Sabrage: Valuable Safety Lessons for Working with Re-purposed Champagne Bottles.

The interest in the champagne bottle manifold is growing. I cannot wait to see what people are going to do with it. Feel free to ask any questions you can think of.

I thought I’d take a little time to explain some safety advice for using your manifold. It is hard to learn about the strength of champagne bottles because no producer wants to draw any attention to the safety or limitations of their bottles. We may find accounts of bottles being “pressure tested” but never “pressure rated”.

The best lessons we can get about sparkling wine bottles come from people attempting the tradition of sabrage: or opening a champagne bottle with a saber or even a spoon!

Sabrage can only be performed with true champagne sparkling wine bottles rather than cava, prosecco, or U.S. sparkling wine bottles because only true champagne bottles consistently break predictably when force is applied to the bottle’s known weak spot. The bottles can also be distinguished by their weight. Empty 750ml bottles weigh 900 grams though some are dropping to 835 by changing their shape slightly. I can’t find the weight of a prosecco bottle offhand but I’ll have to weigh the next one I come across. Champagne producers may have to maintain bottle strengths higher than they’d like (they are expensive to ship and not environmentally friendly!) because of the sabrage tradition. Good news for those of us that want to re-use the bottles!

Sabering non-champagne sparkling wine bottles can be risky and this can happen. Do not saber any of the bottles you carbonate with the manifold because the risks are uncertain and injury due to an unpredictable failure is likely.

A bottle failure similar to the above video seems highly unlikely when using the manifold as a carbonator because the pressure is far lower. A pressure point on the bottle is also not being whacked with a fucking sword…  The video does show the nature of how they can break which leads to the recommendation of wrapping the bottle in a kitchen towel or bartenders “lewis bag” while using the manifold as a carbonator. If the bottle fails, the towel or preferably heavy duty lewis bag will help contain any glass shards. Safety glasses should also always be worn. (I think I might even design a leather bag to slide the bottles into to greatly minimize risk but so far the lewis bag seems like it would work exceptionally well. our current lewis bag was designed by Josey Packard and even fits magnum bottles.)

There is a lot of information and conjecture out there on the limits of plastic soda bottles because many people re-purpose them for rocket launchers and various science experiments. Anyhow, some wise scientist pointed out that if the bottle is full as opposed to empty when it is pressurized, the amount of stored energy will be far lower. This means that if the bottle fails the liquid inside will absorb significant amounts of the shock.

This leads us to the advice of always working with full bottles to greatly limit risk of injury. The manifold generates exceptional results at pressures far below the observed pressure limits of sparkling wine bottles but it is still good to know the variables that impact safety.

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