Used barrels, as well as new ones, are perfect for many applications, such as storing spirits or decoration. Barrels are designed to last for multiple uses and to withstand the elements, but it does take some maintenance. You can get high-quality used barrels from Mystic Barrel, but our products aren't magical. You still need to do routine maintenance and cleaning if you want to keep it pristine for a long time. Here are some of the things you need to do to care for a new or used wine barrel properly.
Ensuring your barrel lasts as long as possible starts when you first get it. It's essential to inspect your new barrel when it arrives. At Mystic Barrel, we take pride in the build quality of the new and used barrels we sell. However, occasionally, an issue will manifest itself after we've sent the barrel. This is why we recommend inspecting a new barrel for apparent flaws in its construction. Take a small flashlight and inspect the interior of the barrel for dirt or debris.
To prevent leaks, which are the bane of any barrel owner, the barrel needs to be cured. New barrels, or used barrels that were stored dry, need to be swelled with water to seal itself before using it to store liquids. The most common ways to accomplish this swelling are with the cold water soak and the hot water soak.
After a barrel has been used for storing a liquid, you may need to clean it before using it again. Just as the wood of the barrel soaked up the water during the sealing process, the wood can soak up some flavor from the beverage that was stored in it previously. For certain wine, alcohol, and beer makers, this added flavor is the reason they utilize used wine barrels. However, if you don't want old flavors mixing with new ones, the barrel will need to be cleaned after using it.
Also, when using a barrel for winemaking, it's important to immediately wash the barrel after the wine is transferred out of it. This action prevents the growth of spoilage organisms. All you need to do is wash the barrel out with hot water until all the deposits from the wine have dissolved and run out of it. This process may take multiple rinses to remove everything. Allowing the barrel to soak overnight in hot water can help breakdown tartrate deposits.
Though it may sound counterintuitive, the best way to keep your barrel in good condition is to keep it filled with wine or another spirit. However, if you don't plan to use the barrel for a few months after you've made a batch, then you need to prepare it for dry storage. To do this, you need to clean, rinse, and drain the barrel. It's also recommended that you only wrap the Bilge area in plastic wrap to maintain moisture in the body of the barrel. These actions are suitable if you only plan to leave it dry for a couple of months.
If you plan on dry storing the barrel for longer than two months, then the process above needs to be repeated every couple of months. Before you do that, be sure to unwrap the barrel, rinse with fresh chlorine-free water, and fill with water for a few hours to seal any leaks that have developed, and then drain it.
There are chemical solutions that can be used to help clean a barrel, but these products should be used sparingly. If they are left in the barrel for too long, it can lead to corrosion and leaks. Worse still, these chemicals can also leach away the oak flavor that's the reason why people used these barrels for beverage making. So if you use chemicals, be sure to follow the directions carefully.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it's worth it to ensure your barrel lasts for as long as possible. If you have any questions about getting or caring for a barrel, send Mystic Barrel a message online.