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Author Replies
Sean Paxton
01/24/06 03:11 PM  
Corker
Has anyone invested in a champagne corker? I have been bottling a lot of my recent Belgians in champagne bottles with a 29mm cap or with a plastic cork and cage. But I am missing that ‘elegant’ look I am wanting on my finished beers.

Has anyone invested in a Corker? Using a Cork and Cap?

Curious if anyone else is on the same line of thinking and what/how you are finishing your beers.

Cheers,

Sean

N8
01/24/06 04:01 PM  
Re: Corker
I've been doing the same thing,Sean. I as well would like a champagne corker but can't justify the cost of one right now. I just do the plastic corks and then cover them with the gold foil wraps. That works well for me until a can find a used corker on ebay or wherever.

I've also used the method of filling regular bottles and then stuffing a cork into it then topping it off wiht a cap. it works pretty well, especially if you want the "cork taint" flavor found in some beers. It adds to the complexity of the beer IMO.

MW
01/24/06 04:26 PM  
Re: Corker
MW
01/24/06 04:32 PM  
Re: Corker
Ooops.... I hit return!

Sean try ebay or craigslist. I just saw a corker for sale on Portlands Craigslist.... Hmmmm.

You know me, it doesn't have to be pretty....

I figure Thomas Hardy bottles with caps and the beer has a possible 25 year life, so a cap's good enough for me. Same with Schamislaus......

I think the CORK is a nice touch, but not sure on it's necessity. There must be a reason so many Belgian beers are corked??

Anyone?

SteveG
01/24/06 04:43 PM  
Re: Corker
<<There must be a reason so many Belgian beers are corked??>>

I have asked this question of Belgian brewers, the answer is always something along the lines of "cause people expect it". But sometime I like to cork, for effect. I'm doing a trippel this weekend, I have 4 or 5 Ommegang type bottles, I plan to fill a few "specialty" bottles. But no champagne cork, I'm just going for the cheap and easy cylindical type. I've had a corker like 15 years, the thing couldn't have been too expensive. You set the cork in it, place it over the bottle and give it a good smack!

ErikH
01/25/06 12:47 PM  
Re: Corker
I, too have been interested in cork-finishing but, in addition to the price, all the suppliers I have contacted have been flaky or vague on corker delivery schedule and availability. I'm still pursuing it, though.

Steve, are you crown capping on top of your straight corks, as we see in some Belgians (Saison de Pipaix does this, I think), or putting a wire cage over it (?). I've always thought that the regular straight cork alone was not sufficient for a carbonated beverage.

SteveG
01/25/06 01:24 PM  
Re: Corker
<<I've always thought that the regular straight cork alone was not sufficient for a carbonated beverage.>>

I don't do it alot but I have done it. It is sufficient assuming you have the right size cork for the bottle you are using. If they are a tad too thin they will slide in easy but pressure can seep. I have had both successes and failures, the failures always happened with bottles that were delightfully easy to cork!

I have never used any kind of covering, crown or cage. I plan on corking a few trippels (from this weekends brew, to be bottled in Ommegang bottles), I was thinking of waxing the tops. No functional reason, though I suppose if slow seepage is a problem wax may help. Of course in that case you'd be better off being sure you are starting with the right cork for the job. I just like it cause it looks nice.

SebastianP
01/25/06 02:54 PM  
Re: Corker
<< have never used any kind of covering, crown or cage. >>

I would certainly say this is a gamble. I had a Saison that blew its cork out as it wiggled its way past a wire cap.

I posted on this a bit ago, check out the following link:

http://www.babblebelt.com/newboard/thread.html?tid=1108752780&th=1126722117&pg=2&tpg=1&add=1

SteveG
01/25/06 03:49 PM  
Re: Corker
I perused the thread, I didn't see the part about loosing the cork. Were there any special circumstances, like the bottle being in a hot car or something? I ask because I have never experienced this, and from that thread I'd say you are as knowledgable or more knowledgable about cork usage than most brewers I've known. It isn't my experience that corks going ballistic is the norm, was it too small a cork? A particularly spritzy or infected beer? Did that happen to a whole batch?

On rare occasion a bottle bomb will go off, that is a lousy smell the walk into after a couple days!

