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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.