How-To & Diy

How to Open a Bottle of Beer Without an Opener

September 12, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Be the savior of gatherings everywhere, and open a beer with your bare hands and a spoon.

Opening a beer from Food52

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“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” -- Archimedes

It’s a nightmare situation. The beach is lovely, your friends are there, there’s a frisbee and chips and salsa, maybe somebody brought their dog and it’s being cute. Inevitably somebody brought a cooler full of beer, but ack!: nobody thought to bring a bottle opener. It’s a disaster, a hellscape, a perfect storm. What is to be done?

A nice, non-twist bottle of beer, like a fine wine, or maybe also a banana, begins with a test. It says -- you have me, but first you must open me up. Common sense and extremely late-night television dictate that there is a tool for every problem -- for beer, we have a bottle opener. But what if we don’t? What if, like the problem first almost-outlined by Alanis Morrissette herself, we have 10,000 spoons, when all we need is a goddamn bottle opener? If college taught me one thing, it’s use the spoons! Or one of them anyways.

Opening a beer from Food52

You can open a bottle of beer with anything. The concept is simple -- we need to somehow MacGyver a lever, class one. The cool thing is it’s one of the oldest concepts in physics, and you can basically make one from kind of anything. Spoons are the dream, lighters are the classic choice, flat rocks will do, iPhone cases work extremely well, or at least mine does, and, yes, Citibike keys can be pressed into service in a pinch. The emphasis overall is on Sturdy -- whatever it is shouldn’t have a lot of bend, or be too likely to deform or crack against the metal of the cap. No sporks, no foods (I don’t think?), no actual phones, no many-different-things made of wood (if we’re being safe), and, again, no actual phones.  

Grab the beer with one hand, index finger slinking somewhat loosely around the cap, and with your bottom three fingers wrapped tightly to the bottle. They will serve as the backbone of our lever system -- a triple layer of structural support for the fulcrum that is your index finger. Ideally they will wrap tightly enough as to allow for very little give once the lever starts pressing. I tend to keep my thumb wrapped a little bit over the cap to prevent it flying off into nothing as you wrest it from the bottle.

Opening a beer from Food52

The other hand should grasp the spoon tightly -- thumb pressing in the bowl of the spoon, index fingers pressing against one another for extra force, and meat of the palm pressing against the handle to provide necessary push higher up the lever. The spoon should lock in under the grooves of the cap, angled slightly above it, and the bowl should push into the index finger of your gripping hand.

Opening a beer from Food52

Push down on the handle of the spoon with your palm, while simultaneously levering the index finger of your spoon hand upwards with your wrist. You should feel the spoon pressing into fulcrum -- your other index finger -- which you can squeeze more tightly into the bottle to amplify the lever’s force. The bottom 3 fingers of your gripping hand should not budge much -- remember: they’re the backbone, everything ultimately pushes off of them.

Opening a beer from Food52 opening a beer from Food52

This is, in theory, the point that the cap comes free. Probably now your friends are looking over at you, marvelling at your accomplishment while their eyes plead in the way that says “Hey, dude, can you grab me a beer while you’re over there?”. 

Got any fantastical beer-opening stories? Let us know in the comments!


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Megan Town
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    Karthik Kumar
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    Robyn Wellington
Mike Dunkley

Written by: Mike Dunkley

A visual effects artist and musician living and working in Brooklyn. Kitchen-wise I can shuck corn, fry eggs, grate cheese, open beers, and that's pretty much all.