SebastianP
01/25/06 06:06 PM  
Re: Corker
SteveG wrote

<<Were there any special circumstances, like the bottle being in a hot car or something?>>

Not particularly, but there was a specific reason this one blew. This was a Saison that was carbonated in excess of 4 volumes of CO2 (which is typical of my Saisons). The one that blew was because I was using a hodgpodge restraining process. I had some standard wire bales, which I topped with used commercial metal caps. I think it was a Unibroue cap, which is irrelevant. The bottle type was the Omegang/Unibroue style bottle and the cork was a #9 Altec cork. Lastly the beer was stored at room temperature (no more than 70*F)

From what I can reconstruct, what happened is that there was enough space between the top of the cork and metal cap that the cork, as it slowly worked its way out, sort of knocked the metal cap over to the side so that it could fully pop out.

If I had properly restrained the cork everthing would have been fine.

Sean Paxton
01/25/06 07:10 PM  
Re: Corker
Thanks SebastianP,

Read the thread. The link to St Pats is nice. Yet, do I really want to buy a 1000 23mm corks?!?! http://www.stpats.com/ Anyone want to go in on some?

After all the time researching a style, then the recipe development (and the drinking of the style), and the brewing of it, not to be forgotten the racking, and all the fuss we give our beers, I really want to be able to as closely re-create the brew that we so love… So, a corker, great, the right cork and cage, also achievable. But there is something when you hand over a bottle of your homebrew, that when the person can’t tell that it’s homebrew and question you, to see if you just didn’t remove the label is a really nice feeling.

Is anyone using real corks besides Steve?

You know you're a homebrewer if . . .

If you have 45 gallons of bottled beer in the basement and wonder if you should double the batch you are brewing on Saturday.

Cheers,

Sean

SebastianP
01/25/06 07:17 PM  
Re: Corker
Sean Paxton wrote:

<<Is anyone using real corks besides Steve? >>

Hey sean go back and read my posts in that thread I posted above. I have been doing this for a bit of time, and have definitely learned some things along the way.

I line out pretty extensively what "real" corks work.

If you have any other questions feel free to post them.

As to sources, I know that Northern Brewer sells both the corks and the Champagne corker (and there are quite a few other sources). No need to get 1000 from St Pats.

I should warn you though that the "champagne" corks really don't work (at least not ideally)all that well in many of the bottles.

ErikH
01/28/06 11:28 AM  
Re: Corker
OK, so I broke down and placed an order for the floor corker, wires, and both the #9 and champagne corks from Northern Brewer, per the orthodox SebastianP recommendation! Let's see if they come through.
SebastianP
01/28/06 02:47 PM  
Re: Corker
<<ErikH Wrote

OK, so I broke down and placed an order for the floor corker, wires, and both the #9 and champagne corks from Northern Brewer, per the orthodox SebastianP recommendation! Let's see if they come through.>>

Don't forget to get the Champagne wires with w/ metal cap (Item #60111) at the following link. the regular wire bales without the metal cap in them do not work quite right.

http://www.weekendbrewer.com/corksequipment.htm

Unfortunately I have only found them at the above place, hopefully some more places will start to pick these up.

ErikH
01/29/06 08:58 PM  
Re: Corker
Thanks, Sebastian! I will set that up with them as well. Now to begin the (hic) arduous task of collecting Champagne bottles with neck sizes suitable for corking . . . .
Sean Paxton
01/30/06 12:10 PM  
Re: Corker
Thanks Sebastian,

Right now I have 4+ cases of Korbel bottles, some Taittinger bottles, 1.5 cases of Dom. Chandon bottles, and some very cool Lindauer bottles; all in 750ml. I also have 3 cases of 1.5L bottles from my wedding. I do have a collection of Chimay and Unibroue bottles. I will use your advice on the different size corks and the metal cages at http://www.weekendbrewer.com/corksequipment.htm. I like the look of those a lot.

I am curious to your comment: “I should warn you though that the "champagne" corks really don't work (at least not ideally) all that well in many of the bottles.”

Is that because the size difference? Is the cork not fully sealing? Are you not getting the carbonation that you’d expect? Does the real cork not hold the same pressure that a plastic will hold?

S

SebastianP
01/30/06 01:01 PM  
Re: Corker
Sean Paxton wrote:

<<I am curious to your comment

Is that because the size difference? Is the cork not fully sealing? Are you not getting the carbonation that you’d expect? Does the real cork not hold the same pressure that a plastic will hold?>>

Actually the reason I say this is because of the size of the metal cages. The metal cages require you to insert the Champagne Corks in too a depth where it is really hard to pull them out. Ideally the cages should be longer (perhaps by a 1/4 inch) in order to insert the Champagne corks to a proper depth for easy extraction.

You can extract the corks, it is just that sometimes I have had to resort to using a cork screw to leverage them out.

