Author Topic: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel  (Read 4147 times)

Offline James Lorden

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Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« on: August 08, 2011, 11:15:28 AM »
Trying to think through the best way to mimic a used wine barrel with cubes.

problem 1) The oak in a wine barrel would have given up a good portion of it's "oakiness" to the 60 gallons of wine that had been inside it. I'm thinking that a series of boiling then dumping the liquid will help me reduce the oak flavor (plus sanitize and remove any O2 that might be trapped in the pores).

problem 2) How to get the wine flavor imparted by the barrel. There seems to be two options here 1 - soak the cubes in wine. 2 - add a dose of wine directly. Of the two I think the second lends itself to better control. I also think that if 1 - is done it would be tough to prevent the wine from becoming stale even if I did this in a corny under pressure, the whole process would seem easy to mess up... therefore if I do go with the second option the question is - how much... I haven't been able to find any info on how much wine a beer can extract from a barrel.

Any thoughts?


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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2011, 11:38:22 AM »
You're right on track, James:

1 - I like to boil the cubes for about 20-30 min total in about 3 changes of water. This is usually plenty of time to extract the nasties from fresh cubes. Using french oak with a light toast also lends to better wine-barrel (less whiskey barrel) characteristics.

2 - I don't soak my cubes in wine/whiskey/etc. anymore - you lose too much control of the final flavor. Start w/ 1 oz of cubes and just let 'er sit. A longer rest on less cubes will yield more complex oak flavors AND you wont overshoot it.

Back-flavor at the end - grab a sample and add small amounts of wine until you get the flavor profile youre looking for, then scale up to batch size (take good notes! I like to scale by weight).

Another note - if you get too much oak flavor out of these cubes too quickly, fret not. Just rack off and use the cubes for a more assertive beer/wine/etc. This would also give you an opportunity to try your hand at blending!
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Offline 1vertical

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Re: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2011, 12:43:43 PM »
I did a trick that you might like and it is in this post a few pix down the page...
vac pack oak spiral in the desired liquid...in your case wine...and then
put the spirals in your beer....
http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/forum/index.php?topic=7381.0
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Offline James Lorden

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Re: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2011, 07:33:20 AM »

Back-flavor at the end - grab a sample and add small amounts of wine until you get the flavor profile youre looking for, then scale up to batch size (take good notes! I like to scale by weight).


This was my initial thought, but then I thought - perhaps something happens to that wine while sitting with the beer in the barrel, especially if brett and bugs are involved.  What I am working on is a supplication clone so I am thinking it may be important to include the wine when the souring culture is inroduced.  I can think of no way to estimate the wine contribution from a used barrel.  In fact, my gut tells me that it would be highly variable.
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Offline 1vertical

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Re: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2011, 08:35:33 AM »
I would like to speak on your above mentioned removal of O2 from the pores.
Wood is by its design permeable to oxygen so your efforts would be better
spent persueing something else. You will not eliminate this oxygen exchange
from a wooden barrel. Hence the "angel's share" and you cannot prevent that
either there is an exchange of liquid and gasses.  Just keep it as minimal as
possible. 

Contributions of prior barrel contents to a beer are as you say highly variable.
You may well add a blend to the beer to get it to where you desire.  That said,
I believe (IMO) that the huge size of a 50 gallon barrel and the residual that it contains
or a hogshead size vessel, lend to a stronger push on those residual flavors
than a smaller vessel say of 50 liters.  Also when you introduce a culture to
your vessel, it will become a permanant denzion of that wood and take up residence
therein, Along with the residents that are already living there from the previous
contents and yes there will be some.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: Using Oak Cubes to Mimic a Wine Barrel
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2011, 09:27:07 AM »
I can think of no way to estimate the wine contribution from a used barrel.  In fact, my gut tells me that it would be highly variable.

"Highly variable" is the fun of using wild yeast cultures!

But you can still achieve control on the back end - add the wine after your beer has attained the desired sour/funky character.

Since the beer will sit on the cubes for so long, I wouldnt soak them first... Also, be conservative with the amount of cubes you use. A little goes a  long way!
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