Cooling hot drinks fast?
May 10, 2007 1:08 AM   Subscribe

Iced tea without the ice. Any special techniques for cooling hot liquids fast without diluting?

My favorite summer drink is cold honey green tea.

However, I hate having to brewing the tea stronger and adding extra honey to offset all the ice I put in the glass. Also, my ice from my fridge is not filtered so doesn't taste that great when its melted in the tea. (I don't mind it for keeping cold drinks cold.)

Does any one have any special gadgets or techniques to cooling tea without diluting it and without the long wait? Doesn't have to be able to cool a whole pitcher, 1 or 2 servings would be great.

I was thinking some contraption of copper tubing in a ice water bath or even keeping a cookie sheet in the freezer.
posted by mphuie to Food & Drink (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The standard way of cooling tea in some countries is to pour it from cup to cup several times. This is primarily to cool down hot tea enough to drink, however.
posted by humblepigeon at 1:19 AM on May 10, 2007

make ice cubes out of the tea itself. i saw martha stewart do this once with a chocolate drink (when i was visiting someone).
posted by bruce at 1:28 AM on May 10, 2007 [5 favorites]

Fill a bowl with ice water, then set the glass of hot tea down in the bowl. I hear that adding salt to the ice water will help it absorb heat even faster. Oh, and I would imagine that using a metal cup for the tea would help the heat to transfer faster than using glass or plastic or whatever.
posted by good in a vacuum at 1:32 AM on May 10, 2007

Um, stick in the freezer for a few mintes? There is always sun tea (though this does make a whole pitcher) they sell those big jars with a dispenser thing (not sure what that's called) that you put in the sun for a while....of course that's not fast, and you have to put it in the fridge to make it cold, but you will have a bunch of iced tea for when you want it, once it's done..
posted by catatethebird at 1:32 AM on May 10, 2007

I will also note that leaving a metal spoon sticking out of a hot drink will also cool it faster than without.

Basically, you're creating a mini radiator.

But I love the ice tea ice cube idea. Clever.

Also, wasn't there a Mythbusters where they did this with a coke can?
posted by qwip at 1:42 AM on May 10, 2007

Well, one thought that comes to mind is the ice cream makers that you pre-freeze. They're designed to store a great deal of thermal energy, and to transfer it quickly. A freezer removes a lot of the energy, in essence 'priming' it. You take it out, put milk in, and churn... this extracts the heat from the milk quite quickly, freezing it.

Now, these freezers are designed to have cold milk put in them, not hot, so I'd think a direct exposure to high heat might be bad. If you get one that's made of metal, if any exist, that would probably be much better. Otherwise, I'd suggest a variant of humblepigeon's approach; pour the tea back and forth between two pitchers a few times until it's cool enough to put a finger in without burning yourself, and then pour it into the ice cream freezer. Stir it and watch for freezing. The cold stuff will suck the heat out very, very quickly, so you'll want to be ready with a spatula to clear ice off the sides of the container.

Again, don't put the tea in while TOO hot, because the plastic will probably warp or crack.

Another thought would be a drink chiller; you load these with ice and water, turn them on, and they spin a can or a wine bottle around and cool it very rapidly. They claim to cool a bottle of wine in about six minutes. If you save an extra wine bottle and pour your tea in with a big funnel, you could have nicely cold tea in probably about ten minutes.
posted by Malor at 1:43 AM on May 10, 2007

IcyCools are a bit big for a glass of iced tea.

Hard to find online, but these 1" cubes might be more fitting.
posted by medium format at 1:44 AM on May 10, 2007

Put all those ice cubes in a sealed plastic bag and drop it in. Viola! You can also plan ahead and freeze a bag of water but leave a bit of vacuumed out headroom or the thing will burst the seal.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:47 AM on May 10, 2007

you can also get them in naughty shapes, but I'll let you find those yourself.
posted by medium format at 1:48 AM on May 10, 2007

Yet another thought... if you want to cool hot tea in an ice cream freezer, you could get a glass bottle that's a little smaller diameter. Fill the area between the glass and the freezer with alcohol. As long as it's fairly pure, it won't freeze, and will conduct the heat quickly without directly exposing the freezer to the hot water. Use the cheapest high-proof alcohol you can find. You can probably re-use it if you return it to the bottle... just never ever drink it if you do that.

With this approach, you should be able to just dump in there and leave it for five or ten minutes... if you get any icing, just cap the bottle and shake it up.
posted by Malor at 1:50 AM on May 10, 2007

There's a whole market for what you're looking for, except they typically advertise them for beer drinkers. They have non-melting ice ball things, which are basically plastic balls that are filled with whatever icepacks are filled with. You keep them in the fridge, they get really cold, then you toss them into your drink without having it melt.

The other option is a beer mug that has the aforementioned icepack liquid in it (they seem to be called freezer mugs).

