Just made a bottle of peach wine. This is my first batch and I’m getting ready to bottle it. What is the best way to prepare the corks for bottling?
There are a couple of methods for preparing corks for bottling wine. The way I personally like to do it is to take a container that has a lid that is large enough to hold all the corks you will need — something like an old tin coffee can, or I have a old instant Lipton tea jar I use. One or two Mason jars would work as well. Put all the wine corks in the container. Then fill it up with a water/sulfite solution.
This solution should consist of 1 teaspoon of either sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite for each gallon of water. If you are using Campden tablets, add at the rate of 16, crushed, per gallon.
As you fill up the container with this sulfite solution the wine corks will want to float out, so you will need to use your spare hand to corral them back down into the water. Once the container is completely full, put the lid on and let them sit over night. When you are ready to use the corks, dump them out into a colander and let them drain for 20 minutes or so, and they’ll be ready to go, no reason to rinse.
The second method for preparing corks for bottling wine is to steam them. The advantage to this is that the wine corks will be ready sooner. The disadvantage is that if you over-steam the corks you can activate the natural enzymes within them, causing the corks to bread down and become brittle over time. The result is crumbling corks that are difficult and unattractive to remove from your wine bottle.
If you decide to steam the corks you do not want to do it for any longer that 5 minutes — 3 would be better. Take a pot of water, and bring it to a boil. Then move off the burner; throw the corks on top; and cover with a lid. After the 3 to 5 minutes, take the corks off the water. You can just pour it through a colander. But whatever you do, don’t leave them on the heated water.
The method I prefer the most for preparing corks is the first one. Submerging the corks in a sulfite is affective and will not compromise the cork in anyway. The only downfall is that you will need to plan a day ahead. No big deal.
Anyone else have any ideas they’d like to share for preparing corks for bottling wine?
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.