View Full Version : Oaking 1-gallon mini-batches

02-13-2016, 11:02 AM
After hearing what people had to say in my previous oak thread, I went ahead and ordered a packet of Hungarian oak cubes (http://www.amazon.com/Hungarian-Medium-Toast-Oak-Cubes/dp/B00AFF3C1E/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?s=grocery&ie=UTF8&qid=1455375125&sr=1-2-fkmr0&keywords=Hungarian+Medium+Toast+Oak+Cubes+3+Oz.+fr om+Home+Brew+Ohio). They haven't arrived yet, but one of my questions that never got answered was how many cubes to put in a small amount of mead (like 1 gallon or less) to flavor it correctly. I have two jugs of cyser I made back in December in bulk aging that I would like to add oak to. They were originally close to full but they are now between 8/10 - 9/10 of a gallon due to racking and sampling losses. They are water-clear and sediment free so there is no reason to rack them again before bottling. This seems like the perfect time to apply oak to them (I haven't added any sulfite yet and since they are bone dry there is no need for sorbate). Since I'm going to leave the oak in there for a while maybe I should add a campden tablet to each now.

The problem is, everybody gives oak measurements in ounces. The packets are designed to be dumped into large carboys, so if I were oaking 3 gallons at once I would just use half of it. However, that kind of unit doesn't mean much to me on smaller amounts since I don't have a scale sensitive enough to weigh the cubes separately. What is a good baseline number of cubes to put in a mostly-full gallon of mead? Some cubes undoubtedly extract faster/better than others but would 1-2 cubes per gallon be enough or would I need more? In a cyser, I'd prefer a light oaking.

02-13-2016, 11:19 AM
Here are some helpful conversions and tips:
-1 ounce = ~34 cubes
-2.5-3 ounces per 5 gallons is considered new barrel extraction rate (read super high oaking)
-I generally use 0.5-1 ounce per 5 gallons. You can always add more, but you can't take it away.
-0.5 ounce dose = 3.5 cubes per gallon
-1 ounce dose = 7 cubes per gallon
-American and French oak extract twice as fast as Hungarian.
-You can boil the cubes in a bit of water to dial back harsh tannins. Discard the water OR You can soak the cubes in 190 proof everclear to drastically reduce harsh tannins. Mostly applies to French and American.
-For cysers, 3 cubes per gallon of Hungarian oak for 1-2 months is awesome! Sanitize in vodka a few hours before you drop them in to be safe.

Better brewing through science!

See my brewing site at www.denardbrewing.com

See my Current Mead Making Techniques article here:

02-13-2016, 11:33 AM
-0.5 ounce = 3.5 cubes per gallon

Since these aren't quite full gallons, I'll just use 3 per jug then. Like you said, I can always add more.

Do you agree with adding sulfite at the same time as the oak since the cubes will need to sit in the jug for 1-2 months? I can't bottle until the oak is finished and your experiment found that Hungarian takes longer than the other varieties.

02-13-2016, 11:43 AM
Sort of a half suggestion half question here, since I do everything in 5 gallon batches.

Couldn't you add the same dose of oak to a one gallon batch that was meant for 5 gallons, and expect your results 5x faster? It'd be the same as if you'd quintupled your oak dose in a5 gallon batch, IMHO.

I might be tempted to do so, and taste test every couple of days instead of every couple of weeks.

02-13-2016, 11:56 AM
No, it would not be the same result. It takes time to extract the complexity from the cubes. Doing things the way you suggest would cause the initial tannic harshness to become overwhelming before the complex flavors are extracted.

All that said, if you taste frequently, you may get a decent result. Just not the same result.

Better brewing through science!

See my brewing site at www.denardbrewing.com

See my Current Mead Making Techniques article here:

02-13-2016, 01:35 PM
I suspected it might be thus. Anytime you try to speed things up it seems you lose something.

(He says to the guy who invented the BOMM!) LOL

02-16-2016, 10:16 PM
Oak is in, cubes are a lot smaller than I thought they'd be. I boiled 6 cubes for about 5-7 minutes to leach out the tannins and sanitize them even though they're going in 17% ABV mead. The water in the pan turned a nice amber color and had a woody campfire aroma when I dumped it out in the sink. Hope most of that was tannin and not the flavor compounds I want. I put 3 cubes and about 3/4 cup of sulfite solution (1 campden tablet per jug) in each jug in case the cubes weren't sanitized completely.

