Introduction: Open Wine Bottles With Air Pressure

We had a problem with the cork in a wine bottle and solved it by using air pressure to remove what was left of the cork. Air pressure can be used to open any wine bottle.

The photo shows the device I made. It is a needle like those used to inflate basketballs, but much longer.

Materials:
  • Thin brass hobby tubing (1/16 x 0.016)
  • Brass Presta to Shrader bicycle tire stem adapter (available at any bicycle shop)
  • Stranded copper wire
Tools:
  • Drill
  • Knife
  • Pick
  • Soldering gun and solder
  • Sandpaper
  • Straight pin
  • Air pump

Step 1: The Problem

Guests were coming for dinner. When we tried to open a bottle of red wine the cork crumbled and what you see here remained in the neck of the bottle outside the reach of this wine bottle opener and other similar corkscrew openers. Even if the openers we had could have reached the cork, crumbles of cork would have fallen down into the wine and we would have needed to strain the contents of the bottle. We considered pushing this piece of cork down into the bottle, but were concerned that it would tumble into the neck of the bottle and block the flow of the wine. Total removal was the goal.

Step 2: The Impromptu Fix

I connected an air gun to an air compressor and attached a longer inflation needle to the air gun. This compressor does not have an attached tank. I set the air pressure for 100 psi. The cork came out quickly, but so did some wine, as you can see from the stains on the floor. Nearly the same amount of wine found the front of my shirt. You can see what was left of the cork on the floor. (Because my air compressor is tankless, far less than 100 psi. accumulated before the remainder of the cork was expelled.)

Step 3: Why a Special Needle Is Required

Shown is the neck of an unopened wine bottle. The cork is one of the longer corks we have removed from a wine bottle. The longer needle is what I used to remove the remainder of the rotted and crumbling cork from the wine bottle we needed to open. Its threaded fitting is larger than a standard tire valve. The shorter needle is a standard needle for inflating a basketball using a bicycle hand pump or a small air compressor. Its screw fitting is the same as any Shrader tire valve, but it is too short to reach through a wine bottle cork. Also shown is a Presta to Shrader tire stem adapter.

Step 4: Making a Longer Inflation Needle

The photo shows an old Presta to Shrader tire stem adapter I have for my bicycle. This adapter contains an "O" ring for a seal. I removed it with a pick. The tire stem adapter will be the right size for a bicycle pump when finished.

Step 5: A Clean Surface

My tire stem adapter is corroded, but I need a bright surface for soldering parts together. I used a drill to clean the inside of the adapter.

Step 6: Build Up to Fill Space

I used some thin stranded copper wire to wrap around a piece of thin brass hobby tubing. The wire wrap will fill the space between the hobby tubing and the inside of the tire adapter. 

Step 7: Solder

I used a small screwdriver to push the wire wrap into the cleaned opening in the tire stem adapter. I held the tire stem adapter in wooden vise jaws. I used a soldering gun at its higher heat to make the tire stem adapter hot enough for the solder to flow well and make a good seal. When cooled, the thin piece of hobby tubing is firmly sealed in the tire stem adapter.

See the second photo. I used 100 grit sandpaper on a countertop to sand an oblique point onto the end of the needle so it pierces the cork more easily. Then I used a straight pin to make certain the hole in the tubing is fully open.

Step 8: Insert the Needle Into the Cork

The thin brass tubing bends easily. Handle with care. I inserted it into the cork in a wine bottle. (This bottle has already been opened with an electric opener that made another hole all of the way through the cork. Air pressure did not remove this cork from this wine bottle because air escaped through the hole from the electric opener.)

Step 9: Attach the Air Hose and Pump

Attach the air hose from the pump or compressor. Hold the hose fitting so the brass tube does not bend or break. Secure the wine bottle so it does not tip over while opening it. Pump air into the bottle. My pump has a pressure gauge and it went to about 80 psi. before the cork began to move. When the cork moved, it moved quickly and came out of the bottle immediately. (Plastic 2 liter soda bottles have been tested and burst at about 120 psi. A glass wine bottle is stronger than a plastic soft drink bottle. People have been using commercial versions of air pressure wine bottle openers safely for years.) 

