View Full Version : 55 gallon oak barrel big batch ?s

08-13-2014, 05:16 PM
So i picked up a 55 gallon oak barrel from a friend of a friend recently that was used to make red wine. It smells incredible. I filled it up with water yesterday and lo and behold, still full today.

I asked a little about this in another post but didn't really get an answer and I've tried to do a little searching with not much luck.

I've experimented with about 10 different kinds of mead so far. So I'm still pretty new at this. My main concern is how do i scale up a 5 gallon recipe to 55 gallons. The honey should be easy enough to scale but what about something like fermaid? if I use x amount in 5 gallons, do i just do x times 11? Is it that simple?

What about clarifiers like campden? if i use one tablet per gallon does that still apply at 55 gallons?

I haven't found the recipe I'm going to use for sure yet but it will likely be some sort of traditional. I think a traditional will take the oak flavor a little better. The two meads I've had before aged in oak were both traditional and they were delicious.

Thank you guys for any help!

08-13-2014, 06:01 PM
I'm not sure about the scale up of the nutrients but I don't think it should be that hard to find out for sure. Maybe sending an email to Lallemand (the producer of Fermaid products) will yield some info as to the correct amount for 50 gallons of mead. Just be aware that at those quantities you have to take ventilation into account. You don't want to walk into your fermentation area and pass out from lack of oxygen!

08-13-2014, 07:12 PM
I believe you will find that most things do scale up in a linier fashion, however at that volume you need to be on top of your temperature control. The little yeasties create heat while they work, not noticeable at the volumes most of us work at (I max out at 15 gal and have temp control) but at that amount, plus the insulating factor of the barrel your must may rapidly become warmer than ambient.

Chevette Girl
08-13-2014, 07:21 PM
I'd probably want to do the primary in a 55 gal drum and then age it in the barrel once I've racked it off the lees. Might make temperature control a little easier. Then again my biggest batch to date was 15 gal and I did the primary in 3 separate buckets.

08-13-2014, 10:22 PM
Thanks guys. That's a good idea about calling the manufacturer. I don't know why i didn't think of that. Haha.

My plan is to do pretty much that. I'm going to look for a cheap plastic 55 gallon drum or if that fails a couple of new 30 gallon garbage cans for primary. The two separate 30 gallon primaries might be easier to control the temp also now that i think about it.

You guys are awesome! Thanks! I have been casually looking for a new house and i think i might have found one so I might have to stall a bit on this project until I'm sure I'll be staying or moving. I really don't want to try to move a 55 gallon barrel of mead...

08-13-2014, 11:01 PM
Don't you have to do something to the barrel to make sure nasty bacteria don't get a foothold in there?

Chevette Girl
08-14-2014, 01:12 AM
I have been casually looking for a new house and i think i might have found one so I might have to stall a bit on this project until I'm sure I'll be staying or moving. I really don't want to try to move a 55 gallon barrel of mead...

Good luck with the house, and no, you really DON'T want to move a 55 gallon barrel of mead...

And you might want to look up what you might need to do to the barrel to keep it sanitary if you're not using it immediately.

08-14-2014, 01:19 AM
I've been doing a lot of reading about it. If it's kept full than should be good. When you drain it it's important to get it totally dry then you have to burn sulphur in it. Nothing too difficult.

When i got it i was careful to smell the inside as strongly as I can. If there's any funk in it your supposed to be able to smell it.

I've got it full of water right now sitting on two camping chairs in my bank yard. Haha.

08-14-2014, 01:23 AM
Crap I misunderstood. Can't keep water in it for more than a couple days.... gotta drain it now

Chevette Girl
08-14-2014, 01:29 AM
Heh, either that or get going quick with a huge batch of BOMM so you can have it fermented out quick and store it in the barrel until just before you have to move, then you can bottle it before you move, and then you don't have to worry about having your barrel be empty for too long... Logistics!

08-14-2014, 01:54 AM
I thought about doing that but the problem is my finances and my wife are probably only going to let me do this once so i want to make it count. I think a traditional is going to be the best.

I found one site that said to store it full of water and ten that say never to store it with water in it as organisms will grow. That makes sense to me. I found a company that sells barrels that says you can store it for a month or two half full of water with some whiskey in it so that's what i did. I had a little Chivas regal 12 from costco in the cupboard so i dumped it in. That should keep the gross stuff from growing until I can find sulphur sticks to properly sanitize.

