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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Cider Forum > Oak my cider: two options
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Old 10-19-2012, 05:55 PM   #1
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Default Oak my cider: two options

Hey everyone,

I did a 3 gallon batch of cider last year, I just finished the last bottle yesterday. It was good initially, but after 8-10 months of aging it became incredible. So this year I'm doubling my production and making 6 gallons! This is only my second cider attempt.

I have 6 gallons of unpasteurized local cider, I added some white sugar to boost the SG and have it fermenting at around 60 degrees with Nottingham. I wanted to experiment with oaking the cider this time around, so I bought 3 ounces of medium toast Hungarian cubes.

I've never used oak before, but it seems that most people steep the cubes in liquor (usually bourbon) to sanitize before they add it. Another option is to boil/steam the cubes for a few minutes, then toss them in. Does it really matter which method I choose? I plan on oaking for a while (a few months), and I do have some domestic apple brandy I could soak them in. The brandy is pretty tasty and I think I'd have to use a good amount to cover the cubes, though I bet soaking it in a ziplock bag is probably the best way to minimize the volume. I know it's not really a "waste" of the brandy, but is there any big advantage to soaking them in booze (other than the extra kick It'll add to the cider)?

Thanks!

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Old 10-19-2012, 07:34 PM   #2
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I'm curious to see what replies you get here. I have some medium toased/charred oak chips that were soaking in white corn whiskey for several months that I'm thinking about using in a gallon of my cider when it's done (going to be a sweet cider). I'm thinking most of the color has been stripped and released into the whiskey, so I'm really looking for more of a faint oak and corn whiskey taste to release into my cider.

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Old 10-19-2012, 10:35 PM   #3
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I've used oak, even apple and pear wood in many of my brews and meads. I like to soak them in a decent liquor, usually a liquer closer to the flavor I want to achieve. I have a couple of the old flip-top 1qt canning jars that i do the soaking in. IMO the alchohol helps draw out the flavor of the wood I am using better than just a water/steam extraction does.

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Old 10-20-2012, 02:46 AM   #4
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My oak has always come sealed in bags, I just dumped them right into the cider without any treatment. Works out great, no infection or anything like that. But given the option I would agree that an apple brandy would be ideal.

I would caution against oaking for 'months'. Since cider is such a light beverage, a relatively short time is needed, days to weeks in my experience. Too long on oak results in more bitter and woody flavorings which can quickly overwhelm apple flavor.

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Old 10-20-2012, 12:44 PM   #5
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Hmm thanks for the input. Are you talking cubes or chips? I guess most of what I've read has to do with oaking strong styles of beer (imperial stout, barleywine, etc.) which are obviously more heavily flavored than cider. But most people say a week or two for the chips and a lot longer (months) for the cubes. I don't want to overdo it, but I also plan on aging it for at least 6 months in the bottle so it'll have some time to mellow out a bit.

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Old 12-20-2012, 12:48 PM   #6
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After listening to the Brew Strong episode on wood aging, I ended up steaming the oak cubes for a couple minutes to sanitize them. They said soaking in booze wasn't enough.

I added the cubes last weekend, 3 ounces for a 6 gallon batch. I'll taste it in a month and go from there.

Anyone else have experience with oak cubes (not chips) in dry cider?

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Old 12-22-2012, 07:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zachattack View Post
I added the cubes last weekend, 3 ounces for a 6 gallon batch. I'll taste it in a month and go from there.
I've only had experience oaking beer, but 3 oz for a month is a lot of oak, even for cubes. I did 1.5 oz medium toast hungarian oak in 5 gallons for 5 weeks in a rye strong ale and it was on the high end of tolerable oak, even ~6 months later.

I'd recommend tasting a sample every week or so lest you overdo it.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:59 PM   #8
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OK, thanks. I've heard so many different opinions on how long to leave it in. If you read through some of the threads (here's a good one http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f13/tips-wood-aging-119445/) you get one guy saying that 1.75 oz for 4 months gave him no oak flavor, another saying after 6 months on oak it "wasn't the featured flavor," etc. Then there are cases like yours that seem to be the opposite. Hmm. I'm going to be out of town for a while, but I'll give it a taste next week. I do plan to age this for close to a year in the bottle.

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Old 12-23-2012, 05:41 PM   #9
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I think it depends on the type of oak object you are using too: chips will have the fastest effect, followed by oak cubes, staves, then barrels (but even the size of the barrel has a different effect). Also, the amount of toast and previous use will effect the flavor too.

So, the best advice I'd say is your experience will be a bit unique, so test it fairly frequently to dial in the flavor your looking for

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Old 12-24-2012, 12:24 AM   #10
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I scored a 2.5 gallon oak barrel and oaked a cider that I pressed last fall. I oaked it for about 2-3weeks and then put 2 gallons into glass bottles to mellow. The other half gallon I tasted immediately after oaking and it was borderline too oaky. I mixed the rest with another half gallon of cider and drank it within the week. It was good. The 2 gallons in jugs I let age for another 6 months, which greatly reduced and blended the oakiness. I then mixed that with 1 gallon of regular hard cider and kegged. C'est magnifique! Another experiment from a drunk scientist.

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