A long inflation needle like this makes it easy to reach down into the neck of a wine bottle in which the cork has begun to crumble. You may or may not want to open your bottles this way regularly, but it sure helps remove a cork that broke apart before it was fully removed.

Comments

author
Bill WW (author)2014-01-10

Love it! Would also love to watch my family's reaction if I came into the house with an air compressor to do the impromptu method.

author
alanjamesblair (author)2013-10-07

This is clever. I would add that the corkscrew pictured is not one that is recommended by most wine enthusiasts. It has a solid bit. What you want is a corkscrew that winds around with nothing in the middle. That type is much less likely to rasp the cork.

I love your solution though.

author
Phil B (author)alanjamesblair2013-10-07

Thanks. The electric corkscrew we usually use is the spiral type with an open center. It was the electric corkscrew we first tried on the bottle with the rotted cork that crumbled.

author
Davidfromcali (author)2013-10-03

One of the profesors in the Enology Department at California State University of Fresno collected wine openers. He had a wine opener 40 years ago that used those CO2 cartridges for pellet guns. He said he'd never seen a more dangerous opener. He used it a couple of times until a bottle exploded, throwing shattered glass on everyone.

Very risky way to open a bottle. It would be better to use a proper corkscrew, keep trying until the cork breaks up, and take the cork pieces out of your glass than lose an eye or worse.

Inspecting a bottle is useless, you don't see the internal stress patterns.

author
Phil B (author)Davidfromcali2013-10-04

Removing part of a cork that crumbled requires very little pressure. That is likely how I will use my air injection needle. Otherwise we will use a corkscrew.

Wrapping a fairly large towel around the bottle would offer a good safeguard.

author
Davidfromcali (author)Phil B2013-10-06

The reason Champagne bottles traditionally are wrapped in a towel is because of the frequency of bottles exploding when the cork came out in the days preceding better standardization of manufacturing glass bottles.

Enjoy your wine.

author
Phil B (author)Davidfromcali2013-10-06

Thanks.

author
Beergnome (author)2013-10-05

Oh dear god don't use air.. air has oxygen, and that causes oxidation. and that sucks.

hook up a needle valve probe to a regulated source of nitrogen gas or CO2 if you are going to do this.. A quarter bar of postive preasure should force a cork up with out fear of bottle rupture.

and there is nothing wrong with polymer corks.

author
Phil B (author)Beergnome2013-10-06

Thank you for suggesting this is not dangerous, after all.

Oxygen getting into the wine has been mentioned a couple of times. It reminds me of people who really, really get serious about fountain pens. They fill the empty space in the bottle with an inert gas to protect the unused ink.

author
ElectroFrank (author)2013-10-04

I suggest a small bike pump would be ideal for pressurising, because you will have fine control of the pressure, and can use just enough to open the bottle, minimising any possible explosion risk.

author
clazman (author)2013-10-03

I haven't used a corkscrew cork remover for years now. It is a very poor method that should not be used with a porous and very low strength cork material.

I must add that I still prefer corks over those lousy polymer plugs that should be outlawed.

What do I use. It is a removal device where two diametrically opposed spring steel prongs that are very thin, are pushed down between the cork and bottle. Then a slight twist and pull and out it comes.

