Author Topic: soaking oak chips in red wine  (Read 4296 times)

Offline sdavis84

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soaking oak chips in red wine
« on: March 21, 2012, 06:11:17 AM »
I wanted to soak some oak chips in wine to add to a Flanders red as it ages.  The idea is to mimic aging in a wine barrel.  Does wine sufficiently sanitize oak chips or should i boil them before soaking?  Do I need to worry about the soaked chips taking on a vinegar flavor or smell as the wine ages on the chip?  If this is a good idea, are there any recommended types of red wine to use?  Thanks!

Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2012, 08:25:23 AM »
I never thought about it before, but wine does oxidize pretty quickly.

You might have to try it to find out.

Boiling or steaming the chips will take some of the oak flavor out of them, but if you're concerned you should do it.

I don't worry about it when I soak chips in bourbon. 

You could blend vodka and red wine perhaps to get the sanitizing alcohol and the red wine flavor.  Not sure how that would work out.
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Offline nateo

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2012, 08:40:57 AM »
You need a really high proof alcohol to "sanitize" with. IIRC it's like 180 proof. Regular spirits will retard growth of bacteria, but won't kill all bacteria it contacts. That said, in a Flanders Red you've probably already infected that beer with whatever sorts of bugs you might get from the oak, so in this case I wouldn't worry about it.

In general, I'd say add the most flavorful spirit you can find to beer. I've used good whiskey and cheap whiskey, and can definitely tell a difference in the finished product. So use a wine that has a good flavor profile. If you wouldn't drink it straight, don't add it to your beer. 
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 08:52:15 AM »
I've used good whiskey and cheap whiskey, and can definitely tell a difference in the finished product.

I don't disagree that you should use a whiskey you would want drink, but you can certainly get some good whiskeys for cheap.  Price does not necessarily = quality.

I drink my fair share of whiskey and have recently been on a "low cost" tasting spree (plus I gave up beer for Lent).  Under $20 a bottle you can find some real gems.  J.T. Weller, Ancient Age, Very Old Barton.  These are currently in my cabinet.  I think the VOB was around $12.

Of course, they don't REALLY compare to the single barrel Four Roses that's in the same cabinet.  But I wouldn't use expensive whiskey in beer anyway.
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Offline dimik

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2012, 07:22:55 AM »
You need a really high proof alcohol to "sanitize" with. IIRC it's like 180 proof. Regular spirits will retard growth of bacteria, but won't kill all bacteria it contacts.

Wrong. Vodka is 80 proof and does a fine job. Pretty much anything 20% and up will kill everything in a few minutes or immediately unless you got some super extreme microbes floating around your house, which probably don't exist. I know some Brett strains can live in 10% alcohol or even live on alcohol as sole source of carbon, but I wouldn't bet on them being present in your house.
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2012, 08:06:05 AM »
I've used good whiskey and cheap whiskey, and can definitely tell a difference in the finished product.

I don't disagree that you should use a whiskey you would want drink, but you can certainly get some good whiskeys for cheap.  Price does not necessarily = quality.

I drink my fair share of whiskey and have recently been on a "low cost" tasting spree (plus I gave up beer for Lent).  Under $20 a bottle you can find some real gems.  J.T. Weller, Ancient Age, Very Old Barton.  These are currently in my cabinet.  I think the VOB was around $12.

Of course, they don't REALLY compare to the single barrel Four Roses that's in the same cabinet.  But I wouldn't use expensive whiskey in beer anyway.

Agree. Elijah Craig 12-year, I'm pretty sure that's what Goose Island uses for their Bourbon County Stout. That bottle cost me 21 quid, but it came from the states where it's presumably cheaper.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2012, 08:08:02 AM »
12-year is $30 at Binny's, but I think the price has gone up since I bought some a few years back.

15% off this Saturday, though...
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Offline erockrph

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2012, 08:35:59 AM »
You need a really high proof alcohol to "sanitize" with. IIRC it's like 180 proof. Regular spirits will retard growth of bacteria, but won't kill all bacteria it contacts.

Wrong. Vodka is 80 proof and does a fine job. Pretty much anything 20% and up will kill everything in a few minutes or immediately unless you got some super extreme microbes floating around your house, which probably don't exist. I know some Brett strains can live in 10% alcohol or even live on alcohol as sole source of carbon, but I wouldn't bet on them being present in your house.

