View Full Version : Oak and aging mead

David Baldwin
09-24-2004, 10:30 PM
Has anyone got some good info/ideas on oaking mead?

I know there are levels of "toasting" the oak, but how does that affect the mead?

I assume that different levels of toast will impart different flavors, but I'm a bit lost as to exactly what to expect from each level of toasting.

Jadwiga has wonderful oak character that I would like to try to mimic.

I don't have an oak barrel handy - nor do I have enough mead my little carboy to fill a barrel, so the traditional method isn't an option for me (yet...)

I've heard of oak chips, recycled staves etc. What I do have on hand is a significant supply of nicely aged red and white oak lumber. How feasible would it be for me to cut and toast this oak for my purposes here?

09-24-2004, 11:15 PM
I have a 55 gal oak barrel but use it only for decorations. I put my mead in a back door in it in a canister. It has a spigot and appears to have mead coming from the barrel but it is a CO2 system I installed inside. Not practical for me any other way.

I use medium tasted chips available from a brew store. They work quite well and are hassle free. Just takes some experience to determine how many and how long. The more toast, the longer it takes.

David Baldwin
09-24-2004, 11:29 PM
Thanks Joe,

So am I understanding correctly that the greater the "toast" the longer it takes to impart the "oak" to the mead?

Oh, and thanks for your earlier input on my first batch of mead.
When I checked last night I noticed that it was very suddenly dropping clear. ;D ...now I just have to stay out of it until it properly ages. ;D

09-25-2004, 08:50 PM
Thanks Joe,

So am I understanding correctly that the greater the "toast" the longer it takes to impart the "oak" to the mead? (snip)

The toasting of the Oak actually subdues the aromatics and modifies the wood lignin into a variety of pleasing sugars and phenolics. It also adds to the color. From a flavor standpoint, the more toast, the more deep roasted the flavor. Kind of like deep roasted cofee beans. A non toasted oak will give a young sappy flavor. Yes, both time and flavor varies depending on the toast and how many times you use the oak. However,I was mistaken to say that the greater the toast, the longer it takes. The toasting actually accelerates the degradation of the barrel and would be the opposite of what I said in the previous post. (more flavor in less time with more toast) Pardon my error.

10-04-2004, 01:15 AM
I'm proud to be and Oak-ee from Californ-ee 8)

I just got off the phone with Jamie at Stavin (manufacturer of Oak Chips, Cubes, Staves, Mini-Staves, Barrel Replicas, etc.). She had a lot of great information and some great comments about the oak cubes. They have a lot of mead-makers that use their product (along with a ton of wineries that don't fess up to it!) She said that a very popular technique used by mead makers is to go one ounce of the cubes in a 5 gallon carboy for a two month period. This way folks get maximum extraction of the oak character, along with the integration of the oak character into the batch.

She also mentioned that layering oak additions in phases like I do is a pretty common practice in both wine and mead production. I thought I was nuts when I tried it the first time. She recommended a medium to high toast level for meads because the lower toast levels yield a sweet extraction which is not necessarily complimentary to mead. Although for a dry mead it may be a good match.

On oak chips she mentioned that because of the lack of uniformity of thickness, size and shape that the oak character is very much less structured and integrated as with oak cubes or as they call them "beans," which totally cracks me up! LOL Anyhow she mentioned that the extraction of oak flavor from chips is very rapid because of the saturation rate of the wood by the liquid surrounding it. The effect is a pretty flat character as opposed to the complexity imparted by the cubes.

Contact time on the oak cubes is recommended for two months. For meads she said that generally if you add about an ounce to a five gallon carboy and let it go for two months that you’ll get maximum extraction that will add structure and complexity, but not overpower your mead with an oak character. If you’re adding cubes to a wine or mead that has already dropped clear she said you can rinse the oak cubes off with some warm distilled water to remove the wood dust (sawdust) that is produced by the cubes rubbing together in the packaging. Make sure you use distilled or filtered water that has no chorine in it so as not to impart any of that nasty chlorine flavor to your cubes.

Finally, what to do with your chips, cubes, etc when you’re done with them? Here’s what we both seem to do. Take those nicely infused cubes and put them on the barbeque (you might want to keep them moist to maximize the smoke output) with some good meat (ribs, steak, etc) and ice down some mead!

Life is good!



David Baldwin
10-05-2004, 06:03 AM
Thanks, that was very helpful info.

I'll probably do a bit of experimenting now that I've got some idea where to start.

10-05-2004, 09:46 PM
Yes, great info. Thanks Oscaar!

10-05-2004, 09:52 PM
I noticed on their website that they don't sell to small time users directly. Let me know when you find a price and source.

10-06-2004, 12:53 AM
Hi Joe,

I get mine from http://www.morebeer.com

Some close to you are:

http://www.grapeandgranary.com - Akron, Ohio

http://www.homebrewcompany.com - Kent, Ohio

http://www.bacchus-barleycorn.com - Shawnee, Kansas

Most homebrew and winemaking shops carry them in 3 oz packages.