I tried to find a thread that already deals with this issue, but I failed to find any so I am posting a new thread.
I just bought a new, 28-liter barrel, unvarnished, unpainted. It is made from local Serbian oak (should be similar to Croatian oak).
The mead I am planning to age in it is described in my first thread: http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=14685
It will take another 2 months for the mead to be ready for barrel aging. The barrel is now stored in a dry, dark room.
The cooper told me to leave the barrel empty until 15 days before I intend too put mead in it. Then, I should just fill it with water and replace water every 3 days (so, 5 times) and then the barrel will be ready.
In a book on fruit brandies, however, I read the following two methods:
1. Using steam - steam should be introduced into the barrel until the barrel is too hot to touch with bare hands from outside. Then, pour cold water and empty the barrel immediately. Repeat until water is colorless and odorless.
2. Using chemicals - rinse with cold water, empty the barrel and fill it again with cold water. After 2 or 3 days, empty the barrel and fill it with a 5% solution of salt (NaCl) that was brought to boiling point (for a 100 liter barrel, use 30 liters of solution). Seal the barrel and shake vigorously. Then empty it and fill it with a warm, 2% sodium (Na2CO3) solution. Shake several times in 30 minutes, then empty the barrel, fill it with cold water. Check if the water is odorless or colorless after 3 days.
Having no prior experience with barrels, I am unsure about several issues:
1. Should I fill the barrel immediately with water or 2 weeks before putting it to use?
2. Which of these methods is the best?
3. Is there a better method?
I plan to post photos in a day or so.
Thanks for advice!