08-14-2014, 01:55 AM
I hope so anyways.

Chevette Girl
08-14-2014, 01:51 PM
You'll have to tell us all about this batch when you finally get to it :) I've used unrinsed scotch empties for meads and it's pretty amazing. Do check on it from time to time to make sure nothing's smelling weird, and look up whether you can hit it with sulphites?

08-14-2014, 03:21 PM
I will do.

08-18-2014, 11:56 AM
All the bomm recipes I read had fruit in them. I didn't realize the original was a plain mead similar to what i wanted to do in the barrel. Now I am thinking of doing it in the barrel. I'm going to make a small batch first to make sure i like it but this might be the one i do 55 gallons of.

Recipe and Instructions-

BOMM Recipe - 1 gallon
(Updated for clarity & post fermentation options)

Start with 1 gallon spring water.*
Remove 1/2 cup water to compensate for smack pack volume.*
Draw line on jugs at this water level.*
Remove an additional 3.2 cups of water from jug (757 ml).
Add Orange Blossom honey (or your favorite varietal honey) back to line.*
-About 2.5 lbs. SG 1.099ish.

Add 1/4 tsp DAP and 1/2 tsp of Fermaid K. Add these again at 2/3 (1.066) & 1/3 (1.033) sugar break.*

Add 1/4 tsp K2CO3. One time addition.
-Potassium carbonate (K2CO3) is preferred due to high K+ levels, but potassium bicarbonate (KHCO3) will work fine. This is for pH buffering and to provide K+ for the yeast.*

Shake with the top on until honey is fully dissolved. It will require some effort! You're earning your mead!
Add activated Wyeast 1388 yeast smacked for about 2 hours.*
No water in airlock for 7 days or the gravity falls below 1.033. Whichever comes first, add water or vodka to airlock.*
Ferments dry in about a week.

08-18-2014, 12:50 PM
All the bomm recipes I read had fruit in them. I didn't realize the original was a plain mead similar to what i wanted to do in the barrel. Now I am thinking of doing it in the barrel. I'm going to make a small batch first to make sure i like it but this might be the one i do 55 gallons of.

For 55 gallons, there are some special considerations to take:

1. Pitch rate - if you look at the 5 gallon batch recipe, you will see I use a 2 liter starter. For a 55 gallon batch, I would use a 5 gallon starter. That is, make a 5 gallon BOMM and pitch it in the 55 gallon batch at day 4 or so.

2. Nutrients - You must scale up a lot! For 5 gallon batches, I use 1 TBSP DAP + 2 TBSP Fermaid K for each of the 3 additions. That's roughly 15 and 30 grams of each times 3! You would need 165 grams DAP and 330 grams of Fermaid K per addition for your batch plus ~8 TBSP K2CO3.
Medsen is testing a completely upfront Fermaid O addition minus K2CO3 currently (Lazy mazer thread). If that works out, then you would need ~1100 grams or 1.1 kilograms of Fermaid O.

3. Temperature - 55 gallons of active yeast makes a lot of heat. You need to pick your time of year right or have a temperature controlled environment to avoid extreme temperatures. So far, 70-80 F has worked with small batches, but you had better stay closer to 60-70 F for a batch this size to avoid any nasty fusels.

4. Aeration - I hope you have a drill powered stirrer and a concrete surface you can spray down. This MEA could be epic!

5. Ventilation - This will make a lot of CO2. Please make sure you don't accidentally suffocate yourself while aerating.

I eagerly wait to see how this turns out! Please do a meadlog!

I would definitely suggest Orange Blossom honey for this. The link below is my source which has very good OB honey at a very reasonable price (60 lbs for $200)


08-18-2014, 05:38 PM
Awesome! Very helpful!!!!

I'm going to do it in my garage where it stays pretty cool. I have a portable air conditioner if it starts to get warm in there that works pretty well.

My garage is detached from my house so no co2 poisoning. :)

I was just wondering how big the starter should be. I can do that. I ordered an attachment for stirring with my drill a few days ago. Up until now I've been doing it manually, which sucks. Haha.

I'll check out that site for the honey. Thanks again!

08-18-2014, 05:49 PM
Owch. 100 dollars per bottle for shipping.

