Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Treatment and handling after you are done distilling.

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Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby barrelcreator » Sat Mar 29, 2008 12:30 pm

This is a seminar I gave a while back and thought I would share it with everyone.

Jesse, Feel free to make this a sticky if you would like. Anyone needs any oak info feel free to PM me and I will offer any advise I can.

Enjoy. BarrelCreator...



Oak Alternatives
Why oak chips have given alternatives a bad rap and the difference between oak chips and premium Oak Alternatives.
Why “premium” oak alternatives can duplicate the complex flavor and aroma profiles that actual barrel aging receives. Oaks contribution in aging.
A better understanding of oaks chemical and compound changes during toasting and examples of toasting profiles.
The main chemical compounds that give you your aromas during the toasting process and a better understanding of how it works.
Oaks growth rates, seasoning and drying techniques and their effect on extraction levels along with flavor and aroma profiles.
Normal oak tree growth rated Vs. Slow grown trees.
Naturally seasoned oak Vs. Kiln dried oak.


Oak Alternatives
Why oak chips have given alternatives a bad rap and the difference between oak chips and premium Oak Alternatives
In the past, chips have been the most popular alternative both commercially and at home to impart oak flavors. Simply because barrels have many drawbacks including cost, weight, storage, care, spoilage etc.
Chips impart immediate disjointed and simple, monochromatic flavor profiles quickly, leaving them bitter and harsh. Most styles of toasting chips will give you a simple presence of a toasty flavor but with no complexity behind the flavor and when compared to actual barrels, the flavor is similar but not the same.
The reason for this is many things, but the two most important being, the thickness of the chips, and the toasting process. Most chips are toasted in a very large oven. The heat penetration is constant and the chips are so thin that they end up with no color graduation.
Why “premium” oak alternatives can duplicate the complex flavor and aroma profiles that an actual barrel receives. Oaks contribution in aging.
In order for oak alternatives to achieve the same effect that an actual barrel gives you a multitude of things must happen. The most important is the even color graduation of the toasting process through all the many complex layers of the oak.
Without going into a very lengthy chemistry lesson, there are many chemical compounds and elements in the oak that must to be changed. Most of these changes must happen at different temperature and time parameters within the oak’s complex interior to achieve the broad spectrum of the oaks potential. Unlike thin chips, the actual size of premium oak alternative products is designed to be thick enough to allow the same toasting and aging effect that an actual barrel will impart. This is where you not only receive your creamy and subtle toasty aroma but the complexity behind the aroma to duplicate the "Magic" behind actual barrel aging.

Premium companies put their premium French and American oak products through a slow open flame-toasting process. Some utilize digital microprocessors to control the heat penetration and exact database record every one of our toasting profiles. This process helps the cooper control the consistency of the oak extraction so that they can reproduce it exactly, time after time. The even graduation of the toasting color allows them to create a premium oak barrel alternative at a fraction of the cost of a barrel, while still not sacrificing any of the quality or flavor that an actual barrel contributes.
Oak alternatives actually help in the aging process by allowing the alcohol to penetrate slowly into the complex interior of our oak.

A better understanding of oaks chemical and compound changes during toasting and examples of Toasting Profiles.
The main chemical changes that give you your aromas during the toasting process and a better understanding of how it works.
As the oak heats up during the toasting process, oak hemi cellulose (Oaks Sugars) begins breaking down and caramelizing. At this point, initial oaky aromas start changing into sweet aromas. Next, lignin (Vanillin) decomposes creating a creamy vanilla aroma. Followed by toasty aromas, suggesting a breakdown of both vanillin and hemi cellulose. From then on the formation of almond and smoke are most apparent. The art to this is to integrate all of these properties in to the many complex layers of the oak in different depths and times to draw out the oaks complexity and not leave it with a simple monochromatic flavor profile.

Oaks growth rates, Seasoning and Drying Techniques and their effect on extraction levels along with flavor and aroma profiles.
Normal oak tree growth rated Vs. Slow grown trees.
As both French and American oak trees grow, they create growth rings within the wood’s inner structure. The faster a tree is allowed to grow the further apart the growth rings are from one another. Exactly the opposite is true for trees that are forced to be grown slower. The slow grown trees that have tighter grains are proven to have higher extractions levels, while also increasing the length of time it takes wine to extract all of it’s compounds once toasted. The tighter grained oak will also allow for the introduction of larger amounts of complexity because of the extended extraction period.
Naturally seasoned oak Vs. Kiln dried oak.
After manufacturing, the oak used to make premium oak alternatives is allowed to season naturally in the open air, exposed to nature’s elements for 30+ months and will benefit far greater than the past process known as kiln drying or oak seasoned naturally for only 1 to 2 years. The seasoning process helps to slowly remove harsh compounds and unwanted flavors from the oak. Seasoning in the open air and not in kilns also develops and releases micro flora bacteria’s that help extract higher levels of sweet and spice flavors during the toasting process. This extended seasoning also softens and refines the oaks tannins, eliminates astringency and increases the oaks overall complexity. Just as a good whiskey develops into a great whiskey after aging, giving the oak time to season naturally and not forcing the drying time in a kiln, the oak will develop into a product with greater benefits for the alcohol it’s being integrated into.

