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 How to prepare corks

How to prepare corks

If you are using a high quality, iris- jawed floor corker there is no need to soak or sulfite any of the corks that Midwest sells. Simply insert them dry.

If you are using a small, hand-held corker (plunger, single or double-lever types) you may need to prepare your corks by soaking them in warm water for 20 minutes. If you have trouble getting corks to pass through your hand-held corker, you may want to try adding 1 cup glycerin to every four liters of warm water that you use for soaking. This ensures that the corks get enough moisture to lubricate their passage through the corker, but not so wet that the corks will crumble apart.

While some books talk about boiling and long soaking in sulfite solutions, these are very bad ideas. Cork is tree bark, and boiling it turns it to mush and it won’t seal your bottles. Long soaking does the same thing. Corks can soak up sulfite solutions and transfer them to the wine. Once you have opened a bag of corks, you may need to take special care of the unused corks.

The trouble with handling very dry corks is that it’s tough to judge how long you can soak them before they become mushy. However, there is a nifty technique that you can take advantage of, if your corks are brittle either from age or low humidity storage. You can construct a ‘cork humidor.’

You will need a sanitized plastic bucket and lid, an empty wine bottle, and a 1.25% solution of metabisulphite (eight teaspoons of metabisulphite powder dissolved in a gallon of cool water). Fill the wine bottle halfway with the solution, and carefully stand it up in the bottom of the bucket. Gently pour your corks into the bucket, in the space around the bottle, and put the lid on tightly. Leave the bucket in a room temperature area for about a week. In that time the liquid evaporating from the wine bottle will raise the humidity in the bucket in turn raising the humidity in the corks, making them pliant enough for easy insertion. The sulfur dioxide gas coming off the liquid will prevent the growth of molds or bacterial organisms, keeping the corks sanitary.

No further treatment of the corks will be necessary before bottling. If you want to store your corks this way, replace the solution in the bottle every four weeks, and keep the lid tightly sealed. This will ensure that your corks will always be ready for use!

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