Fruit Additions: What, When and How?

Homebrew Fruit Beer

This blog came about as a request from Luke on twitter and on the face of it looks a fairly simple question…….but there are hundreds of different fruits you can use and different ways to apply them with no blanket set of rules that can be applied to all.

So below I’ll cover the basics of what, when, how and how much for a selection of popular fruits, but if you want any advice on a particular fruit not covered let me know in the comments below and I can give you guidance specific to what you’re doing.

WHAT?

As homebrewers we have the ability to experiment with these more freely than commercial breweries without the financial risk of having to invest in enough fruit to brew 5,000 litres. Making beer with fruit is not a cheap prospect but the rewards are fantastic.

There are some things to look out for though, some of the tropical fruits contain an enzyme called Bromelain that performs proteolysis creating a thinner beer with less head retention. You can still use these fruits you just need to denature the enzyme by heating to 80⁰c for approx. 10mins first.

A good starter list of fruits to experiment with is:

Cherries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries, Apricot, Passionfruit, Mango, Strawberries, Dates, Raisins, Plums & Blackcurrants

I think because of the shear amount of fruit that can be used, rather than focus on the type of fruit we’ll look at the form, as each has its own challenges.

Dried: whether it be dried cherries or Raisins or any other fruit the first thing to check is that they’re additive free, often dried fruits will have a dusting or covering of things like oil or types of flour so that they don’t stick in clumps, steer clear of these. Other additions to look out for are preservatives, be wary of these as well. Essentially you want additive free dried fruit to add to your beer.

Fresh: what could be better than using fresh fruit in your beer? Make sure the fruit is ripe, tastes good and is washed clean before use.

Frozen: This is my favourite type of fruit to use, it’s generally cheaper, lots of varieties are available off season and the freezing process helps you out because it ruptures the cell walls allowing the fruit to release its flavours. Freezing will not kill microflora on the fruit’s surface.

Juice concentrate (65brix): I’ve never used this but it is popular in the US, an intense flavour that can be applied directly to the beer at the rate required without mess and beer losses. This is the easiest of the lot to use, it’s either an addition to the fermenter or post fermentation with the addition able to be tested with a simple trial.

Canned: An extremely handy way of adding sterile fruit to your beer, careful of the juice or syrup that the fruit is suspended in as this will add more fermentable sugars and flavour than the fruit alone.

WHEN?

There are several stages that you can add fruit to your beer, the two ways I’ve used the most are in the fermenter and in the secondary fermenter/conditioning vessel.

Fermenter: I’ve used this as a way of combining the primary fermentation with uptake of fruit flavours making things a little quicker and with less transferring of beer on and off fruit. Drawbacks are that some of the delicate fruit compounds are lost due to the active fermentation.

Secondary: This is my preferred method, it’s certainly gentler on the fruit giving more opportunity for integration into the beer. Drawbacks are that it does require extra beer handling so is more prone to oxygen pickup and is a more intense process for beginner brewers.

End of the boil: A handy option for botanicals this is also useful for some fruit for complete strerility. I’ve not used this technique preferring to give my fruit more time in contact with the beer. Only really useful for smaller more delicate flavour additions.

HOW?

Adding fruit can be a risky business especially if you’re brewing a clean beer you’re adding something that’s not sterile to something you’ve endeavoured to keep as clean as possible. This is what I do, by no means is it the only way to do things but I’ve been infection free.

Dried fruit: Chop up into bits and either soak in 100 degree water or 100 degree wort depending on if adding to primary or secondary, wait till it cools then add the fruit and juice.

Frozen: Put the fruit in a clean pan and bring up to 80 degrees, keep stirring for 10 minutes and then add to either a sanitised fermenter or secondary fermenter to cool down before adding wort or beer to it.

Fresh: I like to put my fresh fruit into the freezer to help rupture the cell walls and then treat it the same way as frozen fruit.

Canned: Add straight from the can having drained off the juice (Or with the juice – if you want the additional sugar and juice flavour) add to Fermenter or secondary.

The length of time you leave the beer on the fruit is up to you depending on the impact you require, a good starting point is a week. I’ve tended to do this step warm, helping any refermentation of fruit sugars to be completed without risking bottle bombs. I suggest regular tasting to determine the right time to package.

HOW MUCH?

A lot! And this is where homebrewers have a leg up, we can add as much or as little as we like without incurring huge costs. Here’s some addition ideas, bear in mind that not all fruit is equal, dependant on origin, season and what form it’s in some types need more or less to have the same impact so experimentation is key.

Blackberries 120-500g of fruit per Litre of beer

Blueberries 120-350g/L

Cherries 120-500g/L

Raisins 4.5-15g/L

Raspberries 30-375g/L

Mango 50-120g/L

Apricot 180-500g/L

Remember if you want any advice on a particular fruit or beer style not covered above let me know in the comments and I can give you guidance specific to what you’re doing.

