To Cork or Not to Cork My Vanilla Extract?
If you are a wine connoisseur, you will know the answer to this question: Why is a bottle of wine stored on its side? The answer: To preserve cork health by keeping the wine constantly in contact with the cork.
Cork is made from the bark of a tree called Quercus Suber, or “cork oak”. It’s an all-natural material that can break down over time if it is exposed to moisture, then dried, then exposed to moisture again, then dried in a repeating cycle. By storing wine on its side, the cork remains moist and healthy for as long as the bottle is left unopened.
It isn’t uncommon for fine spirits to also use a cork, but spirits are seldom stored on their side. In addition, spirits are not normally consumed quickly after the bottle is opened. A bottle of Bourbon might be opened and used once, and then placed back on the shelf for months before being used again. So, why don’t spirit corks deteriorate?
Spirits contain a higher alcohol content than wine. The air inside of a spirit bottle is always full of evaporated alcohol that is constantly and gently being circulated through the cork and keeping it healthy. There is not enough alcohol in wine to provide the same quantity of alcohol vapor at the top of the bottle to maintain cork health. The higher the alcohol content, the healthier the cork.
Another important consideration is that while corks are decorative and cute for use, they don’t serve a functional purpose for extract making. They often collect the oils of the extracts and can be difficult to clean.
Are corks safe to use with extracts? In our experience, so long as the cork is new, we have never seen a cork deteriorate during extraction. We have successfully used many bottles with corks, and we like how the finished extract looks with a cork. However, once the bottle of extract is finished, we always throw out the cork and begin our next batch in the same bottle with a new cork.
Learn more tips and tricks by visiting our extract-making guide center.