08-18-2014, 05:57 PM
Anybody ever try the Dutch gold orange blossom?

08-18-2014, 06:30 PM
If you're iffy about the honey then make a gallon before you spend umpteen dollars on a bunch of it. Then if you like what you get, go for it! Pictures must be taken!!

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now. G

08-22-2014, 09:38 PM
I'll definitely take some pics and post up the results. I'm ordering a little honey this weekend to try it out since nobody around seems to stock it. The only downside is i can't do a small batch in the barrel to see exactly how it's going to go. Oh well, no risk no reward right?

Midnight Sun
08-23-2014, 01:34 AM
Still looking for a 55 gallon fermenter? My LHBS sells their liquid malt extract drums when empty. $10/ea, pretty good deal and you know it's food safe. Might be worth checking to see if your LHBS does he same thing.

08-23-2014, 01:36 AM
What you could do is shave a small "divot" off an inside stave (assuming you have some access to the inside) and use it like a cube for a half gallon batch. Just thinking out loud. Post a pic of that bad boy!

08-24-2014, 12:56 AM
That's a good idea midnight, I'll ask the next time I'm in.

The hole in the side is slightly smaller than 2 inches and that's the only access to the inside of it so I don't think getting a chunk out is going to be easy.

I'm going to install a spout in it but still, small hole. I like what your thinking though....hmmm...

08-24-2014, 12:59 AM

08-24-2014, 01:00 AM
Ooh. I know. When i holesaw the hole in it I'll have a nice little round chunk. I can throw that in a small batch.

08-24-2014, 11:01 AM
That's the ticket! How much is that lot across the street? LOL

08-24-2014, 11:50 PM
It's actually a wildlife reserve lol. There's a wetland in there so they can't build anything. And behind us is a unused golf course that a college owns. We actually hate living in the city but that's the reason we bought this place cause we knew we would never have a ton of neighbors.

08-24-2014, 11:51 PM
If this project goes well I might be willing to send out a few bottles to you guys for helping. :) no need to buy my neighbors house......

08-24-2014, 11:58 PM
I don't know how long it's going to take to pull that oak flavor from the barrel though. At least a few months I bet.
I'm sure the mead will be good in a month, but whether it'll have that oak in it is doubtful.

08-25-2014, 07:47 AM
If it's a new barrel, the extraction rate will be quite fast. I would taste once a week to make sure you don't over oak it too much. No worries if it happens. Age shakes everything out.

Better brewing through science!

08-25-2014, 10:11 AM
It's not new. It's been used for red wine at least. I don't know how many times it's been used or anything more specific than that but it smells incredible.

08-25-2014, 10:13 AM
I went to aesir meadery a little while back and he had a mead that was like 6 months in a 5 gallon whisky barrel. It had the oak flavor pretty strong. It was delicious. And the way i understand it is the bigger the barrel the slower the extraction rate due to less contact area with the liquid.

But we'll see. :)

Chevette Girl
08-25-2014, 05:58 PM
It will certainly be an adventure!

08-27-2014, 12:08 AM
Ya it will. I've got everything i need to make the test batch except for the honey. The wyeast smack pack is Pretty cool. I like it.

I haven't found any ob honey in a small amount for a decent price. Shipping on the Dutch gold 5 lb bottle is as much as the honey itself. I was hoping to find some cheaper but no luck yet. Guess I'll just have to bite the bullet and order it.

08-27-2014, 12:15 AM
And it's ordered. In a few days I'll start the test batch and make sure my goofy taste buds like it

09-05-2014, 10:20 PM
Finally the honey showed up. I'll start two different gallons tonight and we'll see how it goes.

