Stainless Steel barrel?

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Adam Beck

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I really wanted to find a ~30 gallon neutral oak barrel, but they seem to be difficult to come across. So now I'm thinking of going with a 30 gallon stainless steel. I won't get the nice texture you get from oak oxygenation but at least I can work at a quantity I think would be manageable.

Has anyone used stainless steel barrels before? What was your experience, and where did you source them from?
 

Johnd

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I really wanted to find a ~30 gallon neutral oak barrel, but they seem to be difficult to come across. So now I'm thinking of going with a 30 gallon stainless steel. I won't get the nice texture you get from oak oxygenation but at least I can work at a quantity I think would be manageable.

Has anyone used stainless steel barrels before? What was your experience, and where did you source them from?
Have you considered the Flex Tank type alternatives? Less costly than stainless, lighter to move, will give microx that very closely mimics oak barrels (if you get the right thickness). That would be my second choice if barrels weren’t in my plan.
 

Adam Beck

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Have you considered the Flex Tank type alternatives? Less costly than stainless, lighter to move, will give microx that very closely mimics oak barrels (if you get the right thickness). That would be my second choice if barrels weren’t in my plan.
I think one of the appeals of a stainless steel vessel vs a flex tank is that I can get a variable volume tank, as far as I know flextanks don’t have that option, but maybe I’m wrong. I have the budget for SS, and for the volumes I’m looking at it seems like there’s only a couple hundred bucks of a difference between the two options. I dunno, for some reason I’m creeped out about aging in plastic, too, but I know that’s dumb. Do flextanks have an sort of option for managing headspace, or do they just need to be topped off all the time? How do flextanks hold up over say 10-15 years? I just feel like the plastic wouldn’t be able to stand up to time like SS, but again maybe I’m wrong.
 

Johnd

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I think one of the appeals of a stainless steel vessel vs a flex tank is that I can get a variable volume tank, as far as I know flextanks don’t have that option, but maybe I’m wrong. I have the budget for SS, and for the volumes I’m looking at it seems like there’s only a couple hundred bucks of a difference between the two options. I dunno, for some reason I’m creeped out about aging in plastic, too, but I know that’s dumb. Do flextanks have an sort of option for managing headspace, or do they just need to be topped off all the time? How do flextanks hold up over say 10-15 years? I just feel like the plastic wouldn’t be able to stand up to time like SS, but again maybe I’m wrong.
I'm not aware of them having any variable capacity options, but I'm not a flex tank type product user, so I can't say for sure. I'm pretty sure @stickman uses these type tanks, maybe we can get him to chime in on some of your other questions.............
 

niko13

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Would definitely choose the 30 gallon Flex tank over a stainless steel tank.
 

Chuck E

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I really wanted to find a ~30 gallon neutral oak barrel, but they seem to be difficult to come across. So now I'm thinking of going with a 30 gallon stainless steel. I won't get the nice texture you get from oak oxygenation but at least I can work at a quantity I think would be manageable.
Has anyone used stainless steel barrels before? What was your experience, and where did you source them from?
I use SS kegs. I have 2 quarter bbls. (7.5 gal.) and 6 sextels (5 gal.) Sanke style.

I have them decked out with sanitary fittings. I really like them for bulk aging white wines. They are safer than glass carboys. @CDrew uses Flex Tanks and has good luck with them
 
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Just an off the wall thought...
Couldn't you put some type of an air bladder in the tank and just add air to top up the tank??
 

stickman

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@Adam Beck it largely depends on what wine you are trying to make. If you're making heavy tannic reds then some micro-ox is beneficial, barrel or flextank. If you're dead set on variable capacity then stainless is probably your best bet. A lot of people are probably creeped out about aging in plastic, but I've been using Flextanks for 10 years and am very comfortable with them, they seem to be holding up fine. I still wouldn't mind having one of @Johnd barrels, it's like a nice aging vessel and fine furniture at the same time.
 

Adam Beck

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@Adam Beck it largely depends on what wine you are trying to make. If you're making heavy tannic reds then some micro-ox is beneficial, barrel or flextank. If you're dead set on variable capacity then stainless is probably your best bet.
I'm imagining I'll mostly be doing lighter reds as that's what I like to drink.
 

CDrew

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For relatively small quantities of bulk aging wine, it is very hard to beat Sanke type beer kegs. Most are 15.5 gallons with a few others that are 5.2, 7.6 and 50L (13.2 gal). They will be ideal for "lighter reds" though lighter can refer to flavor, color or variety.

You need to pull out the spear in the center, then use them like 15.5 gallon carboys. They are excellent for aging wine. They are unbreakable, air and light tight, have good handles and easy to sanitize.

You can use a stopper in the top or adapt the tops to tri-clamp sanitary fittings. I have posted before on how to do that.

As to sources-your local Craigs list will almost always have them-I have paid as little as $15 for one and as much as $50. In the end, they are about the least expensive aging vessels you can use.

If you want to get fancy and pay a bit more, TCW in Napa has brand new ones with a sanitary fitting welded on top in place of the sanke fitting. THey are a about $125 or so, still a pretty good deal. I will likely transition to these over time.

I also age in Intellitanks. They hold 15 gallons and are super convenient to use. Unlike a keg, they have a top and a bottom spout and can be adapted to all sorts of chores in the garage winery. They are more expensive than Craigslist kegs, but they also are more flexible.

Here is 60 gallons of wine (actually there are also 3 carboys hidden there so more like 75 gallons) in 2 intellitanks and 2 stainless barrels, all in a small closet.

D2F0D659-A19E-4861-941E-251AC350D452.jpeg
 
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Adam Beck

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Has anyone used a Flextank "skin"? Just heard about this, apparently it's a plastic skin that floats on the top of the wine so that you don't need to worry about keeping it at full capacity and topping off. I'm wondering if that's the golden ticket for me.
 
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