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Can You Use Dry Ice in a Cooler with Beer? (Explained)

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Putting dry ice in a cooler is a great way to keep beer and other drinks cold. Though how you set up the cooler matters.

The trick to using dry ice in a cooler with beer is to keep the beer can or bottle from touching the chunk of dry ice. If it makes contact or simply gets too close, it could freeze the beer with potentially disastrous consequences. 

The easiest way to use dry ice to chill beer is to first surround the chunk of dry ice with a simple cardboard box. You can then chill 12 cans at a time for every 5 pounds or so of dry ice. 

What Does Using Dry Ice Do as Opposed to Regular Ice in a Cooler?

Dry ice provides a rapid, vigorous thermal exchange to rapidly chill anything placed in the cooler. Since it goes from its solid to a gaseous state, you also have to deal with such a wet mess as you do with melted ice. 

The relationship with the interior atmosphere of the cooler also helps keep things colder for longer than ice alone can. 

However, if anything like a beverage can, or a sealed glass bottle makes physical contact with the chunk of dry ice, it can rapidly start to freeze.

It’s also worth noting that the amount of dry ice needed to chill beer in a cooler weighs much less than the same amount of ice you would need to get the same effect. This translates to much more convenient transport, which is handy for hike-in campsites and trips to the beach. 

Why You Shouldn’t Use Dry Ice in a Cooler with Beer

The thermal exchange of dry ice can sometimes be too vigorous for small coolers. It can freeze beer in the can or force a bottle of beer into the transition phase that occurs just before freezing, causing the cap to pop off.

The volume of gas that’s released from the chunk of dry ice also gives off a high volume of gas as it chills. So, you should never use it with a cooler that seals perfectly airtight, or you should remember to open the top periodically to keep pressure from building up. 

Why You Should Use Dry Ice in a Cooler with Beer

The vigorous cold potential of dry ice does a great job of rapidly chilling beer. It’s also good at maintaining a low temperature for longer than ice, with less wet, sloppy cleanup required afterward.

It’s also lighter than the same chilling equivalent of ice. This is handy if you need to carry your cooler from the car to a distant spot on the beach or a hike-in campsite. 

Depending on the type of cooler you’re using dry ice’s chilling potential also tends to last up to three times longer than ice. This is handy for something like a canoe camping trip where you can’t resupply with more ice in the backwoods. 

How Exactly Do You Use Dry Ice in a Cooler with Beer

The easiest way to use dry ice to chill beer in a cooler is to first enrobe it in a small cardboard box. With this buffer layer in place, you can carefully stack beer on top or around the cardboard to make use of the vigorously cold environment, without making physical contact. 

Just be mindful that the more beer and other things you attempt to cool, the slower the cooling process will be. I find that for a 5-pound chunk of dry ice, it’s best to chill a 12-pack of beer or other sodas at a time. 

Final Thoughts

Dry ice rapidly chills beer and other foods faster than conventional water ice. It can also last up to three times longer, which makes it a great option for camping trips and other adventures where finding a fresh supply of ice is hard to come by. 

Though you have to make sure that the beer doesn’t actually touch the dry ice, or it could freeze, damaging the can or bottle. The best way to keep this from happening is to simply surround the dry ice with a simple cardboard box.  

Just make sure not to use an airtight cooler or remember to pop the top every now and then to keep outgassing pressure from getting too high inside the cooler. When done correctly, dry ice can be a great way to chill beer in a cooler and keep it cold!