Formerly of Fullers, Thornbridge and Buxton. Now a freelance Black IPA advocate, homebrew geezer and creator of Baby Back Bacon Black IPA™

12 Comments

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Mark C

    What I’ve done in the past is use a Beka 28cm Fruit Juice Steamer to extract the juice from the fruit/vegetables and then add this to the secondary fermenter. The juice in the steamer collects in a lower chamber and because it has been extracted by steaming it is completely sterile. Another bonus is that you get a pretty clean fermentation with less trub in the bottom of the fermenter. This bit of kit does cost around £90 though so it may be a bit of a luxury unless you plan on getting plenty of use from it.

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Luke

    Cheers for this James, exactly what I needed help with.
    Have a Berliner Weisse that I’ll be adding peaches to, once it’s reached an aceptable sourness level, and also planning a fruit sour for spring. Will put your advice to good use.

  • Reply November 23, 2014

    Josh

    Would you see any issue with adding a passionfruit pump type mixture to the primary? Currently I don’t have any way to purge vessels so trying to stick to using primaries but would like to try out a passionfruit IPA.

    The pulp I’m thinking of is:
    http://www.souschef.co.uk/passion-fruit-puree.html

    Also, is there any issues with the added sugars? Would you leave it a few weeks to make sure everything is properly fermented out? Just wary of creating a old bottle bomb.

  • Reply November 24, 2014

    JK

    Hi Josh,

    What a great idea, I’ve not seen those before and they look great for using with beer. That will add a lot of gravity points to your beer so be wary of that, you won’t need to add any time to the primary fermentation just make sure you’ve pitched enough yeast to get the job done.

    Cheers

    JK

  • Reply April 13, 2015

    dean

    I have used the funkin pro puree in saison but found the flavour to fade once fermented out . The only one that worked was lychee . Cheers Dean .

  • Reply January 31, 2016

    Owen Morris

    I’m thinking of making a grapefruit pale ale, how much would you recommend to give it a good grapefruit kick? Also should I use fresh or frozen grapefruit?

  • Reply January 31, 2016

    owen morris

    I’m planning on making a grapefruit pale ale using nz cascade and nz motueka. How much would you recommend to use for a 35 pint batch? Also should I use them frozen or fresh?

  • Reply June 29, 2016

    Ryan

    I made a wheat beer and plan to add passion fruit concentrate to the primary fermentor but dont know how much to add. Im going for a tart beer similar to green flash passion fruit kicker. Any advice? here is what im adding: https://www.perfectpuree.com/product/passion-fruit-concentrate/

    • Reply June 30, 2016

      Paul Dodd

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for the comment, I’d recommend starting with 1kg of your fruit concentrate going in at the start of fermentation. I’d sample approx. half way through fermentation and if it’s below your desired flavour intensity add 20% increments and taste daily until desired flavour intensity is achieved and allow to ferment out.

      Different brands and suppliers concentrates have different intensities and unfortunately I’ve not tried the one you’re using before so it will have to be a little bit trial and error on your first brew, make plenty of notes so you can refine on subsequent brews.

  • Reply September 16, 2016

    Adam

    Hi, I’m a relatively new all grain brewer.

    Have been keeping batch sizes low so that I get to brew often (approx 10 brews in 3 months so far). No brews including any fruit as yet.

    I have a plum tree that was already established when we bought the house. The plums on it are small tart & astringent – not good eating plums but maybe OK in beer.

    I’m not ready to go the whole wild yeast sour beer yet but was thinking of making a beer with plums added after the primary fermentation is done without pasteurising the fruit first.

    I was thinking about perhaps making a wheat beer with a bit higher than usual gravity to up the alcohol level a bit to try & minimise the risk of contamination from the fruit. I was also thinking of brewing it with a bit lower attenuation than usual to try & give a bit bigger mouthfeel & offset the tartness/astringency & any thiness/dryness added by the fruit.

    Do you think that this would work OK? Any suggestions/tips welcomed.

    • Reply September 28, 2016

      Samuel Williams

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for your comment and apologies for the delayed response.

      Any wild yeast or bacteria that are present on the fruit will be capable of fermenting longer chains of sugar than a standard brewers yeast so even if you wait until the primary fermentation is complete, further fermentation is likely to occur after the fruit has been added. With using higher alcohol, it would need to be wine or spirit levels ABV before it would be able to withstand some level of infection and this is probably out of style for a wheat beer.

      Our advice would be to pasteurise by heating the plums in a pot to about 80c and then letting them cool before racking your beer on top of them. This is the safest way in our opinion.

      If you do decide to go without pasteurising, ensure that the gravity has been stable for at least 3 weeks before bottling to ensure there is no further fermentation occurring that could create bottle bombs.

  • […] are a number of ways to add fruit to beer as described in this blog. The method I’ve chosen is to add tinned fruit directly to the beer, post fermentation, as […]

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