09-06-2014, 06:26 AM
Newbie you seem to be all over the place with this. You need to come up with a solid plan dealing with this much money. The purpose of the barrel is to age it and get character from the wood and some micro oxygenation. A traditional is perfect for this. You can buy yeast in a 500 gram pack if you want to go extreme or make a big starter and primary in some Brute trash cans and then transfer over to your barrels to age. Have you thought about what you are going to do to rack this much mead off of the lees in the barrel? Do you know how many bottles 55 gallons requires? What kind of honey is going to be complimented by the residual red wine still in the barrel and now the whiskey you added that is soaking into the wood? If you put an orange blossum in there are you going to like it when it comes out full of oak which might overpower the orange blossum? We really really want this to be the most excellent batch of mead ever, you dont want to be stuck with 275 bottles of mead you dont like. Are you just razzed up to use a barrel to use a barrel? You could make 11 different 5 gallon batches and have some variety vs 275 bottles of something you have no idea how its going to turn out in a free barrel. If you do the barrel you probably want to build this mead to be able to age and last as drinking this much mead is usually done over years, the standard recipies might fade before you are near done drinking it. Yo are asking the wrong questions I think, you want to make a mead fit in a barrel instead of making a mead that benefits from being in a barrel, its a bit of a difference but one you need to consider. No I dont have a barrel, I could never commit to making a single big batch like that and being stuck with it for many years, variety seems more fun. WVMJ

09-07-2014, 08:17 PM
This wasn't supposed to be a thread where i laid out details for how i was going to do this. Believe it or not I've considered many things that i didn't list in this thread.... I've found a good site where i could buy bottles in bulk cheap so that's easy. I do want to do a traditional mead but i am not going to do one that takes years.

The bomm might not be the most traditional of traditional recipes but it is a simpler mead. One that i think would probably benefit from oak. I might be new to making mead but I'm not new to drinking it.

The purpose of this thread wasn't too detail the 55 gallon mead project. It was just to get some thoughts and ideas from people who I know have much more experience than me. So sorry if it seems all over the place but this was just a place to throw out some ideas...

I do have a plan of sorts. Currently I have six different meads going right now one of which is the standard bomm recipe that will get a piece of the barrel in it. Before I try to tackle the big batch I need to make a small one i think will go well with the red wine and oak. Then I'll do more testing.

And remember, not everyone is like you. If i could make one batch of mead i enjoy i would happily drink it for an extended period of time. if you knew what a picky eater I was you'd understand. (the list of things I eat i can literally count on my hands)

maybe I'm getting in over my head. Maybe not. Maybe it will be excellent, maybe not. Only one way to find out. :)

09-07-2014, 08:30 PM
Oh and the whiskey wasn't in there long at all. I just read that was the only way to store a barrel with water in it for more than a couple days. It was only in there 3 days. I already dried out the barrel, burned sulphur in it and sealed it.

09-07-2014, 10:18 PM
What I'll likely do once I narrow it down to which mead I'll attempt this with is post a new thread detailing my exact layout with much more detailed info and hopefully a few of the nice people here will comment on it with anything i might not have thought of.

09-07-2014, 10:40 PM
I think you should do a bunch of one gallon batches to see what you like best. I just worry that it will take a few months/ a year to figure it out and meanwhile the barrel could go the way of the dodo. If it was me, I would probably go with a traditional mead that is good on its own but can also be used as a base for various fruit and spice infusions. Also always remember that carbonation means you can have two distinctly different meads even if you just made one. Throw a sweet still mead into a keg and force carb it and you get a whole 'nother animal.

09-07-2014, 11:03 PM
That's basically exactly what I'm doing. I'm not a huge fan of carbonated meads so I'm staying away from that but like I said I'm making a handful of different one gallon batches as we speak. Some of them i started a couple of months ago, some a month ago and the bomm recipe just a couple of nights ago. I've been using different honeys and different yeast for them. my dad is also making a number of different meads and has been primarily focusing on traditional style mead. So between the two of us and the internet I am learning a great deal about making mead.

However, I'm just not patient enough to do a mead that will take a year to be good. I like the idea of a quicker mead that i can age in the barrel for a few months so all the recipes I've attempted or created myself have been quicker meads.

And don't worry about the barrel, lol. I Have plenty of sulphur sticks and I'm perfectly capable of filling it and cleaning it every couple of months. It'll be ok while I wait.

I'm really excited about doing this project and maybe my enthusiasm makes it sound like I'm rushing to do this without putting any thought into it but I intend to do this in a way where I end up with a pretty good chance of having a great mead. If i can't manage to make a mead in the next few months I think would work than I'll keep at it till i get it figured out.

thanks for the advice!

