Homebrewing with chocolate — Thanks Easter Bunny!

Happy Easter Brewer. If your home is anything like mine, the Easter Bunny has left the mother lode of chocolate eggs.

The kids have well and truly hit their limit (or gone past it) and you quickly want to deal with the leftovers before they start round two.

I’ve bet you’ve looked at the pile and wondered ‘can I make beer with that?’

Yes. Chocolate is an ingredient used successfully in boutique beers and you can use it too.

Let’s run through your options to add Easter gold to your homebrew.

Beer styles for chocolate homebrew

Call me narrow-minded, but dark beers are the only styles for chocolate homebrew.

You basically want to mimic the chocolate experience in your beer style.

This means a dark, sweeter beer with plenty of mouthfeel. Stouts, porters, old ales. Their rich, roasted flavors marry well with chocolate’s profile.

Chocolate homebrewing brewing tips

Show restraint

Unlike the kids, you should probably show some restraint when it comes to using chocolate.

Like using any spice or herb with brewing, a little can enhance your brew, while a lot can ruin it.

Start with a smaller amount than you think necessary and take tasting notes. Next time you can increase if needed. You can’t take it out.

Sweeten with lactose

To get a sweeter beer you can add lactose, a specialty brewing sugar that isn’t fermentable.

This will give a residual sweetness to your brew, more in line with the chocolate experience.

Half a pound (220 grams) will give you a noticeable effect in a standard six gallon (23 l) brew.

Mashing and malt

All grain brewers can achieve body and residual sweetness through a higher mash temperature (154-158 F or 68-70 C). This will create a less fermentable malt profile, the perfect backdrop for chocolate notes.

Both extract and all grain brewers can use specialty malt in their recipe design.

Chocolate malt will support and complement whatever the actual chocolate brings. Crystal malt will leave residue sweetness and mouthfeel. Half a pound (220 grams) of each will work.

Protect your head

The higher fat content in chocolate may ruin your beer’s head, so design your recipe accordingly.

Kit brewers should use dry malt extract instead of any brewing sugars. They should also use crystal malt as mentioned earlier.

All grain brewers can use 10 per cent wheat and a small amount of dextrin malt in their grain bill for head retention.

Make sure you pay particular attention to rinsing detergents from anything that touches your beer, whether it be fermenter, bottle or beer glass.

How to add chocolate

Chocolate tincture

This means crushing your (or the kids) Easter eggs and soaking in a neutral spirit like vodka.

This will infuse the chocolate flavor into the spirit, which you can use to flavor your beer.

Half fill a clean jar with crushed or chopped chocolate and cover with vodka. Leave for three days, shaking occasionally.

Test before adding to your full batch. Use a fine syringe to add a measured amount in a glass of beer. Adjust until you are happy with the result.

You may have to drink a few beers, but hey, you deserve it champ.

Mix the scaled amount into your fermented batch, leave for a few days to settle. Bottle then as per normal.

In the boil

I’d shy away from this, as getting the full chocolate-fat content in your beer may ruin its head.

However if you want to try it out, add to your boiler for the last 10 minutes of the boil.

Cacao nibs

Okay, maybe this isn’t on the Easter Bunny’s shopping list, but you could add it to yours.

These are the kernels of the cacao bean and can add a great chocolate flavor to your beer.

Again, you can make a tincture and add before bottling.

Another option is to add them directly to your fermenter, similar to ‘dry hopping’. Add three to four ounces (100 grams) to a boiled pouch and add after fermentation has finished. Leave for five days and bottle.

Essence

You can also use a ready-made tincture and eat the chocolate. Buy chocolate essence/extract from the baking section of the supermarket instead.

Again, test with a sample beer to make sure you don’t over-do it.

Recipe – Bunny’s brown porter

Kits and bits

Six gal (23 l), OG 1.040

  • One tin of hopped dark malt extract (ie stout, porter or brown ale) –  3.7 lb (1.7 kg)

  • Dry malt extract – 2 lb (1 kg)

  • Chocolate malt – 0.5 pound (220g)

  • Crystal malt – 0.5 pound (220g)

  • Lactose – 0.5 lb (220 g)

  • Safale US-05 American ale yeast (11g)

  • Chocolate. High quality dark or cooking chocolate best, but whatever you’ve got – 4 oz (120 g)

  • Vodka to cover.

Method

  1. Prepare tincture and leave for three days, shaking occasionally.

  2. Soak crushed grains in one gallon (4 l) of hot water – 158 F (70 C) for 30 minutes.

  3. While this is happening, rehydrate your yeast.

  4. Remove the grain bag from pot and bring to boil.

  5. Boil 10 minutes, remove from heat and dissolve tinned extract, dry malt extract and lactose.

  6. Fill your sanitized fermenter with 4.5 gal (18 l) of cold water and tip in the extract. Mix.

  7. Top up with cold or hot water as needed to hit your target temperature and volume.

  8. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment as per usual.

  9. After fermentation has finished, mix in your pre-measured tincture. Leave for another 5-7 days and bottle

All grain

Six gal (23 l), OG 1.045, 20 IBU, 52 EBC

  • Pale ale malt – 7 lb (3 kg)

  • Chocolate malt – 1 pound (440 g)

  • Crystal malt – 0.5 pound (220 g)

  • Wheat malt – 0.5 pound (220 g)

  • Lactose – 0.5 lb (220 g)

  • Cascade (5.5%) – 1 oz (28 g). Or 20 IBUs of other hops. Bittering only – 60 minutes boil.

  • Safale US-05 American ale yeast (11g)

  • Chocolate. High quality dark or cooking chocolate best, but whatever you’ve got – 4 oz (120 g)

  • Vodka to cover.

Method

Run through your normal brewing regime, noting:

  1. Mash at 158 F (70 C) for 90 minutes.

  2. Add the lactose at flameout.

  3. Prepare tincture and add after primary fermentation. Leave for 5-7 days and bottle.