American Barrel Maintenance

New or unused barrels will be dry and need to be swollen before use. Fill the barrel with hot or cold water, put in bung, and turn the barrel so the bung is in contact with water. Either fill the barrel or rotate periodically so all surfaces are in contact with water. If leaking, water will need to be added as needed. Let sit until it stops leaking and the barrel is swollen. This may take as little as 3-4 days, but may take as long as 4 weeks. If the barrel is small enough, it could be submerged in a large, clean trash barrel to speed the swelling.

New unused barrels

To remove excess oak tannin from a new barrel:

1. Fill the barrel with a solution of Barolkleen mixed to a strength of 1 pound to 5 gallons of hot tap water. Pour into barrel when completely dissolved.

2. Allow solution to sit for two to three days.

3. Drain and flush barrel three with clean water until the water runs clear from the barrel.

4. Make a solution of 1-oz sodium or potassium metabisulfite and ½ oz citric acid for each gallon of water. Use one gallon of solution for each five (5) gallons. Pour into barrel, close bung, and roll around so solution rinses all interior surfaces of barrel.

5. Drain the sulphite solution, and rinse the barrel well with clear water. Barrel is now ready for new wine.

Old Whiskey Barrels

Whiskey barrels have been charred (burned) on the inside. This char must be removed before putting wine in; or else the barrel will impart a smoky taste to the wine. A cooper will take the barrel apart, remove the char, and reassemble it. It should then be treated as a new barrel.

Other Used Barrels

Even if a used barrel looks clean and smells sweet, it should be thoroughly cleaned before use. Flush well with clean water and treat with the metabisulfite solution as outlined in steps 4 and 5 above.

Reserve Barrels

An empty barrel left standing will dry out and crack. It may also turn sour and moldy. To avoid this:

1. Wash barrel thoroughly with cold water.

2. Mix up a solution 2 oz sodium or potassium metabisulfite to 5 gallons of water. Make enough solution to fill the barrel.

3. Change solution every two (2) months, until you are ready to use the barrel again. Do not use plain water, as that will cause the barrel to mold.