I have some toasted oak chips being shipped to me for a batch of bitters I'd like to oak age. The volume is too small to make a barrel purchase, so I am going the chip route.
Just curious what weight/volume oak chips should I use?
Anything else I need to know about the technique?
Cocktail Virgin blog & author of Drink & Tell: A Boston Cocktail Book.
when you say "volume to small to make a barrel purchase", how big of a volume are you talking about? I use a very small oak barrel to age my bitters in, and find it works quite well. I typically will make about a gallon or less at a time.
About 24 oz (1/5th gallon).
The amount of chips isn't the only question that you should be asking, but rather "if I have (x) amount of (x) [American/French?] chips in (x) amount of liquid, how long should I allow the bitters to age?" To which I'd respond, "Are the chips charcoaled, or not?".
As you see there are a lot of factors involved, so the only real answer is put it all in your jar and taste it every 1/2 week - week until you have a flavour profile that you're happy with. This is not a science, but very much an art.
Stop staring at my Harry Johnson!
My biggest problem with faux-aging is that the taste is rather evident. The whiskies that I have had that are aged in smaller barrels, or in barrels with bags of chips/staves never seem to be enjoyable.
In terms of aging bitters...did you age your Boker's Bitters, Jamie?
Liberty Bar :: Seattle, WA :: Alcohology
You could make an extract or tinture out of the oak chips and add it in a bit at a time. When using oak chips in winemaking the chips are generally given a rinse with water first before making the extract.
One thing you get with a barrel is the slow introduction of oxygen depending on the fill. The surface to volume ratio on a small barrel (1, 5 or even 15 gallons) is much different than on a 60 gallon barrel and that is another variable.
Jamie: Yes, the chips are charred. I do plan on tasting it. But I
wanted an approximate. For wines, it's 4-8 grams per liter. For bitters, I couldn't find a value.
I'd consider it faux-barrel aging, not faux aging. A lot of the
chemical interactions are still going on, but just not the same as with
a barrel proper.
Calamityville: Do indeed plan on washing the chips first. Not sure a tincture would work since there's some chemistry going on and not sure if that could be extracted from the wood.
In winemaking it's done a couple of ways. Ether by making an extract or by putting it in a bag or stainless strainer and suspending the chips in wine.
The dose I remember for wine was about 2-5 lbs of chips per thousand gallons of wine which is considerably less than the dose you're talking about for wine. When you add an oak extract the oak is upfront at first and then integrates in with time - that's why I would suggest an extract. It gives you the ability to add a bit at a time if you feel it needs more oak.
For those that don't know about oak chips - you can buy a variety of types/origins of oak and toast levels
The Boker's were not aged, but the cherry were.
I bought a
few chips of Brazilian Oak recently from a herd market nearby, but they don’t carry
any charcoaled chips.
Any hint on
how to charcoal them at home?
tried it with the fresh wood to test the results?
With barrels, the answer is that the staves can be toasted over a fire of oak chips, and I have seen people use propane torches to char up barrels. The torch method might work for chips but would require a bit more finesse due to their small size.
What I can find on the web about chips is that people use toaster ovens or conventional ovens on broil or at 400°. Not sure I would trust myself to do that indoors (our stove is not well vented) since it would make the place awfully smoky. Perhaps it could done on a grill outdoors.
A brewing or wine supply shop will probably have them at different levels of toasting for short change.
The oven technique (375-400°) results in a toast and shouldn't be smoky. If you are going for a char, you'll need an open flame and it will be smoky. I have torch charred chips, but you have to pick out the bigger chips; the little ones burn up. You do want dried/cured wood, not fresh/green.
Since the surface area of the wood is the only useful way to measure the amount of oak, I stick to rectangular wood chunks rather than chips. The volume or weight of your oak addition isn't particularly relevant unless you are using a uniform product and/or are making very large batches.
Winemakers use various level of toast, but never char. Bourbon makers are required to use charred barrels. Yet another variable to influence your bitters!
I've used oak chips to faux barrel age homebrewed beer before. As I recall it was a healthy handful for a 5 gallon batch. Not exactly a good scientific measurement, but I'd go by that and the amount used for wine making and get a general liquid-to-oak-chip measurement and go with that.
On a related question, if you're using a base spirit that is already aged in oak (Demerara 151 or Wild Turkey 101 for example), I would assume you'd already get the basic oak aged flavor in the bitters you're making. Thoughts?
Oak Chips add flavor, they don't provide the same qualities that aging in a barrel does.
Wild Turkey is aged in new heavy charred American Oak barrels and has a distinct taste of new oak. Lemon Hart 151 may be aged in barrels, but my impression is that any oak flavors have long since been leached out.
Oak chips for winemaking are available in different toast levels and by now may even be available with different oak sources.
I really think that the time spent aging is much more important than the flavor introduced by oak in this type of product.
Putting a couple of healthy dashes of oaky bitters into a cocktail made with a couple of ounces of Bourbon or Rye is probably not going to change the flavor much more than the same bitters made without the oak, unless of course you've added way more chips than what has been described above.
I know some liquer companies are doing buy a case get a barrel promotions. (Boyd & Blair vodka, for one.) Are there any other souces for barrel procurement? And, is there a preferred company?