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Good barrel article... and a question


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What I thought was a great article on barrel inspection, authored by Henry Work of Canton Cooperage


Now the questions...

I have seen new 5-gal barrels that sat a while before filling almost fall apart, I am assuming the dried and got loose... they sealed after manipulating, but the staves had moved, making it not physically attractive.. I am in FL, and we are not known for our low humidity!

Do all barrels get water tested at factory? Just something to ask the cooper?

How long can I expect some of them to be able to sit and not have problems if I make an order?

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Good article on barrel inspection, thanks for posting.

I'm interested in hearing back from cooperages on this too...I doubt though the test is done with water, rather compressed air? Based on this, if too much (or any) is escaping from the staves and head, the barrel is unlikely to swell sufficiently?

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Barrels are often tested by adding a small amount of water then compressed air. They are rolled around and if there are any leaks the water will show up.

I use re-use barrels. They have often been left to dry out for several months. They shrink, the hoops come loose and they leak. But it is not a problem. Firstly drive the hoops tighter and fill with water. They will most likely leak and often quite fast, so leave a hose dripping very slowly and the next day they will have swollen and be watertight. I have never had one not seal. If there is a small seep then use a small hammer and hit the wood around the leak and it will usually seal.

I am not a professional cooper but I have had some training. I dismantle and refurbish all my barrels, including re-firing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Impressive that you re-fire Pete.

My reading knowledge of the topic, and some small bbl wine experience is that the new mfgr product should be pretty tight - not necessarily perfect, but as they druy out the shrinkage causes massive leaks.

This gets into a big (barely written about) topic of barrel management. Should barrels be perodically 'wetted' to avoid shinking leaks ? The dampness certainly encourages mold with unacceptable flavors. Then we have barrel sanitation methods such as the use of sulfites w/ wine or hydrogen peroxide for whiskey.

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