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General Category => Kegging and Bottling => Wood/Casks => Topic started by: ryang on November 17, 2011, 04:29:11 PM

Title: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: ryang on November 17, 2011, 04:29:11 PM
At my grandparents farm, there is an old oak barrel that's been sitting around for who knows how long.  When my dad was a kid, his mom made wine in it, then eventually it turned sour and then to vinegar.  After that, they stopped using it, and it's been sitting in one of the outbuildings since (empyty, and out of the elements besides heat/cold).

Would it be feasible to take the barrel home and re-cooper it (if that's even a term)?  If I take it apart and scrape the staves and heads down, re-band it and more-or-less overhaul it, is there a chance that it's usable?  The last time I looked at it, it didn't appear badly warped or anything.

I'll be going up there for Thanksgiving as usual, so I'll need to decide to take it home or not then.

I don't have a barrel, but would love one, and if I could turn this into a bit of an heirloom project -- WAY better than buying one in my mind.

Thanks
Ryan
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: 1vertical on November 17, 2011, 05:21:26 PM
If it were me, I would need to know the lifespan of acetobacter. If there was any
possibility of vinegar remaining in that wood....then sorry not beer worthy.

If you want to make vinegar however......prolly ok

Disclaimer: I know just enough to be dangerous  :-\
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 17, 2011, 05:23:38 PM
I am in the camp that says once the barrel is infected, the bugs are deep in the wood pores,, and your barrel is now good for vinegar or firewood.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: phillamb168 on November 17, 2011, 05:33:35 PM
I am in the camp that says once the barrel is infected, the bugs are deep in the wood pores,, and your barrel is now good for vinegar or firewood.

'course, couldn't you just get some cheap rotgut by the gallon and let it sit in there for a few weeks?
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: ryang on November 17, 2011, 05:51:42 PM
any idea on how deep?  I figured it would need to be sanded/planed down anyway... including a re-toast
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: jeffy on November 17, 2011, 06:15:51 PM
I am in the "not for beer" camp.  Once you have acetobacter you can't get rid of it, as far as I know.  Steam may help, but I doubt it will be a permanent fix.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: morticaixavier on November 17, 2011, 06:20:08 PM
before even worrying about any possible infections fill that bad boy with water until (if) it stops leaking. It may be done anyway. They make nice planters, you could grow some hops in it!
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: hopfenundmalz on November 17, 2011, 06:31:48 PM
any idea on how deep?  I figured it would need to be sanded/planed down anyway... including a re-toast

Really deep.  Sanding won't do it.   Steam might do it if you could get it hot enough for long enough. 

Why do you think wineries get rid of barrels once they start ot go off?  Youi might do some searches or look in "Wild Brews" by Jeff Sparrow for some ideas.  It might not hold water as already said.  Soak it and see.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: ryang on November 17, 2011, 06:36:48 PM
Soak it and see.

The proper first step.

I might be able to do that there.
Thanks guys.  We'll see what I can do with it.

If it's fixable, but not "curable" then I could increase my vinegar production.  That stuff is tasty.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: tschmidlin on November 17, 2011, 06:46:16 PM
Wineries get rid of them because it is a pain and more trouble than it's worth, but it's not impossible and might be worth it to you since you place a higher value on this particular barrel than on any old barrel.

In my mind, the easiest way to get rid of it is to pasteurize the wood.  If you have a vessel large enough to submerge the staves, you can raise the water to 150F and hold it there for 30 minutes to kill the surface bacteria.  To kill the bacteria in the wood you need to get the internal temp up to 150F and hold it for 30 minutes.  I don't know how long it will take for the heat to penetrate the wood, but I imagine a few hours should be sufficient.

Doing this will leach a lot of the oak character out which is another reason wineries won't be into it.  But depending on how many batches it previously held there might not be much there anyway.

