What Happens to the Alcohol Concentration When Bottles of Beer Are Left Open?

by Karl Wallulis

An overhead view of bottles of beer, an ice bucket, an opener and bottle caps.

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Ethyl alcohol evaporates out of alcoholic beverages whenever they're exposed to air. For example, an opened beer stored at room temperature loses about 30 percent of its alcohol overnight, or in about 12 hours. Under normal temperature and humidity conditions, alcohol evaporates at a slightly faster rate than water, so the alcohol concentration naturally decreases over time.

Cause

Beer is composed primarily of ethyl alcohol suspended in water. When exposed to air, some molecules at the surface leave the liquid in a process known as evaporation. Alcohol molecules are more volatile, so they escape at a faster rate than water molecules.

Factors

The rate of evaporation is affected by many factors, such as the amount of surface area exposed and the temperature and humidity of the surrounding air. If an opened bottle of beer is left in a refrigerator overnight, the amount of alcohol that evaporates will likely be negligible, due to the low temperature and humidity.

Bottom Line

Leaving a bottle of beer open for an extended period of time can have many negative effects -- such as loss of carbonation, taste and aroma. Moreover, water is evaporating at the same time, so it also experiences a gradual loss in overall volume.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Karl Wallulis has been writing since 2010. He has written for the Guide to Online Schools website, covering academic and professional topics for young adults looking at higher-education opportunities. Wallulis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Whitman College.