American Chemical Society

Watch: Here's how to save spoiled wine with chemistry

That old penny trick really works.

FIONA MACDONALD
10 DEC 2015
 

One of the worst first world problems out there is opening up a bottle of wine you've been saving for years, only to find that the whole thing stinks of sulphur. Decanting and airing the wine can sometimes help in these situations, but if the taste is still ruined after that, you have to throw it out, right? Actually no.

 

The American Chemical Society has put an old wives' tail to the test in this life hacks video, showing that if you put a penny in wine, it really can save it in a matter of minutes. No, seriously. Science is that good.

So how does this work? First of all, you can't just use any penny, it needs to be an old one made from copper. If you're in the US, any penny from before 1982 will do the job nicely, although modern pennies still have a small percentage of copper in them.

And obviously before you go throwing this really old coin into you drink, make sure you wash it really well.

Okay, now that hygiene is out of the way, let's get down to the science. The reason that wine spoils is a result of the wine-making process known as reduction. This compliments oxidation as grape juice sugars turn into delicious wine.

But sometimes this reduction process can go into overdrive, and produce thiols – a group of sulphur molecules that produce some of the stinkiest smells around, like burnt match smell, rotten egg, and burnt rubber. Delightful.

Fortunately, copper reacts with these thiol compounds produces odourless copper sulphide crystals, which is how your wine can be saved. Just drop one in, swirl it around and then pull it out, and the sulphur smell should be gone.

Of course, we don't recommend you do this all the time, but it's a cool trick for those special bottles you don't want to throw down the sink.

And just in case you don't have a copper penny lying around (because, hello, it's almost 2016), don't worry. A silver spoon will do the trick just as well.

Watch the video above to find out more and experiment with it for yourself. Because this is science you definitely can try at home.

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