Capping or Corking
December 28, 2009
There are several kinds of bottles and several kinds of ways to seal it. I’ve only worked with beer and wine bottles so far, so I’ll talk about those.
For home brewing of beer and cider, beer bottles work just fine, but they should not be screw type openings for capping. Bottling them is as fairly simple. A couple of caps are boiled to sanitize them, and possibly even make the rubber ring in them swell to make a better seal. The caps should be allowed to cool so that they can be handled without being hurt. My husband got a capper in which a magnet holds the cap. It is then set on the bottle, and the two levers crimp it down on the bottle. Fairly simple.
For wine bottles, there are corks. The method is similar, where you boil some corks and then use a corker to force the cork inside the bottle. The cheapest corker runs a little less than $10, where you load the cork into a chute, place it on the bottle, and then use a rubber mallet to get the cork into the bottle. This did not sound ideal for me.
The guy who let me try his homemade mead actually grew up on his family’s vineyard and winery, and he told me not to go buy the $20 corker, and yet that is what I did. It mimics the industrial corkers in that you use two levers to compress the cork, and then a third lever to force the cork into the bottle. He warned me that it would take two people, but sometimes I find that I can do it myself.
There was a third variety offered to me that was about $30, and it was a double leaver corker that worked a little more sophisticated than the rubber mallet method. I didn’t care for that kind, and the store clerk didn’t think too highly of it, either.
Once I had decided on a corker, it was time for me to buy cork. Low and behold, they were out of real corks, and only had plastic corks. If given the choice, I wouldn’t have bought the plastic ones because real cork is biodegradable. However, I have to say that the plastic ones are growing on me. The biggest pro I see to them is that they don’t require the bottle to be laid on its side to keep the cork wet. If there is still fermentation going on and the buildup of CO2, corks can be forced out. I would think that a bottle stored standing up would create less of a mess than a bottle laid on its side. Plastic corks also seem fairly easy to cork by myself after I got the hang of it.
There are other kinds of closures, such as the champagne mushroom cork held down with wire. I suggest consulting books and your local supply store to see if you want to work with an alternative method.
It is also recommended that when you are capping or corking to boil a few more than what you will need in case something goes wrong – you drop them, they break, refuse to work, bend funny, etc.
Someday, if I really do open a winery, I’ll have to buy the Floor Corker Machine, which will cost me about $125, but I would think it would be easier on your hands to use.