Types of oak barrels and how to take care of them

Barrels differ from each other by manufacturer, volume, and degree of burning. The latter determines the speed of saturation, color, and flavor of the aged beverage. There are three degrees of oak barrel burning: 

  • Light – suitable for aging wine;
  • Medium – suitable for aging cognac, whiskey, rum, calvados;
  • Strong – suitable for aging wine, cognac, rum, calvados, etc.

As the surface of the oak barrel interacts with the aged beverage, the beverage is saturated with tannins, amino acids, flavonoids, lactones, and other aromatic substances. When choosing an oak barrel, you should pay attention to the manufacturer.

To choose the oak barrel, it is necessary to decide on its volume, because having bought a barrel with a volume of 15 liters or more, you will need to make such an amount of drink and even a little more, because, a 10-liter oak barrel, in fact, holds 11 liters, while 15-liter – 16.5 liters of drink.

How to store: temperature and humidity of the room

The oak wood barrel with the drink should be stored at a temperature of 15 to 20 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 75-80%. If the humidity is too low, the water in the drink will evaporate, which means that the strongness of the drink will increase and you will have to refill the barrel. If, on the contrary, the humidity is too high, the barrel will weatherize the alcohol in the drink and you will lose its strength. On average, a 15-liter oak barrel will lose 2 to 3 liters of product over the course of one year. It will need to be refilled. Therefore, you need to monitor the humidity and temperature in the room where the barrel is stored.

How long does the product age in an oak barrel?

In large productions, cognac and other aged beverages are stored for three or more years. As the volume of big oak barrels is up to 600 liters and more, one liter of barrel touches 50 square centimeters of the barrel surface. In 5-25 liter barrels, the infusion and aging process is ten times faster, as one liter of the beverage touches more square centimeters of the barrel’s surface.

It turns out that by infusing the product, in a 5 liters oak barrel for four months, you equate the aging to the production of three years.

How to take care of an oak barrel

Open the cork of the barrel by tapping in the direction of the fibers, not across, otherwise the oak board may burst. After storing the product in the barrel, drain it, then remove the hoops by tapping on each side, you can do this with a screwdriver and mark which was the front and which was the back. If the barrel has stainless steel hoops, there is no need to remove them, because the stainless hoops do not oxidize and thus do not affect the wood. If the hoops are made of ordinary or galvanized steel, it is better to remove them and clean the barrel with sandpaper.