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Three wine barrels - two Fuder barrels of 3125 and 1000 liters and one barrel of 1400 liters

A barrel - also tonne (from latin Tunna ) in Bayern also Banzen (derived from the Italian pancia , which as much as Wampen means') and also particularly in Austria for larger barrels containers called - is a made of wood , metal or plastic produced , cylindrical ( cylindrical ), often bulbous container .

A barrel either has a small opening, the bunghole, for filling and emptying the liquid or is completely open on one side and can be provided with a lid. This second type of barrel is more used to store solid or powdery substances.


Neumagener Weinschiff (approx. 220 AD)

In ancient times, hoses made from animal hides or large clay vessels ( dolia ) were used instead of the common barrel . The famous Diogenes barrel was one such vessel called a pithos . Wooden containers carved from blocks of wood or logs were already around 1000 BC. In use.

Wooden barrels composed of staves are considered an invention of the Celts ( Gauls , Bojer ). The first mention of such barrels goes to various Roman sources from 50 BC. BC ( Aulus Hirtius , Caesar , Strabo , Pliny ). Barrels were certainly used in the Celtic area a few centuries earlier.

The first detailed description of the barrel is received from Pliny when he describes the wine barrels of the Celts as a vessel composed of staves, closed at the top and bottom by a bottom and held together by hoops . Barrel representations on the column of Trajan provide evidence of the barrels in the time after Christ.

Barrel sizes were often standardized. In the German-speaking world, the historical units of measurement ohm, piece and fuder were used for barrels .

Barrel pullers were once busy with loading.

Shapes and properties

Oak barrels in an underground storage room at Rutherford Hill Winery in Napa Valley AVA . The red color of some barrels comes from red wine that overflowed during the filling.

The cylindrical shape of a closed barrel allows, at least for smaller specimens, to be effortlessly moved (rolling) by hand to another location at a short distance. The bulged shape also makes it easier to change the direction of impact while moving. At the same time, a barrel can be stacked well and space-saving on the flat or rounded surface, depending on requirements and local conditions. In the second variant, the liquid can be easily removed from the tap at the front . The very large wooden barrels, which are unusual today, were also provided with an access opening in the bottom through which a person could climb inside and clean the barrel with a brush and water (which then ran out through the opening); Because of their size, children were often used for this work.

The transport of large filled wine barrels was very dangerous because of their great weight, especially pulling them up or down over steep cellar stairs. Before the development of wine pumps in the 19th century, however, this was part of everyday life and was carried out by specialized professionals, the Schrötern .

Depending on the intended use, a barrel must have certain properties. For example, a barrel must be absolutely leak-proof and, if necessary, breathable , i.e. allow oxygen or withstand high pressure . It may have to be resistant to certain chemicals (dangerous goods). In particular, wooden barrels are intended to impart a certain taste to the stored liquid . This is made easier by the dissolving properties of alcoholic beverages such as wine or beer . However, this release only takes place over a certain period of time, after which the relevant wood components are loosened and the barrel has to be replaced with a new one, with barrique aging this takes place after about two to three years.

Barrel making

Half-finished barrel with wooden staves and iron barrel hoops
  • The manufacture of wooden barrels is of great traditional importance. A wooden barrel is from Cooper, Cooper or Cooper produced and is largely handmade. There are different professional names in different regions, such as Büttner in Franconia or Schäffler in Old Bavaria . Such barrels essentially consist of staves , which are held together by the iron or wooden barrel hoops , and the two bottoms. In the past, wooden barrel hoops were made from willow, hazelnut, birch or linden branches by hoop cutters or band breakers . For use in breweries, wooden barrels are sealed, i.e. sealed with pitch , to prevent the loss of carbonic acid. Mostly the pitch of larch or pine is used.
  • Steel drums are mechanically assembled, painted and checked for leaks on production lines in large quantities of up to 1200 pieces / h.
  • Plastic barrels are machine-made from a plastic tube located in a blow mold, which is inflated with high air pressure. On average, it takes between 105 and 140 seconds to produce a 220-liter barrel using the extrusion blow molding process , depending on the barrel weight.

