Making Oak Chips

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dis-still-in
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Making Oak Chips

Post by dis-still-in » Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:27 pm

I have read the page on making oak chips and have sliced up some oak from my property in anticipation of running my first batch of whisky. I thought the quickest way to char the oak would be to hit it with my oxy-acetylene torch, but am now wondering if that will achieve the desired result. Too much heat? I also thought about putting a selection of oak in the whisky, from some raw slices, to get the 'oaky' flavor, to some toasted slices, to achieve the 'sweet' and some 'vanillins' and then some heavily charred to get some 'almond' and 'toasted' flavors.

I assume that at this stage it is mostly up to the desired flavor profile of the final product as to what levels of toasted/charred oak one uses, but just want to make sure that I am going about it in the right manner. I am worried that the torch is just scorching and not achieving the right levels of sugar caramalization etc. That is, I don't want to throw a bunch of merely burned wood slices into my first whisky! I am also about to throw some in the oven in some aluminum foil to get a nice toast, any suggestions on cooking time?

Finally, if I do use the torch, will a quick quench in water help 'activate' the charcoal layer and provide some filtering capacity?

Thanks.

MuleKicker
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by MuleKicker » Wed Dec 02, 2009 3:42 pm

the last oak i charred for aging came from a old gray oak split log in my wood pile. i took from the center, away from where the chainsaw cut (bar oil) I axed some good chunks off and hit them with map gas torch. Im not sure i knew what i was doing, but as luck would have it, the shit turned out good, really good. I think the key is the wood you use. It needs to be old/gray from the weather. the weather washes out the bad stuff. the best luck i had was from nasty looking gray wood.
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Fire Water
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Fire Water » Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:17 pm

Seems like I read somewhere on these forums, a method using a old coffee can and tin foil for a lid that sounded pretty interesting. I may try that method on my next run. If you use a torch keep in mind that you want some charring on the outside(carbon buildup). Carbon will remove all the unwanted stuff in your product, Oak is porous you want the inside to remain heated not chared to get all the caramelized sugars(flavors like vanilla ect.) to come out into your product. If you intend to do this on a small scale,a few chips per bottle, I would recommend you pursue it similar to what you have suggested. Fresh Oak has some undesireable traits, hence the need to either season it (AGE IT) or if you have some green oak wood (with sap) cook it in your oven to remove the unwanted properties. Cooking time will vary dependant upon thickness. The last batch I did, I charred some with a Turbo Torch Like Mule Kicker and added some that was what I consider a medium/dark toast out of the oven(not charred). I'm basing my toast levels on commercially available products. Sample your run frequently, it won't take 3 yrs like is manditated to commercial distilleries. You can achieve the same effect in around 6 months, or less depending on how much you decide to add to your product. Good luck. Hope it turns out good.

Hack
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Hack » Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:28 pm

The one time I tried charring oak with a torch my whiskey tasted like doused campfire. Since then I've used toasted cubes about 3/4" square. Wrap a block of them in tin foil and bake them in your oven for about two hours at around 450.

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Fire Water » Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:45 pm

Amendment to prevoious post: Sorry I left out a couple questions that you had. As far as drenching it in water, Hummm, never tried it, commercial barrels are steamed after toasting, I'd love to know the results... Your flavor profile is definately going to be affected by the toast on small batches. I guess I called myself eliminating doubt by adding charred and toasted chips, I tasted(a couple drops) about once a week until it was smooth and had a similar taste to a commercially available product. Filter particulate and enjoy....

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Hawke » Wed Dec 02, 2009 8:12 pm

I am currently using medium toasted sticks, made from a red wine barrel. Approx 1/2x1/2x6, wrapped in foil, a couple of vent holes poked in and a 400*F oven for about 1 hour. (tried doing it on the barbie, but kept making ash :roll: )
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by blanikdog » Thu Dec 03, 2009 3:23 pm

Fire Water wrote: ... smooth and had a similar taste to a commercially available product. ...
Before too much longer you'll find that yours is far better than that muck, firewater. 8) 8) 8)

Some of my mates buy the commercial stuff and I drink it to compare. Trouble is that I get an even more swollen head. :D

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Fire Water
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Fire Water » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:09 pm

I'm still aspiring to get to where you are Blanikdog. I've done a couple batches with oak chips, they weren't bad. I wouldn't try to get into competition with jb, or jd just yet, but definately drinkable. I guess the experimentation is what really makes this hobby worthwhile. I wish I had more cash to throw at it, I'd really like to try aging some in a real chared oak barel, but that $100 to $150 isn't in the budget right now. Guess i'll be stuck making chips for a while.

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by blanikdog » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:17 pm

It's a great hobby, Fire. I can't drink all that I make, but I'm bloody well addicted to making the stuff, thanks to this bloody forum. :D :D

I'm hoping that when I snuff it I'm gonna miss a bloody good wake.

blanik
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(50 litre, propane heated pot still. Coil in bucket condenser - No thermometer, No carbon)
The Reading Lounge AND the Rules We Live By should be compulsory reading

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Daveweldz
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Daveweldz » Thu Dec 03, 2009 7:23 pm

I wrap the oak chips tightly in a few layers of tin foil. Throw this on a gas BBQ on low heat, flip it every few minutes, open now and again to check the color. The torch seems to just char the outside.If you take your time the toasting goes much deeper and is more consitent. The chips dont need to be ask dark as you think to impart color and flavor. One word of warning, you will get flamable vapors (looks like smoke coming out of the package) leave the lid open on the BBQ if you start getting a lot of this, other wise it can build up and blow the lid off.

