September 26, 2016

Modifying a Barrel

I want to be able to do some smaller batch fruitings.  You can fruit right inside a barrel (which I have done), but you have to get all the fruit in through that tiny bung hole, hope the beer/fruit doesn't foam out the top, and then figure out how to get all that fruit out.  It's a pain.

I've seen some friends who have converted a barrel to stand vertically with the top off and act as a primary fermentation vessel.  Most recognized would be Casey Brewing and Ale Apothecary.  My goal here is to take that concept and use it for the secondary fruiting process.

Here is the parts list for the bottom drain:
Parts for the barrel drain
1.5" Male NPT to 1.5" TC
1.5" TC 90° Elbow

Place your barrel on end.  The head facing up at this time will be the head that will be the bottom in the end.  Pick the head that is flat and uniform.

Mark location for barrel drain

Place your parts on the barrel head and dry fit them to find the location of your drain.  Mark it with a pen.  Make sure you find a wide stave so your hole is entirely in one stave and not in-between two.

Drill 1 3/4" hole for barrel drain

Drill the hole with a 1 3/4" hole saw.  This is your drain.  I did consider putting the drain in the center of the head and adding a 12" TC extension.  I decided against it because it's an extra seal and gasket that can leak.  In water testing this, the edge location is best for getting that last 1% to drain out by simply tipping the barrel. 

Screw 1.5" male NPT into barrel

Insert your tap.  This is the hardest part.  1 3/4" hole is probably 1/16" too small, so that piece goes in hard.  I found by cutting a 45° on the top 1/8" edge of the hole, that the threads were able to rest partially inside.  No matter what, it's a beast.  But that's good, it won't leak!

Remove top 3 hoops from the barrel

Next, flip the barrel over.  Your drain is at the bottom now and you need to remove the top head.  You may want to mark the head's orientation by putting an arrow on it where the bung lines up.  With the top 3 hoops removed, you'll be able to pull the head out.  Drive the hoops back into place.

Inside of the barrel with innerstaves

This is what the inside of my barrel looked like.  Innerstaves.  I removed all the innerstaves and the wires holding them in place. Spray out the inside of the barrel and scrub/scrap away all the bulk organic material from previous fermentations.

Tip the barrel up and install the elbow and shut off valve.  Continue cleaning the inside of the barrel and draining.  I'd recommend filling the barrel completely with water to make sure your staves are in line and hoops are tight.

Final modified barrel

And voila!  There it is.  I took one of the innerstaves and made a little handle for the lid.  On the bottom side of the lid I screwed another innerstave across all the head staves to keep them in place and one solid piece.

This is what others have done for primary fermentation vessels.  For me to use it as a secondary fruiting vessel, I want to go one more step.  

Fruit sieve for barrels

I worked with my welder to fabricate this last piece.  It's a fruit sieve made out of stainless steel screen material.  This piece will rest at the bottom of the barrel during fruiting.  When I go to drain the barrel, this will keep the fruit from clogging the drain line.  It's 20" in diameter, which fits perfectly inside a wine barrel.  The side is made out of the same perforated material as the top and is 2" tall.

My plan is to do a small batch of raspberry beer in here first, which is typically a 3 month fruiting process for us.  During the initial high fermentation stage that the introduction of raspberries creates, I'll be resting the lid on top of the barrel to prevent bugs/debris from falling in.  The large opening will allow me to punch down the fruit periodically.  After the initial sugars are consumed and CO2 production tapers off, my plan is to lay a sheet of plastic over the top of the barrel and use an extra hoop to seal the plastic around the side.


Mike O'Brien said...

They cost a little more but - this is the proper fitting for putting a TC into a barrel.
Drill a 35mm hole - the fitting pounds in. Rings on the shank hold the fitting in place. As the wood swells with the moisture - it locks into place.

Nice job

Anonymous said...

Regular wooden bung in the bung hole?

Levi said...

@Pat - Yep.

Dave Henry said...

How/do you sanatize the barrel before putting beer into it? I want to build something like this at home with a 15 gallon barrel.

Brann mac Finnchad said...

I've been brainstorming today on how to serve from a cask over the long term. Keeping a Co2 blanket on it is simple enough, but I've been getting frustrated over the spigot.

Obviously, stainless is least likely to leach off flavours, but the main concern I am having is whether the wood swelling around the spigot has the risk of splitting the wood.
Is this an issue, or am I overthinking (as usual)?

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