I use bourbon-soaked oak chips in my scotch ale. My last batch got infected, but that's another story.

I want to add the chips to a carboy, as I'll be aging it for over a month. It's easier to add them to a bucket, but I'd rather not age it in plastic for that long.

However, oak chips are hard to get out of a carboy. And a muslin bag with oak chips is REALLY hard to get out of a carboy.

Any ideas on how to overcome this bottleneck?

4 Answers 4


Put the chips in the carboy until you have the amount of wood-flavor you want and then rack the beer over to a keg or bottle it. You'll pull all the flavor you want out of chips pretty quickly (2-4 weeks, probably) because of their large surface area and thin-ness. Once you've done that, there's not much reason to leave the beer on the chips, so get it into bottles or a keg and let it age.

As for removing them from a carboy...well, this is one of many reasons I use cubes. Some options are:

  1. cutting the chips down in size so that, even after some time in the beer, they can still be removed easily.
  2. Use an infusion tube
  3. Age an a corny keg. Removing the chips from the corny keg is easy.
  • My question wasn't too clear (not enough coffee yet), but the problem is getting the chips into / out of the carboy Mar 27, 2011 at 19:29
  • I see now. I've updated my answer to try to answer your question.
    – Hopwise
    Mar 27, 2011 at 20:56

The problem as I see it here isn't so much getting the chips out of the carboy, but how to separate the chips from the beer without too much effort. Because if the chips were in an empty carboy you could just tip it upside down and shake them out with a few good rinses of water.

I'd invest in a small CO2 system and then plan to rack the beer under closed conditions. After oaking the beer until satisfied with the flavor, you can transfer to a new carboy under the protection of CO2 and not risk further oxidation of the beer. Then you have the beer in another glass carboy ready for a bulk age, and you have a carboy with the chips and trub in it. At that point it should be fairly easy to get the chips out without having to separate it from the beer.

Closed siphoning here


I have a dedicated spice/coffee grinder that I use for this kind of thing. Have a similar problem when making my sassafras hard cider with large chips. Coarse grind them and add to a boil bag. Add bag to the carboy, then use a coat hanger to remove the bag from the carboy when you're done. Made a hickory cider this way from bbq smoke chips. Didn't use the bag and it was a mess cleaning the carboy and chips floated somewhat. IF you want to make the bag sink (if it floats), add some boiled stainless steel ball bearings inside the bag.

If you are near a saw mill or pallet production company, oak sawdust works equally well, just be careful about contaminants from the mill. A quick rinse with everclear or vodka will remove any oils from the saw blades (shouldn't be any) before adding to the bag, ...

  • I wonder though if some of the more subtle flavors from oak are harder to get when you are using sawdust. Seems like a very easy way to get too much of the flavor (and the bad stuff, like tannins) to quickly.
    – brewchez
    Mar 28, 2011 at 11:47
  • Sawdust does have an increased surface area, so the extraction would be faster. Would need to lower the aging time to reduce the tannin extraction. BTW - cheesecloth works well as a replacement for the boil bag.
    – drj
    Mar 28, 2011 at 20:34

As for getting the oak chips out, I think I'm with brewchez in that once you rack out the beer you may have to rinse it a few times but you should able to get it out with the beer no longer in the way.

However, I found this question because I was trying to figure out to get the oak chips in the carboy in a sanitary manner. So for what it's worth, I figured I'd add the process I used here:

  1. Soaked oak chips in a sanitized bowl filled with tap water for 1 hour (covered with a sheet of sanitized aluminum foil).
  2. Sanitized a spoon and had a spray bottle of Stan San on hand.
  3. Sprayed down the neck of the carboy with sanitizer.
  4. Added oak chips a spoonful at a time.
    • This was a little time-consuming and mildly messy, with a number of chips lost in the process due to mostly to carelessness and a spoon that was probably too large.
    • Also, I considered using a funnel for this but the biggest one I have is just small enough at the end that I was slightly worried about damaging it trying to get some of the larger chips through (Hopwise's suggestion of cutting the chips down might have worked here but that would result in more handling of the oak chips than I wanted to risk).
  5. Sprayed sanitizer along the inside of the neck of the carboy to get any chips that stuck to it to fall in.
  6. Sprayed down airlock and re-attached to carboy.

Based on the research I've done I think this should be sufficient to minimize the risk of infection (though this is the first time I'm doing it so I'm open to suggestions as to how it might be improved!).

Regardless, once I've tried the beer I'll report back to at least provide some anecdotal evidence as to how well this worked.

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