Using oak barrel

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Nathan Buckner

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I currently have a 10 gal oak barrel filled with the appropriate about of potassium metabisulfite and citric acid. Im wondering, other than just dumping it out of the barrel, if there is anything else I need to do before putting beer in it. Will the citric acid cause off flavors in my beer? If so, what steps do I take to make the barrel ready for beer? I tried looking up info/ videos but couldn't find anything that showed someone emptying the water out and filling it with beer/ wine/ etc.

Thank you!
 

cactusgarrett

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In the "Storage" section:
"Before using a barrel holding this sort of storage solution [K-meta and citric acid], the barrel should be intensely sprayed and rinsed (not just filled up with hot water and dumped). "
 
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Nathan Buckner

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Hello,
Thank you for the reply! It seems the best method would have been waiting until the day before I plan to transfer beer into the barrel before filling it with hot water. I used tap water so I used potassium metabisulfate to dechlorinate. I then added 8g potassium metabisulfate and 4g of citric acid per gallon. So now I'll need to dump this water and clean it very well before use? The link you shared seems to indicate it'll only have off flavors if I leave the solution in there for awhile, few weeks+. I plan to use it next Monday. I guess I'm checking to make sure I didn't screw myself.
I don't have a way to spray unchlorinized water, so would heating up water that I had put potassium metabisulfite in and slosh around a few gallons of hot water several times work?
After use, I'll rinse the barrel well then put the solution back in to clean it. After a day or so, I'll empty it and store it dry.
Thoughts? Suggestions?






In the "Storage" section:
"Before using a barrel holding this sort of storage solution [K-meta and citric acid], the barrel should be intensely sprayed and rinsed (not just filled up with hot water and dumped). "
 

cactusgarrett

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I couldn't determine how long you were going to leave that sulfate/citric solution, so yeah - hot water may work. I'm of the understanding the K-meta and citric is more of a long term storage solution, not a cleaning/rinsing solution. I'm very paranoid about my barrel storage and go out of my way to avoid chemicals for the reasons mentioned in that wiki: I don't want to impart any long-lasting sulfurous effects. I don't even use tap water for rinsing/storing, either - it's all DI. I've read that even the TDS in tap water (mainly chloride, i think) can mess with the barrel flavors, too. You're on the right path by dechlorinating your tap water. I don't deal with any of the chemicals, so I'm not the one to suggest how to use them.

I rinse my barrels after dumping (if not filling them immediately) with cold water to "wash" them. I'll then store wet, using only hot (200 F) DI water: boil it up and transfer, roll it around, then just bung it up. That sterilizes it (not really, more like pasteurization) to the best of my ability, to prevent growth during storage and keeps it from going dry - avoiding a ton of work to swell it back up if it takes a long time to come back to it to fill it. Every now and again to prevent something growing in there, i'll repeat the process with fresh water. Then the day before fill day, I'll do as you suggested: boil up some water, transfer to the barrel and swirl to sterilize (not really) and let it sit hot for the day.
 
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Nathan Buckner

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Thank you for giving personal experience!
Here's what I did. I admit I'm hoping it'll turn out OK.
I brought tap water up to 200F and put 80g of K-meta (I'm glad there's a short hand for that) and 37g of citric acid, transferred it into the barreI and left it in for a week. It swelled water tight within 3 hours. This made me wish I would have just did this process minus the citric acid the day before using. I also wish I added the citric acid after transferring into the barrel. Didnt think about evaporation and realized I was breathing in hot citric acid hahaha noob! There was a very strong smell of citric acid when I dumped the solution out of the barrel so Im concerned there'll be off flavors in the final product. I bought some cheap vodka and dumped it in the barrel, swished it all around in hopes as it evaporated it would take some of the citric smell away. I called my local homebrew shop (they also brew alot of there own beer commercially and have barrel aged) to ask about the possibility of off flavors/ smells and they said there shouldn't be any issues with just dumping out the k-meta/ citric acid solution then immediately putting beer in the barrel. I did fill it with co2 before transferring. All in all, it seems like more work than necessary for it only being in the barrel for 4-5 days. I'm also using 1oz of self chard oak chips to drastically speed up the process.
My brother bought me a 10 gal char #3 barrel for Christmas that I wanted to learn how to use so he didn't waste his money. I've already learned it isn't worth the process unless it's going to sit for months. For any further beer I want to oak quickly, I'll just string up a bag of oak chips in my conical fermenter and drop them in after a week of fermentation. I've done that twice with great success.
Gotta give it to the old college try.

