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View Full Version : How to prep a new oak barrel?



marniko82
08-06-2009, 07:49 AM
I tried to find a thread that already deals with this issue, but I failed to find any so I am posting a new thread.

I just bought a new, 28-liter barrel, unvarnished, unpainted. It is made from local Serbian oak (should be similar to Croatian oak).

The mead I am planning to age in it is described in my first thread: http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14685

It will take another 2 months for the mead to be ready for barrel aging. The barrel is now stored in a dry, dark room.

The cooper told me to leave the barrel empty until 15 days before I intend too put mead in it. Then, I should just fill it with water and replace water every 3 days (so, 5 times) and then the barrel will be ready.

In a book on fruit brandies, however, I read the following two methods:

1. Using steam - steam should be introduced into the barrel until the barrel is too hot to touch with bare hands from outside. Then, pour cold water and empty the barrel immediately. Repeat until water is colorless and odorless.

2. Using chemicals - rinse with cold water, empty the barrel and fill it again with cold water. After 2 or 3 days, empty the barrel and fill it with a 5% solution of salt (NaCl) that was brought to boiling point (for a 100 liter barrel, use 30 liters of solution). Seal the barrel and shake vigorously. Then empty it and fill it with a warm, 2% sodium (Na2CO3) solution. Shake several times in 30 minutes, then empty the barrel, fill it with cold water. Check if the water is odorless or colorless after 3 days.

Having no prior experience with barrels, I am unsure about several issues:
1. Should I fill the barrel immediately with water or 2 weeks before putting it to use?
2. Which of these methods is the best?
3. Is there a better method?

I plan to post photos in a day or so.

Thanks for advice!

Marko

Summersolstice
08-06-2009, 09:53 AM
I've purchased a couple of Hungarian oak barrels from Sandor Vadai. His website (vadaiwinebarrels.com) provides his recommendations for preparing barrels for use. I followed the instructions in both instances and it's worked well for me:


* PUT BOILING HOT WATER ON THE HEAD OF THE UPRIGHT BARREL 15 -30 MINUTES. REPEAT THIS PROCEDURE ON THE OTHER HEAD

* PUT 1/10 OF THE BARREL MEASUREMENT OF HOT BOILING WATER INSIDE THE BARREL.

* PUT THE BUNG IN PLACE AND STAND THE BARREL ON EACH HEAD ABOUT 15 - 20 MINUTES.

* THEN ROLL THE BARREL SLOWLY ON ITS BELLY SO THE BOILING WATER HITS ALL OF THE STAVES. KEEP THE BOILING HOT WATER IN THE BARREL FOR 2 HOURS.

* POUR THE WATER OUT OF THE BARREL.

* PLACE THE BARREL ON THE BARREL RACK WITH THE BUNG HOLE ON TOP WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT.

* COMPLETELY FILL THE BARREL WITH TAP WATER. KEEP THE WATER IN THE BARREL 3 OR 4 DAYS UNTIL THE BARREL IS COMPLETELY DRIED ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE BARREL AND SHOWS NO LEAKAGE OF WATER. ADD WATER INTO THE BARREL KEEPING IT COMPLETELY FULL AT ALL TIMES AS NEEDED TO KEEP THE BARREL FULL OF WATER SO IT WILL SHOW LEAKAGE FROM ALL AREAS OF THE BARREL. WHEN THE WATER LEVEL AT THE BUNG HOLE SHOWS NO DECREASE OF WATER AT THAT LEVEL AND THE BARREL IS HOLDING THE WATER AND WATER IS NO LONGER LEAKING FROM THE BARREL, THE BARREL IS NOW SEALED AND SOAKED WELL ENOUGH AND PREPARED FOR YOUR WINE. DO NOT PUT WINE INTO THE BARREL UNTIL YOU HAVE SEALED THE BARREL COMPLETELY OTHERWISE YOU WILL HAVE LEAKAGE WITH YOUR WINE WHEN YOU PUT YOUR WINE IN IT. THE BARREL HAS TO BE COMPLETELY DRIED FROM WATER SEAPAGE/ LEAKAGE. THE LONGER YOU SOAK THE BARREL THE LESS LIKELY YOU WILL HAVE ANY LEAKAGE OR PROBLEM. IN SOME CASES IT TAKES A FEW DAYS FOR THE BARREL TO SOAK UP THE WATER DEPENDING ON HOW DRY THE STAVES ARE. YOU NEED TO PREP THE BARREL PROPERLY BEFORE YOU PUT YOUR WINE IN THE BARREL BECAUSE YOU WANT THE WOOD TO SOAK UP THE WATER INSTEAD OF YOUR WINE, WHEN YOU PUT YOUR WINE INTO THE BARREL.

* POUR THE WATER OUT AND FILL IT WITH WINE.

* NEW BARRELS DO NOT REQUIRE A SULFUR STICK.

marniko82
08-12-2009, 10:21 PM
Hmmm, it seems my barrel is not toasted, the cooper didn't seem very educated about wine making.

How would an untoasted barrel behave when mead or wine is put inside?

afdoty
08-13-2009, 05:14 AM
Hmmm, it seems my barrel is not toasted, the cooper didn't seem very educated about wine making.

How would an untoasted barrel behave when mead or wine is put inside?

There's tons of info on here about oak and barrles. Try doing a forum search.........

What was your barrel made for? If you're going to use it for aging, the new wood will impart it's "oaky" goodness very fast.

marniko82
09-17-2009, 11:35 AM
Planning to prep the barrel tonight using Summersolstice's advice.

Here are some pics of the barrel, let me know what you think!

http://i264.photobucket.com/albums/ii187/marniko82/08082009141.jpg
http://i264.photobucket.com/albums/ii187/marniko82/08082009142.jpg
http://i264.photobucket.com/albums/ii187/marniko82/08082009143.jpg