Barrel Care

freshly emptied wine barrels

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We source wine barrels from a large variety of well-known California wineries. Typically, the varieties include Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc.

Most of the oak flavor has been extracted by previous vintages (a.k.a. neutral). Now, these babies are just waiting to create the perfect beverage with red or white wine tasting notes. Still want some oak flavor? Try adding oak chips or other oak additives into the barrel with your beverage.


  • Size: 59 - 60 Gallon (224/227 Liter)

  • Oak type: American White Oak (Quercus alba), French Oak (Quercus robur), Hungarian Oak (Quercus frainetto)

  • Bung Size / Type: #11 solid silicon or fermentation/ventilation bung


If we’re doing our job correctly, there shouldn’t be a whole lot of care needed for your barrels. But sometimes life happens and barrels aren’t filled quite as quickly as you anticipated.

Wine barrel care

What you should know:

Our neutral red and white liquid grade wine barrels have been washed, steamed, ozoned, gassed and are guaranteed to be brettanomyces (Brett) and VA free. Each barrel is inspected and, if necessary, pressure checked for leaks.

Wine barrels are emptied less frequently throughout the year so it is normal for a wine barrel to be drier than whiskey barrels. They will never be visibly wet on the inside like you may see in whiskey and bourbon barrels. Because of this, you will often need to swell your wine barrels before filling with your beverage.

Backed by our MWBC quality promise, liquid grade barrels are guaranteed leak-free for 30 days. All barrels are visually inspected and, if necessary, pressure checked for leaks.  If we find a leaky barrel we do not fix it, as this is usually just a temporary fix. Instead, we sell these non-fillable barrels as furniture and décor. This ensures only the highest quality barrels are delivered to be refilled.

Damn. Good. Barrels.


At Midwest Barrel Co. we take pride in doing things right. Simply put, that means our customers get the right barrel at the right time, by people who actually give a damn. It’s our promise.


Our top priority is providing leak-free barrels. Because fresh barrels do have a shelf life it is best to fill them immediately upon delivery. Every now and then a leak sneaks through the cracks. Purchased within the last 30 days? No worries - we’ve got your back.

Fresh Dumped

Recently emptied barrels are considered “wet” or “fresh dumped.” Immediately following, they are loaded onto trailers at the distillery and delivered to our warehouse within one to two days.

Multi-Point Inspection

Upon arrival, Midwest Barrel Co. visually inspects all barrels, and if necessary, pressure checks for leaks. This process ensures they are liquid grade and ready to be used again for barrel-aged beer.

Decor Grade Barrels

If we find a leaky barrel, we do not repair it. We’re not in the business of temporary fixes. These retired barrels are now ready to be upcycled as decor, furniture and barrel art. This ensures only the highest quality barrels are delivered to be refilled.


A successful barrel-aging program takes time and commitment.

We know that a lot of planning and execution goes into your brewing schedule and fill dates. For best results, we always recommend filling within 7 days of receipt. Your barrels will arrive tight and ready to fill.

Couldn’t fill within a week – now what???

We get it, dates and times don’t always line up just perfect. Generally, filling barrels within three weeks of arrival shouldn’t pose a problem.

But...the longer a barrel sits, the drier it becomes. This makes the barrel more prone to leaks. If you know you will not be filling your barrel immediately, we suggest holding off on purchasing until closer to your fill date.

Should you be unable to fill your barrel immediately, we encourage you to store it in a cool and humid environment (think dank basement or cellar). If you plan to fill beyond that amount of time, you may need to take some simple steps to swell your barrel before filling.

Barrel Filling

We recommend filling your barrels as soon as you receive them. At most, fill before 30 days. If you plan to fill your barrels more than one week after receiving, then make sure to store them in a cool, humid environment to preserve freshness.


Our recommendation is to store the barrels horizontally on barrel racks. When barrels are filled and stored vertically, the top head tends to dry out because the liquid inside the barrel will decrease in volume and eventually lose contact with the top head. Once this happens, air is able to enter through the top head and potentially oxidize the beverage or allow microbes to enter the barrel.


Barrel Storage Tips

Head swelling

With the barrel standing on one end, fill the top head with hot water (+180º F) to the top of the first ring. Leave overnight. Add more water in the morning and watch for bubbles. No bubbles? Great! Flip and repeat. If there are bubbles, then let the water sit for several more hours. Read More.

swelling the inside

Set the barrel on a rack with the bunghole facing up. Fill 1/3 of the barrel with hot water (+180º F). Let it sit for two hours, periodically rolling the barrel. Add another 1/3 of water. If the barrel’s still leaking, waith 1-2 hours. When the leaking stops, drain and fill with your beverage. Read More.

steam method

Set the barrel on a rack, bunghole facing up. Fill with steam (at least 212º F). Continue steaming for at least 10 minutes. As the barrel tightens, remove the steam, let it cool and drain. Fill 1/3 of the barrel with cold water. Keep the water in the barrel until any leaks stop. Read More.