How to Cure a Mini Oak Barrel before you use it the first time

First, we would like to thank you for choosing Red Head Oak Barrels for your at home wine and spirits aging needs.

Before using your barrel, you should cure the barrel. Your oak aging barrel is made of wood and stored empty so your barrel may need to swell back up before use. This is the same concept as a wooden boat being used for the first time after being stored all winter. The barrel comes with a fair amount of moisture however if you wait too long to cure the barrel it could dry out and no seal itself totally. We normally recommend you use the barrel within the first 90 days especially since there is a limited warranty and waiting too long will allow the warranty to expire.

The Best Treatment of an Oak Barrel

There are a few steps to take when aging liquor in an oak barrel. The barrel should be cured as to kill off any bacteria and rid the barrel of any leaks. This process also makes the oak of the barrel swell and you may get a little more space inside of the barrel.

  • 1 Insert the spigot on the front of the barrel and tap it in to secure the spigot. The spigot should be inserted in to the head since the barrel will rest on its side in the stand. Position the barrel in the stand with the spigot hole on the bottom side of the head (nearest the table). Insert the spigot so that the valve handle is on top and rotated in the back position. (this should be closed) You may tap the spigot in the head firmly so that it is tight enough to seal it. (DO NOT HAMMER THE SPIGOT IN WITH FULL FORCE)
  • 2 Start by rinsing out your barrel three or four times to get any wood debris out. Fill it, cover the holes, shake it and empty it.
  • 3 When curing your barrel you need to to find a sink or tub that can hold the barrel because this process will see the barrel, and its immediate surroundings, get wet. Try to find a tub that is big enough to hold the keg’s stand. Now, fill the barrel with hot water from your faucet. (no need to boil) (only fill with hot water the first time. If you need to top off with water again then just use room temp water)
  • 4 The oak barrel should come with a bung, which is a cork for the hole in the side (top). Be sure when you put the bung in the bung hole to place it at about a 45 degree angle while twisting and pressing the bung against the side of the bung hole to help preserve the gasket from pushing up and off the bung.
  • 5 Place your barrel on the stand on its rear barrel head (spigot side up) while it is curing. (see pic)
  • 6 Keep an eye on those leaks as they should seal up as the wood swells. It can take from a few hours to several days (could be a week or so for larger barrels) depending on the size of your barrel. We would suggest leaving water in the barrel for at least 4-5 days even if it is not leaking. If you still have a leak after a week send us an email with your order number and pictures so we can help.
  • 7 All oak barrels should be cured before using them to age liquor or wine.
  • If you do get the outside of the barrel wet it is good to dry it off quickly to help keep it looking nice.
  • There still may be small pieces of char inside the barrel even after rinsing and curing. This is normal and a part of the charring process. We recommend straining your spirits and wine when removed from the barrel. IF there are pieces of wood too large to remove you can just leave them in the barrel without a problem.
  • Do not submerse the barrel in water. This will cause your barrel hoops to bleed and rust and it may cause it to get black all over the outside of the barrel and it won’t look very good.
  • Once your barrel had been cured DO NOT LET IT DRY OUT. Once a barrel has been cured and dried then it may not seal back up once you fill it again. ONCE WET ALWAYS WET, you don’t want your oak barrel going dry on you.
  • Do not leave water in your barrel for more than 2 weeks. If you are going to store your barrel with water for more than that, you will want to use a campden tablet inside to keep mold from growing. Do not store with water for more than a couple weeks or else you will have mold and mildew.
  • If your barrel is still leaking after 7 days please send pictures and contact us immediately – Waiting too long may cause mold and may void your warranty.

Here is a video on how to seal up leaking barrels that have continued to leak after 7-10 days.

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