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Old 05-06-2010, 11:02 PM   #1
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Default Does steeping oak chips affect fermentation?

I'm making an IPA from an extract kit that included a small bag of oak chips. Fermentation went fine, nice kreuzen, and after ten days I decided to rack to a secondary for a week or two. I tasted my hydrometer sample and it's really oaky. I went back through the instructions and I see that I steeped the oak chips along with the special grains, when I should have made an "oak tea" along with the priming sugar at bottling.
I'm guessing the beer will just be a little more oaky than it should have been. It's definitely fermenting. But I wonder if steeping the oak might otherwise harm the beer. It seems no one ever steeps oak, but only add chips during secondary fermentation for some flavor. Will my beer finish fermenting correctly?

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Old 05-06-2010, 11:54 PM   #2
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It might have a strong oaky flavor but that's about it. RDWHAHB

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Old 05-07-2010, 05:01 PM   #3
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Wait, when you say you steeped oak chips, do you mean that you put the oak chips in the primary? Or did you boil them?

If you boiled your oak chips, "oaky" is not how I would describe it at this point. You can leach out a lot of extra oils that way and it really does not create the experience you normally would want ....

If you put them in the primary that is totally cool. There are a handful of recipes that call for this and I have done it myself. However, I usually do it with a cider, not a beer. I like to think of the oak chips as little yeast islands. If you want to re-use that yeast in a second beer, you can brew it up and just toss in the oak chips straight from the other beer. Keep in mind you can get some weird stuff if your oak chips were somehow infected.

Putting them in the secondary is what most people do. That lets you keep them there as long as you like without disturbing the primary fermentation. It is a process that works really well, but it has to work with the flavor profile of the beer.

Anyway, as long as you did not boil the chips you should be fine. If you boiled the chips, your beer is going to be very interesting. Boiling the chips releases tons of strong tannins. Your beer is going to be super-dry and potentially bitter if you did this. Think of a dry white wine that turns your mouth inside out, but possibly drier. Also, tannins can make some people a bit sick, so drink with caution. That said, tannins are awesome for making an alcoholic beverage keep. If this is an IPA with heavy tannins, you should be able to toss it in storage for a year or more (hell, try it again at two years) and it will lose some of the tannin flavors and become something utterly different.

Oh, and some recipes say to boil oak chips to sterilize them. Only way that is going to work is if you boil them, then wash them in cold water for long periods of time. It really doesn't work well. If you really want to sterilize them, grab a bottle of strong alcohol (bourbon, scotch work great), soak them in that for a few hours, then throw them in. You can throw the alcohol in with them, or drink it. It'll just kick your beer up a notch or two.

Enjoy your brew.

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:04 PM   #4
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Maztec - I added the oak chips while the water was warming up - they were in water below 170 degrees. They never boiled. But they did steep for about a half hour. I removed them when I added malt extract and boiling hops.
The sample I tasted reminded me more of a whiskey than a wine.
I will definitely bottle this and let it mellow for a few months. It's not ruined, just different. I'm just hoping it will carbonate okay.
I guess people don't steep oak chips is the fear of too many tannins. What I did is probably similar to adding the chips in the primary.
Anyway, lesson learned.

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:08 PM   #5
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i steam the chips, or more often cubes, with a vegetable steamer. Seems to work well. Also, you can add the oak chips to the keg, if you are kegging.

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Old 05-07-2010, 08:15 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maztec View Post
If you boiled your oak chips, "oaky" is not how I would describe it at this point.
In the OP he mentioned steeping them with specialty grains, which are not boiled. I would expect the higher temperature to extract a decent amount of oak flavor, so I believe it would be "oaky".
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Old 07-27-2010, 06:46 PM   #7
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After a few weeks in the bottle, the oak aftertaste is still there, but not as prevalent.
When I tell my friends it's a "Whiskey IPA," they like it. When I say it's an IPA gone wrong, they agree it's terrible. So it's all in the marketing!
Anyway, I kind of like it. I'm going to save the second case for the colder months, when the whiskey/oak flavor will be appreciated.

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Old 07-27-2010, 06:55 PM   #8
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Is this the True Brew kit; I think I brewed this one last week? Anyway, to ensure I did not contaminate the wort, I put the chips in a bag and boiled it for 30 seconds. It is still in my fermenter at 12 days.

The recipe on this kit was very weird and the wort turned out very brown which is not typical for IPA.

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Old 07-27-2010, 07:50 PM   #9
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It was a kit from The Home Brewery, based in Missouri. My mistake was that I steeped the oak chips. The recipe called for an "oak tea" at bottling.
I still don't know if this beer tastes like it is "supposed" to or not. But I've learned not to worry. It was a learning experience.

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Old 07-28-2010, 12:13 AM   #10
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I'm new to the oak additions, but based on my research and the advice from my LHBS, you just rack the beer onto the oak chips in secondary and let the beer age on the oak chips for atleast 6 months.

I've never heard of boiling them, but that doesn't mean that isn't a good option too.

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