Keep Your Beer Cold With An African Off Grid Chiller: How To Make A Zeer Pot


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!


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


5 thoughts on “Keep Your Beer Cold With An African Off Grid Chiller: How To Make A Zeer Pot”

  1. Lizzie

    Thanks for reminding me about zeer pots. I had read about them several years ago and thought it would be great to try and put one together. Never did follow through although I have about 50 pounds of sand bagged up in the garage. Will need to find a couple of pots to experiment with. My concern is that while Africa has a dry heat and this method works there, how would it work where I live? We often get humid summers so the air will be moist. Can’t seem to work this problem through in my head. I remember the physics experiment where you leave a glass of cold water out on the counter and a glass of hot water as well. You come back in a few hours and the glasses are the same temperature. I understand the process and why. I guess I need to actually make that zeer pot and see what happens. If it doesn’t work well enough for me, then I can always plant some veggies or herbs in the pots.

    If it works then its a bonus for me. Had been considering using the hole where our sump pump is as a way to keep foods cool during a grid down situation.

    Hope we never have to find out.


    1. Hiya KK

      Trust me much of Africa is not dry. The humidity is so high some days you walk out of the apartment and feel like there’s a fine water spray on you…the air is wet some days lol (I split my time between Kenya and south east UK) The lower you go into the Rift Valley the worse it is, Nairobi is a mile above sea level, Mombasa right on the Indian Ocean…a zeer pot works in both locations.

      Just for the record Nairobi has been having flash floods, it’s the long rainy season right now.

      Tell you what, they are really convenient even when there is power, saves going indoors to get another beer!!!!

      The science is that evaporation cools things down unless it’s a sealed unit…such as an empty soda bottle left in the sun, that produces condensation that can’t escape and evaporate because the plastic walls of the bottle are not permeable, that’s why you need unglazed pots. When it’s humid and you sweat then have a slight breeze think how your skin feels chilled, this is what the wet sand is doing, chilling the water as it passes through the outside pot where it evaporates into the air.

      I’m sure some smarty pants will correct me on that but basically that’s what happens, hope that helps.

      Have a go, I think you will be surprised.

      Take Care


      1. Thanks Liz for clearing up my confusion. Will definitely try it but first I need to attempt growing veggies in containers on my deck. My regular garden got hit by some kind of nasty bacteria that attacks my tomatoes. I have to solarize the soil with a layer of plastic to let the sun bake it for a season.

        Thanks again.


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