Science proves it: Coolers keep your beer cold

A meteorologist from the University of Washington just made a major breakthrough in the field of keeping beer cold, but in reality, any koozie enthusiast already knew this: koozies can keep beer (or any other cold canned beverage) cold for a long time.

The question is why: The researchers studied how much water droplets that collect on the outside of a beverage, known as condensation, affect the temperature of the can.

The effect is dramatic: as the droplets form, they absorb heat from the surrounding air and transfer it directly to the cold can.

The koozie prevents the buildup of water droplets, slowing down the cooling process.

“Probably the most important function of a beer cooler is not just to insulate the cans, but to keep condensation from forming on the outside of the cans,” says University of Washington researcher Dale Duran.

This is most important on humid days, because the more moisture in the air, the more moisture will collect in the can. High humidity also increases the warmth caused by condensation. For example, on a typical summer day in New Orleans, Louisiana, a cold drink will warm up 6°F in five minutes, twice as fast as it would on a hot, dry day.

“We found that in Phoenix, the can's temperature rose by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit after about five minutes, but in New Orleans, the same temperature rose by about 12 degrees Fahrenheit,” University of Washington researcher Dargan Frierson explained to Inside Science (video below).

This research isn't just for people who like cold drinks: Duran is actually a climatologist, not a cold-drink scientist. Understanding how water transfers heat is a very important part of atmospheric science. When water evaporates into the air, it takes heat from the Earth; that heat is then released when the water condenses and falls as sweat.

These water and heat cycles affect weather patterns around the world and are likely to change as the world warms.

The research was published in the April 2013 issue of Physics Today magazine. Inside Science recently interviewed researchers from the lab.

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