Keeping champagne cool can cut risk of flying corks

Date:03-01-2014 08:58:38 read:4

Keeping champagne cool can cut risk of flying corks

Scientists have studied how the temperature champagne is served at affects the speed of a cork as it leaves the bottle

The speed of a cork popping out of a champagne bottle can be reduced by lowering the temperature Photo: Jacques Honvault

It is one of many potential hazards faced by those wanting to celebrate in style at this time of year.

Flying champagne corks can take out ornaments, damage light fittings and even leave guests with black eyes if not handled with care.

Now scientists have examined how the temperature that you serve your sparkling celebratory drink at can help to reduce the potential damage caused by flying corks.

They found that cooling the bottle to 39 degrees F (4 C) causes the speed of the cork as it leaves the bottle to drop considerably.

This is because as the liquid inside cools it causes the trapped gas to expand less rapidly.

A cork from champagne at 39F travels at just three quarters of the speed it does when the bottle has been left at a room temperature of 64 degrees F (18 C).

Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, from Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne who led the research, said that reducing the temperature of the bottle could also help to control the amount of liquid that sprays out when the cork is popped.

He said: “The total potential energy stored in the bottle under pressure is similar to the total energy stored in an overstretched spring.

“Only a small part of this energy is released into the cork flying out of the bottleneck – only about five per cent.

“Most of the energy is released into a compression wave – the characteristic bang.

“Even if it is safer to uncork a bottle of champagne with a subdued sigh, most of us would admit to having popped open a bottle of champagne with a bang.

“However, every year, the combination of warm bottles of champagne or sparkling wines with careless cork removal techniques results in serious eye injuries.

“Even at low champagne temperature, the velocity of the cork popping is high – close to 40km per hour (24mph).

“That may really hurt if it hits the eye, so take care if you decide to pop the cork with a bang.

“The production of foam – the so-called gushing process – is also intimately linked with the champagne temperature.”

It has been claimed that as many as 900,000 people injure themselves or cause damage with flying champagne corks or by spilling the liquid each year.

Around 8 per cent of these are due to a cork hitting someone in the face, according to a survey by Morrisons in 2011.

Damage to lights, ornaments, furniture, fittings and clothing account for around 15 per cent of the champagne related incidents.

Doctors have also warned that flying corks can cause serious eye injuries and even blindness in the most extreme cases.

The pressure inside bottles is created as gas is produced during a second fermentation process that occurs in the closed bottle.

A high speed photograph captures the characteristic fog produced after a bottle of champagne is opened (Jacques Honvault)

Scientists estimate around five litres of gas form inside the bottles, but remain largely dissolved in the liquid. When the cork is popped the equilibrium inside is disrupted and the gas rushes out.

The latest study is published in the Journal of Food Engineering.

The researchers, who have studied various characteristics of champagne in the past, used high speed photography to study the speed of the cork as it left the bottle.

They found that the cork left the bottle neck at dramatically different speeds depending on the temperature.

At 39F the cork travelled at 24mph, while at 54F it hit 28mph and at 64F is reached 32mph.

Professor Liger-Belair said that if the bottle was warmed further the speeds would likely increase further still.

He said: “Above 25 degrees C (77F), the pressure within the bottle is greater than 10 bars and the experiments become really dangerous.

“We decided to work within the range of between 4 and 20C.”

The researchers now hope to study the other energy released from bottles as they are opened in order to estimate the total energy stored inside.

    Ever For Health Copy Rights 2013