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Old 03-02-2011, 02:52 PM   #1
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Default Oak Cubes/Spirals vs Barrel

I did a search and couldn't find an answer to my specific question...

If I don't do any sour beers, is there any advantage to going to an oak barrel vs using cubes/spirals?

I'm ready to take the plunge on a barrel but wonder if there is any advantage flavor-wise over the cubes/spirals, plus barrels are a ton of work to maintain...

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Old 03-02-2011, 03:00 PM   #2
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Unless you plan on letting it sit on the oak for an extended period, I'd go with chips. You can use a small amount at a time (.5-1oz in a 5 gallon batch) so you can more easily regulate what the oak brings to the brew. You can also add different toast levels pretty easily if you wish.

I've used medium toast so far since it seems to have more of what I want to add to a brew. In the first two uses, I added 3/4oz to 5 gallon batches. Next time I add it I'll probably go with 1oz or 1-1/2oz in a batch. I let one go about 5-1/2 weeks, where the other went closer to a month. The package does mention giving it 2 months for maximum extraction (4oz for 25 gallons)...

If you're unsure, add it in, but keep a watch on the flavors. When it hits where you think you want it, rack off of the oak and bottle it up...

Not sure if you can re-use spirals or not. With chips being as cheap as they are, you don't care about tossing them out. Pretty much same with cubes.

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Old 03-02-2011, 03:03 PM   #3
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I've never actually done either, but in my mind using an actual barrel is only better for coolness factor. Chips/spirals are cheaper, provide a more consistent product, and are less likely to contain mysterious nasties. The flavor you get out of a barrel will change each time you use it. The flavor you get out of new chips soaked in x liquor/wine for y amount of time will pretty much always be the same.

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Old 03-02-2011, 03:04 PM   #4
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Barrels only last for a few years before all flavor is extracted. At which point, you can still use them for micro-oxidation, but will have to use beans or spirals anyway. So, unless you want to be buying new barrels for replacement every 3 years or so, it probably wouldn't make much sense.

The spirals I used say they get full extraction in 6 weeks. So, if I use it for 4 weeks, I figure there is 2 weeks left. You can keep the spirals in the freezer (or this is what wine guys do).

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Old 03-02-2011, 03:08 PM   #5
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OK, you guys are pretty much confirming what I thought...

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