09-07-2014, 11:12 PM
MOst of the carbonated meads I have tried have an annoying carbolic bite at the beginning that really gets to me. But I think that a good sweet high alcohol mead would benefit from some carbonation and the sweetness would balance the bitterness of the Co2. I don't know if I'm talking nonsense with the previous statement, but it's my perception. I can tell you that there are a few meads that I'll be annoyed by at first but then will drink way too much of once I get past that first sip. Monk's Mead in Georgia was a perfect example of that. Had to be driven home after a few of those.

My point is that 55 gallons is a lot, as has been noted earlier and you may want to think about being able to have a little variety. The good thing about such a large quantity is that you will have enough to drink as is, infuse with fruit, and still be able to set aside 2 or 3 cases fro long term aging.

But be careful! Mead packs on the pounds like nothing else I've ever consumed!

09-07-2014, 11:19 PM
That's funny. I used to drink a lot of beer. In the last 4 months the only thing I've changed about my diet is i drink mead instead of beer and I've lost weight. I think the beer is worse than the mead.

09-08-2014, 02:52 AM
Glad to see there was a bit more thought about this in the background. As we said, we want this to be most magnificent. Share your bottle source online? WVMJ

09-08-2014, 03:33 PM
I just Googled bulk beer bottles and went through the first dozen or so and figured out which one would be cheapest with shipping. I forgot to save the link but I'll look again and post it when I get a min.

09-09-2014, 01:17 PM
That's funny. I used to drink a lot of beer. In the last 4 months the only thing I've changed about my diet is i drink mead instead of beer and I've lost weight. I think the beer is worse than the mead.

Ahh, the dreaded beer belly. Funny thing that is just starting to come to light: it's not actually a beer belly per se; it's a gluten belly! The way gluten is absorbed and stored causes it to (quite stubbornly!) hang out around the midsection. What is beer full of? Gluten!

I fully agree that mead is better for you than beer. I enjoy both, but mead has never made me feel the general bloat I feel from beer the next day. Anecdotal at best, but hey, drink more mead :P

09-09-2014, 03:52 PM
Hmmmmmm. Interesting. I unintentionally gluten "light" a pint Or two or three being the only bready kind of thing I consume.

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

09-09-2014, 11:13 PM
Ya, beer was the only gluten i consumed also. I drank mead fairly regularly but beer was my go to drink. Ever since I started making my own mead i have only bought one 12 pack of beer and half of it has been in my fridge waiting for someone else to drink it.

09-10-2014, 12:00 AM
Unless scotch is gluten, then in screwed. Lol.

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

09-10-2014, 12:30 AM
Ya. I did a little reading and they manage to use gluten in all sorts of stuff i wouldn't have thought of. I probably ingest more than i think.

And scotch/whiskey is the only liquor i drink so........ I'm screwed if it's in there too. But I'm not giving up my whisky.

09-10-2014, 12:31 AM
K. I Googled it. There is likely a very small amount of glutens. I think we're going to live.

09-10-2014, 01:47 AM

09-22-2014, 11:08 PM
It's been twenty days. My standard bomm is not very good. It's difficult to explain the taste.

It's either due to the huge amount of head space ( didn't think it would matter on a three week mead) or it's because of the cheap Dutch gold honey. I am pretty sure it was the honey. Well lesson learned. Don't use cheap honey.

09-22-2014, 11:30 PM
I think the idea of doing a quicker Mead might be awesome in theory but in practice maybe not so much. Maybe I'll just have to wait till I move in the beginning of the year and do a normal traditional in the barrel.

09-23-2014, 12:32 AM
BOMM is very good. But three weeks is too fast even for BOMM. It's drinkable in as little as 4 weeks but really it's closer to six. 4 weeks is usually enough to get it completely fermented and starting to clear. Unless your temps got high it should taste good (and pretty sweet) at three weeks.

09-23-2014, 01:47 AM
Well I'm not dumping it out yet. We'll see how it goes. Anybody who knows me knows that patience isn't my strong suit... Lol. I'll just continue to wait.

09-23-2014, 01:48 AM
But this doesn't taste like young mead. It's got a weird flavor I can't quite explain. Maybe the ale yeast makes it taste different than a typical young mead?

09-23-2014, 10:37 AM
It does. It should make u taste good. Hmmm

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

09-23-2014, 03:47 PM
That didn't type correctly. Lol. I meant to say it should make IT taste good.

Sent from my galafreyan transdimensional communicator 100 years from now.

09-23-2014, 10:38 PM
Haha. We'll see.