Study Investigates Crucial Debate: Do Stubby Holders Keep Beer Cold?

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.

Condensation, atmospheric motion, and cold beer [PhysicsToday via Reddit]


Comments

    I usually drink it too quickly for it to get warm anyway! (not that that's necessarily a good thing_)
    The main advantage of a stubby holder for me is to keep my hand warm (or rather prevent it from becoming icy cold!)!

    Last edited 01/05/13 1:46 pm

      The other purpose of the stubby holder is to identify whose beer it is - like those little dangly hoops that go on a wine glass, I can easily tell which beer is mine - I have the Batman one, you have the surfboard one, Dave has the one from the local quarry that I have no idea how I got it, etc

    I agree stevo. It's about being able to have an ice cold drink without ice cold hands.

    for a version of the experiment you can try at home: http://www.cockeyed.com/science/beer_cozy/beer_cozy.html

    I'll join the chorus of folk in the keeps-my-hands-dry-and-non-cold camp.

    Anyone else think the USA name of "can coozy" or "beer coozy" just sounds little wrong.

    Hands up if you have many more stubby holders in your home then you've ever actually purchased yourself... like paperclips and coathangers.

    Hmmmm.... beer o'clock I guess...

      I have so many Stubby holders, I'm certain there are some that have never been used!

      And yes, I had a triple take at the US name for Stubby holder.. just sounds WRONG!

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