PDA

View Full Version : Oak fermenters



WikdWaze
08-09-2004, 01:52 AM
Has anybody tried one of these? I've found a few wineries and breweries that do their fermentation in oak vats. I'm surprised at how easy they are to sanitize. The only downside is that you can't leave them sit dry. I guess that's not really a downside if you empty it, clean it, then fill it with the next batch.

Norskersword
08-09-2004, 06:06 AM
I was planning on getting a barrel one of these days.

Barrels are available here and are around $130 depending on what kind of oak you use and how large the barrel is.

http://morebeer.com/

Jmattioli
08-09-2004, 07:15 AM
I got a 55 gal oak barrel that was used for burbon but I didn't want to make such a large batch so I bought some kegs, cut a door in the back end to install the keg and CO2 tank and put a spigot on the front and put in my basement. Fools most of the people most of the time and with some oak chips in the mead, why should I tell them and spoil their fun.
Joe

Oskaar
08-09-2004, 07:47 AM
Hey Joe,

That's hilarious! I love it!

I'd really like to get my hands on a couple of small port-pipes and make a semi-dry mead and give it some aging time in them. I hijacked the idea from Glenmorangie Single Malt Port Wood Finish Scotch. This is simply incredible stuff with a wonderful smokey, chocolate oaky flavor.

So I figure I'd like to get a good mead with a higher end alcohol and give it some time in these casks and see how it turns out. If they make port oak chunks somewhere I would go for them first. I'd hate to find out the hard way that 55 gallons of mead and port wood didn't work quite right. LOL

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-09-2004, 11:35 AM
I got a 55 gal oak barrel that was used for burbon but I didn't want to make such a large batch so I bought some kegs, cut a door in the back end to install the keg and CO2 tank and put a spigot on the front and put in my basement. Fools most of the people most of the time and with some oak chips in the mead, why should I tell them and spoil their fun.
Joe Love that idea.

Y'all misunderstood what I meant, though, so I'll type slower this time ;) I'm talking about doing the fermentation in oak, not aging. They say it doesn't add any oak flavor because the volume is so large compared to the surface area, but it is supposed to help smooth out the wine. I don't know if it would do the same for mead, but I can't see why not. I'm not planning to try this with my first batch, it's just another thing I've come across in my research that I thought I'd ask about.

Oskaar
08-09-2004, 12:21 PM
Naaaah,

Didn't miss it Wikd, your post was just superseded by Joe's because it was such a cool irony to have a big 55 gallon wooden barrel, and then modify it so that it looks like the barrel is being tapped.

That's classic stuff!

I've personally never used a wooden fermentation vessel. For mead I don't think it is practical or effective. The longer that the mead sits on wood (presumably white oak from the US, France, Hungary, Croatia, etc.) the higher the potential that the wood will overwhelm the flavor of the mead. Too long in oak will pretty much overpower your mead and render it pretty nasty.

JMHO,

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-09-2004, 01:45 PM
Naaaah,

Didn't miss it Wikd, your post was just superseded by Joe's because it was such a cool irony to have a big 55 gallon wooden barrel, and then modify it so that it looks like the barrel is being tapped.

That's classic stuff!

I've personally never used a wooden fermentation vessel. For mead I don't think it is practical or effective. The longer that the mead sits on wood (presumably white oak from the US, France, Hungary, Croatia, etc.) the higher the potential that the wood will overwhelm the flavor of the mead. Too long in oak will pretty much overpower your mead and render it pretty nasty.

JMHO,

Oskaar No argument on the first part.

No real argument on the second part either. My understanding, though, is that it takes quite a bit of aging for the "oak" to sink into whatever is in it. I wouldn't think the primary fermentation would be long enough, that seems to be the consensus among the vintners doing it as well. The only reason I ask is because I'm a cheap SOB sometimes. If I ever manage to go commercial I'll have a hard time getting the cash for a fancy stainless fermenter. I know how to put wood together. I've read a few mentions of using wood other than oak, specifically too reduce the harshness attributed to oak.

Of course, stainless sheetmetal isn't very pricey and a welder can be had pretty cheap too. Mostly what costs so much on those ss fermenters is the labor and the shipping.

Norskersword
08-09-2004, 11:49 PM
I've personally never used a wooden fermentation vessel. For mead I don't think it is practical or effective. The longer that the mead sits on wood (presumably white oak from the US, France, Hungary, Croatia, etc.) the higher the potential that the wood will overwhelm the flavor of the mead. Too long in oak will pretty much overpower your mead and render it pretty nasty.

