Researchers and students at the University of Washington in Seattle have conducted a very important study proving, once and for all, that stubby holders do in fact keep drinks cold. Here’s the science behind it.
Picture: Tim Patterson/Flickr
The study, published in Physics Today, investigates how quickly cold drinks warm up based on their surrounding climate. They found humidity was more important than heat, due to the latent heat that’s released when water condenses on the outside of an aluminium can. In the experiment, the students plotted the temperature and condensation of a can filled with water as the relative humidity increased. They concluded:
At 35 °C and a relative humidity greater than 60%, the temperature rise due to latent heating exceeds that due to heat transfer from dry air: Latent heating is the dominant factor warming your cold beer. The rate of latent heating decreases as the outside of the can warms, and the heating ceases completely once the can’s surface temperature exceeds the dew point (the temperature to which air with a given water-vapor content must be cooled to become saturated) and water no longer condenses on it.
They also explain how latent heat contributes to weather phenomenon, but the most important takeaway from the study has to do with beer. Author Dale Durran says: “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.”
Some may write this off as old news, but at least now you can cite a real-life study when someone tells you stubby holders make drinks warmer. Or that they just look silly. Thank you, science, for solving this crucial question.