Beer Chiller
Rapid Ice Chiller
posted by spiderskull at 1:57 AM on May 10, 2007

Whoops, I see medium format covered the non-melting ice.
posted by spiderskull at 2:00 AM on May 10, 2007

Brew your tea using the normal amount of tea, but 1/4 of the normal amount of water. When it's done brewing, pour the tea into a pitcher that's filled with the remaining 3/4 cups of (cold) water. It won't be straight-from-the-fridge cold, but it'll be reasonably cool, especially if you toss a few ice cubes in as part of the cold water.

Worth noting is that this assumes that you're not the sort of person who uses a single teabag to make a pot of tea. I usually boil about two cups of water, steep eight teaspoons of tea, and then strain the tea into a pitcher containing six cups of ice water. Obviously, YMMV.
posted by meghanmiller at 2:32 AM on May 10, 2007

Put it in a sealed container (like a bottle), then put that inside a larger container inside your sink and let the cold sink water run over it at a slow continuous speed (can be very little, little more than a drip). Ideally you want to get it submerged in the tap water (the reason why this works is because water is a much better conductor of heat than air, and the running water creates currents that will carry the warmer water away from the container). Works for unfreezing stuff too.

Of course this only gets you to tap water temperature...
posted by Morbuto at 2:44 AM on May 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions.

Isn't putting hot liquid in the freezer/fridge going to damage the fridge? Either way, it won't cool very quickly.

I've tried the plastic ice cubes/ice packs, they dont cool hot liquids very well. After a few seconds they are pretty much useless.

Also, most of the chillers listed are for already room temperature beverages, and are pretty slow. I'm looking for something that will drastically drop the temperature in a few minutes.
posted by mphuie at 2:59 AM on May 10, 2007

I think the solution demonstrated here (Chill A Coke In 2 Minutes! Video) is also pretty cool. In fact, it is just what good in a vacuum suggested.
posted by pu9iad at 3:18 AM on May 10, 2007

They make cold brew tea bags for making iced tea with cold water and the brewing process takes place in the refrigerator. Den's Tea has cold brew green tea bags.

When I lived in Japan my late grandmother would serve us hot green tea year round. I never heard of the idea of adding honey or sugar to green tea until I came back to the USA. During the summer my late grandmother would make barley tea. This was served cold with ice cubes. I make my barley tea with cold brew barley tea bags.
posted by plokent at 4:04 AM on May 10, 2007

You could always do what I do when I'm making ice cream (and thus need to cool about 1.5qt of liquid quickly because I'm impatient) -- pour it into a bun pan (a sheet pan with a lip) and toss it in the fridge. From scalding to icy-cold in about 15 minutes. Hurray for surface area.

And no, putting such a relatively small amount of hot liquid into the fridge won't damage it, although yes, if you keep your fridge on the very edge of 40F, some items may temporarily get too warm.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:25 AM on May 10, 2007

I forgot to mention another alternative method for making iced green tea. Pappy's has a green tea in a liquid concentrate form so all you need to do is add cold water and honey.
posted by plokent at 4:30 AM on May 10, 2007

Two glasses, or better one glass and one metal container - put hot tea in the a glass or the metal container and into the freezer. Put an empty glass into the freezer. Ten minutes later pour the now tepid tea into the frozen glass - iced tea without the ice - and you already have everything you need to perform this trick. The frozen glass thing works for warm beer also. The glass will freeze faster if you put it into the airflow coming out of the vents in the freezer.
posted by caddis at 4:45 AM on May 10, 2007

Liquid nitrogen!

Might fizz a bit.
posted by flabdablet at 4:51 AM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

"Dry ice" ice cubes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:13 AM on May 10, 2007

Loose leaf green tea can be brewed cold. Just double the tea and brew in cold water for 25-30 minutes. You can reuse the leaves 2 additional times and it won't be as bitter as hot brewed.
posted by arruns at 5:44 AM on May 10, 2007

Don't put a hot container in the freezer unless you're in the market for a new freezer. You might be okay with a glass or two, but you're asking for it if you put a large, hot pitcher in the freezer or fridge.

As for rapid cooling, I think the ice water bath (with some rock salt thrown in for good measure) is your best bet.
posted by Atom12 at 6:19 AM on May 10, 2007

I make tea with 1/4 water and then pour from that into a glass and add cold water from the filter pitcher in the fridge. That way the cold water doesn't sit around mingling with hot tea while I drink the first cold glass, and the tea itself cools on the counter for subsequent glasses.

Now that I think about, my whole family does it that way, and we all use the same Pyrex 4-cup measuring cup to brew our concentrate in. Anyway, that works pretty well if you've got a way to filter water. I like the tea-ice suggestion, too; I think I might experiment with that myself.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:29 AM on May 10, 2007

The simplest thing to do would be to just keep a massive metal or ceramic(marble?) pitcher in the freezer, and pour it into that. The mass of the pitcher will act like a capacitor for cold, and you don't have to expose your freezer to hot liquid.

