Bottling in Champagne Bottles

August 15, 2011

I am to have a public tasting of my cider on August 28 as part of MashFest. My biggest problem? How to deliver five gallons worth of cider for a tasting. Since I don’t have a kegging system, I basically decided I had to bottle.  However, it really needs to be a sparkling cider for this event, not a still cider. Beer bottles would allow me to bottle condition, but it makes a lot of bottles. Wine bottles are larger and provide more servings, but cannot hold carbonation or they blow their corks. My solution was actually sort of a marriage of the two: champagne bottles.

Champagne bottles are usually 750 mL like wine bottles are, but they are actually heavier glass than what beer bottles are and can take a lot more internal pressure. Champagne bottles are actually designed to be capped with the same caps as beer bottles, and they usually are until the disgorgement process of making sparkling wine. I am not doing that step, so my cider will be dry and sparkling with lees.

I already had sixteen champagne bottles, but one gallon usually fills up five 750 mL bottles, so I needed 25 bottles total. I looked on the internet and found a man who had some and were selling them for 50 cents each. I got a dozen more.

Now there are two things to know about taking beer making supplies and bottling in champagne bottles. The first one, the man reminded me, is that the US uses 26 mm bottle openings, while Europe uses 29 mm. Therefore, you have to buy larger caps and possibly even a larger capper bell to put them on. I recommend ahead of time placing the cap on the bottle to figure out what size it is so that you cap all one size at one time, and the other size after. I found that I didn’t nessacary need the larger bell, but sometimes it did make things easier. The bell is very easy to change out by simply screwing it in and out.

The man also told me that on my simple capper that I would have to pull out the metal plates and flip it around from 26mm to 29mm. This can be done with a pair of pliers and brute strength. Unfortunately, there is no secret to pulling the plates out, as they are very difficult to get out.

What wasn’t clearly communicated with me, despite his instructions and the brew supply store’s warning about getting a bell, is that all champagne bottles need to be capped with the capper plate in the 29 mm position. See, I thought with the different openings that I needed to flip the plates back, but I was kind of breaking the capper on the 26mm bottles and couldn’t figure out why. It finally occurred to me that the plates were actually clamping to the neck of the bottle for stability and had nothing to do with getting a seal on the cap. Champagne bottles have thicker necks than beer bottles, and therefore all of them, regardless of cap size, should have the capper plates in the 29 mm position. I wish somebody had told me that, so I’m telling you.


One Response to “Bottling in Champagne Bottles”

  1. […] had five gallons bottled into 25 champagne bottles. I chilled about 20 of them and then placed them in an ice chest and took them. We got set up with […]

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