Wednesday, December 26, 2007


I just recently learned that oak barrels (used in wine and beer making) can be "sanitized" by burning sulfur in them to produce gaseous sulfur dioxide. This doesn't actually sanitize the barrel, but it inhibits the growth of mold and bacteria.

This is especially useful if the barrel is being stored for any length of time. Keeping an atmosphere of SO2 inside the barrel keeps the peskys away.

Before wine or beer is added to the barrel, it is critical that the SO2 gas be fully removed or H2S can form. That would smell and probably taste awful.

I'm planning on experimenting with oak chips in some future batches of beer. Conditioning in oak barrels would be awesome, but not practical (at this point).

The picture is from the Ithaca Beer Brewers Blog.


Anonymous said...

That must smell wonderful.

milkshake said...

Burning sulfur in your bedroom is great for making the bedbugs to move to another room. But after while they always come back...

As a kid I used to go to brewer/winemaking supplies shop to buy "sulfur candles" for my pyrotechnics experiment. It was a pound-sized chunk of pure sulfur cast into a cone, with a piece of cardboard as a wick. But you as a chemist can use a wash with bisulfite, too.

I don't know about H2S but over-sulphited wine has a distinct unpleasant sharp, choking off-flavor I am quite sensitive to. (Try lemonade from the lime/lemon juice concentrate for the nasty sulfite taste).