The Complete Guide to Adding Fruit to Beer

July 16, 2018

The Complete Guide to Adding Fruit to Beer

The Complete Guide to Adding Fruit to Beer

The Complete Guide to Adding Fruit to Beer

 

Now that you've mastered the basic brewing techniques, let's try a fun new challenge: fruit beer. While you could experiment with adding fruit to beer on your own, there are several reasons you should read this guide first.

For one, craft beer is a complex bouquet of flavors. Adding fruit that clashes with these flavors can ruin whole batches of homebrew.

Also, brewing with fruit is an intermediate technique that involves decomposing fruit. There's a lot that can go wrong here.

But not to worry! We have all you need to know about adding fruit to your signature brew here in this article. Read on to learn how to add fruit to beer.

Cheap Fruit Equals Cheap Taste

So let's say you've decided to use apples for your brew. Good choice!

But which apples will you use? After all, there are 7,500 types to choose from.

The thing we're trying to illustrate here is that any one fruit will have several varieties. And they all have different flavors ranging from "not great" to "best ever" that will carry over into your final product.

If you choose ok-tasting red delicious apples from the grocery store, you'll get ok-tasting apple beer. If you taste-test apples you've never heard of at a local apple ranch, you'll get premium apples for an amazing beer.

You get what you pay for. Always use the best-tasting, fancy, expensive varieties of the fruit if you want great fruit beer. Local farms and farmer's markets are the best places to find fruits for beer.

However, for a more cost-effective option, frozen produce is usually good. Frozen fruits, purees and juice concentrates are usually high in quality (especially name brands) and almost as fresh as fresh. Plus, they're also easier and faster to prepare for brewing than fresh fruits.

Other Fruity Factors to Consider

Certain factors of the fruit affect more than the beer's flavor. Consider these when choosing your fruit.

Sweetness

Adding fruit to your brew means adding sugar, which increases the gravity. The sugars in the fruit are converted to alcohol during the fermenting process.

In other words, the sweetness of the fruit doesn't make for a sweeter beer but a more alcoholic one. Keep this in mind when choosing sweet fruits. Also, if you want the beer sweeter, you'll have to sweeten it when you bottle.

Acidity

More acidic fruits will add a tanginess to the final beer's flavor. When planning the flavor bouquet of your unique fruit beer, don't forget to account for added tartness. Also, know that fruits become less acidic (but more sugary) the riper they are.

Pits, Stems and Other Parts

Obviously, there's a reason we don't eat pits and stems. They're not just hard, but bitter and gross, too. They're definitely not the flavors you want in your beer.

Some pits and seeds, including apples and peaches, contain cyanogens which break down into cyanide. Now, the small amounts that would end up in your fruit beer would be enough to poison you. But still, you don't really want cyanide- flavored beer, do you?

Remove all pits stems and other undesirable parts from the fruit before you brew.

How Much Fruit Do You Add?

Well, that's a tricky question. All fruits and all beers have different flavor potencies.

You'd want to add more fruit flavor for a boldly-flavored stout and less for a light session ale. And you'd have to add less of the potent fruits like blackberries and more of the lightly-flavored fruits.

The best way is just to try it out. Use your expertise of flavor artisanry to guess and then try it till you get it right. And, fortunately, there's a way you don't have to waste a whole batch while doing so.

When brewing fruit beer for the first time, brew two batches of your base beer. Use fruit in one batch but not in the other.

Guess how much fruit you think is appropriate and then use 1.5 times that amount. Make sure you record the amount you use, you'll need it later.

When it's ready to bottle, bottle a few bottles of each batch, leaving the rest in the secondary fermenter. Now, try the bottled fruit beer. Keep mixing it with the bottled base beer in measured amounts until you find the perfect ratio.

Mix the unbottled batches together according to the ratio you've found and bottle it. Use the ratio you've discovered to calculate how much fruit you should use next time.

How to Add the Fruit

When exactly do you add the fruit? That depends on what kind of flavor you want the fruit to add to the beer.

Adding after primary fermentation gives the final beer more of the raw fruit's original, unprocessed flavor. But adding it during the last minutes of boiling the wort will allow the fruit to ferment with the beer for a very different flavor.

The fermented fruit adds a more wine-like flavor to the final product. Consider this difference when choosing when to add the fruit. Then, add it according to the directions below.

Before Fermentation

Don't add your fruit to the mash. If you add it to the mash, most of the flavor will be lost when boiled. As an exception, pumpkin can still be tasted when added to the mash.

But for any other type of fruit beer, chop or puree the fruit to release the most flavor and add it during the last few minutes of the boil. This keeps the flavor but pasteurizes it of any batch-ruining bacteria. You may want to bag chopped fruit in a hop bag before adding it for convenience.

This is the easiest way to add the fruit.

After Fermentation

If you add it after primary fermentation, you risk contaminating the batch with bacteria. To add fruit post-fermentation, you'll have to pasteurize it separately before adding. Or use frozen or bottled juices/purees as these are already pasteurized.

Adding Fruit to Beer: Try It!

Which fruits will taste best in your favorite homebrew recipe? Adding fruit to beer is a fun and delicious twist on your favorite hobby. Try it out next time you brew.

Want some more ideas to try? We've got loads! Check out these 7 Reasons to Try Cryo Hops For Your Next Home Brew.