Author Topic: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?  (Read 9350 times)

Offline ryang

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Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« on: November 17, 2011, 09:29:11 AM »
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

Offline 1vertical

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2011, 10:21:26 AM »
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

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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2011, 10:23:38 AM »
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.
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Offline phillamb168

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2011, 10:33:35 AM »
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?
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Offline ryang

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2011, 10:51:42 AM »
any idea on how deep?  I figured it would need to be sanded/planed down anyway... including a re-toast
« Last Edit: November 17, 2011, 10:56:37 AM by ryang »

Offline jeffy

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2011, 11:15:51 AM »
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.
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Online morticaixavier

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2011, 11:20:08 AM »
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!
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2011, 11:31:48 AM »
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.
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Offline ryang

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2011, 11:36:48 AM »
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.

Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2011, 11:46:16 AM »
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!
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Offline Kit B

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2011, 12:51:42 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!"
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Offline davidgzach

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2011, 01:46:34 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..... ;)
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Offline ryang

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #12 on: November 21, 2011, 09:53:20 AM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2011, 10:00:21 AM by ryang »

Offline ryang

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2011, 11:39:11 AM »
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...

Online morticaixavier

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Re: Restoring a very old barrel -- feasible?
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2011, 12:09:54 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.
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