Be sure to label the staves before you take it apart!
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: Kit B on November 17, 2011, 07:51:42 PM
If you're going through the trouble of totally dismantling it & messing with the staves, why not just make a fresh one that you can pass along to your family & someone will someday brag to their friends: "My great grandfather made this, with his bare hands!"
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: davidgzach on November 17, 2011, 08:46:34 PM
I'm in the go for it camp!  A great project, story and what if you just happen to make some seriously good beer when it's all said and done!  Meh, I like a good success story..... ;)
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: ryang on November 21, 2011, 04:53:20 PM
I had my dad take some dimensions for me and check overall condition.  Good overall shape and somewhere in the 30 gallon range.  Smells strongly of vinegar.  Doesn't appear to be any mold.  I am going to take this project on.

I'll be bringing this back with me from the farm (along with a side of beef  ;D )

EDIT: Also, got some history on the barrel from dad and grandpa... My grandparents bought the barrel new (don't remember now where) back in the late 40's for making wine.  Grandma made numerous batches of red fruit wines with fruit off the trees around the garden and neighboring farms.  Wines were given away at church and to neighbors.  Turned sour and eventually to vinegar in the late 50's and has sat empty since.  I look forward to talking more to grandpa when we get up to SD this week.

The barrel will be named Winnie's Barrel for my grandmother who passed away the day after Thanksgiving 2 years ago.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: ryang on November 30, 2011, 06:39:11 PM
The barrel is sitting in my garage now.  I'm going to fill it with water tonight.  Is garden hose water ok to use?  That's a lot of trips from the sink with a pitcher...
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: morticaixavier on November 30, 2011, 07:09:54 PM
The barrel is sitting in my garage now.  I'm going to fill it with water tonight.  Is garden hose water ok to use?  That's a lot of trips from the sink with a pitcher...

yeah that's fine I would think. But be aware that it is going to leak... alot... I have seen where some people put the barrel in a larger container so that it is submerged in water as well as full of it but that would be a large container for a full sized barrel I would think.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: tschmidlin on November 30, 2011, 07:25:26 PM
Yeah, it can be messy.  Another way to do it is to stand it on end and fill the butt end with water - it absorbs down the staves easier that way, with the grain.  After a couple of days of that (topping up the end as needed), flip it and do the other side for a couple of days.  Then I might try filling it, after it's had a chance to swell for a while.

I haven't tried it this way, it's just an idea.

Maybe sit it in a kiddie pool and soak both ends at once?
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: davidgzach on November 30, 2011, 08:00:31 PM
The barrel is sitting in my garage now.  I'm going to fill it with water tonight.  Is garden hose water ok to use?  That's a lot of trips from the sink with a pitcher...
I don't see why not.  Even if your hose has that rubbery taste, like mine, sounds like you have a lot more to worry about than that at the moment......
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: tomsawyer on November 30, 2011, 08:34:28 PM
Here's a link to a method for rehydrating a barrel, I've done this on a few of his barrels and it works fine.  Personally I seriously doubt you'll get anything but vinegar for your troubles, especially since it still smells of vinegar.  But you never know, if you take it apart and recooper (yes this is a real term) and then toast the heck out of it, plus maybe let it sit with Barrolkleen for some time, you have a small chance of it being clean.

http://www.vadaiwinebarrels.com/index.asp?action=page&name=23
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: jeffy on November 30, 2011, 10:07:33 PM
The method Tom wrote about two posts up is how I've seen it done at a distillery when they wanted to keep the barrel hydrated, but that may not work for an old dried out bbl.
I once revived an old barrel that had been sitting outside for several years by keeping it filled it with a garden hose.  At first it was leaking out at the rate of a gallon every 20 seconds, but it was almost completely sealed after 12 hours.  I was amazed at how much the wood expanded.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: tubercle on November 30, 2011, 11:46:04 PM
You are going to need to re-hydrate it anyway and you mentioned taking it apart and "re-coopering".

 A perfect time to boil the crap (literally) out of the staves and lids. Get a 55 gal metal drum and build a fire under it.
I'd give it a try. The worst thing that could happen would be a batch of malt vinegar.

I love projects like this.

I woud hate to die never knowing.
Title: Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
Post by: Jimmy K on December 01, 2011, 01:27:09 AM
That would be a great reason to make a bunch of fries.