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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Oak Barrels: Usage, lifespan & maintenance?
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Old 12-02-2012, 01:34 AM   #1
MmmmBeer
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Default Oak Barrels: Usage, lifespan & maintenance?

The SWMBO has decided she wanted a couple pairs of boots for christmas so I decided I wanted a couple oak barrels to use in my brewing and wine making.

I have a few questions for those of your that have used oak barrels before I pull the trigger and get a couple 10 litre oak barrels.

1. How long or how many batches of beer or wine can a single barrel be used for?

2. How do you clean, store between batches and is it a problem switching between wine and beer between batches?

3. After a while I would like to try inocculating one to make small batches of sours, but that is way in the future.

Any concerns or tips for using oak barrels is greatly appreciated.

Oh and the ones I plan on ordering are here:

http://www.thebarrelsource.com/Combo..._Barrel_1.html

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Old 12-02-2012, 04:33 AM   #2
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Those are some small barrels. Price-wise it's not a terrible price but you need to know what you're getting into. Each 10l barrel is going to hold ~2.5 gallons. Will that be enough for you? There are lots of used wine and liquor barrels in the 5-10 gallon range floating around for a lot less than what they are asking for on these new barrels.

I'm not really sold on the whole barrel thing at the homebrew level so I can't speak to the first two but as far as the third goes, those barrels are way too small for sour aging. You'll have a lot of oxygen exposure -- probably too much -- and probably not enough volume to make it worthwhile.

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Old 12-02-2012, 12:43 PM   #3
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I am looking at barrelsonline.com when I buy my barrels. I am interested in aging for a year in a barrel, and I found they have about the best prices I have seen. I am looking at the five gallon size, which is a nice batch size, and not that hard to move if/when needed.

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Old 12-02-2012, 02:03 PM   #4
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I don't see too many used ones, but when they do pop up they definitely are cheaper....I do remember a thread in the classifieds that was a guy selling his used liquor barrels and seemed to have an ongoing supply.

Good point about the size for sour aging, I dont plan on doing anything but 5 gallon batches for quite some time. I may go for the couple of 5 gallon barrels, although my wine I usually make in a 6 gallon batch which is why ~2.5 would have been good to have half aged in oak and the other half not.

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Old 12-02-2012, 02:52 PM   #5
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they do have a little bit better price, I still have to decide on which size is best for my needs though, thanks for the info

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Old 12-02-2012, 02:59 PM   #6
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Check these out. I know it says unavailable but call them. They get them in on a regular basis and usually maintain a list of people who want them.

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Old 12-02-2012, 04:01 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neovox View Post
Check these out. I know it says unavailable but call them. They get them in on a regular basis and usually maintain a list of people who want them.
I have a buddy who purchased one of those. You can get on a wait list if you call or email for them. He's got an Imperial Stout sitting in it now.
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Old 12-02-2012, 04:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MmmmBeer View Post
I don't see too many used ones, but when they do pop up they definitely are cheaper....I do remember a thread in the classifieds that was a guy selling his used liquor barrels and seemed to have an ongoing supply.

Good point about the size for sour aging, I dont plan on doing anything but 5 gallon batches for quite some time. I may go for the couple of 5 gallon barrels, although my wine I usually make in a 6 gallon batch which is why ~2.5 would have been good to have half aged in oak and the other half not.
Steelers77 gets a flow of barrels he sells. Look in the vendor section for his thread. Adventures in homebrewing frequently has them. If you go to the AHA page there's a distillery that sells a lot of barrels away. They are always in the ads on the home page (at least for me).
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Old 12-02-2012, 06:06 PM   #9
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Nice, I will check out Adventures in Homebrewing and see about the other contacts that are mentioned. A couple 5 gallon barrels to handle a red wine and an imperial stout or bourborn porter would be the most I would want to handle at the moment.

Has anyone had experience with cleaning between batches and how many or how long you can use one for?

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Old 12-04-2012, 05:26 AM   #10
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In theory, you can use them for an infinite number of batches. They hold bourbon for 18 years, then scotch, wine and homebrew, so they have a pretty impressive lifespan as long as you don't try to go all Houdini and go over Niagara Falls in one. However, once they go sour, they'll never go back. They will get less oaky with every use, although you can re-char them, which will make them brand-new tasting, although eventually you'll run out of barrel to char. I'm no help on cleaning, but I do know you'll want to make sure they're filled with water if you're not using them for beer.

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