View Full Version : How long to oak?

Reverend Gaddy
06-30-2012, 07:23 PM
I've got a lovely sack mead brewing in a 5 gallon carboy with about 3 months under it's belt. It's been racked twice now, and fermentation has all but died.

This past racking, I introduced a few ounces of medium toast american oak chips in a muslin bag.

There doesn't seem to be a good consensus as to how long I should keep the mead on the oak. I've heard that two weeks is good, but I've also heard a few months!

Does anyone have any advice for this "NewBee" on the vagaries of Oaking?

06-30-2012, 09:40 PM
I'm also not aware of any specific time frame for oaking. I've oaked 4 separate gallon batches all with oak chips for as little as 3 days and as long as 65 days. I just tasted it and when I liked the way it tasted, I racked off of the oak. I've seen those on this board that have oaked for a year or longer. But I'm a noob too, I'm sure some more experienced people will give you their opinions. Good luck.

06-30-2012, 10:42 PM
I don't know about chips, but I use oak cubes all the time. I usually let them go for 2 weeks and then taste. I then taste every 3 days or so, although 5-6 weeks is the "normal" time it takes. But that's in my kitchen and for my taste buds, Your milage may vary.... Also, chips will typically impart flavor faster than cubes, so take that into account.

06-30-2012, 10:44 PM
Oak comes in many forms (chips, cubes/beans, spirals, staves, and barrels of all sizes). What to look for is a surface area to volume ratio, as that will control how fast the oak infuses into the mead. Really big barrels have a very low ratio, and chips a very high ratio.

So when you are using oak chips, exposure time is going to be fairly short: weeks to a couple months. For cubes you need a little longer, sometimes many months to years if you don't add very much. Etc.

Taste it and see is really the best approach for all the oak options.

07-02-2012, 05:54 PM
Good thread!
I added oak chips ( Light Toast American)about 2 months ago in my first batch. A week ago I tasted it and it had just a hint of the oak. Yesterday I found after a taste that it was a bit too oak'ed for my wife's taste, so we racked it off the chips. ( It's all about her...)
I was a bit dismayed as to how fast the character of the mead changed. So I guess the lesson I learned is to monitor closely for the character you ( or your wife) are looking for.
Also I think I will keep from the chips and try the cubes next.

Side note: the chips smelled great on the BBQ and the chicken I cooked with them was great!

07-03-2012, 11:24 AM
I recycle my chips the same way. Even if you oak some of your mead more than you like, I'm betting some time/ageing will mellow it out.

07-03-2012, 03:58 PM
I have only oaked two different meads so far. A high test 18% cherry vanilla that really needed to be mellowed and a Anise mead that was 8.5% and smooth. I split the Anise batch in half as a test. I have found that the higher the ABV the faster the oak will flavor the mead. I use cubes and liked the results. The 5 gal. of cherry vanilla was oaked for 6 weeks with 4oz, and was to my wife's taste. The 1 gal. jug of Anise I oaked for 4 weeks with 1 1/4oz and it was a little week so it is oaking some more.

08-16-2012, 01:46 PM
I recycle my chips the same way. Even if you oak some of your mead more than you like, I'm betting some time/ageing will mellow it out.

Good call!
Just a matter of a month and it has mellowed a bit.
I bottled some in 2 small EZ Caps just so I could check it every month or so.

08-17-2012, 01:32 PM
Time with oak can impart different characteristics depending what you're looking for. A short stint (a week) can impart some vanilla and tea flavors. A longer exposure will start leeching tannins into the brew which can be bad or good depending on what you're looking for. If you want a sweet mead this could be a good thing, however you'll need to remove the chips after about a month and then wait a year or more for the tannins to settle out. What you'll have is the sweetness, plus a lovely counterbalance from the wood tannin.

It's really all about what you're looking for. Some wines can spend years exposed to oak (nebbiolo can spend 5+ years exposed to it) so experiment and see what you like. It's all on what you're tastes are :)

Send me a bottle afterwards and we'll share notes, haha