American oak Logs
American oak is typically sourced from the slow-growth forests in the Ozark region of the central United States. This regions soil composition mixed with it's thick brush and undergrowth, produce the perfect growing condition for tight, straight-grained oak. Premium oak alternative companies american oak products typically have 2 to 3 more growth rings per inch than many other suppliers.
French Oak Logs
French oak is typicially sourced from the premier forest regions of Vosges and Central France, this region is known for straight and fine-grain oak. The French governments help in forest management ensures the trees will be grown taller, straighter, and older.
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Postby Safegyde » Sat Mar 29, 2008 1:54 pm

Hey barrelcreator, do you know a good link to get those "premium" oak chips for when I can afford it?

Anyone out there....what is your favorite site to get oak chips from....if you order off of the internet of course.

Funny huh? Ordering wood off of the internet. :lol: :lol:
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Postby barrelcreator » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:17 pm

No chips. Chips are the enemy. Nuggets, beans, sticks, planks, staves etc are what you are looking for. Any oak that is at least 3/8" thick and toasted with fire or infared with a gradient to the toasting color. No convection toasting!!!

Oak solutions group and stavin are the two "leaders" in the industry.
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Postby HookLine » Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:34 pm

Excellent info, BC. Thanks.
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Postby blanikdog » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:05 pm

What Hook said. Thanks BC

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Flavouring

Postby skokiaan » Sun Apr 06, 2008 6:00 am

Here's what expatriats do in certain Middle East countries where alcohol is banned:

Next visit Stateside buy a bag of Jack Daniels Barbecue Woodsmoke Chips (just old JD barrel staves sent thru a chipper). Importing this into the ME is not illegal.

Procure a litre of local moonshine (siddiqe) - distilled from sugar, water and yeast. Most large centres have a bootlegger.

Place sid and wood chips in an appropriate container for a week or so. Decant and you have an amber liquid which tastes remarkably like Jack Daniels.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby partonken » Sat May 24, 2008 10:43 am

hey barrelcreator, you say no convection!!! clarify this if you could.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby erbachem » Sun Aug 17, 2008 3:50 pm

Any recommendations on which style of oak is best suited to bourbon from the Stavin range?
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby frikz » Mon Aug 18, 2008 5:35 am

Is it normal that some kind of oily substance comes out of the oak when you toast it?

Just toasted some quercus robur oak sticks that I split from firewood that has been drying outside for probably 2-3 years. I used only heartwood and toasted it in the oven for 3 hours @ 200 deg C. Smelled really nice, first like oak, then there was a sweet / vanilla smell and when I opened the oven it smelled like almonds.

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Re:

Postby Red Lion » Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:32 am

barrelcreator wrote:No chips. Chips are the enemy. Nuggets, beans, sticks, planks, staves etc are what you are looking for. Any oak that is at least 3/8" thick and toasted with fire or infared with a gradient to the toasting color. No convection toasting!!!

Has there been any scientific research done on this subject? I'm currently trying to find some information on the subject, but I can't seem to find any articles on the difference between chips and staves (or others).

Do you have that seminar published somewhere?
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby bronzdragon » Thu Mar 05, 2009 5:46 am

I buy short "sticks" (for lack of a better term) 1" x 1" x 4-5" or so and toast or char them myself and in my opinion, they work better then the chips. Once I switched over, I have never went back. I've gotten them off of a few different people in the past, mostly people who sell scrap wood on ebay or some such, one guy made flooring and another made furniture. The pieces were cut and planed, but not treated with anything...and work fine.

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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby kentuc » Sat Mar 14, 2009 12:38 pm

Someone is going to have to explain to me why chips are bad. I just purchased two small bags of chips from the local homebrew store $1.75 a bag. Bagged by Brewcraft for oaking wine one toasted and one not. Put about a cap full of chips in a quart jar the other day so far has very nice color added a few more chips today to darken it abit more. Is there something wrong with using chips.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby JonB » Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:08 pm

Toasted chips are great for wine or with a product with less than 14% abv. Anything greater will leech out the tannins in a matter of days and will make your product black and tasting like oak tree in a bottle.

What you want is the carbon in the oak to filter your spirits. And behind the carbon is the degrations of flavor profile - vanilla, butter, clove, cococunt, etc. which make your spirits really enjoyable. If you read the awesome post by barrelcreator, he explains the reason pretty well.

BTW - I think we all made the mistake of using toasted chips with raw high proof spirits at one time or another. Give it a try with a pint or so for educational purposes.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby JonB » Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:31 pm

Thought of another question re: oak chip alternatives.

I stumbled upon a link (from this site) where they sell oak spirals, and claim that this is much more efficient that oak strips or chips. I was sold on this until I read BarrelCreators post on the burn profile. Does anyone have any opinion or experience on these spirals? I assume I can get them with a char, otherwise I suppose I could bake them like any other oak strip.

