Author Topic: Barrel Aging Maintenance  (Read 347 times)

Offline bobo1898

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Barrel Aging Maintenance
« on: December 04, 2017, 10:14:09 AM »
So I'm acquiring a 5 gallon bourbon barrel. My plan is to initially use it for non-sours, then after several uses, move it over to the sour side. I have several questions before I make this acquisition:

1. I understand that I don't want these to dry out/shrink. Is there a general rule of thumb as to how long I can keep them empty? If I don't have a beer available to put in it, what can I do if I'm outside this amount of time to leave it empty?

2. I know that they tend to leak. Does anyone have a recommendation on how to handle this? I imagine, that I need to rinse off the exterior of the barrel with warm or hot water as it leaks. Do they tend to leak a ton? My initial thought was to have it sit above a plastic tub of some kind and then just change that out as time goes.

3. Would aging in a barrel determine the temp I'm resting at? Or is it still the beer? I imagine colder temps shrink the wood, no? I guess I'm asking if I'm still aging at the temp I would normally keep it at in a carboy?

4. Solid bung or airlock?

5. After aging, I imagine, I'm filling the barrel up with hot water before the next batch? And I imagine no star san, either? After I move this over to the sour side, should I even be concerned with washing it out?

6. FINAL QUESTION. I know that the spirits go away with each use. So I'll use it till most of the spirits are gone for non-sours. Once I go to the sour side, I probably don't need to be too concerned with the amount of uses, right?
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Offline jtoots

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2017, 11:26:36 AM »
I'm totally out of my element here, but bumping as much as providing a couple cents worth of input:
1) could you fill it with water?
2) keg lube?
3-6) curious to see what input you get!

Offline bobo1898

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #2 on: December 04, 2017, 11:29:55 AM »
Thanks for the response jtoots!

1) could you fill it with water?

That's what I was thinking. Only issue on letting it sit with this, is losing the spirit character faster. With beer, at least something with character is soaking in.
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Offline Kevin58

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2017, 12:29:59 PM »
I don't have one yet, but one of the suggestions on another forum was to put a bottle of whiskey in the barrel and make sure you turn it regularly to keep the insides wet.
What if I told you Mild is not low ABV nor dark in color and often highly hopped?

Offline bobo1898

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2017, 12:31:56 PM »
Thanks for the reply Kevin!

I don't have one yet, but one of the suggestions on another forum was to put a bottle of whiskey in the barrel and make sure you turn it regularly to keep the insides wet.

That makes sense. It should theoretically kill off any bad stuff, plus keep it moist.
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Offline Ck27

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2017, 01:46:32 PM »
Thanks for the reply Kevin!

I don't have one yet, but one of the suggestions on another forum was to put a bottle of whiskey in the barrel and make sure you turn it regularly to keep the insides wet.

That makes sense. It should theoretically kill off any bad stuff, plus keep it moist.

No, barrels are almost impossible to keep free of bugs you will pretty much always have something in them because wood has tones of imperfections that they can hide in.

Offline bobo1898

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2017, 03:43:34 PM »
Thanks for the response, CK.

Do you have any experience with barrels with which you can answer my questions?
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Offline brewfun

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2017, 10:59:45 AM »
So I'm acquiring a 5 gallon bourbon barrel. My plan is to initially use it for non-sours, then after several uses, move it over to the sour side. I have several questions before I make this acquisition:

1. I understand that I don't want these to dry out/shrink. Is there a general rule of thumb as to how long I can keep them empty? If I don't have a beer available to put in it, what can I do if I'm outside this amount of time to leave it empty?

The best plan of action is to have a beer ready for the barrel when it arrives. Assuming it's wet (and a lot of them aren't anymore) you shouldn't have any leak issues. If it's a bit dry, you want to wet it from the outside by either rolling it in a bath or just hosing it down. It may take a few days, but this'll swell the wood without removing character from the inside. Then season it with a high proof (100+) spirit by rolling it around to wet the inside each day for a week.

Quote
2. I know that they tend to leak. Does anyone have a recommendation on how to handle this? I imagine, that I need to rinse off the exterior of the barrel with warm or hot water as it leaks. Do they tend to leak a ton? My initial thought was to have it sit above a plastic tub of some kind and then just change that out as time goes.

Barrels are individuals. Most don't leak at all, but many weep a little when first filled. The beer eventually dries in place and plugs the gap. You may get a little "molasses" on the floor if the head staves don't fully tighten up. If the side staves leak a lot, look into replacing the stave. You can try a bit of thin cloth forced into the gap with a wedge, but that usually starts a series of other gaps as the staves move around.

Quote
3. Would aging in a barrel determine the temp I'm resting at? Or is it still the beer? I imagine colder temps shrink the wood, no? I guess I'm asking if I'm still aging at the temp I would normally keep it at in a carboy?

Room or cellar temp is fine.

Quote
4. Solid bung or airlock?

Since beer still has yeast and changes happen in the barrel (you'll get an second fermentation, usually) an airlock is best. There's a YouTube video of a bung taken out of a wine cask and it shoots 100 feet into the air because the bung didn't vent. Beer is more active than wine.

