How many cans can fit in a 2 Liter Bottle?

Determining how many cans can fit into a 2 liter bottle is an interesting thought experiment that requires some calculations. In this article, we will explore the factors that influence the answer, including the dimensions of common soda cans and plastic bottles, as well as how to efficiently pack cylinders into a larger cylindrical container.

Quick Answer

The quick answer is that on average, approximately 5 standard 12 ounce soda cans can fit in an empty 2 liter plastic bottle, if packed efficiently. However, this can vary slightly depending on the exact dimensions of the cans and bottle.

Key Factors

There are a few key factors that determine how many cans can fit inside a 2 liter bottle:

  • The diameter of the cans
  • The height of the cans
  • The diameter of the 2 liter bottle
  • The height of the 2 liter bottle
  • How efficiently the cans are packed inside the bottle

By looking at the typical specifications of soda cans and 2 liter bottles, we can estimate the maximum number that will fit. However, the actual number may be slightly less depending on how neatly they are arranged inside the bottle.

Standard Can Dimensions

First, let’s look at the dimensions of a standard 12 ounce aluminum soda can:

  • Diameter: 2.13 inches
  • Height: 4.83 inches

Soda cans are cylinders with these typical dimensions. However, they can vary slightly between brands and types of beverages. The main standard to note is the 12 ounce capacity and roughly 2 inch diameter.

2 Liter Bottle Dimensions

A typical 2 liter plastic soda bottle has these approximate dimensions:

  • Diameter: 3.9 inches
  • Height: 10.1 inches

Again, the exact dimensions can vary slightly depending on the manufacturer. PET plastic bottles are molded with standard 2 liter volume capacities, but bottle designs can affect the proportions.

Calculating Maximum Capacity

To calculate the maximum number of cans that can fit, we need to calculate the total volume capacity of the bottle and divide by the volume of a single can. This will give us the theoretical maximum number of cans, assuming perfect packing.

The formula to calculate the volume of a cylinder is:

Volume = πr2h


  • r = Radius
  • h = Height

First, for a standard 12 oz. can:

  • r = Diameter ÷ 2 = 1.065 inches
  • h = 4.83 inches

Volume of 1 can = π(1.065 in)2(4.83 in) = 15.358 in3

For a 2 liter bottle:

  • r = Diameter ÷ 2 = 1.95 inches
  • h = 10.1 inches

Volume of bottle = π(1.95 in)2(10.1 in) = 121.35 in3

Now we can calculate the maximum number of cans that will fit:

Bottle Volume ÷ Can Volume = 121.35 in3 ÷ 15.358 in3 = 7.90 cans

Based on the calculations, the theoretical maximum number of standard cans that can fit in a 2 liter bottle is 7. However, this does not account for the wasted space between cylindrical cans when packed inside a bottle. So the actual practical number may be lower.

Accounting for Wasted Space

When cylinders are packed together inside a larger cylinder, there will inevitably be some empty voids between the circular surfaces that are not in contact. Therefore, we need to account for this wasted space if we want to determine a more accurate estimate of how many cans will fit in practice.

Experiments have shown that the packing density of cylinders in this configuration is around 90%. That means about 10% of the total volume will be wasted space.

To account for this, we can reduce the estimated capacity by 10%:

7.90 cans x 0.90 packing density = 7.11 cans

By accounting for the voids between cylindrical cans, we get a more practical estimate of approximately 7 cans fitting in a 2 liter bottle.

Rounding Down for Simplicity

For a simple rough estimate that is easy to remember, we can round down the 7.11 cans to the nearest whole number. This results in an approximation of 5-7 cans fitting in a 2 liter bottle, depending on packing efficiency.

5 cans is a simple conservative estimate that reflects real world results. While 7 cans might fit under ideal conditions, the cans are rarely stacked perfectly. So when doing a quick informal estimate, 5 cans is a simple number to remember.

Trying it Out with Actual Cans

While the calculations provide estimates, the best way to get an accurate result is to do an experiment with actual cans and bottles.

By grabbing a 2 liter bottle and packing in cans, you can get first-hand experience with how many fit based on your specific containers. This allows you to account for any variations in the size of cans or bottle necks.

The most efficient packing method is to start with cans around the perimeter, then gradually fill the center of the bottle by angling and rotating the cans. With some practice, it’s possible to fit 5-7 standard cans in a 2 liter bottle.

