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THawk
06-14-2013, 05:00 AM
I just discovered that I can buy Oak cubes on Amazon.

WMVJack suggested that I add oak to my Mocha Mead (Cafe Mocha) idea. Is it as simple as toss in a few for a month or so?

What kind of Oak cubes should I be getting?

Also what will Oak go with? I don't know if I want chocolate / vanilla flavors in a blueberry mead... but maybe a bit of caramel in an apple pie...

Total newbie here when it comes to this... the newbee guide has some instructions -- is it as easy as that though? Throw some in, leave for a month, taste. If good enough, pull it out...

fatbloke
06-14-2013, 07:49 AM
That's all I ever do. Just that I make my own cubes or small sticks (quarter to a half square and maybe 5 or 6 inches long and toast in a low oven till dark).....

THawk
06-14-2013, 11:55 AM
Can you reuse oak cubes once they've been used?

Bob1016
06-14-2013, 12:20 PM
Yep, but do it quickly so they don't get infected. Also make sure the yeast are the same, or only use lower abv yeast in high abv meads, also don't mix sensitive and killer active yeast strains.
Or boil them to sanitize.
These are just things to keep in mind when sharing ingredients.

wowbagger
06-14-2013, 12:38 PM
Oak can impart a lot of flavor very quickly, and the rate of 'oaking' can vary. I've messed up a few projects with too much. If you can, keep the chips/cubes in a strainer bag so that you can taste as you go (I'd suggest every few days if reasonable) and remove them easily when it's to your liking.

fatbloke
06-14-2013, 01:40 PM
Now see, I don't reuse them. With the presumption that the greatest amount of toasting/charing being on the outer surface, then the depth of flavour in the charing/toasting being mainly on the outer surface so the extraction is likely to be greatest from the outer parts too.

Any reuse would logically need to have the surface retoasted or at least the charred/toasted surface removed.

Could that be done ? Probably but it'd likely be fiddly as hell.

Of course of you had access to, well, like an engineers "burr removing vibration" bowl. With clean "stones" to wear or erode the "used" surface so that they could be reroasted......

Hence fiddly enough as to be impractical......

Jim H
06-14-2013, 02:11 PM
...Any reuse would logically need to have the surface retoasted or at least the charred/toasted surface removed.

Could that be done ? Probably but it'd likely be fiddly as hell.

Of course of you had access to, well, like an engineers "burr removing vibration" bowl. With clean "stones" to wear or erode the "used" surface so that they could be reroasted......

Hence fiddly enough as to be impractical......

Or ... you could just get new chips or cubes. Spend 4 bucks. ;)

Midnight Sun
06-14-2013, 04:02 PM
Lots of people use old wine, bourbon, etc. barrels for new brews; reusing cubes would be analogous. Well, except for the micro oxidation and evaporation that you get with a barrel.

IMO, new cubes have a lot of "sting". I like to put new cubes into a dominant flavored batch. Once the proper flavors are imparted, I toss the used cubes into a milder brew. There will be less of the flavor and tannins from the oak to extract and any extraction will take longer. Plus you will get some carry over from the first batch. No big deal if you plan for it.

For instances where spoilage microbes or different yeasts is a concern, give a 10-20 minute soak in a k meta solution.

Bob1016
06-14-2013, 05:11 PM
I have reused my primary cubes a few times before I see a loss of too much flavor. They're only in contact with a batch for a few weeks then on to the next.
Mind you this is mainly with 1.5gal batches so it might differ, but not too much I would think.

fatbloke
06-15-2013, 04:22 AM
Or ... you could just get new chips or cubes. Spend 4 bucks. ;)
Which was the point I alluded too.........

But equally the cost will vary, as some of the oaking materials aren't available everywhere.

You lot in the US appear to have a much bigger selection too choose from, here is seems to be mainly "chips" (which look suspiciously like sawdust, that may or may not have been toasted). Seen a few places that supply the used barrel chips/small chunks too, but not chips, staves or spirals often mentioned here at GM.


I have reused my primary cubes a few times before I see a loss of too much flavor. They're only in contact with a batch for a few weeks then on to the next.
Mind you this is mainly with 1.5gal batches so it might differ, but not too much I would think. Equally feasible Bob, but I'd not tried re-use. I wonder if it would be brew/batch dependant ? as I've only got my "fresh grape" pyments with any oak in at the moment (the home toasted sticks I alluded too), which is very "red-wine" like, but with some honey notes too.... Whether such a "heavy" type of wine/mead would allow any of the "oaking" taste to show through I don't know, equally whether the "sticks" would survive with enough residual flavour to impart it into another batch, say just an ordinary traditional ?

Never managed to learn to identify the taste of oak. Got an idea of which types of wine I like but whether the flavour is oaked or not, I can't say.......

Bob1016
06-15-2013, 08:15 AM
There is a loss of flavor after about the 3-4th batch, but I just get new oak and start over.
Have you tried oak tea? Take a few cubes and through them in boiled water, cover and cool in fridge. If you do it with all three regions (American, French, and Hungarian/east Europe) and medium, medium plus, and heavy, it makes for a great palate training experience.

