Flavor Additions – Getting fruit into your homebrew

Today we are talking about fruit additions and how to best get those flavors into your homebrew. Throughout your home brewing journey at some point or another, you’re going to want to add an outside flavor into your beer. We all get to that point where we’ve gotten really good at making a certain style. And now we are looking to make it our own by just introducing something different that really puts our signature on it.

No matter the reason adding fruit to your beer is a great way of expressing your own personality. Have some creativity in the process. Take a chance and do something different. In case if you are searching for that really special fruit recipe try our Strawberry Milkshake IPA.

Pineapples, grapes, kiwis and other tropical fruits
Credit: https://blog.publix.com/publix/lets-get-tropical-tropical-fruits-at-publix/

At what point do we put our additional flavor into our homebrew?

In the mash

While it would be convenient to just throw your fruit or flavoring in the mash and let it sit. Then have that flavor introduced and just filtered out with the grains. But then it’s going through a 60 minutes boil cycle and not to mention fermentation.

Whatever flavor you’re throwing is going to alter immensely. The only flavor that really does this process is pumpkin ale. That seems to be the general consensus. Do not add anything to the mash.

The wort boil

Putting a handful of hops into a beer boil.
Credit: https://wearebrewstuds.com/features/craft-beer-renaissance-its-here-and-its-wonderful/attachment/homebrewing-craft-beer-hops-boil/

This suffers from that same issue. You will have to boil whatever you’re adding. Or you can throw it in at the end of the boil so you’re not boiling for 60 minutes. Boiling can severely change the flavors. We don’t recommend this for more sugary additives. This is great for spices like cinnamon sticks and cloves. Those aren’t going to change too much.

In the primary fermentation vessel

Don’t do it entirely there. There might be a couple of flavors that would do well in the primary fermenter. Throughout the primary fermentation you are converting sugar into alcohol so if your flavor has any sort of sugars in it, those are going to be converted also. Your flavors will be changed drastically. It’s not going to taste like that fresh flavor that you’re looking for.

In the secondary fermentation vessel

This is the best and final option for fruit flavors. The great thing about adding fruit to the secondary fermenter is that the yeast activity has calmed down. So it’s not going to be messing with the flavors that you are adding at that time. Once you see your final gravity get in the range you’ll know that you’re ready to add the fruit.

We still have fear of there being bacteria on whatever you are adding to the beer. But now we are a lot safer because fermentation has already finished and we have what is called a green beer. It means that it has alcohol in it to help guard against new bacteria that get introduced.

In what form should our fruit be when we add it into our beer?

A bowl of cherries and jars of cherry jam.
Credit: https://food.unl.edu/jams-jellies-and-preserves

Fruit extracts of extract flavoring

This one is extremely convenient because it’s most likely going to be sterile. Coming out of the bottle there is no pulp or any sort of filtration that you need to get rid of. As far as the flavor extracts, you can even add it right before you bottle because there’s really no reason to let it sit and marinate in the flavor. It’s good to go on as soon as you add it. The biggest drawback is that it’s an extract and therefore it tastes artificial most of the time.

Fruit juice or pureed fruit

This is a good option for convenience, again because the product will already be sanitary coming out of its container and especially in the form of juice. Once you mix it in, the flavor is there. It’s ready to go. There’s no need to wait for anything to soak or get mixed in. The downside here is that you have to be careful if there’s a lot of added sugar. It could create a sweet final product. That extra sugar could contribute to your priming sugar and your carbon dioxide in the bottles, creating an overly carbonated product.

Frozen Fruit

A bowl of frozen berries.
Credit: https://food.unl.edu/jams-jellies-and-preserves

Frozen fruit keeps for a long period of time. You can buy it in bulk. Keeping it in the freezer is a budget-friendly thing to do. Especially if you plan to add it to multiple batches. Another good upside is that the skin and the overall structure of the fruit have been broken down through the freezing process. The flavor gets extracted very easily once it’s soaking in your secondary fermenter.

The biggest downside with frozen fruit is that a lot of times they have preservatives added to them to keep them fresher for longer. You really have to be careful to make sure there are no preservatives inside your frozen fruit because that can damage your beer.

Various fresh fruits
Credit: https://www.azutura.com/fresh-fruit-kitchen-wallpaper-wall-mural

Fresh fruit

Fresh fruit is the most popular option. This allows you to pick anything you want. Youre going to be getting the freshest taste, the best aroma, and probably a bit of color if you choose something that has a lot of color to it.

In the end, even if you don’t get exactly what youre going for. Adding fruit is still a fun way to experiment and get something different. Hopefully, you will learn and be able to get exactly what you are going for the second time around. Cheers.

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