After multiple tests over many dinner parties, we discovered that the best classic waiter’s friend, a wonderful but extraordinarily costly upgrade, a very nice lever corkscrew, an electric model that beats its competition and a one-of-a-kind opener that’s ideal if you frequently open older bottles.
One of the best options on the market:
– Best Overall Corkscrew: Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew
– An Extremely Pricey Upgrade: Code38 Elite Series 17-4PH
– Best Lever Corkscrew: Vertical Rabbit
– Best Electric Corkscrew: Oster Electric Wine Opener
– Best if You Open a Lot of Older Bottles: The Durand
The Search for the Best Corkscrew
Wine has been packed in bottles since the 17th century which means there have been tools designed for the safe removal of cork stoppers. Even though corkscrews came in many shapes and sizes, the older ones were variations on the screwpull model. This model is shaped like a metal helix (also known as “worm”) sometimes encased in a frame that could be twisted down vertically into a cork, requiring the person hold the bottle and pull upwards until the cork popped from the bottle making a rather funny sound. Screwpulls are still in use today and they are still effective, too. Sometimes they can create a mess if you don’t handle them properly.
In modern times, better tools are present for opening bottles. The most used model in the industry today is the waiter’s friend, or wine key, which holds the metal worm to a curved handle in a way that it can be folded out to a 90-degree angle, just like a Swiss Army knife. It’s countered by a fulcrum that sits on the lip of the bottle, which provides the resistance to pull out the cork with a simple lift of the handle.
Among many useful things this model offers is the retractable blade opposite the worm for cutting the wine bottle’s foil capsule. Wine experts prefer this model for many different reasons. First one is, it’s self-contained which means there is no separate foil-cutting device or any other parts or tools. The second reason is it’s small enough to fit in your pocket. A third reason is it’s extremely efficient.
If you are opening many bottles of wine in one day, the most reliable instrument that you have will be your database software and of course, your corkscrew. You may have some difficulties while using this next model, but we can assure you, it will pay off. You will need a lot of strength if you plan to use Pulltap’s Double-Hinged corkscrew—a version of the waiter’s friend that’s very durable, even when used for a long period of time. When it finally did start to show signs of wear and tear, you can just buy a new one for less than $10.
In today’s corkscrew market there are a lot of variables of the contraption, from levers to automatic devices to specialty cork extractors designed for difficult bottles. If you are looking to truly test the Pulltap’s worth against other wine bottle openers on the market, gather 15 different corkscrews and use them over two consecutive dinner parties. Ask your friends and family for the results. You may be surprised.
What makes a great corkscrew?
If the cork comes out of the bottle without a hitch and the wine flows freely, most people would not complain about the performance of the corkscrew. If you don’t have any other options, there is always the shoe method (CAUTION). Another widely used hack is using a standard house key which is also not the smartest solution to the problem.
The Best Corkscrews
Best Overall Corkscrew: Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew
The waiter’s friend model is still probably one of the most efficient corkscrews because of its design. It’s much less cumbersome than an average lever corkscrew or winged corkscrew and takes less space if you want to put it away in a drawer.
The waiter’s friend has a lot of models but the Pulltap’s Double-Hinged has the best price-quality ratio. Its serrated knife will handle any wine bottle foil flawlessly. It also has a Teflon-coated worm which twists smoothly into both classic and Diam corks without any funny squeaking or resistance. Its double-hinged fulcrum makes it possible to maintain leverage, even with the worm twisted all the way into the cork instead halfway or most of the way.
Pulltap’s technology was invented in the late ‘90s by a Spaniard who was from a town just outside of Barcelona, and that’s still the place where the corkscrews are made today. Some fake versions have been spotted around the U.S., so if you want to avoid these versions, make sure to look for the ‘Made in Spain’ tagline. If you want to check whether the corkscrew you already possess is a genuine Pulltap’s, see if the worm will bend under pressure. If it does, it’s a fake.
If you are looking for a great alternative, search to the Truetap Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew. It’s almost identical in both appearance and function to the Pulltap’s and it’s very cheap ($5 on Amazon for a basic white one). The only flaw, to be honest, is that the knife and fulcrum are slightly looser than those on Pulltap’s, which can mean that it won’t as long as the Pulltap’s. If you open less than a bottle per day, it will likely last for a couple of years.
An Extremely Pricey Upgrade: Code38 Elite Series 17-4PH
The Code38 is praised from sommelier all around the world. “Why use a cheap-looking wine key that needs to be replaced every few months, when you can have a sleek, aerodynamic one with a lifetime warranty?” is the most asked question. It surely delivers in every field.
The Code38 is a corkscrew that is very similar to a waiter’s friend but it has the Scandinavian design and materials that are high quality. It’s almost indestructible (you can even opt for a titanium body rather than the standard stainless alloy one), but it’s extremely light when compared to some other fancy waiter’s friend model, such as Laguiole.