Only problem is that I suggest you push one prong at a time a little bit at a time. If this is not done you risk the possibility of pushing the cork into your "fruit of the vine".

author
Phil B (author)clazman2013-10-04

I have seen those somewhere, maybe on film. I even looked for them. Thanks.

author
christostrauss (author)2013-10-03

Hi Phil, here is the product that 85Rocco talked about...

http://www.yuppiechef.com/corkpops.htm?id=1061&name=CorkPops-Wine-Bottle-Opener

author
Phil B (author)christostrauss2013-10-04

Thanks. I looked at the video. This link is a little different and what I remember friends using when I was a guest at their home.

author
stackerjack (author)2013-10-04

Please do be careful with this apparatus. There have been cases where the bottle explodes before the cork pops out.

author
Phil B (author)stackerjack2013-10-04

In one response I suggested the user could make a wooden case or cabinet to surround the wine bottle while opening it. There would be a hole just large enough for the air hose. If a bottle exploded, everything would be contained and the user would be protected. Or, the bottle could be wrapped in a heavy towel. I envision using this to remove what is left of a cork that crumbled without coming out of the bottle. Certainly, there is less cork to resist the air pressure and the remnant of the cork should come out long before the breaking limit of even a defective bottle would be reached.

author
AJMansfield (author)2013-10-04

This technique could also be used in combination with the standard method, if you are worried about having it suddenly pop and spray wine up. You screw in a regular corkscrew (not a fancy bottle opener thing, just a regular t-handle corkscrew so it doesn't get in the way), insert the needle, and pressurize the bottle in increments, while pulling on the corkscrew between them (don't pull so hard it crumbles more; be gentile with it). That way, it is the corkscrew that finally pulls the cork free, giving you better control over the release than you would having it just pop free.

author
85rocco (author)2013-10-03

There's a name for these things, they're called cork poppers. You can get them either with a hand pump or with a CO2 cartridge.

author
Phil B (author)85rocco2013-10-03

Thanks. I like controlling air flow with a pump. A CO2 cartridge is all or nothing.

author
85rocco (author)Phil B2013-10-03

I'm with you on that! I've seen a CO2 popper used, it's almost popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, a little out of control.

author
Jetpack5 (author)2013-09-30

This is very clever, but please check your bottle for any defects. They may be stronger than plastic, but glass is brittle and a small crack can cause catastrophe. Many air compressors now are oil free. It will be advertised on the compressor. Well done!

author
Phil B (author)Jetpack52013-09-30

I suspect there is always the risk of an anomaly in a glass bottle. I wonder if the factories check wine bottles for such possible weaknesses. With little hand pump wine bottle openers available on the commercial market, I would expect bottle producers are aware of the need to look for irregularities in bottles before the bottles go to the vintner for bottling wine. But, the cork is similar to a soft plug in an engine block. Although it seals the wine in the bottle, it should also be the weakest link and the component most likely to dislodge first.

Your question and caution reminds me of the double glass doors at the bank where I worked part time during my schooling. I believe they were an inch thick and very bulletproof. One day a woman glanced one of the doors with her diamond ring as she was passing through them. She happened to hit a natural fissure in the glass and a big crack formed. Workmen spent quite a bit of time with sledge hammers trying to break up what was left of those doors.

One option would be to make a cabinet from 3/4 inch plywood. The front would be hinged. There would be a place to insert the hose from the bicycle pump. If the bottle exploded, all pieces would be captured inside the plywood box.

Thank you for looking and for commenting.

author
hobanwash (author)Phil B2013-10-03

Typically bottle makers for the wine industry make a thicker bottle because of the risk of secondary fermentation. A wine with residual sugars (a sweeter wine) where fermentation was not completely arrested could start fermenting again and the pressure from the CO2 released in fermentation could shatter thinner bottles. Nevertheless a visual inspection of the bottle is always a good idea, I have seen the necks of bottles shatter while using a conventional pull screw. This looks like a cool project!

author
Phil B (author)hobanwash2013-10-03

Thanks. Bottles for sparkling wines or champagne are extra strong and thick.

author
Jetpack5 (author)Phil B2013-10-01

I'm fairly sure there are some tests performed at the bottle factory, and I remember making a baking soda "cannon" from a wine bottle in younger years. In principal, there isn't much air space in the bottle to store compressed air energy, so there shouldn't be much flying glass.
Still, I think your idea of a cabinet is an excellent solution. I would recommend safety glasses at least.

