How much fruit do I add to my beer?
The amount you'll need depends on the recipe and the fruit being used, but generally 3-7 lbs will do well for a 5 gallon batch of beer. Don't be afraid to experiment with the amounts depending on how much fruit flavor you want in your beer. Below are some guidelines as to how much fruit to use in your beer:
Raspberry and Blackberry (fresh/frozen): Use berries at less than 1 lb/gal. wort to minimize haze. Usually 3 – 5 pounds is plenty for a 5 gallon batch.
Chili Pepper (fresh): To stay on the safe side, add chili peppers to the secondary, let them steep a few days, and then taste the beer. If it needs more heat, add more and try again.
Cherry (fresh/frozen): Use about 2 lbs/gal. wort.
Blueberry (fresh/frozen): Use 2 lbs/gal. wort to get a good blueberry flavor. Use less for subtle flavors.
Strawberry (fresh/frozen): Use 1.5 to 2 lbs/gal. wort.
Peach and Apricot (fresh/frozen): Use 1.5-2 lbs/gal. wort. Cut into small pieces.
Mango (fresh): Use 1.5 lbs/gal. wort. Chop before using.
Passion Fruit (fresh): Use less than 1 lb/gal. wort. Slice before using.
Pumpkin (fresh/canned): Use 5-10 lbs/5 gal. batch.
Should I use fresh or frozen fruit?
A few fruits you want to use fresh because they do not store in a freezer well. Fresh is usually the better way to go, but availability can dictate having to use frozen fruit. Fresh fruit is a little more difficult to use than frozen fruit, because there is a lot of preparation that needs to be done prior to adding it to your beer. First, the fruit will need to be mashed using something like a potato masher or a food processor. Then, the fruit will need to be pasteurized to kill off any unwanted yeasts or bacteria. One way to pasteurize your fruit is to add it to your brew kettle as your wort cools. Once the wort is cooler than 180°F, add the mashed-up fruit. If you do this too soon (i.e., when the wort is too hot), the fruit will release pectin that will make your beer hazy and your kettle messy. However, this method of pasteurizing fruit tends to lead to a less robust fruit flavor in the finished beer. So, we recommend using a second method: pasteurizing the fruit and adding it during secondary fermentation. To do this, put your mashed up fruit into a medium saucepan and add a little water. Slowly heat this mixture to 170°F while stirring. Hold it at this temp for 5-10 minutes.
How do I add the fruit to my beer?
There are two main schools of thought regarding how fruit should be incorporated into your beer.
- Adding fruit puree to the primary fermenter. You'll want to wait until the primary fermentation is nearly complete. If you take a hydrometer reading and it's around 1.020, that should be about the right time. If you don't have a hydrometer, wait until you're seeing 5 bubbles per minute coming out of the airlock. Then, add the fruit and wait for primary fermentation to complete.
- Adding fruit puree to the secondary fermenter This is definitely the easiest method of using purees and is the method that we recommend. After primary fermentation is complete, clean and sanitize your secondary fermentor as you normally would. Then pour the fruit puree into the secondary fermentor using a sanitized funnel and siphon your beer on top of the fruit. The sugars in the fruit will be fermented, and this will cause a minor spike in airlock activity during the initial days of secondary fermentation. This also means that you'll want to keep your beer in secondary for a slightly longer period of time (2-8 weeks total in most cases) to allow your beer to fully ferment. At this time you may choose to rack it off the fruit, or you can bottle or keg it. Racking off into a tertiary fermentor can help reduce the amount of fruit debris that ends up in your beer. Additionally, containing fruit chunks inside of a mesh bag can help keep your beer debris-free as well.