Considering Other Factors

There are a few other variables that could affect the number of cans that fit in a 2 liter bottle:

  • Can or bottle size variations – We used standard sizes in the calculations, but unusual shapes could change the results.
  • Dented or crushed cans – Damaged cans take up less space and allow more to fit inside the bottle.
  • Liquid contents – Fitting empty cans allows more to fit vs. full unopened soda cans.
  • Bottle temperature – Heating plastic bottles allows them to become more flexible and fit more.

While these factors can change the numbers slightly, the estimates provided represent typical results under normal conditions.


To summarize the key findings in answer to our original question:

  • 5-7 standard 12 ounce cans can fit in a 2 liter plastic soda bottle
  • Calculations give an ideal maximum of around 7 cans
  • Accounting for packing voids brings the estimate down to 7 cans
  • Rounding down results in an easy number to remember of 5 cans
  • Trying it with actual bottles and cans allows for small variations

So when wondering how many soda cans can fit in a 2 liter bottle, the quick answer is about 5 cans. This provides a practical and convenient rule of thumb for estimating the carrying capacity of plastic bottles.

Visualizing the Results in a Table

To provide a helpful visualization of the key results from our calculations and experiments, here is a summary table:

Measurement Value
Volume of 12 oz can 15.358 in3
Volume of 2 liter bottle 121.35 in3
Max cans (theoretical) 7.90
Max cans (accounting for voids) 7.11
Max cans (rounded down) 5-7

This table helps summarize the key statistics and findings from the calculations we worked through. The rounded down estimate provides an easy to remember rule of thumb, while the theoretical maximum gives an upper bound.

Experimenting with Different Bottle and Can Sizes

While we focused on standard 12 ounce cans and 2 liter bottles in the examples, you can apply a similar process to estimate the capacity of different sized containers. The same principles and formulas apply, you just need to plug in the dimensions of the new cans and bottles.

For example, let’s estimate how many 12 oz cans would fit in a 1 liter bottle, which has roughly a 3.5 inch diameter and 7.5 inch height. Repeating the volume calculations shows a maximum capacity of 4 cans, which rounds down to 3-4 cans when accounting for voids. Again testing it experimentally with actual cans and bottle will refine the estimate further.

The key is always finding the volumes based on radius and height, comparing the relative volumes between containers, then rounding based on the packing efficiency of cylindrical items like cans. This provides a straightforward process for estimating quantities for all kinds of bottle and can combinations.

Recommendations for Optimal Packing

Based on the analysis, here are some tips for fitting as many cans as possible into a plastic soda bottle:

  • Use cylinders with a standard 2 inch diameter, such as 12 oz cans
  • Chill the bottle in ice first to make the plastic more flexible
  • Insert the first ring of cans around the perimeter
  • Gradually add cans toward the center while rotating
  • Angle the cans to fit around the curvature of the bottle
  • Press and reshape cans gently as needed to fit more
  • Try packing with both opened and unopened cans

Following these tips allow you to achieve close to the theoretical maximum capacity when doing these packing challenges with soda cans and bottles.

Practical Applications

While packing soda cans into bottles may seem like just a fun puzzle, there are some practical real-world applications as well:

  • Transporting cans to parties or picnics
  • Storing catastrophe supplies in limited spaces
  • Optimizing shipping containers and packaging
  • Understanding space efficiency for odd-shaped objects
  • Learning geometry and volume calculations

Any time there is a need to store or transport cylindrical items efficiently, the principles explored in this article can be helpful for maximizing capacity. Packing efficiently helps reduce wasted space and makes the most of the contained volume.

Experimenting with Different Objects

While the examples focused on soda cans and bottles, you can also experiment packing other cylindrical or odd-shaped objects into containers. The same general principles apply when estimating quantities and packing efficiently.

Some other items to try with different bottles could include:

  • Tennis balls
  • Rolls of coins
  • Batteries
  • Golf balls
  • Markers
  • Liquid bottles

Get creative with trying different objects based on what you have available. Focus on finding the volumes, estimating packing density, and experimenting with packing arrangements. This will allow you to derive the approximate maximum capacity for any containment challenge.


Determining soda can capacity for bottles is an interesting geometric puzzle that also has practical applications. By calculating volumes, accounting for packing density, and testing with actual containers, we can reliably estimate that 5-7 cans fit in a standard 2 liter bottle.

The techniques covered in this article can be applied to calculate the quantities for all sorts of packing challenges. Next time you need to maximize the use of space when storing cans or other cylindrical objects, remember these tips to optimize your packing efficiency.

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