author
Phil B (author)Jetpack52013-10-02

At e-How.com I found instructions for using a commercial version of a hand air pump wine bottle opener. They suggest not using one of these on irregularly shaped wine bottles, like Chianti bottles.

author
Jetpack5 (author)Phil B2013-10-01

I'll say again, however, that I think this is a very clever method.

author
Oracus (author)2013-10-03

This would work fine if you consume the entire bottle in one sitting as you are introducing air into your wine.

author
Phil B (author)Oracus2013-10-03

That is probably a good idea, but I do not think my palate would notice.

author
vincent7520 (author)2013-09-30

Nice !
A small dedicated air pump such as a a hand bicycle pump could help you in opening the bottle right in the kitchen or the dining room.

author
Phil B (author)vincent75202013-09-30

Definitely. One reason I thought of this is that around 40 years ago I was at someone's house for dinner. They had a little hand pump with a long needle specifically for opening a wine bottle. Those are still on the market.

author
vincent7520 (author)Phil B2013-10-01

I know ! I have one !!!… LOL

Didn't tell because I didn't want to make a nuisance of myself by showing off. But it shows you're smarter than me as I would never have the idea of making one myself.

Keep on inventing wise DIY solutions !…

Cheers. ;)

author
Phil B (author)vincent75202013-10-01

I doubt I am smarter than you are. Thank you for your comment. I posted this Instructable a couple of days before it showed up. It was getting a view or two or three, though. I wondered if the lawyers for Instructables were wondering if they would get lawsuits over flying broken glass caused by exploding wine bottles. Thank you for your affirmation that the air pressure wine bottle openers work without being dangerous. Suddenly it appeared and it seems more people are interested in another alternative for opening a wine bottle than I imagined.

author
vincent7520 (author)Phil B2013-10-01

Actually this is system is among the best. Not only because you avoid the risk of having to deal with a broken cork, but also because the pulling of the cork is smooth and the wine is not shaken, even briefly.

To me, chances of a bottle exploding seem very remote as the cork will almost always be the weakest part of the bottle. And if the latter does break (1 chance out of a zillion ?…) it will mostly crack and stain the table cloth. Although it is technically an "explosion" the result will most probably be a spill : there will not be flying glass all over the room and the walls will remain free of wine stains !!!… 

author
Phil B (author)vincent75202013-10-01

Some guy reviewed the Turning Leaf air pump wine bottle opener. It was one of those reviews written without trying the product. He panned it as the most dangerous ever. He painted images of people poking themselves with the point on the end of the needle tube, and with exploding bottles sending shards through the air to maim and disfigure permanently. The manual for my new 2012 automobile spent more than 70 pages warning me that I could be injured if I operate the automobile in the bathtub, etc. Thank you again for your positive evaluation.

author
longwinters (author)2013-09-30

It's a good idea but a little slow I've been known to drive the cork back into the bottle in times of desperation btw couldn't you add some unnecessary and complicated components? Such as temperature and pressure read outs driven by a micro processor and possibly a robot like bender to drink it for you? This is what happens when you post on the web.....

author
Phil B (author)longwinters2013-09-30

The primary need for this was to remove the remnants of the crumbling cork. As you noticed, we usually use an electric corkscrew, but it goes all of the way and wine seeps out through the cork if the bottle is stored on its side. We got some rubber stoppers that expand and lock in place when a lever flips over center. I smiled at your suggestion that unnecessary and complicated parts are needed. I understand.

author
msebasti15 (author)2013-09-30

nice tip, it's very useful, but beware of the oil residues from air pumbs and air compressor

author
Phil B (author)msebasti152013-09-30

Very good point. Thanks. I believe my compressor warns against using oil on or in it to prevent explosions. The combustion principle behind the diesel engine is oil injected into air under pressure. I have put oil into the bicycle pump, though.

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