Freestyle with Fruit
Here at Home Brew Online we’re often asked about how and when you can add fruit to your brew. So, here’s a little guide:
What sort of fruit can I add?
You may already have a fruit in mind. Perhaps a glut of gooseberries in the freezer from last summer or several pounds of plums from the bottom of the garden? Whatever you have, the good news is that you can happily add fruit that is fresh, frozen, dried or tinned.
For fresh fruit, just make sure that it’s nicely ripe and washed clean before use. If you’re freezing your fruit, it’s still really important to wash it thoroughly to get rid of any unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria. Using shop-bought frozen fruit is also a good option as it’s cheap and it means you can choose fruits out of season. Freezing fruit locks in flavour so you’ll still get the benefits in terms of taste.
Tinned fruit is great in terms of convenience, choice and the fact that it’s sterile. Likewise, purées, juices and concentrates are really easy to add to your brew. For tinned and dried fruit, you have to be careful that they only contain 100% fruit with no added preservatives or additives as these will affect your brew. The syrup or juice that they come may or may not be added depending on personal choice (see below).
How much do I need?
A lot! The great thing is that you can experiment with quantities to make a bespoke beer. Here’s some guidelines:
Apricots, blackberries, cherries up to 500g per litre of beer
Raspberries up to 375g per litre of beer
Blueberries, strawberries, peaches up to 350g per litre of beer
When and how do I add the fruit?
Primary Fermentation- This is a really easy way of adding fruit and with minimal work. However, it can be a bit harsh on the fruit so that you lose some of the flavour. Talking of flavour, fermenting it in this way can give a cooked or stewed fruit taste. To avoid that, you can prepare it beforehand by putting it in a clean pan and warming it up to 80ºC, stirring continuously for 10 minutes. Transfer to the fermentation vessel and let it cool before starting your brew. This method can be used for fresh or frozen fruit and in secondary as well as primary fermentation.
If using dried fruit, you cut it into small pieces and soak in 100ºC water for primary fermentation or 100ºC wort for secondary fermentation. Leave it until it’s nicely plump and saturated, then cool and add both the fruit and the juice.
For tinned fruit, add straight from the tin to your fermentation vessel. You can drain the juice first or you can include the juice if you want the added flavour and sugar.
Secondary Fermentation- This adds an extra stage to the brewing process but it’s much kinder on the fruit and you’ll really be able to taste it in the finished product. If it’s fresh fruit, you need to pay particular attention to cleaning it so that it doesn’t contaminate the brew. Wash the fruit thoroughly, removing pips, pith, leaves etc. before chopping, mashing or putting through a food processor. You can then add the pieces directly into the secondary fermentation vessel and siphon the beer into this second vessel. Alternatively, you can heat it to 80ºC as described above and add the fruit and juice. You would do this for frozen fruit as well. Allow it to ferment and for the fruit to impart its colour and flavours with the lid tightly shut for at least a week. When you’re ready to rack it off, remove the fruit pieces and bottle or barrel as normal.
Instead of fruit pieces, you could use juice or purées. To do that, simply pour into the secondary fermentation vessel, add the siphoned beer to it and stir with a large paddle spoon. As with the fruit pieces, leave to ferment for at least a week before bottling or barrelling.
All-Grain Brewing- It’s really easy to add fresh fruit pieces to the mash along with the grains. The sugars and fruit flavours will dissolve and the boiled wort will kill off any wild yeasts and bacteria. Flavour is lost, however, in the process so it’s best to use strong tasting fruit for this method, such as blueberries, raspberries, apricots etc.
In Hot Wort- Fresh fruit can be steeped in hot wort at any time before, during or after the boil whereas purées and juices would be added after the boil.
If using fresh fruit, place chopped up pieces of fruit in some chef’s muslin, tie it to the handles of the brew kettle and submerge it in the hot wort. Leave for up to an hour, stirring the bag and wort regularly at 5- 10 minute intervals so as to release the fruit flavour and sugars. With steeping, the fruit has the least amount of time in contact with the wort compared to the other methods so it’s best to increase the amount of fruit you use by up to 20% i.e. for raspberries, you would use up to 450g per litre.
For fruit purées and juices, add after the boil but before the wort cools below 70ºC and continue as normal.