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valverij
03-21-2016, 03:28 PM
About a year ago, my then-fiancee-now-wife got me a little 5 L barrel for my birthday. I was excited to try it out, so I filled it to the brim with a regular OB BOMM. Soon after, though, I realized that I didn't have enough volume of any one mead to refill it, and wouldn't for quite some time. Since then, I've been terrified to try it, because everything I read up to that point said that it would over-oak incredibly quickly, since it was only 5 L.

Today, I decided to break it out and give it a try, before officially declaring it a failure. It was delicious. Soft, round, pronounced honey/bourbon aroma and flavor. It's so good, I'm thinking about firing up another couple BOMM's and "forgetting" 5 L of it for another year.

There's only one real issue: How do I measure its ABV?

While sitting in the barrel, it lost a considerable amount of volume (~1/3), because I was a horrible, lazy mead maker and didn't top it off from time to time. When it went in the barrel, it was sitting at ~13.5 %.

While the ABV isn't particularly important, I'd love to be able to throw it on a label.

Maylar
03-21-2016, 04:05 PM
Has the SG changed from when you barreled it?

valverij
03-21-2016, 04:22 PM
I haven't racked out of the barrel yet, but I'm guessing it has, since it was dry when it went in, but it is definitely sweet, now.

valverij
03-21-2016, 06:47 PM
Actually, after tasting it again, it's still pretty dry. I think it just has some perceived sweetness from the oak.

Basically it tastes like bourbon.

pwizard
03-21-2016, 09:51 PM
The ABV percentages on my hydrometer are how I always do it. Basically, the scale lists your potential ABV for the original gravity. If the mead goes all the way to 1.000 or below, then that is what you will have. If your batch stopped before that (1.010 or similar) you subtract that from your OG and refer to the new value on the scale to get your ABV. It's not precise but most of the time it's good enough.

Of course, it only works if you remember your OG or at least how much honey you put in.

valverij
03-22-2016, 11:14 AM
The ABV percentages on my hydrometer are how I always do it. Basically, the scale lists your potential ABV for the original gravity. If the mead goes all the way to 1.000 or below, then that is what you will have. If your batch stopped before that (1.010 or similar) you subtract that from your OG and refer to the new value on the scale to get your ABV. It's not precise but most of the time it's good enough.

Of course, it only works if you remember your OG or at least how much honey you put in.

Right, but that doesn't account for evaporation during barrel aging. The issue is not how to determine ABV based on OG and FG, it's how to calculate it after experiencing a significant loss of water and/or alcohol due to evaporation.

Before it went in the barrel, I had 5 L at around 13.5%. Now, I'm down to about 3.3 L, which is about a 33% loss. If I assume only alcohol or evaporated only water evaporated, then it could be sitting anywhere from 9% to 18%. It's more likely that I lost a combination of both.

After some research, it looks like I'll need either a proofing hydrometer or an alcoholmeter to measure it accurately.

Squatchy
03-22-2016, 09:44 PM
I would have thought just off the top of my head that if it was at zero when you tossed it in it would still be at zero now. I hadn't really thought that the % of water or alcohol dissipation would have been one more than the other. Let us know what you find when your land on a conclusion of how to determine the answer.

DontTreadOnMe
03-22-2016, 10:04 PM
This is not a definitive answer to your situation, but it is interesting information from oakbarrelsltd.com

Oxygen enters a barrel when water or alcohol is lost due to evaporation – once again the, “angels
share”. In an environment with 100% relative humidity, very little water evaporates and so most of the
loss is alcohol – a useful trick if one has a liquor or wine with very high proof. Most beverages are
topped up from other barrels or bottles to prevent significant oxidation. With small barrels, it’s
recommended to top off the barrel every one or two weeks.
In a nutshell …
• Low Humidity – primarily water lost resulting in higher alcohol content
 Dry air and higher temperatures will result In more water being lost (alcohol content
goes up)
• High Humidity – primarily alcohol lost resulting in losing the alcoholic strength of the
product
 When stored at 60% relative humidity or higher – primarily alcohol loss
 Humid atmospheres with moderate temperatures will lead to more alcohol than water
evaporating

EbonHawk
03-23-2016, 01:15 AM
I read their info page (VERY interesting, btw) and didn't see anything about the contents changing % or volume. Some leakage during the curing process is normal, of course, but after that it should seal up and not leak anymore. If it does, get it replaced, is what they said.

Soo..is your barrel leaking? A 33% loss seems HUGE to me. Maybe you didn't turn it often enough. I know it's been a year, but still... I wonder if that's normal for aging in oak barrels. Have you tried contacting the coopers at Oakbarrels.ltd to see what they have to say about it? Maybe they know some specifics about losses during aging.

valverij
03-23-2016, 07:20 AM
Yeah, I thought that was a pretty big loss too, but according to the info above your post, smaller barrels should be topped off every 1 - 2 weeks, and I topped off exactly 0 times. Honestly, I was so afraid I ruined it, I was afraid to open it and just tucked it away.

33% is also an estimate based on what I can see through the tiny, tiny hole in the top (~1/2" - 5/8" wide) and feel as it sloshes around. I won't know for sure until I rack it. I have an alcoholmeter on the way, so I should have a definitive answer as soon as that comes in.

EbonHawk
03-23-2016, 10:34 AM
True. Good luck is all I can say, and welcome to the world of procrastination, er I mean, brewing. :-)

curgoth
03-24-2016, 04:13 PM
Do a spirit indication? (should be good directions on that here if you search on that term)