On the back of our previous post, regarding choosing the right bottles for bottling your home brewing, comes the question of whether you’ll want to bottle your beer and seal it with a cap, or seal it with a cork. This is pretty important when you’re looking for bottles for your home brew – bottles meant for capping will chew up corks, while bottles meant for corking will have mouths that are too wide to accept a cap. So let’s take a look at the differences between corking and capping beers, and if there is any inherent benefit in choosing one method over the other.
Capping Pros and Cons
One of the things that capping has going for it is that it is quick and easy. The process is simple – put the beer in the bottle, put the cap on the bottle, put the capper on top, and push down on the handles of the capper. That’s it.
Bottles for capping are also easier to come by, and the caps themselves are incredibly cheap, so that is a pro when it comes to capping as well. No one likes to have to hunt and scrounge and spend, and with capping, likely all you’ll have to do is spend a Euro or two for caps. Best of all, you can find them at any place that caters to home brewers – not all of these shops will carry corks, though.
Of course, caps are a bit boring, and look bland – they don’t dress up the beer. Sure, you could dip them in wax or wrap them in foil, but that’s an extra step. They’re also hard to reseal if you aren’t going to drink the entire bottle in one go.
Corking Pros and Cons
One of the major cons of corking is the financial outlay. A floor corker can be quite expensive to purchase – you may be able to rent one from a local homebrew shop or even from a small local brewer who may have one on hand. It could also be a shared expense with friends. What can’t be a shared expense is the corks and wire caps. Each round of equipment to bottle a 25-bottle batch will likely be over 10 Euro.
One thing that’s neither a pro nor a con, but just something to remember, is that wine and champagne corks will not work when you are corking a beer. The same goes for wire cages meant for champagne. The sizing and materials will be incorrect, and will lead to the loss of carbonation, meaning your beer will go flat and stale without you getting a chance to taste it.
A major pro when it comes to making the choice is that corked and caged bottles simply look nicer. The presentation of a beer is part of the enjoyment of the beer. Corker and caged bottles look professional, like they were made by hand, and with care. This is definitely something to think about if you are brewing for a special event, or making the beers as gifts.
Does Corking Change The Beer?
Neither corking nor capping the beer provides any inherent benefit in the case of the majority of homebrews, aside from the visual benefits. There is one specific case where corking will have an advantage.
If you take a look at a cork before it is inserted into the beer bottle, it is straight and flat. It develops the trademark mushroom shape over time, as the carbonation forces the cork against the wire cap. What this indicates is that the carbonation is strong enough that it needs room. If the bottle were sealed with a crimped cap, it would not have the space for release, and could result in the explosion of a bottle or bottles. This is something to keep in mind, particularly for beers such as Belgians and lambics with higher carbonation rates. That’s also a reason why the bottles for these beers are slightly thicker than those for ales and lagers – to prevent carbonation explosion.
What the choice comes down to is how much you’re willing to spend, and just how much the look of the beer bottle matters to you. If money is no object and you plan on making a variety of beers, it would certainly be well worth investing in both. However, if you have to choose one way to go, our recommendation would be for capping, not corking.