The Cutting Edge Of Cool: Self-Chilling Cans

Our societal drive to create the most convenient and technologically advanced world possible knows no bounds. Innovation offers a slew of new possibilities to shape the way we live our lives, big and small, for the better — and maybe the worse. A recent advancement offers immediate positive benefits to those lives led by impulse and ease, but the technology inherent holds bigger opportunity. We think.

Enter the self-chilling can, a device that functions exactly as its name suggests. It offers those who cannot access ice, those in the sweltering heat or isolation, and those who simply want their drinks perpetually cool, long-sought salvation.

What It Is

It’s a can — right now it’s just cold-brew coffee — that automatically cools on its own, keeping your drink at a refreshing temperature. There is a specific way to activate the so-called ‘chill on demand’ component of the can: simply twist the bottom clockwise to lower the temperature by 30 degrees in about 90 seconds.

Created by the Joseph Company International Inc., the Chill-Can (trademarked!) was first introduced to U.S. customers this summer through a promotion with 7-11 Stores, offering its own cold brew in the cooled cans. And it’s only $3.99!

How It Works 

Upon twisting, a valve releases a cylinder of carbon dioxide from within the can to begin the cooling process. The Heat Exchange Unit within the can uses reclaimed CO2 to chill the can in about 75 – 90 seconds. Place it on a flat surface upside down, twist the can, and simply wait. There will be a hissing sound, and this is a good thing. (It means it is working, and not that something has gone terribly wrong and you need to run for cover for fear of exploding coffee.) Holding the can will inevitably warm it up and deter the process. There is no specific temperature to which the can drops, but instead cools in relation to the surrounding environment.

The can is recyclable, and for now, at least, beer has yet to be sold in it. Sure, cold brew coffee is fine, but let’s not pretend as though beer isn’t the endgame here. Chairman and CEO Mitchell Joseph all but assured as much in an interview with Packing Digest, saying, “There are no real limitations to the type of liquid we can chill. Really anything that can be humanly consumed can be packaged in a Chill-Can.”

The Journey

This has been some 25 years in the making for the Joseph Company, which has made it a generational goal to achieve a canned beverage that cools at will. Who is to say what telling incident was a catalyst for such a lifelong goal?

An earlier iteration of the can seemed promising, so much so that a whole lot was ready to be shipped for sale in Puerto Rico to house Pepsi products. However, the technology used at the time to cool the can was going to significantly warm the earth, releasing chlorofluorocarbons contributing to climate change. That did not seem like a good tradeoff. This setback also resulted in a lost potential deal with Heineken.

Later on, a new technique using reclaimed CO2 from organic materials raised hopes for the product. And indeed, this new approach cooled the can ­­— but only by 1 degree. Even 8 years ago the company was anticipating they were close to the end, with a national rollout by 2014. For now, the tech is only in select 7-11 stores on the west coast.

There was also a time when the cooling system was activated by a button instead of a twist, but uncertainties about how much pressure to exert on the button scrapped that plan.

The journey continues, however. The company plans to open a new facility for production and distribution in Youngstown, Ohio this fall, which is set to be fully operational next year. Currently the can is made from aluminum and steel, but efforts are underway to see what other materials could work.

The Possibilities 

Technology and innovation have no road map — great inventions and creations come about by discovery, not necessarily by intention. Seeking one solution opens the door for new and unforeseen possibilities. That’s why it’s so important to invest in research and science as a society — not because of the imagined goals in our focus, but because of a history of science that tells us learning more about the world around us helps us tackle the problems we face in tangible ways, while also opening our minds to what was once, in fact, unimaginable.

At least, that is the hope for this can. The Environmental Protection Agency has applauded the tech as it releases no extra CO2 in the atmosphere, while NASA and the U.S. Army presumably see value in the technology as they have come out in support of it. Smarter people than me hopefully see potential; surely if there is nothing else, it could come in handy to quench the thirst of those soldiers and explorers who are working in the field. Indeed, NASA used the technology for their frozen desserts, but still, something bigger and better must be on the horizon.

 

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.