Open Wine Bottles With Air Pressure

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Introduction: Open Wine Bottles With Air Pressure

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...
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.

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    39 Comments

    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.

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    3 replies

    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.

    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.

    Thanks.

    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.

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    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".

    1 reply

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

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

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

    1 reply

    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.

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

    1 reply

    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.

    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.

    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.

    2 replies

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

    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.