Preparing Corks For Bottling Wine

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?
Hello Chris,
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?
Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus

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.

0 thoughts on “Preparing Corks For Bottling Wine

  1. Is it necessary to do anything with the corks prior to pressing them into the bottles? I just finished bottling 14 cases of 6 different wines.

  2. Robert, I am reading-between-lines that you did not treat the corks in anyway before bottling your 14 cases. If this is true, more than likely your wine will be fine, but do not be surprised if you do fined a bottle or two that have become tainted in some way. It is just good policy for home winemakers to, at least, sanitize the corks before using them.

  3. I prepare a 6gal bucket with one step and hot tap water to sanitize my bottles and equipment. Before the bottles I put the corks in and push them down in the solution then place them on paper towels to air dry. By the time I filter and bottle the wine my corks are dry and ready for use. I haven’t had any problems with this method but I’ve only done this for two years.

  4. I never soak my corks; I keep them in storage in a cork humidor: place all my corks in a pail and in the middle is a small container of the sanitizing solution; so the "air" is always sanitized in the covered container. When I’m ready to bottle the corks I need, I just "rinse" them in a new sanitizing solution to make them easier to insert in the bottle with a corker. No soaking needed.