The optimal concentration of alcohol to kill most microbes is 70% (140 proof), but it is effective at a wide range of concentrations. There are two factors at play. Obviously, the higher the concentration of alcohol, the more potent it is. However, alcohol does not diffuse across the cell membrane unless it is dissolved in water. The sweet spot between potency and diffusion is about 70%. But there is a continuum, so higher and lower concentrations work, but may need longer contact times or may run into resistance issues with certain organisms (but generally at much lower concentrations). If 70% is effective for medical purpose sterility, then 40% is more than enough for homebrew sanitization.

If you really wanted to go gung-ho about it, then 151 proof rum will get you closer to 70% then 80 or 100 proof vodka, but I couldn't justify the cost myself.
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Offline nateo

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2012, 08:42:04 AM »
The optimal concentration of alcohol to kill most microbes is 70% (140 proof), but it is effective at a wide range of concentrations.

Do you have some reference for % bacteria killed vs alcohol % vs time? I'm still skeptical that 80 proof is actually adequate.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2012, 10:14:36 AM »
The optimal concentration of alcohol to kill most microbes is 70% (140 proof), but it is effective at a wide range of concentrations.

Do you have some reference for % bacteria killed vs alcohol % vs time? I'm still skeptical that 80 proof is actually adequate.
That would be a good reference!  Time is a big factor, for example to kill coagulase-negative staphylococcal biofilms a time of 1 hour at 40% ethanol is used, 15 minutes is not sufficient.  You'd likely soak the chips for much longer than an hour anyway, but any things that have penetrated the wood will not be affected the same as surface contaminants.  I think it's hard to say without experiments.

Then again, I don't worry about it.  I soak the wood and then throw it in.  I would do the same with wine, soak in a mason jar and exclude air, let it sit as long as you like.  If it smells bad when you open it don't use it, but I'll bet it would be fine.

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Offline erockrph

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2012, 10:28:00 AM »
The optimal concentration of alcohol to kill most microbes is 70% (140 proof), but it is effective at a wide range of concentrations.

Do you have some reference for % bacteria killed vs alcohol % vs time? I'm still skeptical that 80 proof is actually adequate.

Sorry, don't have any specifics for you here. College was a ways back for me  :)

A quick PubMed search did find me a reference finding that 40% ethanol was bactericidal with a 1-2 minute contact time in this particular study and found a MIC of 10% for the aerobic bacteria tested and 8% for anaerobes. This is an oral biology journal, so it doesn't necessarily cover all the typical microbes we would run into in our home breweries, but it does give me a bit more confidence in using 80-proof vodka for sanitization purposes.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8833587
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Offline nateo

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2012, 12:43:55 PM »
40% ethanol was bactericidal with a 1-2 minute contact time in this particular study and found a MIC of 10% for the aerobic bacteria tested and 8% for anaerobes.

Am I missing something? Here's what I saw "The aerobic and anaerobic MIC of ethanol for growth was 10 percent and 8 percent; 50 percent inhibition of growth rate occurred at 3.7 percent and 2.8 percent. Ethanol (40 percent) was bactericidal within 1-2 min, but 10 percent had almost no effect.

If I'm reading that correctly, at 10% you won't get bacterial growth, but it won't actually kill it. 80 proof will kill bacteria quickly, though.

So I guess the OP shouldn't count on the wine killing anything on the wood to begin with, and I can start using bourbon for mouthwash.
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Offline erockrph

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 01:10:18 PM »
40% ethanol was bactericidal with a 1-2 minute contact time in this particular study and found a MIC of 10% for the aerobic bacteria tested and 8% for anaerobes.

Am I missing something? Here's what I saw "The aerobic and anaerobic MIC of ethanol for growth was 10 percent and 8 percent; 50 percent inhibition of growth rate occurred at 3.7 percent and 2.8 percent. Ethanol (40 percent) was bactericidal within 1-2 min, but 10 percent had almost no effect.

If I'm reading that correctly, at 10% you won't get bacterial growth, but it won't actually kill it. 80 proof will kill bacteria quickly, though.

So I guess the OP shouldn't count on the wine killing anything on the wood to begin with, and I can start using bourbon for mouthwash.

Yeah, my takeaways are that the wine will probably keep anything from growing (at least over a short time frame) but won't actually kill any bugs on/in the chips. That, and I'm going to replace my listerine with Crown Royal.
Eric B.

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Offline dimik

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2012, 07:27:32 PM »
Yep, that's why I went with recommending 20% and up. 70% is indeed the optimal concentration and you can easily get to it by buying a bottle of 96% EtOH in your local liquor store and diluting accordingly. In any case why would you soak your chips for a few minutes anyway? They way I do it soak for a week or two and then pour everything in.
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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: soaking oak chips in red wine
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 07:54:47 PM »
Nice article find!
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