Category Archives: Equipment

Cleaning a whiskey barrel

As I noted a little while ago a friend and I decided to go in on a used 15 gallon whiskey barrel. We decided to brew a Rye IPA as our first batch (recipe coming soon) and before any beer can go in the barrel, the barrel itself needs to be cleaned as to not contaminate 15 gallons of beer.

03-28-01

Questions to ask

To begin with I want to quickly look at some things that you might want to consider when picking a whiskey barrel. Below is a small list of things that I would take into account if I were getting a barrel:

  1. How old is the barrel?
  2. Was it recently dumped?
  3. What did it previously hold? Beer, liquor, wine?
  4. Are there any noticeable cracks, bulges, or anything else that looks out of sorts?
  5. Is the barrel sealed or is the bung open?

There are many reasons to ask these questions, but the main thing you are looking for is something that will turn out a quality beer. The age of the barrel matters because you want to know the strength of oak and or liquor flavor that you are going to get. A newer or once used barrel will not give as much liquor flavor, but it will give a lot of oak flavor. A recently dumped barrel is important as you don’t want the wood to dry out, thus giving air and the little bugs that come with air a chance to make their home in the wood. Some used barrels will hold things other than liquor. My preference is to not get a barrel that once held beer as there could be yeast in there that you will never truly get out. Make sure that you barrel looks like a barrel for many of the reasons noted above. Finally you want to make sure your barrel is sealed. Ours was sealed with a wooden bung, that needed a hammer and several good whacks to dislodge. This helps ensure that your barrel stays air tight.

Cleaning

There are several options to cleaning your barrel. In this process you are looking to get rid of anything that would contaminate your beer. Remember, a barrel is the same thing as a secondary fermentor. Below I have outlined several options and provided your with the option that we went with and why.

Sanitize like a fermentor

You can put a typical no rinse sanitizer into a barrel like what you would do with a fermentor and let it sit for awhile. This will kill most things on the surface of the barrel and if your leave it sit for long enough, it will absorb into the wood killing things that are deeper. It will not get rid of anything, nor will any of these methods. I considered this for a long time, but decided against it as I didn’t want anything left that would kill any yeast that transferred over. We are looking to bottle this beer after aging so I want to have some yeast alive for carbonating the bottles.

Campden Tablets

Campden tablets are usually used in wine making. They kill pretty much everything that they come in contact with. For the reasons noted above we did not go this route, but may in the future.

Potassium Metabisulfite Powder

This is the active ingredient in campden tablets and I did not pick it for the same reasons.

Hot Water

I decided to go with hot water. I heated 15 gallons of water up to 170 degrees and then poured it into the barrel with the help of a funnel. I then sealed the barrel up and left it sit there for 30 minutes. I was looking to neutralize anything on the surface and to also check for leaks. The hot water allows the wood to swell quickly, ensuring that any leak would be plugged more quickly. I also knew that we had a good barrel that was sealed well. In addition, the beer going into the barrel is currently at 9.5% ABV, so most critters that would like to ruin our beer wouldn’t be able to survive in that setting.

The beer has been in the barrel for about a week at this point. I’ll give it a few more weeks before I check it and add back any beer that has evaporated out. There are a number of other ways to clean a barrel, but hot water in a well sealed, recently dumped barrel, did the trick for me.

My new used whiskey barrel

If you haven’t been following our Facebook and Twitter, and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you, you missed the news that I recently came into a 15 gallon used whiskey barrel. Actually a buddy of mine and I went halfies on it. I’ve been wanted to do some barrel aging for some time as it seems like a new fun challenge.

02-22-01As you can see it looks like a full sized barrel, just scaled down a bit. The barrel was sealed immediately after it was drained and when you swish the barrel around a bit you hear a bit of whiskey in it. I’ll post a few things about barrel aging beers and tips if you want to do something similar as well. The first beer to aged in it will be a Rye IPA, which was brewed on Presidents’ Day (all 15+ gallons). After that we will fill it with a Belgian Tripel and then an Oatmeal Stout. From there I need to do some planning. Anyone have any specific questions on barrel aging homebrew that I can answer in a future post?

 

Homebrewing wants/needs

I haven’t brewed a batch of beer in almost three months now and it is driving me crazy. There were two contributing factors for the lack of brewing over the past few months. The first was that I had no room to put finished beer. My kegorator is currently home to two kegs, both of which contained beer (a wonderful porter and a pale ale that needs some work). I wanted to finish off both beers before I brewed again.

