1. Fill it with 1/10th of hot water and soak it on each end for 15-30 minutes.
2. Do a cold water soak by filling it all the way up and allowing it to stay that way over night.
I decide to go with the cold water soak so the next day I could run a pH and sulfite test on the wine and make the necessary adjustments before racking into the barrel. The wine of choice here is a California Cabernet Sauvignon juice pail. The next wine to go in will be a Zinfandel from juice. I decided to go with juice at first so the barrel is broken in to some degree before I transfer my wines from the vineyard into it.
After the cold water soak was finished, I transferred the water out of the barrel and allowed it to drip-dry. While it dried I tested the sulfite level of the cab and came up with 12 ppm, with a pH of 3.2. If i was aging in a carboy, I would have adjusted to 0.5 molecular sulfite but instead just added sulfite to achieve 45 ppm free SO2. I am not too sure what to expect as far as a drop in Sulfite levels goes, so I wanted to be ready for anything.
Once the sulfite level was determined, I mixed in the necessary amount of Sulfite needed into a portion of the wine and added that to the barrel. I then racked the wine into the barrel.. It is supposed to be a 10 gallon barrel, but it happily took 11 gallons! I was hoping to use that eleventh gallon for topping wine, but i guess I will be visiting the wine store in search of a proper topping wine very soon.
Before I sealed up the barrel with a silicone bung, I sprayed the bung hole (tee hee) area with vodka and closed it up. The vodka will prevent any bacteria or mold growth around the hole.
I expect this wine to be in the barrel for about 4 weeks, at that point I will transfer another wine in.