Matrix4b
06-17-2013, 12:53 PM
I don't re-use my oak chips. I don't think that it would be wise to do so. Spirals maybe but only if I am doing the exact same batch. The thing to remember is that wood is porous, as you extract you do infuse a little. There is a little back and forth. That's actually the point of it. To essentially flush out the good oils and have the oak ablsorb some of the undesireable flavors. Just a little. So rather than contaminate other batches with extra flavors and possibly yeasts or what not, I just use new. Also, I never sainitize the oak. Boiling the oak or other methods would also ruin what you are wanting from the oak.

Now some people like to soak the cubes/chips in burbon or other substances to subtly flavor (or in some cases not so subtle) their batch. That's great too. This is also why some people use burbon barrel cubes, to get that little extra flavor and trust me, it's there. Personally, I don't have access to this and don't care for burbon flavoring.

As for what to do with the oak when done? Makes great smoking oak for bbqing. Some of the mead flavors get into the meat, or if you are smoking fish, that's even better, more flavors get imparted at the slower smoking.

Also, If your oak chips look like sawdust then don't use it. Sift out the dust and toss that crap. That's not good for the mead. I had some hungarian oak that looked like sawdust, It made an bad after taste that I couldn't nail down until I did 3 batches with them. Tossed that oak. I am hoping that the bad after taste will age out.

Matrix

joemirando
06-17-2013, 01:04 PM
I don't re-use my oak chips. I don't think that it would be wise to do so. Spirals maybe but only if I am doing the exact same batch. The thing to remember is that wood is porous, as you extract you do infuse a little. There is a little back and forth. That's actually the point of it. To essentially flush out the good oils and have the oak ablsorb some of the undesireable flavors. Just a little. So rather than contaminate other batches with extra flavors and possibly yeasts or what not, I just use new. Also, I never sainitize the oak. Boiling the oak or other methods would also ruin what you are wanting from the oak.

Now some people like to soak the cubes/chips in burbon or other substances to subtly flavor (or in some cases not so subtle) their batch. That's great too. This is also why some people use burbon barrel cubes, to get that little extra flavor and trust me, it's there. Personally, I don't have access to this and don't care for burbon flavoring.

As for what to do with the oak when done? Makes great smoking oak for bbqing. Some of the mead flavors get into the meat, or if you are smoking fish, that's even better, more flavors get imparted at the slower smoking.

Also, If your oak chips look like sawdust then don't use it. Sift out the dust and toss that crap. That's not good for the mead. I had some hungarian oak that looked like sawdust, It made an bad after taste that I couldn't nail down until I did 3 batches with them. Tossed that oak. I am hoping that the bad after taste will age out.

Matrix
Actually, the infusion of past batches can be desirable.

Look at "Madame Rosemerta's Oak Matured Mead". It possesses remarkably subtle hints of liquorice and cherry... when not polluted by poison.

Ok, kupie doll to anyone who gets the reference.

But think about it. They do it with whiskies, they do it with scotch, they do it with many different types of wines and spirits. I think what's called for is a nose for it and experience, experience, experience.

That having been said, I would tend to worry about infections of one sort or another....

Brace yourselves, I just had a thought... I remember reading years ago that they had tested the 'cleanliness' of plastic kitchen cutting boards as opposed to traditional wooden cutting boards. Believe it or not, the wood was much more hygienic than non-porous plastic. It seems that the wood itself helps kill the little beasties.

Going to have to test this out some day.


Just some random thoughts,

Joe

THawk
06-17-2013, 10:32 PM
Look at "Madame Rosemerta's Oak Matured Mead". It possesses remarkably subtle hints of liquorice and cherry... when not polluted by poison.

Is that the best seller at the Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade?? ;D

joemirando
06-17-2013, 10:34 PM
Is that the best seller at the Three Broomsticks Inn in Hogsmeade?? ;D
It certainly was. You get a gold star. ;-)

kuri
06-17-2013, 11:50 PM
Traditionally mead was made and aged in oak barrels, which involves leaving the mead in contact with a reasonably large surface area of oak for several years. Here and in the newbee guide, however, people only talk about leaving oak in for far shorter periods of time. I'm wondering if anything is lost by this difference. Has anyone tried adding a smaller amount of oak and letting it sit for the entirety of the aging period? I'm sure getting the amount right right from the beginning would be crucial, which would make this method harder to control than the standard, but if it resulted in a different flavor it could be worth it. Just wondering.

Bob1016
06-18-2013, 05:48 AM
I here you, that's why I'm planning on letting my 21yr mead is on about 1.5oz oak for about a year and a half. Not the seven years of brother Adams, but the extraction rate is different too. I think some of the more experienced guys have let mead sit on oak for quite a while, maybe they'll chime in. :)

Matrix4b
06-18-2013, 10:10 AM
Something to take into account on the barrel issue is surface area.