I am a big fan of reusing yeast, so it makes sense to brew a batch and brew another when the first one is finished. Because of this I need two free kegs. The second reason for the lack of brewing was that I moved this last week and I didn’t want to have to move a full keg or a fermenting batch of beer.

I am now mostly settled into my new house and I love it, but I would love it more if my kegs were full of beer. There are a lot of things that I want to do with my homebrew setup and this lead me to make a list of wants and needs.

Needs

  • More kegs (at least two) to put beer. Even if they are not on tap, it will give me a place to put finished beer and to have something ready to go when a keg kicks.
  • Gas burner. My old apartment did not allow for a gas burner because of some apartment law, but at my new house I can burn outside. The stove is also electric but the amount of time needed to get a boil is unnecessary.
  • A larger pot. I currently have one five gallon pot and one 3.5 gallon pot. I generally do a split boil in order to get five gallons of beer. This gets annoying really fast and also causes problems since I only have one wort chiller.

Wants

  • My kegorator is able to hold three kegs so I want to get everything necessary to do that. I want another faucet, shank, and all of the tubing necessary.
  • Going along with the additional tap, I want a second regulator so that I have have different pressures in my kegs. I currently have a two output manifold, which works great, but only one pressure can be set. An Irish Stout and an APA should be sitting at different PSIs.
  • The final thing that I want to get is an extra manifold. Most of my beers can sit at the same pressure, so I would like to have an extra two output manifold to go along with the additional regulator.

So what can I do on a budget? My wants are all on the more expensive side of things. Regulators run around $50-$100 and another manifold will cost about $35. The shanks, faucets and additional hose/connections will be around $50. Now those prices are not outrageous, but they are a bit pricy for me right now.

In the needs arena the kegs can be a bit pricy at $35-$50 a keg. Gas burners can run around the same price and large pots ~7.5 gallons can also be pricy. My solution, Amazon and my credit card rewards. I just purchased a turkey fryer kit that includes a burner and a 7.5 gallon pot for $65, but it only cost me $15. The reason for this is that my credit card does rewards points and one of the prizes is a $50 Amazon gift card. I’m thrilled to have two of the three needs crossed off of the list.  Once I finish my needs list I am hoping that Santa can help with the wants. I should be brewing next week and I can’t wait. I’ll get my recipe posted as soon as I finalize it.

 

 

Keezer Part 5

It has been awhile since the last Keezer update and I apologize for that. It has been completed for some time and I am enjoying it a little too much. My wife isn’t a fan of its current location, but she does like that I’m not in the kitchen for hours bottling. In the last update I had the taps installed and the keezer was close to completion.

The only step left is to attach the lid to back collar and turn the keezer on. I don’t have any pictures of this step because it was the most straight forward section of the build. Since the photos in this post were taken I have replaced the taps with new ones (Perlick Faucets). I found that the ones that came with my kit would often stick if you didn’t use them every other day. One of them even became stuck to the point were beer would not flow out. The new faucets have not stuck yet and I would highly recommend them to anyone. Please feel free to ask me any questions about my build. It was a fun project and it only required one tool, a drill. Continue reading

Keezer Part 4

The Keezer is really coming together. The collar is on, which gives me the height I need to allow for three kegs in the future. As of right now I only have two kegs and a 2.5 pound CO2 tank. From estimations I’ve seen on different homebrew forums it should get me anywhere between 10-20 kegs.

Now that the collar is attached the position for the taps needs to be figured out. I remembered some of my design classes from college were we talked about ergonomics and all of that to get the perfect height for the “average male and female.” While I remembered it, I didn’t take full advantage of it. I went for simplicity and drilled two holes through the center of the collar. I drilled them on the right-hand side of the collar since that is where the compressor hump is located and where the CO2 bottle is going to live. You can see the results of the holes below.

The taps actaully screw into something called a shank. The shank is a threaded rod that allows for the beer lines to connect to the taps. I used a hole saw that was one inch in diameter in order to make the holes. The shanks fit in there fine and are actually a bit loose before tightening. There are now only a few short steps till the beer starts flowing but I will cover that in update 5. Here is what it looks like from the front so far.