# Whiskey Stones - ice, stone, steel: which is best?

"Whiskey Stones" - ice, stone, steel: which is best??

The conundrum:
I'd like to purchase the most effective cooling item for my evening dram of scotch, or Manhattan bourbon, or Black Label, or... Where was I? Seriously, I am intrigued by the growing popularity of "whiskey rocks" - an item to replace ice - and am curious about both the science and marketability behind them. The basic idea is that a cube of glass, soapstone, or steel keeps the drink cold like ice cubes but does not melt and spoil the whiskey taste.

My main question:
Which material will keep my drink at the lowest temperature for the longest - glass, soapstone, or steel? And, more importantly, will this material cool my drink to a temperature that is close enough to the temperature of an ice-cooled drink.

Assume that the material can sit in the freezer for days (i.e. the time required in cooling is irrelevant). Assume for simplicity that cubes of each material have the same mass and surface area (though, that's a fiction).

Thoughts:
I'm working it out now, but haven't used these equations in almost 10 years. I mainly figured that it would also be an enjoyable headscratcher for PFers to discuss!

My initial hunch is that nothing gets my drink nearly as cool as water (4.186 J/gK Degree heat capacity) because only soapstone gets the closest (0.98 J/gK). But, if that turns out to be true, I just have to figure out if soapstone cools it enough to drink with pleasure, or if it's just a matter of accepting some ice-melt...

Cheers!

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Simon Bridge
Homework Helper

Welcome to LQ and good on you for explaining your understanding.

The problem is to remove unwanted heat from your drink, but not too much - so you put something cold in it. So you want something that will draw off a lot of heat for it's size. You also want the drink to stay cool for the amount of time that you are going to drink it over and without spoiling your enjoyment by, say, weakening the flavor.

One approach is to put the ice in a container - say, put water in a small sealed bag and freeze it - with the drawback that the container may act as a thermal insulator. You can sit your drink in a metal pan sitting on a bed of ice. If you use something with a smaller heat capacity than water, you need proportionally more of it - and maybe a more irregular shape since contact area related to the rate of cooling.

It's actually a nice experiment for HS or junior college.

gneill
Mentor

Water has one of the highest thermal capacities per unit volume, a high heat of fusion (melting), mediocre thermal conductivity in solid form, essentially neutral in taste, and is non-toxic. Almost the ideal material! The problem is that you want to avoid the melted water diluting things.

Copper has a very high heat conductivity, but a lousy heat capacity (per unit mass). Solubility of copper could be an issue, as it will lend a metallic taste to things, and too much metal is unhealthy.

Gold is essentially inert, non tarnishing, and low toxicity (have a shot of Goldschläger!)

So go for the Yuppie market. A gold-plated hollow copper capsule mostly filled with water (mostly so that there's room for ice expansion). The water provides the staying power of water ice, the copper an initial fast heat absorption for quick cool-down, and the gold renders it safe, good looking (mmm, shiny gold in a beautiful amber liquid in a nice cut crystal glass) and expensive. Perfect Yuppie bait.

Simon Bridge
Homework Helper

Good idea - I want one already ... only cast mine in the shape of an apple, and put a kappa on it ;)

Quick question, does the phase transition of the ice melting help or hinder the cooling process? If I remember right, it helps with the chilling effect. And if so, will insulating the ice in any material ( I like the gold plated copper idea) hinder this?

gneill
Mentor

Quick question, does the phase transition of the ice melting help or hinder the cooling process? If I remember right, it helps with the chilling effect. And if so, will insulating the ice in any material ( I like the gold plated copper idea) hinder this?
Ice to water phase transition takes a relatively enormous amount of energy, and is a major contributing factor to the cooling effect. Placing the ice in a container with high thermal conductivity (and copper's is quite amazing!) will not have a significant effect unless the container walls are made ridiculously thick for the application. A few angstroms of gold plating isn't going to hinder things either.

sophiecentaur
Gold Member

Why not just keep the Whiskey and glasses in the fridge? But what a waste of a good drink. The best Malt whiskey tastes much fuller if you drink it at room temperature.

You'll be talking about mixing it with Coke or Canada Dry next. Yeccch!

Now, Vodka straight from the freezer can be an experience.

gneill
Mentor

Why not just keep the Whiskey and glasses in the fridge? But what a waste of a good drink. The best Malt whiskey tastes much fuller if you drink it at room temperature.
So the obvious solution is either a walk in fridge, or better yet, REALLY good air conditioning in the lounge.
You'll be talking about mixing it with Coke or Canada Dry next. Yeccch!

Now, Vodka straight from the freezer can be an experience.
Ah yes, the experience of waking up at 3:00 a.m. on the kitchen floor with a pounding headache and wondering how the truck managed to get in through the patio door, hit you, and depart thought the dining room without disturbing the china cabinet, or the cat.

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sophiecentaur
Gold Member

I didn't suggest a litre of Vodka - just a half tumbler. You youngsters have no self restraint.

Simon Bridge
Homework Helper

Depends what you call "room temperature" ... at 29degC it's not so great.
Also depends what you call "whiskey" - I've seen some murky lighter-fluid...

Also - if you keep the bottle and the glasses in the fridge, well some people have small fridges, and the point is to keep it cold after removal.

But nice idea. After all, the other idea is not to spoil the flavor and ice will numb the taste-buds hey ho. I sometimes like bourbon on the rocks with a sprig of mint on a sticky evening - the way the flavor changes as the ice melts is part of the experience.

For keeping cool without watering, I still say put ice in a bowl, put a metal bowl over the top, put glass of drink in the metal bowl - keep it next to your chair. Should keep a regular drink around 4degC.

But for the people who like the idea of a couple of gold-plated sphere's in their drink:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111524/

Simon Bridge
Homework Helper

So the obvious solution is either a walk in fridge, or better yet, REALLY good air conditioning in the lounge.
That's a walk in fridge... oh right...
Ah yes, the experience of waking up at 3:00 a.m. on the kitchen floor with a pounding headache and wondering how the truck managed to get in through the patio door, hit you, and depart thought the dining room without disturbing the china cabinet.
Yeah I get abducted by extra-terrestrials after drinking heavily too ...

How far can this thread degenerate?

gneill
Mentor

That's a walk in fridge... oh right...
Yeah I get abducted by extra-terrestrials after drinking heavily too ...

How far can this thread degenerate?
That depends upon what kinds of degenerates we are.

sophiecentaur
Gold Member

No wonder the spllelling is so bad on this forum.

gneill
Mentor

And here I thought it was performance art.

Ice to water phase transition takes a relatively enormous amount of energy, and is a major contributing factor to the cooling effect. Placing the ice in a container with high thermal conductivity (and copper's is quite amazing!) will not have a significant effect unless the container walls are made ridiculously thick for the application. A few angstroms of gold plating isn't going to hinder things either.
deep (or wide and broad and tall), not thick—all metals are thick, and clouds are thin.

K^2

alysdexia, you don't really want to over-cool either. If ice starts forming on whatever you dropped in, it's not good. The brilliance of using ice is because it has the phase transition exactly where you want it. So I really have to go with gneill's original suggestion. Just seal ice in a container. You have every advantage the ice brings and no water in your drink.

K^2, your objection holds no whiskey. All cubes come from the freezer and are the same temperature. Whatever frost on one that comes out of solution should on others also. And it's a temporary problem as frost only stays when the media are still.

russ_watters
Mentor