steaming barrels

I just bought a bunch of once and twice used barrels for harvest this year. They smell fresh and sulfury right now, and I want to steam them before I fill them in a couple of months. What temperature is too high? I’m conserned about cooking the wine that is trapped in the barrels staves.

I think the residual wine will be cooked long before the steam achieves the degree of sterilization you want.

To get our own used bbls ready for harvest, we do a 5-10 minute 180F pressure wash, then a 10-15 minute steam at pretty good pressure. Not sure what the internal temp of the wood is but the outside of the barrel gets plenty hot to the touch. Then we do another 5 minute 180F pressure wash to knock out and rinse all the stuff released by steaming. We’ve had a lot of success with this and the barrels smell immaculate prior to filling. Takes a good bit of time but we think it’s worth it.

10-15 minutes steam? Damn. When we bought our steam generator, the guy said to just do 3 minutes. We do 6 minutes on puncheons.

Don’t you end up extracting a lot out of the once used barrels with that much steam?

Linda – lacking sufficient scientific, engineering or reading comprehension backgrounds, we use a “bigger hammer” approach and it buffers against three sigma timing errors.

Eric – we do extract some, you definitely get a lot of the red out. Not enough to put white in the bbl but it gets pretty damned clean. The hot wash after the steam really works as the steam liberates everything and the wash blasts it out. We have a pretty burly bbl washer setup that really scrapes the inside of the bbl.

When things get too busy we drop the initial wash and just steam/wash instead of wash/steam/wash.

No matter how you slice it, though, I think steaming is great for bbls. We steam everything – hoses, stainless tanks, wood tanks, parts, bottling line, barrels, broccoli, interns, popcorn, you name it…

Steamed popcorn sounds delicious. [barf.gif]

Thanks for posting this questions John! I guess these answers still do not answer my fundamental concern about maderizing the wine in the staves and contributing off-flavors. I have purchased barrels that were steamed, both whites and reds, from very reputable wineries, and actually had some off, “cooked”, flavors seep into both SB and Syrah. I have red that several minutes at 212 degrees achieves some degree of sterilization.

We’ve not had any problems with that. As Josh was saying, we too give a good rinse after. The steam loosens any tartrates in the bbl, and rinsing washes the loosen stuff away. If you look in the barrel after, pretty much nothing is there.

No problems like you’re talking about here Morgan, the barrels are really immaculate and smell great. How did yours smell before filling?

I still think that if you are getting hot enough to sterilize the barrel at all, you’re probably getting hot enough to cook any wine in the staves.

What happened to the ultrasonic barrel washer that was being talked about last year? Is that a practical reality? That sounded like a cool solution. Can I attach a sonicare toothbrush to a lees stirrer to clean the barrels in the meantime? :slight_smile:

The dry ice barrel blasting still seems appealing to me as well…tho there might be some downside to it that I don’t know about. One downside is their minimum is higher than I have barrels.

Seems like the main advantage of all of these is they get all the junk in the barrel that microbes can grow/hide in.

I’m a bit skeptical that steam will sterilize a barrel better than ozone will (ozone applied to a barrel that’s been cleaned out some way). I.e. from what I’ve read the temps from steam drop off very quickly as you go beyond the surface of the barrel…so getting sterilization temps inside the wood is all but impossible. True?

Well, temperature at any given depth is a function of steam temperature, flow rate and time of exposure. I’m sure you can eventually sterilize the hoops on the outside of the barrel if you want to though it’s hard to say what kind of shape the barrel would be in or what your electric bill would be.

It seems that many like steam explicitly because it penetrates better than ozone.

It did seem cool, and the developers of the system claimed it was able to sanitize barrels better than steam or ozone (according to their own tests, anyway), but it was pretty expensive IIRC.

Come on, Eric - the “ultrasonic” barrel washer “sounded” like a cool solution? How could you hear it if it’s really ultrasonic? neener

What do you guys think of a warm sodium percarbonate soak over night, of course followed with a citric and So2 solution rinse?

way too much water consumed that way.

Steam, quick rinse, ozone rinse, flip up, put a gallon or so of ozonated water in the barrels, hard bung 'em overight, flip and drain in the morning.

Soooooo sweet.

I’ve never really liked the idea of putting chemicals like peroxycarb in the barrel. I know that people have written articles about how effective it is, but I just can’t help but think that you might not be able to rinse it all out.

At one of the wineries I’ve been working at, we steam for 3 minutes then quickly bung it. The bung creates a vacuum and sucks a ton of nasty stuff out. Time about 2 minutes, although be careful to watch the heads – the internal pressure can flex (and possibly collapse?) the head. I was really impressed by the amount of junk that came out.

That was my MO before I got access to steam. I’m not confident that much gets below the surface in peroxide form. I think it may still be a good idea to soak with something basic like this to help leach out any residual VA if you have a suspect barrel, but I would rather rely on steam to actually kill the bugs.

I had posted about the ultrasound talk that I attended this winter. I subsequently got a couple calls from the dry ice blasting guys pitching their service because they had seen my post here. So, if they are still monitoring the board, maybe they can chime in. My impression is that that technique has more to do with surface cleaning than deeper sanitizing.

The ultrasound treatment was about $75/bbl. Their studies were all done in comparison to ozone/gamajet treatments. Steam was conspicuously absent from the presentation.

They had a dry ice guy on Modern Marvels recently (or just recently for me…)
looks like a cool but $$$ way to clean stuff.

Yeah. When you have 2500+ bbls like we do, I don’t think it would pencil out. :stuck_out_tongue:

How about chlorine bleach? pileon