Blazecock Pileon: ""Dry ice" ice cubes."

I imagine this would have deleterious effects on the pH, and therefore taste, of the beverage. Anyways, if you had dry ice, the best thing to do would be to break it into pieces and cover it with alcohol. Let sit for a couple minutes and it'll get down to ~-70°C.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 7:18 AM on May 10, 2007

Dry ice might change the flavour and add a little fizz; also, you don't want bits of dry ice ending up in your mouth, as you'll get freeze burns.

Liquid nitrogen is the right Science! ingredient :-)
posted by flabdablet at 7:20 AM on May 10, 2007

Related topic
posted by TwoWordReview at 7:42 AM on May 10, 2007

This is a pretty simple physics problem - you want to transfer as much heat out of the tea as quickly as possible. For that you need three things: a very cold place to put all of the extra heat, a conductive medium to allow fast transfer, and a lot of surface area.

Make sure whatever the tea is in can sustain rapid temperature fluctuations, otherwise it will crack. Modern Pyrex dishes are mostly regular glass, so be careful with that. Stainless steel or anodized aluminum is probably your best bet.

The freezer buckets for ice cream making are not bad for this, but you have to stir them, otherwise you'll get hard ice around the edges. They tend to not hold much, they take 24 hours to re-freeze, and they lose their effectiveness after 2-3 years, so this is probably not the most convenient way to go.

I don't like the plastic ice cubes - they always taste funny to me.

An ice bath is almost certainly the least-effort way to do this without getting into lab equipment. Adding rock salt isn't going to lower the temperature enough to offset the cost or contamination of the water, which you could otherwise reuse for something like watering the plants or remaking into ice for your next ice bath instead of pouring down the drain. Put the tea into a waterproof stainless drink shaker and plunge it into a bowl of ice water.

Alternatively, a trick I use for cooling large pots of stock is to keep a bunch of those little pint-sized Poland Spring water bottles mostly full of water in the freezer and plunge that into the pot. Something similar would work for this.
posted by Caviar at 7:53 AM on May 10, 2007

Buy some ice cube trays and make ice cubes out of the tea (preferably the ones with plastic covers on the top to prevent freezer burn) in advance. It's the right idea. That, and keeping a pitcher of cold iced-tea in your fridge and refilling it when it gets low.

I mean, if a ready supply of cold tea is your concern, I think it beats gadgetry. The only way to take fresh hot tea down to ice-cold in one or two minutes is liquid nitrogen. Obtaining liquid nitrogen, as awesome as it is, is a bigger pain in the ass than planning, I say. The only other plausible suggestion (apart from dry ice--which is nasty) seems to be the pre-frozen ice cream maker bowl or ceramic/marble pitcher. But that requires advance planning as well, which brings us back to the original problem, doesn't it?

I also have to second those who have cautioned against putting a hot pitcher of tea in the freezer directly. Just say no.
posted by kosem at 8:01 AM on May 10, 2007

My grocery store sells cheap stainless steel mixing bowls, medium sized maybe about a quart or so that I use to hold prepped food while cooking etc. they have a lip and stack too so you could get a few and stack them, place in freezer and use when needed. Just swish your tea around in one and back into the cup and it's cooled. Rinse, dry, and back into the freezer.
posted by clanger at 8:20 AM on May 10, 2007

Its almost summer so why don't you make sun tea? No brewing (and thus no cooling involved). Basically just take a pot of cool water, add your tea, and put it in the sunshine. And voila, in about 20 -30 minutes you get a pot of cool tea!

Take your honey and heat up a bit then add it, it will be warm enough to dissolve smoothly into the tea, but will not warm it as it will a small enough quantity.
posted by zia at 8:31 AM on May 10, 2007

You could try one of the many iced tea makers on the market. My mother bought one years ago and it does a great job.
posted by jjb at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2007

once you've done your initial pass at cooling, you might consider a pitcher with an ice compartment, like this one, to keep the beverage cool without diluting it.
posted by judith at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2007

I make regular iced tea and like it without the ice. What I do is make a batch and stick in the fridge. Obviously this involves some preparation and foresight since it's not an instant drink. But if you're drinking enough that this is a problem you can probably just make some this way under the assumption that you'll drink it later.

I really don't see what the issue is unless you only like green tea very soon after it's been brewed.
posted by 6550 at 10:26 AM on May 10, 2007

Dry ice cubes don't work especially well. A water ice shell forms around the dry ice, which concentrates the original drink. Also, the drink gets carbonated. Now, if you're making rum punch, both of these are highly desirable, but I doubt the poster wants strong and fizzy ice tea.
posted by bonehead at 10:40 AM on May 10, 2007

As an addendum to this, can someone explain why adding a warm object to your fridge/freezer would damage it?