Sean Paxton
01/30/06 02:07 PM  
Re: Corker
That makes since. That is a problem! I also have a 3L and a 9L bottle. Both need a special cage and cork...

Did you get good mushrooming on your corks, or was the depth of the cork set inhibitive of the proper mushroom?

SebastianP
01/30/06 02:14 PM  
Re: Corker
Sean Paxton Wrote <<Did you get good mushrooming on your corks, or was the depth of the cork set inhibitive of the proper mushroom?>>

The more I think about it the more I think I am missing something.

I do get decent mushrooming of the corks, but it is not commercial. I almost wonder if in commercial practice there is some device that is used after the cork is inserted. This device in my imagination would squish the part of the cork that is sticking out of the bottle down without inserting it into the bottle anymore. At the same time the wire cage would be placed and fastened to the bottle. In my mind this would perfectly replicate the mushrooming I have seen on commercial bottles of Champagne.

Just some ramblings on my part, note that this is purely an aesthetic musing on my part as functionally everything works fine. Anyone seen a commercial application of corks and cages?

Sean Paxton
01/30/06 04:40 PM  
Re: Corker
Interesting…

I had a conversation with Vinnie at Russian River a while back about bottling and corking. He had a lot of problems to start. He mentioned finding the right cork for the right bottle and which cork gave the best mushrooming for his bottles.

Which corker did you go for Sebastian? I’m looking at the Ferrari: maybe it’s a mid-life brewing crisis… I’ve seen it and the mechanism is pretty amazing.

SebastianP
01/30/06 06:38 PM  
Re: Corker
<<Which corker did you go for Sebastian? I’m looking at the Ferrari: maybe it’s a mid-life brewing crisis… I’ve seen it and the mechanism is pretty amazing. >>

I must be in a constant cyclic mid-life crisis....

Anyway, yes I went for the Ferrari champagne corker. It should last a couple of lifetimes.

ErikH
02/05/06 03:27 PM  
Re: Corker
Well, my midlife crisis must have come early, as my Ferrari corker from Norther Brewer and related stuff from them and weekendbrewer arrived Friday. Wow! This is one big freakin' machine, at least compared to my humble bench-top crown capper. And the mechanism is pretty groovy, yes.

I thought it would take much more elbow grease to use this thing - I'm amazed at how easily it compresses even the large champagne-type corks and inserts them into the bottle neck. And one can immediately see most of the issues and problems listed here by SebastianP and others. The first champagne-type cork I inserted went in leaving maybe 1/4" of cork sticking out and had to be corkscrewed out.

But holding off on the last 1/2" or so of lever-pressing seems to leave an appropriate amount of cork protruding, both to accommodate the right height for the wire cage (with metal cap) and allow 'some' mushrooming, although it still looks kinda funny - the cork sort of spreads out from the neck aperture in a cone shape to reach its full width only at the very top. It looks rather like a fat bugle-head screw. But this seems to be holding very well in a recycled Saison de Pipaix bottle after a few days, and the smaller Altec #9 cork is doing the same in a small (12 oz) Saison Dupont bottle.

Checking again the corking of 750ml Hennepin and Chimay bottles, I see that the corks are not so big in diameter, and the mushrooming not so pronounced. So I am thinking the Champagne corks (quite thick) are probably overkill, though more aesthetically pleasing.

I think I'll be putting the Ferrari through its paces on my sparkling mead-ish thing in the very near future . . .

ErikH
02/16/06 01:09 AM  
Re: Corker
Question for the crowd here - what has your range of experience been in sterilizing methods for corks? The resources I've seen seem to suggest that a mild bleach solution (all I have available as a sanitizer at the moment) is OK, despite a small chance of generating 'corked' flavor. I've also found references to steaming/boiling the corks for a few minutes, which I think I'd prefer.

Can anyone tell me if boiling is safe for the corks, or suggest other options? Much appreciated!

SebastianP
02/16/06 11:51 AM  
Re: Cork Sterilization
I do absolutely nothing.

I would be wary of using bleach, it will soak into your cork, and could potentially leach out into your finished product, not a flavor you want in your beer.

I don't sanitize bottle caps anymore either, and in the 5 years I have not been sanitizing I have not had one infection.

I would definitely say no sanitizing is preferrable to the chlorine approach. I have heard that people use metabisulfite to sanitize corks.

SteveG
02/16/06 12:23 PM  
Re: Corker
I agree in terms of any sanitizing solution or chemicals. I think there is probably no question that flavors can be exchanged, I'd rather a little cork flavor be in the beer than bleach flavor. The approach to corking I have always taken involves boiling the corks, it will sanitize plus soften them a bit for insertion.
Eric K
02/17/06 04:44 PM  
Re: Belgian Corker Supplies
This was posted on the AHA Tech Talk, I thought it would be relevan. Make special note of the last paragraph.

