How to properly use oak wood chips for home brewing

Monday, October 23, 2023
The tradition of aging beer in oak barrels traces back centuries, a testament to the unique flavors and nuances the wood can lend to beverages. This is not only true for beer, but also for wine and whiskey. The rich characteristics of oak, such as vanilla and caramel notes, enhance the flavor profile and overall drinkability of these drinks.

In recent times, brewers have been on a quest for innovation. Gone are the days when a simple Budweiser would suffice. Today's brewers are passionate about experimentation, always in pursuit of refining their craft and enhancing the taste of their brews. 

One such method that has caught their attention is using wood, especially oak, during the aging or conditioning process. This infuses the beer with aromatic notes ranging from floral to coconut.

Why use Oak when making beer?

Of all the wood varieties available, oak is the top choice for most brewers. It bestows the beer with those coveted vanilla undertones. And while some may dismiss this as mere "wine snobbery," the impact of oak on flavor is undeniably genuine.

For homebrewers without the luxury of an oak barrel at their disposal, oak wood chips offer an accessible alternative.

Enhancing Your Brew with Oak Wood Chips

When you decide to incorporate oak into your brewing process, a few considerations come into play:

Type of Beer: 

While you have the freedom to oak any beer, certain varieties like English and Scotch ales, stouts, porters, IPAs, and bitters have been proven to benefit from this method. However, modern craft brewers are pushing boundaries, experimenting with darker Belgian ales, Farmhouse Ale, and even Saison.

Type of Oak: 

Not all oak chips are alike. The three primary types are American, Hungarian, and French. American oak delivers a robust oak flavor, French oak provides subtle and sweet flavors like vanilla, while Hungarian oak strikes a balance between the two.


Apart from chips, oak is also available as cubes and spirals. While cubes and spirals are less messy and easier to handle, chips offer a greater surface area for flavor infusion.


It's crucial to ensure your oak chips are free from contaminants. Methods include boiling the chips, soaking them in spirits like rum or vodka, or even using a pressure cooker.

oak chips for beer flavors

Optimizing the Oak Flavor

Quantity: There's no strict rule for the amount of oak chips to use, but starting with 10-60 grams per 5 gallons is a good benchmark. It's essential to taste test and adjust based on personal preference.

Duration: Typically, 7-10 days in the fermenter is sufficient for chips to impart their flavor. However, it's wise to monitor the flavor development to avoid overpowering the beer.

Reusability: While it's possible to dry and reuse oak chips, their flavor-infusing qualities may diminish with each use. Some brewers prefer to continuously soak their chips in spirits like bourbon, ensuring they're always ready for the next batch.

In conclusion, whether you're a novice homebrewer or an experienced craft beer enthusiast, oak wood chips can be a game-changer for your brews. With careful consideration and experimentation, you can harness the rich flavors of oak to elevate your beer to new heights.

beer brewing with oak chips

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top