You see when you have 5 gal barrel of oak the area of the oak is on the sides. So it needs to infuse from the sides into the full 5 gal. With oak cubes when you drop those in, all 6 sides of the oak cube come into play. AND the infusion is from the middle, roughly. The other important part is that the cubes are not static. They are moving around. Like when you stir hot tea with the bag in it. The infusion is faster. So less time is needed. I suppose density of wood and the like would also be a factor. Cubes would have a looser grain.

The other thing to take into account, most scotches and whiskys are aged that long in the oak barrel. They have a large oaky flavor. You may not be happy with that MUCH of flavor. And that most scotches and whiskys are blended. Meaning that they blend fresh with old and various different types of scotches and whisky (depending on the type) to produce the type of flavors that they want. As I understand it, Blending is an art form.

Cubes and chips were developed so that the infusion can happen quicker and provide the magic of oaking in a short time while being able to control the flavor more.

So thinking on all of this, I wouldn't really want to put oak in for 21 years. but in an oak barrel for that long? Maybe. I believe that aging in oak barrels in modern times is limited to around 6 months or so, mostly for comercial reasons. Then the alcohol is transfered to another container.

Matrix

kuri
06-18-2013, 10:30 AM
Thanks for the info on the use of oak. As I see it, the chips and cubes have a much much larger surface area to volume ratio than a barrel, and it's probably only a thin layer of oak that really affects the taste of whatever's touching it. Plus, for a 1 gallon barrel the surface to volume ratio would be twice as high as for an 8 gallon barrel, meaning that with a large industrial sized barrel the ratio would be fairly small. That would translate to a very small amount of oak cubes or chips if you wanted to duplicate barrel aging in a smallish batch. Not sure how much, though. Bob1016 says 1.5 ounces. Is that for 5 gallons? Where does that mead fall on the sweetness scale?

Bob1016
06-18-2013, 11:48 AM
Oops, that's 1.5oz for 6gal with 0.5oz in primary (but carried over for aging); and I doubt I'll leave it for more than a year and a half.
My standard traditional (saw and wild flower (mainly a citrus and brazillian pepper mix), dry with ~14%abv) uses 1oz French heavy in primary (then reused in other batches) and French M+ and American M+, 1oz each, in bulk aging for about 3 months. For the first few months after bottling it is dominated by oak, then at about the one year mark it really opens up and reveals the woody nature of palm honey (plays with the oak but is quite distinct) and has a very floral quality to it.
I have played around with less vs more oak and this seems to be the spot for this mead and my taste. I wouldn't dare oak my litchi-raspberry melomel aging right now, but did add a touch of American M+ to my mangomel (0.25oz/gal) that seems quite nice. All of these are dry though, and have noticed oak does weird things when there's residual sugar (to my palate). :)
P.S. it really is about what you like, and unfortunately (or fortunately) you'll have to do a few batches to see what you like.

kuri
06-18-2013, 11:31 PM
it really is about what you like, and unfortunately (or fortunately) you'll have to do a few batches to see what you like.

Yeah, I'm sure I'll have a lot of suffering to do there. This does give me a good idea of where to start my suffering course, though. No 1kg / gal. oak experiments, nor any 1g / 5gal trials. Thanks for the help.

THawk
06-18-2013, 11:32 PM
My issue partly is cost -- I can't get oak here in the Philippines... and even if I could, I don't trust the source enough to actually place it in a bucket of mead. On amazon it costs about $10 for American and $15 for French... PLUS freight. Unless one of you folks could get some for me for less and I'll gladly paypal the money over... ;D

fatbloke
06-18-2013, 11:57 PM
Yeah, I'm sure I'll have a lot of suffering to do there. This does give me a good idea of where to start my suffering course, though. No 1kg / gal. oak experiments, nor any 1g / 5gal trials. Thanks for the help.
:D yes I "got it" straight away......

Actually you "hit the nail on the head" earlier. Not only is it the liquid to area contact ratio, but thats exactly why wine makers use the industry standard sized barrels, as they found that it makes for another, controllable factor that can be managed to allow the wine to take on oak flavour with a set amount of time in thw wood.

As you rightly alluded to, smaller barrels will oak a batch much faster.

The other factors are the level of toasting and the origins of the wood.

As I read it, Hungarian oak is still considered as the premium stuff, with the flip of a coin between French and American oak depending on what properties you want from the wood.

Whoever mentioned spirits barrels earlier was looking in the right direction but facing the wrong way. A wine barrel has A LOT less toasting than a spirits barrel. You could take a wine barrel thats been used a couple of times and retoast (char or burn really) it for spirits and it'd be excellent yet not the other way round. A spirits barrel would have far too much charring for wines unless the maker actually did want a darkened burnt flavour in the mead.......which I doubt!

Ha! You'd have to do a lot of suffering to make batches the size that Brother Adam did and 7 years in oak is a long time to wait for that kind of pain :D