diligence as scientists and provide additional research data. bottles, glasses and even steins will exhibit this behavior, so please consider this in your testing protocol.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      the real problem we need to research and investigate is why do beer bottles unexpectedly and inappropriately become empty

      I've done extensive testing on this, and have concluded that what is actually happening is a volumetric transference from the vessel to the imbiber, at a rate proportional to the time the glass spends separated from the flat surface.

      You can predict the transfer rate by both the frequency with which the glass goes through it's lifting cycle and the tilt angle of the container at any given

    • Okay, you're the control group. Now cover yourself in condensation and get in the fridge.
      • Being warm-blooded, I'm a poor choice of control. Now, if I were to fill ma belly with several pints of tasty cold beerz, I might indeed be able to play a role.

        Cheers and bottoms up!
  • by DdJ (10790) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:47AM (#43609901) Homepage Journal

    Isn't this basic high school science class stuff? Yes, condensation raises temperatures, just like evaporation lowers temperatures.

    That's the whole reason human beings can sweat to cool off.

    A lot of people presumably know about that. Are those people surprised that this works "in both directions"?

  • by fynfuqbg (522423) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @09:50AM (#43609925)

    condensation can raise the temperature of your beer by nine degrees!"

    This happens only with American beer, in the rest of the world the temperature raises only by five degrees

  • Phase transition from gas to liquid is exothermic?

    This is a fun classroom experiment, but it isn't science news.

    • by RichMan (8097)

      The level of basic science/math illiteracy never ceases to amaze me.

      What the heck does happen in the school system?

  • Vapor going to liquid needs to ditch heat ... where do you think it is going? It isn't just the temperature differential either it is that there is a state change so you's got to pay the cost of the heat of vaporization too.

  • The only reason people need to chill there beer so much is because it tastes so bad. Cold things simply taste less. If you have a drink that tasted good, you wouldn't need to drink it at near freezing temperatures.

  • by nblender (741424) on Thursday May 02, 2013 @10:20AM (#43610363)

    My co-workers mock me for my beer rituals... If we go to a patio for a few cold ones at lunch, I won't let the server take the menu away... I need the menu to shade my beer so the UV doesn't make the hops all skunky. Nobody believes that I can even taste the difference but it's obvious to me... Skunky beer sucks... So if you're on a patio, keep it shaded or in a coozy...

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