Author Topic: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer  (Read 1557 times)

Offline majorvices

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Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« on: August 30, 2013, 04:25:27 AM »
Gosh, I know I've heard this before but can't find it. How many cubic inches  per 5 gallons of beer is recommended to mimic bbl character? Or better yet, what's the recommended range?
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Offline brewmichigan

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2013, 06:38:06 AM »
Did you see the presentation about wood aging beers at NHC? His presentation is up and I can't remember what he said about how much but I do remember him saying 4-6 weeks minimum. Check it out, it was a good talk.
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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2013, 06:40:36 AM »
Actually now that I look at it, it was about alternative wood aging not just oak. It was still a good presentation.
Mike --- Flint, Michigan

Offline dmtaylor

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2013, 06:54:34 AM »
I won't be a lot of help as I cannot provide you with a number.  But what I *can* say is, if I were you, I would take the average of everyone else's recommendations, then divide by 3 and use that reduced amount.  Because people tend to put way too much dang oak in their oaked beers.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2013, 07:01:02 AM »
My understanding is that it's more of a factor of surface area and time rather than a pure measurement of the amount of wood.  Chips = more surface area, less time.  Cubes = less surface area, more time.

I also recall reading (though I have no reference) that you'll get a somewhat different character of flavor from chips/cubes/staves etc.  My recollection is that because there is so much surface area to the chips that you can get harsher woody flavors more easily and that you may not get the deeper vanilla flavors that you can get from a barrel or maybe even from cubes.  I've only ever used chips, so I can't say for sure that this is accurate.

I haven't done an oaked beer in over a year, but I typically do 4 oz of chips for a week to 10 days in 5 gallons.  It may be somewhat less than 4 oz, but what I do is fill a pint size mason jar with chips and then fill it with bourbon.  All that goes into the fermenter.  My recollection is that I get 4oz of chips into the jar.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2013, 07:08:46 AM »
Because people tend to put way too much dang oak in their oaked beers.

This is where I think the factor of time/exposure comes in.  And you need to taste the beer as it ages to determine when you've hit the level of oak you want.

I've had commercial beers that were just awful from the oak.  La Trappe oak aged quadruple jumps to mind.  The regular quadruple is great, the oaked stuff I never need to taste again.
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Offline narvin

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2013, 08:00:42 AM »
I think you're either looking for square inches (surface area) or weight, which would be based on the shape of the wood and the surface area of it.  Chips are more surface area than cubes, so you get more flavor per ounce.  But I've heard it's a more superficial character since it's mostly toast without any deep wood penetration (heh).  Cubes need longer aging, which may not be desired for a beer.

The NB site sez about a 4 ounce bag of chips: "Used in the Whiskey Barrel Stout kit. Very pleased with the deep, rich flavor. While above directions use it in 25 gallons of wine, the kit uses the packet in 5 gallons of beer. " Now, that sounds like a lot of oak to me, but it depends what you're going for.

From the mathematical standpoint, you can approximate a 53 gallon bourbon barrel as a cylinder of ID 22" and inside height 32".  The surface area of this is pi*22*32 + 2*(pi*11^2), which is almost 3000 square inches, or about 56 square inches per gallon. 

Now, if a cube is on average 1" on a side (totally guessing here), you have 6 square inches of surface area per cube.  The density of american white oak, according to the internet, is 47 lb/ft^3, or 0.44 oz/in^3.  So you need ~ 9 cubes/ gallon, or 20 oz of cubes per 5 gallons.  Holy s$#%!  I guess the moral of the story is, this is why bourbon is so damn oaky.  Unless you want to replicate the flavor or a bourbon, do not use this much newly toasted oak in your beer.

This totally useless post has been brought to you by too much coffee.

Edit: I guess you could boil/pre-soak the cubes in vodka to mimick used barrels and throw them in for extended aging.  This would be an interesting experiment as opposed to using fewer new chips for a short period of time.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2013, 08:08:10 AM by narvin »
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2013, 08:04:17 AM »
Because people tend to put way too much dang oak in their oaked beers.

This is where I think the factor of time/exposure comes in.  And you need to taste the beer as it ages to determine when you've hit the level of oak you want.