From: John Francisco [mailto:cisco@email.arizona.edu]

Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 1:37 PM

Subject: Re: Bottling in Allagash/Omegang Bottles

I have been bottling in Belgian brown 750 ml bottles, which also is the same bottle used by Allagash and Ommegang. They are not designed for caps but for use of a cork and hooded wire wrap. The proper tools are:

1. Ferrari Heavy Duty Floor Corker -- the metal jaws in the head unit are designed for squishing champagne corks and other corks that are bigger in diameter than the normal wine cork.

2. Properly sized corks. Champagne corks will work but they are really too big in diameter 30 mm and too long 48 mm. You can use a #9 cork which is 1 1/2 long or 38 mm and 7/8 or 22 mm in diameter but the Belgian corks designed for these bottles are 1 inch in diameter or 24 mm and slightly shorter (I can't remember, I don't have one of these corks here at work).

3. Hooded wire wraps. Most homebrew shops sell wire wraps with no metal hood. You need the hooded variety to get a good firm fit on the top of the cork which helps in mushrooming. Don't expect the cork to mushroom after you put on the hooded wire wrap. The cork will start to mushroom as the pressure inside the bottle builds to normal Belgian carbonation levels of approximately 3 atmospheres.

I have been working with the good folks at MoreBeer.com in helping them acquire a complete package for homebrewers with the proper floor corker, the right-sized corks, hooded wire wraps and even cases of Belgian brown bottles. MoreBeer sent me a dozen corks to test last week and they are a perfect match for the corks used in Belgium and here at Ommegang and Allagash. It looks like it will be another month before all the supplies are in before they can start selling them. They will be a one stop shop for the Belgian bottling enthusiast, such as myself.

I have several Belgian style beers in kegs and bottles and the difference between the keg and the bottle conditioned 750 ml Belgian brown bottles is phenomenal due to the tertiary fermentation, especially after aging 6 months. They taste like completely different beers. The Belgians discovered early on that 750 ml bottles are the perfect size to age beers. In Belgium you don't see too many kegged beers, mostly 750 ml bottles.

SebastianP
02/17/06 06:03 PM  
Re: Belgian Corker Supplies
Ha, you beat me to the punch. John is a good homebrewing friend of mine here in Tucson. I was going to post this once Morebeer started selling everything.

As to the last paragraph, well duh :-)

Isn't that why we were going to such great lengths in the first place. Of course it looks cool too, which doesn't hurt ;-)

cheers

Cisco
02/17/06 06:05 PM  
Re: Corker
Hey guys! I wrote the article above in the AHA Tech Talk. I know Sebastian and told him where I got my bottling supplies from last year but as you can see there is room for improvement. Hopefully everything will be available by the end of March from MoreBeer.com.

Sebastian turned me on to this web site and forum (thanks!). I'm really pumped about the aquisition of true Belgian dark candi syrup. I want some NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cisco
02/17/06 06:14 PM  
Re: Corker
I just got a confirmation from MoreBeer that the corks will arrive by the end of next week. Then they'll have to bag them before sale. We're still waiting on the metal hooded wire wraps and bottles.
ErikH
02/18/06 04:15 PM  
Re: Corker
I took some photos of the maiden voyage of my floor corker that I thought might be helpful for those considering going this route. They can be found at:

http://ninthave.blogs.friendster.com/photos/corker/

I was generally happy with the results, and am looking forward to seeing how the corked bottles develop over time. The most frustrating part for me is that only the large champagne corks 'look right', and that I find both champagne and Altec #9 corks impossible to remove without the aid of a corkscrew. As to the notion that mushrooming (and extraction?) will improve over time, I am skeptical.

Cisco
02/18/06 04:30 PM  
Re: Corker
The corks will mushroom as the pressure builds up in the bottle, especially if you carbonate at Belgian levels of at least 3 atmospheres. I see you broke a green bottle trying to push a champagne cork into it. A lot of the green "champagne" bottles sold to homebrewers have a narrow neck opening that is too small. You'll see if you measure the inside diameter of a Belgian brown bottle compared to the diameter of the green bottle.

The new corks that I tested for MoreBeer are an exact match for what the Belgians use. The #9 corks that you have been using are not quite wide enough and that's why they don't look quite right. I know you will be very happy with them once they're available in a couple weeks. I'll announce it here when they are available.

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