I'll check it in 2 weeks though I'm prepared to delay bottling by 2 months until the oak has run its course.

02-16-2016, 10:43 PM
I have never boiled my oak before putting it in a batch. I wonder if this really changes the flavor profile? I have always been very pleased with the outcome of mine without boiling. Is there a time or situation when you might want more tannins or less? Maybe some of the older winemakers can speak up.

02-16-2016, 11:13 PM
I don't have any Everclear to soak the cubes in so I boiled it like LoveofRose suggested. In any event, this is a cyser so I'd prefer a lighter oak profile anyway.

02-25-2016, 11:30 PM
I just did a taste test (just enough to wet the bottom of a glass since I'm trying to conserve what I have) after roughly 1 week of oaking. Nose is about the same as before. Taste is moderate tannin over the base cyser flavor with a very faint bit of vanilla and cognac. Hopefully the best is yet to come. I know I need to be patient since Hungarian is slower than other types.

However, I hope I didn't screw up and waste all the essence when I boiled those cubes, but those 3 cubes sure look small in all that mead. I hope it's enough.

02-27-2016, 06:15 PM
I just put 1/2 oz worth of cubes in a 1 gallon cyser. Yep, they sure are small. Couldn't figure out how to submerge them so they're just floating in the neck of the 1 gallon jug. Plan to remove them after 3 weeks, dunno how I'm going to do that either. I hope it's worth the effort.

02-28-2016, 05:50 PM
My cubes sank to the bottom after a week or so. Since my mead is clear/sediment free I can just bottle when I feel the oak level is right.

03-01-2016, 05:10 PM
I'd be more concerned about the oak being somewhat sterile before you toss it in - thus the boiling for a 10 min or soaking in Everclear or vodka (cheaper) for a while. There will be a small loss of tannin in the boil/soak but I'm more concerned about sterility. I'm sure there were quite a few different hands and saw blades touching those cubes from manufacture to packaging and maybe re-packaging...

03-01-2016, 06:48 PM
I have used oak extensively, always post ferment, during bulk aging, when a good alcohol presence is established. Never boiled, soaked, rinsed or otherwise worried about sanitizing the oak prior to introducing it to the mead. I've used cubes, chips, spirals and staves. Never once had an issue. Yes my experience is anecdotal, but I repeat the wisdom of others when I say, nothing will ruin a batch of mead (or beer) faster than worrying about it.

03-01-2016, 06:58 PM
Thanks Mazer828 for sharing your experience. I think I'll have to give o-natural oaking a try - at least in one of my higher abv batches.

03-03-2016, 08:58 AM
Took another taste last night from both batches. There's a bit of woody flavor to the mead now, and some of the tartness is gone. Oddly, the mead I back-sweetened prior to oaking has almost no aroma now. The other one smells about the same as before.

03-03-2016, 09:31 AM
With cubes you're just now getting into the flavor. Give it time. At least 3-4 weeks. You will be surprised at the complexity that comes through.

Like hops in beer (for those who are familiar) I perceive that oak releases different compounds after different lengths of time. Some flavors jump out almost immediately; others are much more shy. Time and patience are your allies. Taste regularly and keep tasting notes.

Another trick I learned (I think from Oskaar on GML) is that you can pick up on the aromatic characters of your mead best from a freshly emptied glass. As those last few drops are drying inside the glass, get your nose in there. It's amazing.

03-10-2016, 10:25 PM
Maybe this thread belongs in the Mead Log since I'm now using it to document my progress.

Took another swig from each jug tonight. The two gallons have diverged quite a bit in the past week.

The one I back-sweetened has come along nicely. It has lots of oak character, much, much less tartness than when I started. The cotton candy flavor people have mentioned has begun to appear, though I'm not sure how much of that is from the honey instead of the oak. Not much vanilla or cognac yet. Needs more time?

However, I've noticed very little improvement in the other one, even though they started out from the same batch/baseline level of dryness. I noticed this mead began to develop differently for some reason as soon as I split it up into gallons instead of one big carboy. That jug is still completely bone dry, and while the harshness has rounded off a bit it is still pretty astringent and tart. I may have to sweeten that one up too, but I'm tempted to leave it on the oak longer and bottle it dry sometime next month.

03-16-2016, 06:43 PM
The oak has been in for a whole month now, and I just tasted once again.

The sweet mead is ready, IMO. I plan to bottle it on Saturday.

The dry mead has improved a little since my last tasting. I think I'll give it a few more weeks before deciding what I'm going to do.