After reading the section in the The Compleat Meadmaker, it really sparked my interest. I also researched this a bit at my brew shop. You can choose which country you would like the oak from (like you mentioned) and also choose the amount of toasting you want on the wood when you buy it. Don't want too much oak flavor? Simply give it less time in the barrel. I believe I heard somewhere 2 weeks will do.

All of these variables would make meadmaking even more interesting, IMHO. As we all know, much of the fun of meadmaking is the different variables that effect the end product (what kind of honey/yeast to use, etc.) and adding even more variables would probably make meadmaking even more interesting. It appeals to the mad scientist in every brewer! ;D

I will try some barrels out when I am more experienced and more knowledgable in knowing what to taste for. As Ken Schramm said, "Mead takes to oak as a duck takes to water." I am very interested in eventually learning what he is talking about. ;)

WikdWaze
08-10-2004, 01:15 AM
After reading the section in the The Compleat Meadmaker, it really sparked my interest. I also researched this a bit at my brew shop. You can choose which country you would like the oak from (like you mentioned) and also choose the amount of toasting you want on the wood when you buy it. Don't want too much oak flavor? Simply give it less time in the barrel. I believe I heard somewhere 2 weeks will do.

All of these variables would make meadmaking even more interesting, IMHO. As we all know, much of the fun of meadmaking is the different variables that effect the end product (what kind of honey/yeast to use, etc.) and adding even more variables would probably make meadmaking even more interesting. It appeals to the mad scientist in every brewer! ;D

I will try some barrels out when I am more experienced and more knowledgable in knowing what to taste for. As Ken Schramm said, "Mead takes to oak as a duck takes to water." I am very interested in eventually learning what he is talking about. ;)

So, you're a fan of variables, eh? Here's another one to add to the collection. In several places during my research I found references to people using woods other than oak, usually beech, to try for a milder flavor than oak provides. I'm thinking pine wouldn't do well ::) Every site I found seemed quite certain that the fermentation period was not long enough to add significant oak character to the wine. Have to wonder if mead might draw it out quicker.

I don't know if I'm a scientist, but I must be mad. I'm enjoying this planning process entirely to much to be rational.

Norskersword
08-10-2004, 01:32 AM
I don't know if I'm a scientist, but I must be mad...

After reading your electric sediment posting, I'm inclined to dissagree. ;D

Variables are what makes a hobby interesting. Imagine how things would be if we had only one yeast and one honey to use. Imagine if we could only follow one recipe and we couldn't experiment for some reason. Things would be alot less interesting.

Variables are what made games like chess and such so popular.

WikdWaze
08-10-2004, 02:40 AM
After reading your electric sediment posting, I'm inclined to dissagree. ;D

Variables are what makes a hobby interesting. Imagine how things would be if we had only one yeast and one honey to use. Imagine if we could only follow one recipe and we couldn't experiment for some reason. Things would be alot less interesting.

Variables are what made games like chess and such so popular. Does that mean you disagree with the not-a-scientist part or the mad part :-/

You're right, it wouldn't be any fun if all we could do was buy a paint-by-numbers kit and follow the instructions to the letter. I must admit, this whole waiting-around-for-the-money-to-buy-the-stuff-I-need part is wearing thin on me, though.

Norskersword
08-10-2004, 02:54 AM
Does that mean you disagree with the not-a-scientist part or the mad part :-/

You're right, it wouldn't be any fun if all we could do was buy a paint-by-numbers kit and follow the instructions to the letter. I must admit, this whole waiting-around-for-the-money-to-buy-the-stuff-I-need part is wearing thin on me, though.

No I mean you are definetely a mad scientist!

I ordered a mead kit to start off with too. It had all the ingredients for a spiced mead but I kept the spices and made a cyser instead. This particular mead kit wasn't any good though. It was missing alot. It had no second fermenter or racking cane!

If I had to do it again, I would have gone to my local brewshop. I'm really lucky to have such a great brewshop in my area that carries everything.

WikdWaze
08-10-2004, 03:59 AM
All I've got so far is a single gallon jug. I never did care for the idea of those kits, no variables to play with ;D

Oskaar
08-10-2004, 04:22 AM
Hi guys,

I agree with the mad-scientist, but hey, aren't we all. That's half the fun of trying new things.

