Barrel Steamer

>> Saturday, October 06, 2018

Today I'm posting about a new piece of equipment in my arsenal that I just finished building, a barrel steamer.  Credit for the design goes to Beer Diary as mine is completely based on theirs.

For those that are into barrel-aged beers, barrel steamers can come in pretty handy. They can be used for the following:
  • Cleaning barrels - the heat and moisture breaks down residue that can accumulate during aging.
  • Sanitizing barrels - steamers can help sanitize to a degree, by killing off yeast and bacteria. 
  • Re-hydrating barrels - the steam is very effective for swelling the wood if you've had a barrel that has sat dry for an extended period of time.
  • Neutralizing barrels - the steamer can be used to reduce barrel flavor contribution (oak as well as wine and spirits).
The build is pretty straightforward. Basically you need some kind of steam generator to supply the steam, then a wand that delivers the steam to the barrel. I built the wand using the following parts:
  • (1) 1/2" FNPT tee
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/4" MNPT reducer
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT x 1/2" compression fitting
  • (1) 1/2" compression fitting plug/cap
  • (1) 1/2" OD tubing (length as appropriate for your build)
  • (1) 1/2" MNPT camlock fitting
  • (1) 1/2" camlock barb fitting (not full flow)
  • (1) wooden handle, in my case made from a section of barrel stave
Beer Diary used 1/2" copper tubing for their build. I went all stainless primarily because I had some spare stainless parts around my brewery. For example, I bought some stainless tubing a little while back for some blow-off setups. I also had spare camlock fittings.

For assembly, the fittings are screwed together as shown. The reducer is used to attach the handle and it's plugged with silicone sealant to direct the steam down the wand instead of into the handle. I used Teflon tape on all the threaded fittings so that they don't leak. I drilled five small holes (1/16") holes along the length of tubing at various angle, and these are used to emit the steam. 

As for the steam generator itself, it's a Wagner 705 Wallpaper Steamer that I got off of local classifieds for $25. I clipped the original fitting off the end of the hose and installed the 1/2" camlock barb fitting. This makes it so I can easily detach the wand from the hose and dump water from both the hose and the wand (after everything has cooled down).

To use the steamer, I fill the reservoir with dechlorinated water.  It takes about 10 minutes for the steamer to heat up and it'll go for about an hour before needing refilling. 

One word of should come as no surprise, but steam is hot. The metal parts will get very hot, so use common sense so as not to burn yourself.
End of wand

Handle and Tee