Instead of the serrated flip-out blade, it has an ergonomic, straight-edged one that allows the user to use just one hand and use the other one for something else. The knife function is also very impressive. It cuts through the foil like a hot knife through butter, without a single hitch.
Even though the fulcrum is single-hinged, it has excellent leverage which requires the least amount of effort of all of the waiter’s models with any length of cork. For all its superiority, it still isn’t superior enough for Pulltap’s. It may be expensive, but it’s worth the money. If you have it.
Best Lever Corkscrew: Vertical Rabbit
The only benefit of the lever model corkscrew over the waiter’s friend is that it cuts the manual worm-twisting out of the cork removal process. Some would also argue that the simplicity of the up-and-down motion of using a lever makes up for its bulky size. Most lever models require separate foil cutters.
Of the three lever models included in my experiment, the Vertical Rabbit felt sturdiest and most durable, with a coated stainless steel body rather than a plastic one. It had a comfortable soft rubber grip and ejected the cork with a firm pop. In addition, when the lever was in its upright position, it stayed upright. The levers in the other models tended to fall unless propped up.
Best Electric Corkscrew: Oster Electric Wine Opener
Electric corkscrews may save you some time and effort, but most models require at least 8 hours of charging before the first use. Besides that, they all require a separate foil-cutting mechanism, and even the best one took almost 10 seconds longer to open a bottle than the Pulltap’s. The design of these electric corkscrews looks funny at first sight and they take up a lot of space which is never a good thing.
If these things don’t change your opinion about electric corkscrews, and you really want to own one. Then you should definitely buy one. It weighs less than previous ones and requires pushing of a button to set it in motion, which makes it less likely to go off on its own simply by being in contact with another object.
Of course, human interaction is needed to handle this electric model. You can use both hands—one to stabilize the bottle while the corkscrew was turned on and the other to hold the corkscrew shaft steady and press the button that operates the worm-twisting mechanism. It removed the cork smoothly and it didn’t leave any mess behind.
Best if You Open a Lot of Older Bottles: The Durand
The Durand corkscrew is a perfect solution for older bottles with a fragile cork. When trying to open such bottles, those kinds of corks usually gets ripped in half or shredded in tiny pieces. The ah-so corkscrew was the only one which could open the mature bottles. It is very similar to tweezers since it has two-pronged cork extractor.
However, the ah-so is not so good for the diminished corks, because it pushes the cork down into the bottle instead of popping it out, which is why the Durand is the best option for these situations. When it was put to the test with a 1990 vintage Cru Bourgeois Medoc, the process went elegantly with no complications at all.
The worm went easily into the cork holding it steadily, and the cork got out in one piece. without being torn apart. The Durand corkscrew is the kind of screw you don’t want to use every day since it’s a pricey one, but when encountered with fragile corks, this tool is a must-have.
Waiter’s Corkscrews: Laguiole and OXO Steel
Laguiole wine keys are considered to be one of the most beautiful sommelier tools on the market. It takes a little time to break it in, but once that process is over, it’s extremely satisfying to use. On this particular model, the knife and worm are both stiff and difficult to fold out from the body. Also, the single-hinged fulcrum required leaving a spiral and a half of the worm out of the cork to get the leverage needed to pull it out.
The OXO model looks a bit childish by comparison. Even though it has a comfortable grip, the knife and the fulcrum are comically short. While some may think this is acceptable and could be a positive thing, it slipped repeatedly on the lip of the bottle which it was tested on, making a mess of broken wax.
Electric Corkscrews: Wine Enthusiast Electric Blue and Rabbit Automatic
This particular corkscrew got its name from the blue light that emits from the device when engaged, which doesn’t really have a purpose other than to seem high-tech. It’s much heavier than the Oster and it showed some ripping of the cork. The most important advantage is the transparent plastic lower portion of the shaft, which enables the user to see the removing of the cork.
Because of its automated functions and lack of buttons, it sometimes engaged by itself wasting the battery charge.
Lever Corkscrews: Vinturi Vertical and Le Creuset Lever
This Vinturi model was the least liked among the dinner guests for its delaying of the party. It can take a long time to get the foil off the bottle before you figure it out.
Le Creuset provides much smoother opening experience when comparing, but the plastic body feels flimsy and cheap.
Winged Corkscrew: Williams Sonoma Open Kitchen Winged Corkscrew
These winged corkscrews are cumbersome and gangly while simultaneously being tough on corks, causing ripping.
Screwpull: Le Creuset Original Table Model Twist Style Corkscrew
This twist style corkscrew looks like something which would be handy to have on a picnic: it’s lightweight and compact. But because of its plastic frame, it also looks like it’s not very durable and cheap.
Ah-So: NorPro A2B Cork Puller
This one is a great option for older bottles and will never disappoint.