I've had commercial beers that were just awful from the oak.  La Trappe oak aged quadruple jumps to mind.  The regular quadruple is great, the oaked stuff I never need to taste again.

this is true but it's important to remember that AFTER it gets too oaky it gets better. I find that at first, in the first week to 10 days if can be very overwhelming and harsh, but then around week 5 or 6 the character of the oak changes and softens. More complexity develops.

I had this impression the first couple times I used oak and then At that NHC presentation he confirmed my theory to some extent. As the beer penetrates the oak which takes a long time even with spirals (though not at long) it picks up very different characters.

I do remember him mentioning either as part of the presentation or during the questions afterwards some guidelines for how much to use. I do think surface area is what you want to look at rather than cubic inches think square inches of contact surface. (as narvin said) It also varies based on the kind of wood in question.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2013, 08:07:42 AM »
I find that at first, in the first week to 10 days if can be very overwhelming and harsh, but then around week 5 or 6 the character of the oak changes and softens. More complexity develops.

In this instance, you're leaving the beer on oak for 5 to 6 weeks?

Was this with your barrel?
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Offline morticaixavier

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2013, 08:10:27 AM »
I find that at first, in the first week to 10 days if can be very overwhelming and harsh, but then around week 5 or 6 the character of the oak changes and softens. More complexity develops.

In this instance, you're leaving the beer on oak for 5 to 6 weeks?

Was this with your barrel?

yup. It was a dry stout to, only  1.048 to start with . Rinsed the barrel after the last batch, added a pint of myers and sloshed it around.

As I understand it from the presentation part of what is going on is that tannins extracted early bind together with each other and other proteins in the beer and drop out over a few weeks time.
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Offline Joe Sr.

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2013, 08:20:44 AM »
That's interesting. 

I'll have to check my notes and see how long I've let the beer sit on oak.  Maybe two weeks, max, because everything I've read is that it will get harsh and tanniny (if that's a word).  I haven't experienced that, though.

Of course, I've also got the oak sitting in bourbon or rum for a long time, so much of the tannins are extracted there I believe.  The liquor goes into the beer, also so I should be still getting the tannins.

More experimentation may be required.
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Offline punatic

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2013, 08:33:40 AM »
Not exactly apples to apples, but it is a starting point.
With whiskey and rum the rule of thumb is one "domino" per liter.

Oak add-ins

From my experience, you need to be careful with chips.  They work fast and if left too long they make a harsh oak flavor.  Dominoes mo bettah!
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Offline narvin

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2013, 08:52:52 AM »
Not exactly apples to apples, but it is a starting point.
With whiskey and rum the rule of thumb is one "domino" per liter.

Oak add-ins

From my experience, you need to be careful with chips.  They work fast and if left too long they make a harsh oak flavor.  Dominoes mo bettah!

Wow, cool site.  It looks like the cubes are smaller than I thought (with a higher surface area to volume ratio), so it would be more like 8 ounces per 5 gallons.  The dominoes have a lot more volume and are actually very close to my initial approximation.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2013, 09:09:20 AM »
Don't lose any sleep over getting the right surface area to 'mimic barrel character'. Barrel aging is much more than oak flavor.

Just throw in 1/4 oz at a time and see what happens.

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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: Cubic inches wood per 5 gallons of beer
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2013, 10:11:39 AM »
My understanding is that it's more of a factor of surface area and time rather than a pure measurement of the amount of wood.  Chips = more surface area, less time.  Cubes = less surface area, more time.

I also recall reading (though I have no reference) that you'll get a somewhat different character of flavor from chips/cubes/staves etc.  My recollection is that because there is so much surface area to the chips that you can get harsher woody flavors more easily and that you may not get the deeper vanilla flavors that you can get from a barrel or maybe even from cubes.  I've only ever used chips, so I can't say for sure that this is accurate.

I haven't done an oaked beer in over a year, but I typically do 4 oz of chips for a week to 10 days in 5 gallons.  It may be somewhat less than 4 oz, but what I do is fill a pint size mason jar with chips and then fill it with bourbon.  All that goes into the fermenter.  My recollection is that I get 4oz of chips into the jar.
My method too.  +1 to tasting as it sits on the chips.  Can get too much fast.
Jon H.