Dave

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by noobsauce » Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:25 am

Fire Water wrote:I'm still aspiring to get to where you are Blanikdog. I've done a couple batches with oak chips, they weren't bad. I wouldn't try to get into competition with jb, or jd just yet, but definately drinkable. I guess the experimentation is what really makes this hobby worthwhile. I wish I had more cash to throw at it, I'd really like to try aging some in a real chared oak barel, but that $100 to $150 isn't in the budget right now. Guess i'll be stuck making chips for a while.
Funny..couple people that know that i do this stuff have commented..."Nice...you must save alot of money" If they only knew how untrue that is..hehe. Between experimenting and upgrading i cant imagine what a "bottle" costs me now :D

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by LWTCS » Sat Dec 05, 2009 5:46 am

noobsauce wrote:If they only knew how untrue that is..hehe. Between experimenting and upgrading i cant imagine what a "bottle" costs me now
Copy that noobsause!

But this has brought me a measure of peace that alchohol alone could never do.
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Fire Water
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Fire Water » Sat Dec 05, 2009 2:23 pm

I just dug through my receipt folder (WOW). With all my previously owned beer making equipment and the addition of several pieces for distilling, I'm up to around $700 (ouch). That's why I call it a hobby, My savings on whatever product I'd potentially purchase from the store, won't be evident for a long time. I give more away than I personally consume anyway.

blanikdog
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by blanikdog » Sat Dec 05, 2009 7:57 pm

Not to mention the time and work it takes, noobsauce and LWTCS. I reckon at $60 an hour it costs me big time. But isn't it fun? :lol:

blanik
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(50 litre, propane heated pot still. Coil in bucket condenser - No thermometer, No carbon)
The Reading Lounge AND the Rules We Live By should be compulsory reading

Cumudgeon and loving it.

noobsauce
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by noobsauce » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:14 am

Talking like this almost..ALMOST makes me want to throw my equipment out and go buy a bottle of that nice cheap store-bought stuff :D :D :D

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by Dnderhead » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:00 pm

you can spend the time or money,, buy in balk, use what is in your local.work with what you have,just becouse you buy that 300$ fermenter
wont make better stuff than a 10$ barrel.nor will a 1000$ still. you can make the same food and just as good in a 5$ frying pan as a trippleply
supper non stick one. as any hobby ,, time and patience is on your side.

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by HookLine » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:49 pm

as any hobby ,, time and patience is on your side.
Agree. Patience is your best friend when it comes to stilling good spirits, at every stage of the process.
Be safe.
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And have fun.

junkyard dawg
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by junkyard dawg » Sun Dec 06, 2009 6:52 pm

thats the truth...
I have been cutting and splitting and smelling and learning how to cook a chunk of oak so that it compliments a batch of shine... I'm getting much much better.... You just have to spend some time doing... Good quality wood and not getting carried away with the flames makes the best flavors. Wood thats been cut and stacked at least a few years is better than fresh cut.

seems like everything about this hobby is about time...
this is the internet

dis-still-in
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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by dis-still-in » Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:56 pm

Well alright!

So just coming back to this thread; as we all know things get in the way of hobbies (or as my pops used to say, "A job ain't nothin but work!")

My final method was the following:

I cut some fallen oak from my property, it must have been aged for a couple years at least. Ran it across the table saw and used only the heartwood. Made staves at 3/4" wide, 3" long, and 1/8" thick. Hit them with my oxy-acetylene rig and put a heavy char on them. Not satisfied that this would caramelize the oak, I put them in the oven wrapped in foil and heated them according to the chart on the parent page.

I had 3 Gallons of Whisky at 62ABV. Added the staves in a glass Carboy to age. Was on the oak for about 13 months (I was of course sampling the whole time!!)

I think I ended up over oaking to begin with. I did some volumetric calculations and tried to emulate the surface area of a barrel, but think there is something different about using staves than the barrel. Ended up taking out about 1/2 of the staves after about a month.

The color at 'cask' strength was great, but a little thin once dilute to 40ABV.

The flavor was heavy on the vanillins and strong on oak flavors.

My cuts were conservative and my blend between the various stages of the run (collected in 1qt mason jars) was, well, probably random. I can definitely say that when I was sipping the various stages they were all unique. Lends credence to the notion that Master Blenders at distilleries don't get the credit they deserve!

In any event, for my first whisky run, huge success. Of course had mechanical issues and redesign etc., but hey, that's part of the process.

Thanks for all your help, I hope to be able to contribute knowledgeably soon!

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Re: Making Oak Chips

Post by rad14701 » Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:00 am

With your oak strips only being 1/8" thick you may have only been imparting flavor while the strips not being able to absorb anything out of the spirits... It's slightly different when using charred oak chips or cubes compared to a barrel in that a barrel can breathe and absorb lighter components out of the spirits whereas your thin strips don't possess that capability... In the future you should make the pieces thicker as discussed in several topics on the subject...

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