Keep your beer cold with an African off grid chiller: How to make a Zeer Pot

Zeer pots can help to prevent post-harvest food waste. (Photo: FC Eco Camp)

Zeer pots have been around for a long time. The need to keep food chilled is imperative in Africa, where a piece of fruit can go from unripe to rotten in just a few hours.

As usual low tech is the answer and whether you want to keep your beer cold or have a way of chilling food in a power outage, a zeer pot will work for you.

Much of Africa has large bands of clay soil and this is utilised in many different ways from building walls to making the decorative plant pots that grace the balconies of most ex-pat apartments. These are often plant pots with attitude, they are massive, easily big enough to hold a half grown palm tree so you may either have to hunt for a big one or downscale the size of your chiller. Either way the principle is exactly the same and it’s so bloody simple it’s scary!

Functioning of a clay pot cooler
Functioning of a clay pot cooler. Picture: Peter Rinker (used under the Creative Commons licence).

Okay, here we go.

  1. Get two unglazed terracotta plant pots, one should be at least three inches smaller than the other.
  2. Put some sand in the bottom of the large pot, enough so that when you sit the smaller pot inside it the rims are the same height.
  3. Soak the smaller pot, and I mean soak it, inside and out
  4. Wet the sand in the bottom of the large pot and put the small pot in there.
  5. Pack sand down between the two pots, all the way around. Wet it as you go and push it down until its well packed and the two pots are roughly level at the top with the sand stopping an inch below the rims.
  6. Wet the sand again. It needs to be wet through.
  7. Put a light wet cloth over the top to make a lid. Dark colours soak up the heat which you don’t want to happen.
  8. Put beer or produce inside and wait a while for the chilling effect to get underway…usually an hour or so but if your beer is cold to start with it will stay that way.
  9. Enjoy a cold beer.
  • The process of evaporation chills the inner pot making it many degrees cooler than the ambient air.
  • Make sure the sand stays moist or you won’t get the best chilling effect.
  • No more buying bags of ice and watching your dollars/pounds or KSH melt away in the sun.

Welcome to refrigeration African Style.

Take Care