We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Cooper?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Practical Adult Insights, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A cooper is a craftsman who builds slatted wooden containers such as barrels and butter churns. Building such containers requires a great deal of skill, and traditionally, coopers learned their trade over the course of a long apprenticeship. Coopering was once a vital and widespread profession which, among other purposes, supplied manufacturers with containers in which to store and ship their products. During the 20th century, however, steel containers began to be favored over wooden ones, causing coopering jobs to dwindle.

The containers built by a cooper are known generally as casks. These casks typically consist of thin slats of wood which are arranged vertically to create a container. They usually feature round “head” pieces, also crafted by the cooper, at one or both ends, as well as a number of metal hoops which help the casks retain their shape. Usually, a cask’s widest point is at its middle. Its body may feature a small, round hole into which products such as whiskey can be poured.

Building casks requires a great deal of skill. In addition to providing useful storage containers for a wide range of dry goods, casks have also played an important role in the distillation and transport of alcoholic beverages such as beer, whiskey, and wine. To facilitate liquid storage, the wood used in coopering must be hewn and arranged with extreme precision so that the resulting cask is watertight. Traditionally, a cooper learned this craft over the course of an apprenticeship which could last for five years or more.

While coopering is extremely physically strenuous, historically, the job of a cooper was held in high regard. In fact, the cooper was once so fundamental to the storage and distribution of goods that many companies operated their own on-site cooperages. For instance, Dublin’s Saint James Gate Brewery, maker of Guinness stout, employed in-house coopers up until the second half of the 20th century.

During the 20th century, however, steel casks began to be favored over wooden ones, primarily because the former are more cheaply produced and easily reused than the latter. As a consequence, once-plentiful coopering positions became increasingly rare. In the 21st century, one of the sole remaining strongholds for coopers is the artisanal alcohol industry. For instance, some specialty cognac manufacturers retain the use of a cooper, believing that hand-crafted distillation casks lend a flavor to their product that is unattainable through the use of mass-produced containers made from cheap materials.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including Practical Adult Insights. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By hamje32 — On Nov 20, 2011

@NathanG - Economics does play a role. I'm guessing that barrel making would be a tricky process, since you are creating an essentially round object, and you want to make sure that there are no open slits that air (or liquid) could get through.

Demand plays a role too. If indeed there are more steel barrels in use, the job of the cooper is probably not in demand as the article says, and so even if you wanted to use barrels for your beer, you may choose steel instead.

By NathanG — On Nov 20, 2011

@everetra - I don’t know how true it is either. I can tell you that some beer manufacturers have rolled out their own line of barrel aged beer. The claims are that the wood contains a lot useful flora and stuff that is important to the fermentation process.

I think that for commercial beers you can buy at the store, those companies are probably less concerned about the nuances of flavor than in their unit costs.

I am guessing maybe the steel barrels factor into the equation because they may be easier and cheaper to produce, or at least last longer. To me the discussion is somewhat academic at some point, like which roller coasters provide a better ride, the old wooden ones or the new kind with steel tracks.

By everetra — On Nov 19, 2011

The last paragraph of the article answered a question I had throughout the whole piece. Do you think that wooden casks make beer taste better? I ask because some of the beer commercials like to advertise that their wooden barrels help to provide better taste for the beer.

I don’t know how true that sounds, but it does make sense. The beer would capture some of the flavor, if you will, from the authentic wood barrel and that would add richness to it.

Honestly, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference myself, but I am not exactly a connoisseur of beers and fine wines. People with more finely tuned senses of smell would do a better job than I would, in my opinion.

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
Learn more
Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.