How to Add Fruit to Your Homebrew
February 20, 2015
First time brewers often think that to add fruit to their beer, they simply add it to their fermenter… but let's stop right there. What is the first rule of brewing good beer? If you guessed sanitation, you were correct. Adding fruit straight to your homebrew without taking the proper steps can lead to microorganisms in your beer that create off flavors. Step 1: Choosing Your Fruit First things first, you will want to decide which type of fruit beer you are looking to brew. This doesn't simply mean what type of fruit, but also which style of fruit you want to brew with. You can brew with fresh fruit, or you can choose pureed fruit. While many people say that fresh fruit brings the best flavor, you must be forewarned that fresh fruit is the absolute hardest to brew with. Why? Not only do you have to prep the fruit before adding it to you beer, but you also have to worry about the wild organisms we mentioned in the beginning contaminating your beer. Your other options are adding pureed fruit, or fruit juice, to your beer. This will allow your brewing to be a bit simpler, and these products are usually sterile due to packaging. However, make sure that the fruit product you have chosen doesn't have any preservatives, as they can mess with your yeast during fermentation. Step 2: Choosing the Amount There really is no easy answer to the question "How much fruit do I add?" The only way to answer is: experiment. The amount of fruit you add to your beer will depend on how strong you want the fruit flavors and the style of beer you are brewing. A rule of thumb is to consider how sweet your fruit is. If you have a very sweet fruit, such as cherries, you will want to add less to your beer. For example, our Cherry Wheat only requires one 16 oz. can of cherries in heavy syrup. That is 1 lb. per 2 gallons of beer. However, our Apricot Wheat calls for 2 16 oz. cans of apricots in heavy syrup. This is 2 lbs. of fruit for 2 gallons of beer. This is because apricot has a much lighter taste, and you need more for the flavors to be present in your finished product. Brewers trick: If you are ever in doubt, visit our homebrew recipes and search for the type of fruit you are planning on using in your beer. Take a peek at some of our recipes and see how much fruit we using. This will give you an idea of how much fruit you should start with. Step 3: Adding Fruit to Your Wort We have had many a brewer attempt to boil their fruit with their wort in order to sanitize it and release flavors. DON'T! Boiling fruit releases the pectin in your fruit and will cloud your beer as well as attribute to off-flavors. Instead, you can steep your fruit in the hot wort, or add it directly to the fermenter. If you are going to steep your fruit, place whole, fresh fruit in a nylon bag and place it in the wort after you have completed the boil (some people will steep before the boil, but we think it is better to do so after the boil.. just personal preference.) You will want to steep for a minimum of 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can add the fruit to the fermenter directly, which is what we do here at Mr. Beer. With our fruit, we puree it in a SANITIZED blender first, and then add that puree to the wort in the fermenter. Let your beer ferment as normal. Pro-Tip: You will get the BEST results if you add the fruit 1 week before bottling instead of adding it to the wort on the first day. The reason for this is that the primary fermentation during the first week can strip flavor from the fruit. Adding the fruit later will also prevent any overflows as a result of too much sugar in the initial fermentation. We usually add a warning label to any of our recipes that contain a high level of fruit stating that your keg may overflow, or even explode, if you aren't careful. When you are adding fruit to your beer, you MUST ferment at very specific temperatures for your style of beer, especially if you added fruit to at the very beginning of the fermentation instead of a week before bottling. If you are wondering what temperature that is, you should again visit our recipe page, find the beer style you are brewing, and check our instructions. Try to stay on the lowest end of the temperature scale for that recipe, if possible. To be on the safe side, when fermenting fruit beers, place your fermenter in an area that, if it does overflow or explode, will contain the mess and not cause any damage.