Quote
5. After aging, I imagine, I'm filling the barrel up with hot water before the next batch? And I imagine no star san, either? After I move this over to the sour side, should I even be concerned with washing it out?

Why not go right in with the second batch? You *could* give it a quick rinse with sulfite, which will kill a lot of flora (but not all of it) but you'll want to let the barrel rest for 24 to 48 hours before adding beer.

Quote
6. FINAL QUESTION. I know that the spirits go away with each use. So I'll use it till most of the spirits are gone for non-sours. Once I go to the sour side, I probably don't need to be too concerned with the amount of uses, right?

Part of the charm of sours is how the barrels evolve and what happens when you blend batches. It's a whole new skill and lots of tasty fun. When you go sour, you'll want to sequester the barrel from the rest of your brewing. Get hoses just for the sours. The flora in sours spores and will eventually make it's way into other beer kept in the same space.

I will barrel age beers, but don't let our brewery venture into sours or even brett ageing because of the danger of cross contamination. Last year, we had a batch of strong ale that just never matured well enough to release. We sent it to a brewery that specializes in sours and got back something magical!
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Offline bobo1898

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2017, 12:51:46 PM »
Thanks for the info, brewfun!

Then season it with a high proof (100+) spirit by rolling it around to wet the inside each day for a week.

Any particular amount? I don't have a beer ready for the barrel and won't for another month. The deal for the barrel is too good to pass up so I have to get it now. I was going to swell the barrel with 180 degree water on the heads and a bit on the outside. Then I'll open it up and dump in a 750ml bottle of the spirit, roll it around the inside each day. I assume most of this will be absorbed by the time I get to secondary.

When you go sour, you'll want to sequester the barrel from the rest of your brewing. Get hoses just for the sours. The flora in sours spores and will eventually make it's way into other beer kept in the same space.

This may draw concern for me. I have everything in my basement. My house is a ranch but the basement is open. I was going to keep sours on one side and non-sours on the other side of the house. Is this a bad idea? In a perfect world, I'd keep them in different rooms, but don't think I can exactly do that. I already have a separate bottling bucket, blow-off hose, syphon, etc. for sours already. But I haven't made a true sour yet. I've only just harvested wild yeast and have it in a air tight glass container in my fridge (away from other yeast). I was planning on making one in the coming months but not necessarily for the barrel. Should I avoid keeping the sour stuff in the basement all together? For them being on opposite ends, we're talking the full length of my house.
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Offline Ck27

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2017, 02:52:15 PM »
Thanks for the info, brewfun!

Then season it with a high proof (100+) spirit by rolling it around to wet the inside each day for a week.

Any particular amount? I don't have a beer ready for the barrel and won't for another month. The deal for the barrel is too good to pass up so I have to get it now. I was going to swell the barrel with 180 degree water on the heads and a bit on the outside. Then I'll open it up and dump in a 750ml bottle of the spirit, roll it around the inside each day. I assume most of this will be absorbed by the time I get to secondary.

When you go sour, you'll want to sequester the barrel from the rest of your brewing. Get hoses just for the sours. The flora in sours spores and will eventually make it's way into other beer kept in the same space.

This may draw concern for me. I have everything in my basement. My house is a ranch but the basement is open. I was going to keep sours on one side and non-sours on the other side of the house. Is this a bad idea? In a perfect world, I'd keep them in different rooms, but don't think I can exactly do that. I already have a separate bottling bucket, blow-off hose, syphon, etc. for sours already. But I haven't made a true sour yet. I've only just harvested wild yeast and have it in a air tight glass container in my fridge (away from other yeast). I was planning on making one in the coming months but not necessarily for the barrel. Should I avoid keeping the sour stuff in the basement all together? For them being on opposite ends, we're talking the full length of my house.

You will be fine, I've got sours aging 2 feet from non sours absolutely no contamination. And the Sours have Brett,lacto etc. He meant don't use same buckets or secondary or bottling gear or hoses etc. That's where you get an infection from.

I use a glass carboy for my sours because if I clean it I can ferment non sours in it because it is glass and has no imperfections.

Offline bobo1898

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2017, 03:09:45 PM »
Awesome. Thanks.

I'm also glass for that reason.
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Offline Ck27

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2017, 03:53:24 PM »
Awesome. Thanks.

I'm also glass for that reason.

:) I have a few bucket fermenters a 7.9 gallon Speidel fermenter 2x Cooper's fermenters which were given to me new so why not these are the 5 gallon ones and rather nice :) cost $80 a pop online.

And my glass fermenters are 3 gallon italian made pretty nice :).

Offline brewfun

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2017, 07:05:48 PM »
You will be fine, I've got sours aging 2 feet from non sours absolutely no contamination. ...I can ferment non sours in it because it is glass and has no imperfections.

OP is asking about wood and you're providing your experience with glass. This isn't even close to equivalent.
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Offline Ck27

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Re: Barrel Aging Maintenance
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2017, 11:53:23 PM »
You will be fine, I've got sours aging 2 feet from non sours absolutely no contamination. ...I can ferment non sours in it because it is glass and has no imperfections.

OP is asking about wood and you're providing your experience with glass. This isn't even close to equivalent.

No I answered his wood question and added to it, so please do not comment without understanding what has been said.