spoon science


** Click here for Episode 144 **

Since I introduced Olly to the spoon-in-champagne-bottles tip in last week’s episode, many of you have written to tell me that the trick has been debunked by Mythbusters. Do I care? No! Because Kimon in East Dulwich has been in touch to mythbust Mythbusters:

Although it is often considered to be an old wives’ tale, there is a likely scientific basis, the key concepts being thermal conductivity and gas solubility in water.

Precisely the point I was going for, Kimon! (ahem) Carry on:

There were two very significant omissions from Helen’s spoon-in-champagne-bottle suggestion which I feel need to be addressed. a) It has to be a silver spoon and b) there’s no point unless you also put it in the fridge.

Carbon dioxide’s solubility decreases as the temperature of the water (or champagne) increases – so the really important thing, spoon or no spoon, is to put the bottle in the fridge.

So what’s the point of the spoon? Well, if the bottle has been out of the fridge, it follows that the champagne and air in the bottle is warmer than the fridge. However, glass itself is a pretty good insulator (i.e. it has low thermal conductivity, around 1.1k (Watts per metre per Kelvin)) which means that as well as keeping the champagne cool when it’s out of the fridge, if over time it gets warm, it will then keep it warm when you put it back in the fridge.

Silver, on the other hand, has excellent conductivity, higher than any other metal at around 429k. The spoon pokes out of the bottle, soaks up the cold air from the fridge, and radiates it down into the warm air inside the bottle. This in turn quickly cools the top layer of the champagne, meaning that any carbon dioxide escaping from the warmer liquid below has more chance of being captured by dissolving into the cooler liquid at the top.

You know, none of us would have got into this big flap about champagne bottles at all if only everyone were so sensible as to drink this classy substance instead.

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