I couldn't determine how long you were going to leave that sulfate/citric solution, so yeah - hot water may work. I'm of the understanding the K-meta and citric is more of a long term storage solution, not a cleaning/rinsing solution. I'm very paranoid about my barrel storage and go out of my way to avoid chemicals for the reasons mentioned in that wiki: I don't want to impart any long-lasting sulfurous effects. I don't even use tap water for rinsing/storing, either - it's all DI. I've read that even the TDS in tap water (mainly chloride, i think) can mess with the barrel flavors, too. You're on the right path by dechlorinating your tap water. I don't deal with any of the chemicals, so I'm not the one to suggest how to use them.

I rinse my barrels after dumping (if not filling them immediately) with cold water to "wash" them. I'll then store wet, using only hot (200 F) DI water: boil it up and transfer, roll it around, then just bung it up. That sterilizes it (not really, more like pasteurization) to the best of my ability, to prevent growth during storage and keeps it from going dry - avoiding a ton of work to swell it back up if it takes a long time to come back to it to fill it. Every now and again to prevent something growing in there, i'll repeat the process with fresh water. Then the day before fill day, I'll do as you suggested: boil up some water, transfer to the barrel and swirl to sterilize (not really) and let it sit hot for the day.
 

cactusgarrett

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All in all, it seems like more work than necessary for it only being in the barrel for 4-5 days
Yeah, chemical intervention is more for long-term storage. I've let barrels sit for upwards of a month - with no shrinkage/leaking - before hitting it with water for storage. Nothing will happen to it in a week or two if you just bung it up "dry".

The more you use it, the more you'll settle into a flow with it, and the more the strong oak flavor will subside. With each subsequent batch (depending on how bold the beer is), you'll be able to leave it in longer and longer, as that oak flavor gets stripped out. I've got sours and lambics in barrels that I don't get any oak flavor out of anymore, as I use them clean (ie. no souring bugs), until that flavor is "used up", then I transition the barrel to a sour barrel.

Have fun! There's SO much you can do with a 10gal barrel - it's a great size.
 

ace0005

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So, I just read through this thread.... I just barrel aged a Belgian Strong Ale in a 25 gallon rum barrel. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with this barrel. I'm thinking I'm going to give it a good rinsing with water to get any trub out of it.

After reading this thread, I'm realizing that I need a plan for storing the barrel while it's not in use. So, I'm curious as to what the consensus here is... Do I just rinse it and bung it? Do I fill it with boiling water? Do I chemically treat it?

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!!
 

cactusgarrett

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I personally don't like chemicals in my barrels, so after a cold water rinse/wash out I hit it with near-boiling water (about 50% of the barrel volume), seal it up, roll it around, let it cool, and store. I'll then dump and hit it with the same treatment (except no cold rise) every few months to keep anything from growing. After a few years, everything's worked well so far, for both my sour and clean barrels.
 

ace0005

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I personally don't like chemicals in my barrels, so after a cold water rinse/wash out I hit it with near-boiling water (about 50% of the barrel volume), seal it up, roll it around, let it cool, and store. I'll then dump and hit it with the same treatment (except no cold rise) every few months to keep anything from growing. After a few years, everything's worked well so far, for both my sour and clean barrels.
I really don't want to use chemicals either! I think I'm going to adopt your process, thanks!!
 

cactusgarrett

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Also, if you wanted to take it a step further, using RO/DI water is ideal for the same reasons: any chloramines, etc. in the water would also get soaked into the wood.
 
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