Cure, Store & Maintain Oak Barrels

How to Cure an Oak Barrel

An oak barrel needs to be cured before it can be used for aging. Curing can take up to a week but your success depends on it, so don’t skip this step!

It’s a simple process that involves soaking the wood and allowing it to expand. You’ll get a watertight seal since the swelling eliminates small gaps in the wood and gives the hoops a tighter grip. More importantly, it will help you identify any leaks—especially if your barrel is new.

Here are the steps:

  1. You’ll want to flush your barrel 3 times to remove any loose debris. Add water through the top hole and pour it out through the hole in the faceplate.
  2. Insert the spigot:
    • Wooden Spigot: Use a rubber mallet to insert the spigot.
    • Metal Spigot: Hand thread the metal spigot into the hole with the faucet facing you. Thread spigot until it begins gripping the wood. Tip: Make sure the spigot goes in at a 90° angle or you stand a chance of cracking the faceplate.
  3. Now, fill your barrel to the top with warm water. Every part of the interior surface should come into contact with water.
  4. Place a towel between the barrel and the stand to prevent any moisture between the barrel and the stand. This will allow hoops to bleed and stay dry.
  5. Insert the bung and place your barrel on a tray. Let it sit for 7 days.
  6. Got a leak? Top up with water and continue to let the barrel sit until it stops leaking. A small amount of barrel wax may also be applied where needed.
  7. No leak? Empty the barrel and give it a final cleanse by rinsing it out three times (see Step 2).
  8. Your barrel is now ready. (Next up: How to Barrel Age Your Spirits)

With proper care, your barrel should last you several batches. To prolong its life, use oak barrel maintenance tablets after every 2-3 batches to sanitize the inside of your barrel and prevent mould (just be sure to rinse out your barrel a few times after this step).

How to Store an Oak Barrel

Never let your barrel dry out between batches. Seriously. Never.

If you’re not ready to age your next batch, grab a glass of water and drop in the right number of maintenance tablets based on your barrel’s capacity:

  • 1 tablet for our 1, 2 and 3 L barrels
  • 2 tablets for 5 L
  • 3 tablets for 10 L
  • 5 tablets for 20 L

Once dissolved, pour the solution into your barrel and fill it completely with water. Leave solution in your barrel for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rinse your barrel with water 3-4 times. Fill your barrel with water again, store in a cool place and keep the exterior clean by wiping it down with a damp cloth.

If your barrel does dry out, repeat the curing process. If that doesn’t rescue your dried-out barrel, try submerging it in warm water for a few days; this might affect its appearance, but it may also help revive your barrel.

How to Apply Barrel Wax

We do not use glue or nails in the manufacturing of our oak aging barrels, gator barrels, or kombucha barrels. Leaks can happen, that is why you should always have barrel wax on hand.

Our easy to use barrel wax is sold in a ¼ ounce container, barrel wax is an inexpensive and easy-to-use solution when your barrel unexpectedly starts to drip or sap.

If you do spot a leak, simply cover the seam or hole with a fingertip full of barrel wax, pushing it firmly until the leaking subsides. Repeat as many times as needed.

Directions: With your finger, apply a small amount of wax on the barrel where the hole or leak is occurring, then push the wax into the hole until the leak stops