Ever taken the last swig from your bottle of beer and contemplated throwing it on the campfire? What stopped you? Are you worried about the glass exploding and shattering? Or perhaps you assume it won’t burn so what the point is, right?
This article investigates how glass beer bottles react in a fire. We look at the temperature required to cause the melting process to begin and we consider if the glass burns. With melting glass becoming a popular hobby for many, it’s an interesting topic to discuss. Keep hold of that bottle for a few more minutes and have a read of our verdict.
A beer bottle can melt in a fire but the temperature has to reach extreme heat. Glass has a melting point of between 2552℉ and 2912℉. Campfires do not have the potential to reach such high temperatures. Campfires can reach a maximum core temperature of 1650℉.
The Science Behind Glass
Understanding how glass is made helps to understand how it behaves in a campfire. So, let’s get a little scientific for a minute. Glass is produced by melting sand. The key ingredients are silica sand (40%), soda ash (15%), and limestone (10%), and the remaining 35% is a combination of recycled compounds and other recycled glass.
Beer bottles vary quite a lot in size and shape but they are all designed to hold beer and protect the liquid from UV light. They commonly come in green and brown for this reason, to keep the beer fresh. They are then manufactured for their purpose, resulting in a variety of designs.
Since glass is made up primarily of silicon dioxide (sand) and has already been burnt. This means it cannot melt again easily. It needs an extreme temperature to melt the thick glass of beer bottles.
Beer bottles are made from glass which has a melting point of between 2522°F and 2912°F (1400°C and 1600°C).
Not all fires will reach this temperature therefore not all fires will have the capability to melt glass. Glass is neither combustible nor flammable which means it will only ever melt and not burn.
Fires That Can Melt Glass Bottles
Now, knowing that fire has to be extremely hot to be successful in melting glass. Let’s examine this further.
In the same way that metal can melt in intense heat, the same goes for glass. Below are some of the types of fire capable of melting glass:
- Oxyacetylene: (Oxy-fuel welding) These reach incredible temperatures of up to 6000°
- Acetylene: This type of blowtorch can melt glass as they reach a temperature of 4172°
- Hydrogen Torch: With the potential to reach 3632° you can melt glass with these
- Propane Blowtorch: At their maximum temperature of 3092°, these torches will also melt glass
A normal campfire does not reach the heat required to melt glass. Here are some other fire sources that cannot melt glass bottles:
You may be regular campers and wake up in the morning to intact glass bottles in the extinguished fire. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering campfires do not reach the extreme temperatures required to melt glass.
Glass can’t burn on fires as it is not a combustible fuel. It also lacks the necessary flammable qualities required. To start a fire, there must be three elements to the triangle. These are heat, oxygen, and the source that is burning. Glass cannot burn, therefore will not go on fire.
You might find that a glass bottle placed on a campfire may begin to crack after some time. It might get extremely hot and it may even shatter, but it will not melt.
Beer only contains a low level of alcohol so any beer remaining in the bottle will not catch fire. For alcohol to be set alight, it needs to contain at least 40% alcohol. Much of beer is made up of water, the alcohol content makes up a small 4-5%. These amounts are far too low to run the risk of being flammable in a fire.
If you are expecting to put a beer bottle in the campfire and watch an impressive explosion, you will be disappointed. Occasionally, the glass may shatter. However, this will be down to it being damaged while sitting in the fire.
Some liqueurs with enough alcohol content to catch fire are:
High-alcohol beer does exist. You can buy brands such as Snake Venom Ale which have an alcohol percentage of 67.5%. However, if you are going to brave such strong beer, we advise keeping well away from campfires!
Did You Know? – If beer is mainly water, could you put out a fire using beer? Turns out, it can make an effective fire extinguisher when push comes to shove. Firefighters in Los Angeles, in 2014 tackled a truck fire in this way.
Not only can you melt beer bottles but it’s also a great and creative way to recycle such objects. Melted bottles make fantastic ornaments and jewelry. When a hobby also helps the environment then what’s not to like? We have already established a campfire that won’t work for this though, so what can we use for such an occasion?
The best, safest and quickest way to melt a bottle is by purchasing a kiln. All you need to do is make sure the beer bottles are clean and you have scrubbed the labels off. It will take some practice but it is a really fun hobby or sideline to pursue. You can use blowtorches and other methods too, but kilns are the safest.
How Long Does It Take Glass to Melt?
The composition of the glass will be one factor in how long it will take to melt, and some will melt faster than others. However, once you have your heat source to the required temperature, for example, a kiln or blow torch, the glass should begin to melt and become malleable within 4 or 5 minutes.
Can you Start a Fire with a Glass Bottle?
Yes, you can. With the correct equipment, you can start a fire with a glass bottle. You will need, a glass bottle, sunlight, and something to use as a tinder such as dry newspaper.
The sunlight will need to magnify through the bottle causing enough of a heat source to ignite the paper. You may need to encourage the flames once the paper starts smoking. Take a look at this short YouTube clip which shows a fire being lit using a bottle and sunlight.
Can Glass Beer Bottles Explode in an Open Fire?
Anything which is made from glass can be at risk of thermal shock. This is when the object is subject to extreme heat causing it to fracture, split or break. This is most likely to happen if one part of the glass becomes hotter than an adjoining area.
However, whilst an empty glass beer bottle is especially vulnerable to thermal shock causing it to break it is unlikely to explode.
All that is left for us to say at this point is to enjoy those beers around the campfire. However, as far as throwing them in to experiment – it’s not worth it, life is too short. Campfires are too tame so stick to steaks and smores instead. You will not see a beer bottle melt in a fire unless you are willing to use a kiln or blowtorch.
You cannot just put any old glass in a fire pit, you need to choose fire glass for this purpose. Fire glass is made from tempered glass and is used in place of wood. It does not melt or burn and it only looks pretty spectacular in the yard once the fire pit is lit. There is no ash and mess to clean up afterward either, making it low maintenance. Best still, it can be used over and over again and only needs cleaning every so often.
It is important to note that fire glass can not be used in conjunction with wood burners, they require specific gas burners.