Making cider in bourban barrel

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Jwelch

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planning on picking enough apples and having them pressed into filling a 53 gallon bourban barrel into making hard cider and being able to draw right from the barrel any insight on this would be much helpful.
 

doublejef

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- Rinse your barrel with water, if possible rain water (no Cl in it) with some SO2, if possible very hot water, not too much, just put it into the barrel, roll it and get it out
- Check if there is no moisture or funky stuff in it (putting an eye in the hole and checking the water when you get it out.
- Fill completely your barrel with water (cold, rain + SO2 if possible) to be sure there is not lick (if there is, come back for advise)
- Burn a SO2 match in it the day before you will put you cider in it (1h before is also good)
- Let some head space if you want to ferment in it
- If you put your cider for aging or will let it in the barrel after fermentation is done don't forget to always fill the barrel until the top (every week is a good timing) or it will oxydize and probably sour.
- taste it every month because the wood can become too strong after a while and the cider unbalanced.

Have fun, barrel are just amazing play ground
 
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Jwelch

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- Rinse your barrel with water, if possible rain water (no Cl in it) with some SO2, if possible very hot water, not too much, just put it into the barrel, roll it and get it out
- Check if there is no moisture or funky stuff in it (putting an eye in the hole and checking the water when you get it out.
- Fill completely your barrel with water (cold, rain + SO2 if possible) to be sure there is not lick (if there is, come back for advise)
- Burn a SO2 match in it the day before you will put you cider in it (1h before is also good)
- Let some head space if you want to ferment in it
- If you put your cider for aging or will let it in the barrel after fermentation is done don't forget to always fill the barrel until the top (every week is a good timing) or it will oxydize and probably sour.
- taste it every month because the wood can become too strong after a while and the cider unbalanced.

Have fun, barrel are just amazing play ground
I plan on fermenting in the barrel and will have to drill a hole into the barrel for a spigot to go in. I have a silicone bung for venting but you are saying if I draw the cider out I need to refill what I have drawn out?
 

doublejef

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I plan on fermenting in the barrel and will have to drill a hole into the barrel for a spigot to go in. I have a silicone bung for venting but you are saying if I draw the cider out I need to refill what I have drawn out?
Barrel are not totally airmetic, they let air in and out so you will have a constant loss of liquid evaporating. As it also let air comes in, the top of the cider is in contact with air and the less the barrel is full, the more their is a big contact surface. So you need to fill it up once in a week or so to avoid it.
It is not an issue as long as you have an active fermentation because you have CO2 into the barrel instead of O2.
 

madscientist451

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Fermenting in a barrel may sound like a good idea, but there's also a chance you'll spoil 50+ gallons of juice.
You need to consider what exactly your goal is.
Do you want the wood barrel character in the cider? Bourbon flavor? Some other flavor?
There are other ways to achieve those things without the risks of using a barrel.
 

doublejef

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Well, it's true barrels are quite big so if you screw around something you lost a lot but there is not as much risk as you may think.
If the barrel is clean, if you keep it filled, watch the surface every week or so when filling up, taste the cider once in a while, the risk is close to zero. Just be ready to bottle it quiclky if something goes wrong or when you balance point is reached.
On the other hand, barrel can give so much to cider ! Wood, vanilla, bourbon and wine flavor or aroma, tanin, mouthfeel,... It's just amazing how there is endless possibilities.
Of course you can use oak chips, tannin powder or stuff like that and that should give you a very good result but cider aged or fermented in barrel are really something else.
I must say I press enough cider a year to fill up some barrel but I'm sure if I'll can only fill up one, I would do it.
 

Coriba

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I happened across a small whisky barrel, ~15 gallons, that I was considering aging some cider in. The barrel has been used once to age whisky for three years. Any idea how long to age it? For top up, how much are we talking about? A half a pint per week? If it is aged in a barrel is there enough yeast remaining to bottle condition and sparkle the cider? Or is this better bottled still?
 

doublejef

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Any idea how long to age it?
Well, it depend of so many parameters (type of wood, type of cider, what you are looking for,…) but it will be something between 3 and 16 month.
The best way to do is by testing it once a week (more at the beginning, less at the end).


For top up, how much are we talking about? A half a pint per week?
If the barrel is not dry (it will be if it stays some weeks empty) you will add like 15cl a week. Depending on the storage condition (Temp, humidity) it will be around 5% of the total volume a year. So like 10l/year for a standard barrel.

If it is aged in a barrel is there enough yeast remaining to bottle condition and sparkle the cider? Or is this better bottled still?
I always add bottle yeast for ma BA cider if I want it sparkling (what I do). Maybe you can skip this but I think it’s always better to have a quick bottle carb to avoid oxidation. By the way, still BA cider can be very very good. People in my area are just not ready for that.
 

ncguire

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I have had two bourbon barrel ciders from commercial cideries. In the first, the bourbon flavor was a bit overwhelming, couldn't even tell I was drinking cider. I didn't care for it and avoided barrel aged cider for a long time. Just a couple weeks ago I tried another bourbon barrel cider from a different company sent to me as part of a cider club. Man, it was delicious. Oak, vanilla and subtle bourbon flavor was really smooth and wonderful. It was so good I think I'm going to experiment with oak cubes soaked in whiskey with one batch I have fermenting, since I don't have a barrel. So my advice is to taste often and don't overdo it!
 

Coriba

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I’ve never used or even heard of bottle yeast. What is it? I’ll look on this forum. Anything to make bottling easier, I hate that part.
 

doublejef

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It's just a special type of yeast that you add in your "whatever you want to bottle and be carbonated" at the sae time as your priming sugar to help bottle fermentation.
Very usefull if you suspect that the first fermentation yeast are dead or if you want a very quick bottle carb for any reason.
This yeast is neutral, fast and can handle high ABV and low nutriement.
I use F2 from fermentis but you should find other brand.
 

Coriba

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The barrel I have had whisky in it until March 2021 and has been kept bunged tight. Is it sterile? Do I have to sulphur it? I filled with water once to check tightness and it is tight. Then I emptied it and bunged it. Seems to me to be ok to just fill with finished cider and age without all the sulphur burning, I don’t have any sulphur.
 

doublejef

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The barrel I have had whisky in it until March 2021 and has been kept bunged tight. Is it sterile? Do I have to sulphur it? I filled with water once to check tightness and it is tight. Then I emptied it and bunged it. Seems to me to be ok to just fill with finished cider and age without all the sulphur burning, I don’t have any sulphur.
Yes but don't wait to do it. don't let the barrel sit with just a bit of water without sulfuring it.
No problem if it's a drop of whisky but once it's water surrounded by air, bugs grow quick in it.
 

Coriba

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I’ll give a quick rinse with sulphite
 
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