Kat November 24, 2015
I'm from Florida and everybody (so it seems) has one of those flip flops with an opener on the bottom of the shoe. Pretty ingenious, until you walk on someone's nice wooden floors and scratch the hell out of them. Also, one friend swore off of them when he opened a bottle in the dark, not realizing that he'd stepped in dog shit and it got around the rim...lets say he swallowed about a gallon of ocean water trying to get the taste out. ???? Me, I stick to the tried-and-true method of using a countertop or bench and banging the cap off.
Megan T. May 20, 2015
My husband uses his wedding ring and it works like a charm every time (until he bruised his finger showing off his newly acquired skill last summer!). My father in law has always used a water bottle/empty bottle to open beers in a pinch, which has always come in handy while on boat rides or on a beach. It's always interesting to see the variation in what people use to open their beers!
Paul May 25, 2015
I have also used my wedding ring, it does hurt though!
My wife doesn't appreciate the trick
Michael May 6, 2015
A friend and I went with the 'slam it open on a counter' method where, if you haven't seen this done, involves placing the cap ridge on the edge of something and slamming down on the bottle with your hand to pop it off. Unfortunately for us, our edge was a brick wall... and we just ended up slamming the whole neck of the bottle off in the process. Bricks are much less forgiving than dorm room desks.
Kat November 24, 2015
I do this method too, but learned the lesson of not doing it against soft surfaces like laminate or veneer. There are a couple countertops that look like someone took a bite out of them. Oops.
Karthik K. June 14, 2014
Bottled Water works fine for this. The rim just beneath the cap is perfect for opening up beer bottles. Just that the sudden "pop" action almost always makes the Beer froth and flow out.
Robyn W. March 12, 2014
The aussie way is to hold the bottle with one hand about halfway down and place the edge of the cap on the edge of a bench (or any other flat surface), then bang down hard on top of the cap with the other hand. Works a treat everytime! No tools required
sofie September 23, 2013
It´s common in Denmark to open bottles like that when you'r at a party. I have seen people open bottles with lighters, keys, a folded up newspaper and many others things. In highschool it was kinda embarrassing that I didn't know how to do it, but have since learn it. I agree with savorthis, I too feel kinda badass when I do it.
Becky September 19, 2013
It’s an easier dilemma to find yourself in then you would think; and the same goes for being taunted by a bottle of wine without a cork screw.
Ileana M. September 17, 2013
No beer bottle tricks up my sleeve, but we once used a hammer and a bent nail to open a bottle of wine.
Jules September 17, 2013
Used to use my teeth, but have thankfully stopped doing that now. Down to my last 3 precious, pearly whites. (Aka it hurt like hell)
bookgeekgirl September 13, 2013
This is great in a pinch, but be careful! A friend recently had to have a bunch of stitches after the spoon slipped and tore into the skin between his thumb and first finger. Ouch! (He won't tell us how many beers he'd already had at this point :-)
Anitalectric September 12, 2013
jc924 September 12, 2013
Been using my wedding ring to open beer for years.
kcallison September 12, 2013
I have used my drawer handles in the kitchen. The long kind. Gotta do what ya gotta do sometimes.
savorthis September 12, 2013
I have to say opening a beer with whatever sturdy object is available always makes me feel like a badass. Right in line with operating power tools.
lori September 12, 2013
My hubby opens a bottle of beer with another bottle of beer. He turns one upside down and uses the lid to flip the other lid off. He can even do it with an empty if he puts the bottle cap back on. He's faster with 2 bottles than I am with a bottle opener (I think it speaks to the amount of practice he's had...)
aargersi September 12, 2013
Our friend Rey uses his wedding ring. The car-door latch-hole (what is that actually called?) also works. MrsLarkin - my hubby has Reefs! Be prepared. Like a drunken boy scout.
mrslarkin September 12, 2013
omg abbie it was like the heavens shone down, and on the 3rd day of a baseball losing streak, God created these flip flops.

P.S. A paint can opener works great, too. That's my tool of choice.
Brette W. September 12, 2013
Lyrajayne September 12, 2013
The door latch on my Subaru has been used an embarrassing number of times for this since I stopped smoking. I'm also fond of the picnic table bench approach -- or if you're at a park w/the straight sided grills, you can knock it off with those.
tim H. September 12, 2013
Y'all should check out this for more "useful" bottle opening tricks:
Kenzi W. September 12, 2013
Points for this, obviously -- many more for the magic you just worked with the Alanis Morrissette reference.
Marian B. September 12, 2013
Isn't it ironic?
Kenzi W. September 12, 2013
mrslarkin September 12, 2013
Very cool. One of the dads on my son's baseball team has these, and they are awesome.
Amanda H. September 12, 2013
Thanks, Mike! How have I made it this far in life without this life-saving gem? Want to come to our next party to do a demo?
Mike D. September 12, 2013
No problem Amanda, always happy to share the only thing I actually learned in college. For what its worth, i believe I was giving impromptu demos while I was unofficially manning the Strongbow station at your last Piglet party. Or is Strongbow twist off? I kinda forget, I was drinking a lot of Strongbow at the time.