Barrel types

  • Wooden barrel: Wooden barrels are mostly made of oak , acacia or robinia , in southern countries also from chestnut wood.
    • Barrique : a barrel known in viticulture for transport and storage.
    • Whiskey barrel: an oak barrel made from American or European oak for storing whiskey .
    • Deer or stag: a 200 liter beer barrel
    • Butter churn : a container made of wood for the production of butter , which is provided with a stirrer on an axis with a hand crank and is located on a frame
    • Bucket or tub: a barrel-like wooden container in which laundry is washed
  • Metal barrel
  • Plastic barrel: mostly made of HDPE using the extrusion blow molding process, more rarely using the rotation or centrifugal process. The most common size is 220 liters or 55 US gallons , which corresponds to a volume of 216.5 liters.
    • Lidded barrel: The barrel body is closed with a lid by means of a clamping ring, more rarely by means of a threaded lid.
    • Bung barrel: with two openings
      • Ring barrel: Characterized by a bead (ring), a manufacturing process that was patented in Germany. It makes handling the barrel easier.
  • Keg : Reusable keg with valve especially for gastronomy and industrial filling

Other names

The following barrels are distinguished according to application and type of withdrawal.

  • A pressure keg is pressurized and the filling material is pushed out like that. This includes, for example, the beer barrel, as well as the self-cooling beer barrel .
  • From the pump barrel , the filling material is conveyed by means of a pump.
  • The rain barrel or rain barrel is used to collect rainwater. It is usually under a drain from the gutter and is usually open or only has a loose cover.
  • The cucumber barrel is usually made of wood and the lid can be opened at least partially because the filling material is not liquid and is removed manually piece by piece.
  • In the earlier wood, today made of steel or GRP made Liquid manure is manure attached to fertilize the plants. The metal bin, which the farmers take to the fields for fertilization, also bears this name.
  • The salvage barrel is an oversized lidded barrel, usually made of sheet steel (galvanized), so that rotten or damaged standard barrels can be brought in and thus a dangerous product can be safely transported away and stored.
  • The hobbock is a barrel or canister-like shipping container.


Ornamental barrels in the blood court (Königsberg)
Königstein giant barrel

The steel drum or steelpan, a musical instrument , is handcrafted from the separated lower half of a steel barrel, the sub-floor . This is native to Trinidad and Tobago .

Magnificent barrel of the Ittingen Charterhouse , dated 1759, capacity approx. 45,000 liters. Historical Museum Thurgau

The largest wooden barrel in the world ( Dürkheimer Riesenfass ) is in Bad Dürkheim (Rhineland-Palatinate) and holds 1.7 million liters. It was never filled with wine, but it is home to a restaurant. From the start, this barrel was not intended for storing wine. A comparable giant barrel used as a restaurant ( Obří sud ) with a capacity of more than 1 million liters is located in the spa town of Lázně Libverda (formerly Bad Liebwerda) in the Liberec district in northern Bohemia.

The largest barrels intended for wine are in the Badisches Winzerkeller Breisach with 1.2 million liters. These are only used for blends. The large barrel of Heidelberg Castle (221,000 liters) was only filled three times because it was constantly leaking. The cuvée barrels in Freyburg (Unstrut) ( Rotkäppchen Sektkellerei , 120,000 liters) and in Mainz ( Kupferberg Sektkellerei , 100,000 liters) are the largest wooden barrels filled.

Under August the Strong , the third Königstein wine barrel with a capacity of 238,000 liters was produced in 1725 . The barrel stood on the Königstein Fortress in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and emerged from a competition between Augustus the Strong and the Elector Palatinate , who also had giant barrels built at Heidelberg Castle. The Königstein wine barrel was only filled twice. At the time of the Napoleonic Wars it fell into disrepair and was dismantled.

The Fürstenfass in Pfedelbach was built in 1752 and is the attraction of the local wine museum. It has a clear diameter of 4 m. The circumference is 15.5 m, the total length 5.2 m. The barrel holds 220 buckets from Württemberg , that is 64,664 liters.


The phrase "to go on the barricades" refers to the use of barrique barrels to build a barricade in revolutionary France.

The phrase "to be out of control" alludes to a barrel whose staves or hoops (straps) have slipped and endanger its stability.

See also

Web links

Commons : Barrels  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: barrel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Plastic barrel
  • Steel drums information brochure from the Steel Information Center (PDF file; 286 kB)

Individual evidence

  1. Lisa Leander: 3000 year old butter. In: Spektrum der Wissenschaft Verlag, September 1, 2009, accessed on February 11, 2015 .
  2. The four large barrels in Heidelberg Castle on the website "German Wines", published by the German Wine Institute , accessed on November 15, 2019
  3. Pfedelbach: Fürstenfass und Herrschaftskelter on the website "Deutsche Weine", publisher: Deutsches Weininstitut, accessed on November 15, 2019
  4. Going to the barricades , accessed on July 29, 2017
  5. Out of bounds and volume , accessed on October 23, 2011