One more question - I know that American oak is traditional for aging bourbon. How would the flavor profile change (if at all) if I went with a French oak?

Thanks.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby I-GOR » Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:07 pm

JonB wrote:Thought of another question re: oak chip alternatives.

I stumbled upon a link (from this site) where they sell oak spirals, .


Waaayyy tooo expensive for me. I trade home brew ale with a cabinet maker for cuts of american white oak, often times several years in the shop. He thinks I use it for wine. Check around your home town.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby violentblue » Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:42 pm

kentuc wrote:Someone is going to have to explain to me why chips are bad. I just purchased two small bags of chips from the local homebrew store $1.75 a bag. Bagged by Brewcraft for oaking wine one toasted and one not. Put about a cap full of chips in a quart jar the other day so far has very nice color added a few more chips today to darken it abit more. Is there something wrong with using chips.


as he states in his write up, chips aren't "bad" just monochromatic in their flavour profile, to get the full range of flavours that oak can produce, you need to have wood that is a little thicker, the outside gets toasted and the inside less so, in many fine layers uf different degrees of toastiness.

I keep a bag of toasted french oak chips around to suppliment the falvours my staves give. a few chips and a couple days later you've got some nice color and nice (though not complex) flavour. again, I use this to suppliment aging on sticks, cause you can't beat good oak.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby chrisl » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:07 pm

I just purchased a white oak 1" wooden dowel, from a hard wood store near me. Should I cut it into say 6' strips and toast it then char, or cut it into 1" lengths and do the same, to have more end grain exposed Thank You Chris
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby olddog » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:47 pm

I can't seem to get my oaking right, whether its a light char or dark char it always seems to end up tasting like a wet wood taste.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby Bohunk » Thu Aug 20, 2009 3:59 pm

chrisl , That dowel you bought might just be oak that is white in color. White oak is a tree different from other oak trees, and is used in makeing barrels. All trees have a sap ring around the outer edge, and that ring is almost always white in color. Not saying that your oak dowel won't work, but chances are it may not be "white oak".

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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby chrisl » Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:17 pm

Thank you Bohunk: I think I will just purchase some online, then I will know that it is white oak. Chrisl
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby Dnderhead » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:42 pm

red oak has open grain , and only thing you git out of it is tannins . white oak hart wood has pores that is filed with taluses I believe that is where the sugars/flavors come from.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby chrisl » Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:51 pm

I baked the oak dowels last night, and it filled the kitchen with a awesome marshmallow smell. Would this suggest that it would be good to use? Chris
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby HookLine » Fri Aug 21, 2009 8:08 pm

You really need to be sure what type of wood it is.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby chrisl » Tue Aug 25, 2009 1:26 pm

I went ahead and took a half pint of 80 proof ujssm and put a piece of the charred toasted dowell in it, in a week it had some color. I have been shaking it daily. I tried a finger dip in it, and it has a taste of a spice in it, I can not figure out something to explain the flavor, but a spicy flavor. Kind of like cinnamon oil? Anyone had this taste. Chris
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby beerbaron » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:09 am

:?:

My local home brew store sells oak sticks. I was just wondering if any body knows if the oak sticks would already be cook. Is there any way that you could tell if the oak was already cook?

Thanks
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby Barney Fife » Wed Aug 25, 2010 7:44 am

If toasted, they'll be dark. If charred, they'll be, well, charred.
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby beerbaron » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:43 am

I just got my self and oak stick. The stick is arealy dark color so I’m assuming that it must be already toasted. Thanks for the info Barney. :D
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby beerbaron » Wed Aug 25, 2010 9:15 am

And other option that I was looking at was getting a BBQ grilling plank. There made to cook food on. I could just get one of these, cut it up in small cubs and toast them in the oven for 3hr at 200 c. It would be a lot cheaper that getting the oak at the brew store.

The only thing that concerns me is that the oak is a red oak. Any body see a problem with using red oak?

http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/2 ... ?locale=en
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Re: Everything you need to know about oak alternatives.

Postby King Of Hearts » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:31 pm

Check this place out. They sell sticks for barrels, that could be used for home purposes for a long time. Professional quality. https://www.net10.net/ShoppingCart/buy/ ... Add_26.asp
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Re: Flavouring

Postby King Of Hearts » Thu Oct 14, 2010 7:20 am

skokiaan wrote:Here's what expatriats do in certain Middle East countries where alcohol is banned:

Next visit Stateside buy a bag of Jack Daniels Barbecue Woodsmoke Chips (just old JD barrel staves sent thru a chipper). Importing this into the ME is not illegal.

Procure a litre of local moonshine (siddiqe) - distilled from sugar, water and yeast. Most large centres have a bootlegger.

Place sid and wood chips in an appropriate container for a week or so. Decant and you have an amber liquid which tastes remarkably like Jack Daniels.


I tried the Jack chips, only color no flavor to speak of.
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