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I arrived Friday evening to 14, French Oak, used wine barrels delivered and waiting for me.
While I had the barrels on end, I decided to quick apply a stencil I made up for them. Its a simplified version of the FF logo, and creates 4 spaces to record the fill date. With that done, it was time to line up the barrels and fill them with water.
Soaking the barrel overnight was done for two reasons. First, it will swell the barrel ensuring there are no leaks when it comes time to fill it with lambic wort. Secondly, it will extract some of the wine flavor from the barrel. In brewing lambic, you want as neutral of a barrel as possible. When I arrived to the very last barrel and filled it up, I noticed it wasn't holding water. On the barrel head opposite to me, it was gushing out water along the bottom croze. I left the hose valve 1/3 of the way open, and it was losing water faster than the hose filled it. Unfortunately, I think that barrel will need to be replaced even though it did swell up overnight. I just don't have any confidence in a barrel that struggles that much to hold water that it will limit O2 permeation sufficiently.
The next morning I had to empty the barrels. Moving around a 60 gallon filled barrel is no easy task, and in fact took me most the morning to empty all 14 barrels. It wasn't until nearly noon that I started steaming the barrels.
This is the same steamer I used before. Behind the barrel in the picture being steamed are 4 that I had already completed. You can see the bung is in and seals the barrel. As the steam cools down, it creates a vacuum that will extract more wine from the wood. Once I finished with all the barrels, I gave them a final hot water rinse and sealed them again. The air inside was hot from the water, so they will be vacuum sealed until the day we go to fill them with wort.