I guess the thing I like about the oak is the complexity it gives you besides just "vanilla". But if straight vanilla is what you want I say definitely use the beans.
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I've read of people setting up basic keg washer for $5k, but I think they usually cost a lot more than that.
That's about right for the automated units, but a "basic" keg washer can be put together for about $200-300. All you need is a coupler, a pump, some tubing, and a jerry-rigged stand.