As far as the oak goes I tend to agree with Ken Schramm that oak and mead were made from each other. However, I also agree with him that the proper surface area ratio of oak to mead is very important. He gives an example in his book of a 50 - 60 gallon barrel being good for prolonged aging, but a 5 gallon barrel will have a much lower ratio of oak surface area to the volume of mead, and thus would need to be racked after a shorter period of time.

This is what I was alluding to in the post above. So, to me, if you're going to do primary in an oak vessel it should be about a 55 gallon vessel, and you'll need to be able to fill it up with an appropriate amount of mead to ferment.

Then if you rack to an oak secondary, and oak aging vessel you'll need to keep your volumes and surface areas consistant in order to glean a good idea of what the oak characteristic will be as you move it forward.

Also Schramm mentions that in a small, young oak barrel even as brief a period as one month could be to much for a "bombastic" mead. LOL

I think the bottom line is judiciousness on the part of the meadmaker and the ability to discern what the overall influence of the oak on the mead will be, and what the proper amount of oak exposure will be. You'll also need to know what toast levels the barrels you'll be using are. Transferring from one barrel to another with different toast levels, could conceivably multiply the effect of the oak on the mead to a point where it is pretty gnarley.

Anyhow, the bottom line is to experiment. I firmly believe that one needs to get their basic recipe down before they get too far into the "improvisation" mode, however, there is plenty to improvise with in the basic process as well. It's all about degrees of improvisation.

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-10-2004, 03:57 PM
Hi guys,

I agree with the mad-scientist, but hey, aren't we all. That's half the fun of trying new things.

As far as the oak goes I tend to agree with Ken Schramm that oak and mead were made from each other. However, I also agree with him that the proper surface area ratio of oak to mead is very important. He gives an example in his book of a 50 - 60 gallon barrel being good for prolonged aging, but a 5 gallon barrel will have a much lower ratio of oak surface area to the volume of mead, and thus would need to be racked after a shorter period of time.

This is what I was alluding to in the post above. So, to me, if you're going to do primary in an oak vessel it should be about a 55 gallon vessel, and you'll need to be able to fill it up with an appropriate amount of mead to ferment.

Then if you rack to an oak secondary, and oak aging vessel you'll need to keep your volumes and surface areas consistant in order to glean a good idea of what the oak characteristic will be as you move it forward.

Also Schramm mentions that in a small, young oak barrel even as brief a period as one month could be to much for a "bombastic" mead. LOL

I think the bottom line is judiciousness on the part of the meadmaker and the ability to discern what the overall influence of the oak on the mead will be, and what the proper amount of oak exposure will be. You'll also need to know what toast levels the barrels you'll be using are. Transferring from one barrel to another with different toast levels, could conceivably multiply the effect of the oak on the mead to a point where it is pretty gnarley.

Anyhow, the bottom line is to experiment. I firmly believe that one needs to get their basic recipe down before they get too far into the "improvisation" mode, however, there is plenty to improvise with in the basic process as well. It's all about degrees of improvisation.

OskaarI'm going to take that last paragraph as gospel

Jmattioli
08-10-2004, 07:54 PM
Since your talking gospel here....

He gives an example in his book of a 50 - 60 gallon barrel being good for prolonged aging, but a 5 gallon barrel will have a much lower ratio of oak surface area to the volume of mead, and thus would need to be racked after a shorter period of time.

It should read "a 5 gallon barrel will have a much higher ratio of oak surface to the volume of mead,"
90 cm2 per liter for 50-60 gal barrel
190 cm2 per liter for approximately 5 gal barrel
Joe

Oskaar
08-11-2004, 12:15 AM
Hey Joe!

Thanks for catching that mis-stype! Sometimes my fingers get going faster than my brain. Hmmmmm, mayhap I should slow them down with some mead!

Oskaar

ThistyViking
08-11-2004, 01:20 AM
i didn't take that as a typo, oxidation is also more rapid in little casks. it is a rurface area to volume ratio.

Oskaar
08-24-2004, 12:13 PM
Hey Wickd,

Did you get that batch of braggot going yet? I hope so, give us an update dude.

thanks,

Oskaar

WikdWaze
08-24-2004, 04:24 PM
Hey Wickd,

Did you get that batch of braggot going yet? I hope so, give us an update dude.

thanks,

Oskaar
Soon, very soon. Seems the recipe is in a bit of flux. Should be able to start purchasing ingredients either this week or next.

Oskaar
08-24-2004, 10:23 PM
Great,

Keep us posted. Brew, wait, drink! My mantra!

Oskaar