Hiram Codd

Written by Lilith Raymour

Homebrewers have an unsung hero. They may be familiar with the founder of Guinness, or that lager yeast was created at Carlsberg by one Christian Hansen. The heroes and innovators are many. But without a way to keep the creamy head from escaping, without a head or at least just a slight tingle that carbonation delivers to the palate, beer just simply wouldn’t be, well, beer. Simply fermented wort, or “wert” as it was once spelled.

Hiram Codd.

Hiram Codd: born 1838 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England, invented a very simple system to bottle beer that one could argue led to the ceramic swing-top cap used as a capping and bottling method for Grolsch beer, or at least may have contributed to the popularity of opening methods other than capping.

Grolsch style

While the Grolsch style bottle may be more complex and simplify opening in the sense that opening may be more fool proof, Hiram Codd’s design was basically a ball: a marble inside the bottle, and a rubber gasket. The simplicity of the design might be compared to Judo which uses an opponent’s momentum to the practitioner’s advantage. The Codd design uses the pressure of carbonation to keep carbonation in the bottle as the marble rises and, together with the rubber gasket, press against the narrow top of the bottle.

Codd beer bottle

Homebrewers frequently use the Grolsch style bottles because they simplify bottling: no need in a tool or method of capping like clamp devices the crimp the edges of a metal cap. No need in finding an opener that works well enough to uncap the bottle. Some openers are more decorative than useful; especially those give away bottle openers you get at competitions. With the Grolsch system the handle caps and uncaps the ceramic top. Sterilizing is easy: simply wash the rubber stopper and the top with various sterilizers and, if needed, rinse. That depends upon your choice of sterilizers. The Codd system, though “opening” is not mentioned by various articles, seems simple. One assumes you simply tilt the bottle and gravity takes care of the rest: over carbonation might leave a bit more of a mess, however: especially if being tilted into the mouth. Sterilizing a bit more difficult simply because getting sterilizer all over the gasket, and therefore completely sterilizing it, is not as easy. Rinsing, if necessary, the same.

The inventor of the Grolsch top is unknown by this author and doesn’t seem to be mentioned by Wiki or Grolsch itself. But Hiram’s bottle that was invented in large part as a method of bottling beer did bring him a small amount of notoriety, mostly for another use. Hiram Codd died in 1878 in his home in Brixton, England. His bottle is still in use. It is manufactured in India by the Khandelwal glass works, most likely for its other common use: bottling soda.

Codd soda bottle