Home > Thought Exercise > Cold activated can? More like cold activated crap!

Cold activated can? More like cold activated crap!

I had the day off today, and even though I was watching the baby, I knew that there would be large chunks of time where she would be sleeping. While my plan is usually to try and sleep when the baby sleeps, this doesn’t always work out, leaving me with gaps of boredom that must be filled. While I was picking up some random items at the grocery store, I happened by the liquor department when inspiration struck me.

“Hey, there’s something that I can do to pass the time. Booze!”

I made a bee line past the cordials, wines and all of the hard liquors until I was at that Americanest of traditions, the beers. Granted, I had to go past a number of exports to get to the American beer, the real beer if you would, but still it was gold old fashioned cold brewed beer that I was after. The kind that can only come from the glacial springs of the Colorodo Rockies, Coors Light. Why Coors Light? They’re the only ones with the” Cold Activated Can” to let me know when the beer was the proper temperature to enjoy. Perfect for my little science experiment.

That’s right. I’m planning on doing SCIENCE! with my beer. You didn’t think I would buy Coors Light to drink it, did you? PSHAW! This is purely for the love of experimentation. Sure, I could’ve gotten away with just buying a six pack, then, instead of the case I picked up, but the cornerstone of any good science experiment is replicated the results. Over and over and over again. 24 times if need be, and by gum, I was going to do just that.

When I got my 24 pack science kit home, I ripped it open and threw a couple of cans in the refrigerator. After that, there was nothing to do but play the waiting game. Since the waiting game sucks, I decided to break out Hungy Hungry Hippo and had a couple of rousing games with Leia. After kicking her ass at it numerous times, and then rubbing her face in the humiliating defeat, I checked on how my cans were doing. What I found was shocking.

It turns out that the marketing campaign for Coors Light was full of lies. LIES! I tell you.

Yeah, I'm going to have to call bullshit on this one.

See that deep blue color on the mountains on bottle on the right? I didn’t get that. I got more of a paler, wimpier shade of blue. Pathetic in comparison, really. I could only assume that my cans just weren’t cold enough yet. So I did something drastic, and put one in the freezer. 20 minutes worth of Hungy Hungry Hippo (I won again, barely) later and the Rockies had not blue themselves any more than they were in the fridge. Shenanigans! I shouted. Angry at the marketing gods for filling my head with misleading advertisements. I had taken shit from these bozos for years into thinking that hamburgers could be three stories high, only to find that when I got to McDonalds they looked like someone had sat on them for a week, that subs would be overflowing with meat, freshly cut lettuce and tomatoes redder than the reddest red lipstick in a red lipstick store, painted red, only to be dissapointed again when my flat sub had just a few slices of meat, a pittance of cheese, lettuce that was already starting to slaw and yellowed tomatoes. If there was any safe harbor in the shit storm of advertising, I figured beer would be the last refuge.

In a last desperate attempt, I tried to see if it was my fridge that was the problem, and spread the cans out in various spots, some in the front some in the back, and all on different shelves (Yes, I actually did this). I decided to give a little extra time to this experiment. I felt I owed to the Coors bottling company, and to the public at large to get as accurate of results as possible. I’m just thoughtful like that. Unfortunately, all that time spent waiting was awfully boring, and I cracked open one of the cans from the box. The terrible irony being that the one thing that I chose to do to alleviate my boredom so I wouldn’t be reduced to drinking, was so boring that it reduced me to drinking. Again, there was no change in the blueness.

Now, a little flourish and exaggeration by the marketing department isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially considering that the idea behind the cold activated can itself is flawed. You see, when I grabbed the can out of the box, the mountains were white, indicating that the beer wasn’t cold enough to drink. However, I found it amazingly refreshing. How can this be? Did I suddenly turn British and decide that the taste of piss warm beer was refreshing? Far from it.

Despite the can being warm enough to turn the rockies back to white, the beer was still cold. The problem has to do with the specific heat of the can vs. the specific heat of the beer. Before you start asking me how hot the can was, specifically, let me explain to you what I mean. Heat capacity is the amount of heat required to change something’s temperature by a given amount usually measured in Joules per Kelvin. Specifically, the specific heat is the heat capacity per unit mass, or Joules per gram Kelvin.

The specific heat of aluminum, which is what the can is mostly made of,  is 0.897 J/gK. The specific heat of water, which is what the beer is mostly made of, is 4.1813 J/gK. It takes nearly four and a half times more energy to change the temperature of the beer than it does to change the temperature of the can. So, just because the Rockies change from blue to white, doesn’t mean that the beer inside is warm, since the can heats up so much more quickly.

We actually did a similar experiment in one of my physics courses. When the aluminum bottles first came out, they were marketed as being useful because they kept your beer colder than traditional glass bottles would. We compared the specific heat of glass (which is .84) against that of aluminum, to see how long it would take each to heat up a bottle of beer. We did this by splitting the bottle up in a number of concentric rings from middle to outer edge and determined how hot those would get over a period of time. Well, to be fair, I didn’t really do that, someone who was much smarter and better at programming and physics than me really figured it out, but the results were what’s important. The difference in specific heat between glass and aluminum is only .057. This is a negligible amount when you consider the huge difference between the specific heat of  both of them compared to the specific heat of water. What’s really insulating the beer and keeping it cool is the layer of beer closest to the can.

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  1. July 14, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    I feel bad that you had to buy Coors Light to conduct this experiment. It’s a pretty good marketing campaign, though.

    • DJ
      July 17, 2010 at 3:44 pm

      Most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of drinking ANYTHING. Forget it, Jenni, it’s Coorstown.

      Have you seen Chinatown? If not, you definitely should for your list. And the best marketing I’ve seen is for the Miller Lite Vortex. I mean, that shit does absolutely nothing but it sounds phenomenal.

  2. July 25, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I have never seen Chinatown, but it’s on the list!

    • DJ
      July 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

      Awesome and awesome!

      Hopefully the ending for it hasn’t already been spoiled for you.

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