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Corking Belgian Bottles With A Hand Corker

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Corey Fish

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Hi there- I know there's been some info on this subject but after bottling my Perry in 750mL belgian style bottles and belgian corks with a hand corker, I thought I would share my experience in case it helps.

My Belgian corks were 25mm in diameter and are of the agglomerated variety. I prepared a solution of 3 campden tablets crushed to 1.5 quarts of HOT tap water. I let the corks sit for approximately 30 minutes while I was getting ready.

At 30 minutes, the corks weren't soft enough, so I added another 2 cups of boiling water to the solution and let stand another 10 minutes.

At this point, I could load the corks in my gilda hand corker and get the levers closed. I placed the full bottle on the floor, placed the gilda on top of the bottle with the loaded and compressed cork, used my foot to apply pressure to keep the gilda from moving, and levered down until about half of the cork was inside the bottle.

I then released the iris in the gilda, and put on a wire hood.

Take home lessons:
1. Boiling water and 45 minutes did in no way make these very dense corks mushy or prone to coming apart.
2. I am aware, and hope that some of the sulfite leaches out of the corks. I did not add sulfites except 1 tablet of Campden per gallon at the beginning of brewing, now almost a month ago, and with the need to add more sulfite to pear type brews, I'm counting on some extra sulfite for the bottle.
2. There were a few small, < 1mm cork bits on the outside of the bottle, where the cork meets the glass, presumably as some of the smaller agglomerated parts were scraped off when corking.

Would a floor corker have worked better? Probably. However, it wasn't all that bad and a good budget solution for smaller batches.
 

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