All of the important bits of a fridge/freezer are not in the cooling chamber itself. All that goes in there is cold air.

How would adding a hot pitcher cause damage?
posted by Ynoxas at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2007

Increase the surface area of the container -- pour your tea into a wide, low bowl (or a deep plate, which may be the same thing) -- and put it in the fridge.
posted by pracowity at 1:09 PM on May 10, 2007

Actually, dry ice would be better for this than liquid nitrogen, for two reasons. First, dry ice tends to sink, whereas liquid nitrogen likes to float on top of the liquid - mmm, frostbite. Unless you've got a straw.

Second, liquid nitrogen has a lousy heat capacity. Don't think of it as being great for cooling, think of it as being great for cooling when you need to get something a hundred degrees or more below freezing. Even though it is colder than dry ice, liquid nitrogen (to be terribly inexact about the physics of it) holds much less "cold." Dry ice just has more bang for your buck.

Now, there is the frozen beverage shell problem, as above. However, this will not occur with smaller pellets of dry ice, say, less than a centimeter in diameter. It's nice and fragile, so wrap it in a towel and bash on it with a hammer for a while.

My recent experiments in using dry ice to reintroduce carbonation into a liquid suggests that dry ice will only do so to a noticeable degree under very specific conditions - the liquid must already be cold (it just sublimates right out otherwise), the container must be closed (if you're not careful, BANG!), and some sloshing of the liquid in its container helps.

I noticed no taste difference using it on soda, and very little taste difference in wines.

I've got too much *clap clap* time on my hands.
posted by adipocere at 2:03 PM on May 10, 2007

I also vote for bottled frozen and then dropped in the pitcher. Also, you need convection inside the pitcher to distribute the heat from the warm areas to the cold areas
posted by Megafly at 2:30 PM on May 10, 2007

Clean, small, round stones.

Personally, I use these for chilling single-malt scotch; but the principle is much the same.

Basically, you take some smooth pebbles, clean them thoroughly, and put them in your freezer. When you wish a nondiulte cold drink, add them to the glass. It does require taking a little bit of care, so as not to chip the drink receptacle, but still. I've found it to be a reasonable alternative.

This method is the source of the term 'on the rocks', eg 'I'll have a scotch on the rocks'.
posted by ysabet at 5:38 PM on May 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I need to cool down hot things, say, soup which needs to be refrigerated but has just boiled, I fill the sink with ice water, then stand the pot in there.

A heavy based pot will suck a lot of heat out of your tea just by itself.
posted by tomble at 8:42 PM on May 10, 2007

Again, check out a previous AskMeFi post: How long in the freezer to chill a Coke from 89F to 35F?

Nevertheless, the easiest solution like lies in the combination of water (density) + ice (cold) + salt (colder!) + movement (convection -- get those molecules dancing).

If you're of the crafty-builder type, perhaps a contraption of your own design is in order. What about getting a long, thin copper tube (excellent conductor), bending it up accordion style (lots of U's) such that it would fit in your biggest bowl or pot? Fill the pot with ice, water and salt, attach 2 rubber hoses to each end of the pipe (placing one end in a pitcher on the floor and the other on the counter with a funnel), and put the twisted pipe in the bowl. You'd pour the ice tea into the funnel and it would progress through the ice water, to be deposited fully chilled and undiluted into the pitcher.

Or not.
posted by chefscotticus at 9:55 PM on May 10, 2007

(Upon some googling, I realize my contraption suggestion above originated with Adam's beer-chilling rig on the related Mythbusters episode. I still think it'd be fun to make though...)
posted by chefscotticus at 10:00 PM on May 10, 2007

I have personally used dry ice for cooling tea, and it definitely imparts a flavor as well as a noticeable fizz. I would go with the liquid nitrogen, but even then all you are going to do is to freeze some of the tea. That could cause some of the compounds to precipitate and likewise affect the flavor.

The best way to do it would be to have a pump, with a reservoir of ice cold water (salt ice water preferably) and a long copper tube. Put the tube into another larger flexible tube, and then run the cooling solution through the outer tube in the opposite direction of the flow of the tea. THat should work the best and give the most efficient cooling.

posted by koolkat at 2:07 AM on May 11, 2007

It looks like anything goes, so here goes:

USB powered drink chiller - of dubious worth

Piet Hein drink cooler - tres chic

Homebrew Peltier effect drink chiller - kind of geeky

The chiller from this Elkay drinking fountain - clean-up might be a bit of trouble
posted by caddis at 9:16 AM on May 11, 2007

caddis' Piet Hein drink cooler reminded me of this cheaper alternative, Icy-Cools Reusable Ice Cubes. You should be able buy these at your local Wal-Mart.
posted by plokent at 2:42 PM on May 11, 2007

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