Advanced Brewing: Using Chocolate In Your Beers

How to get a chocolate flavour in your beers.

It’s April Fools Month so let’s look at one of the fastest ways to ruin a good beer – by adding extra ingredients not in the recipe! Yep, adding extra elements to your beer is risky business and can lead to infection, fermentation issues, and simply bad tasting beer. If done correctly though it can open up a whole world of options to you and can take your brewing to the next level. Over the next few weeks we’ll look at how to add different flavours to your beer using extra additives and ingredients. This week we’ll be looking at one of the most coveted flavours: chocolate.
Getting an accurate chocolate flavour in your beer is challenging! This is because chocolate is a complex product. The chocolate that you buy in the supermarket has come a long way from the raw cacao beans and has had sugar, cocoa butter, and other fats added to make it more delicious. Adding extra fats and oils to your negatively affects head retention and can also lead to a rancid beer down the track so finding a good way to impart a chocolate flavour without actually adding chocolate has been a challenge for many brewers. Here’s a few of the most common methods for imparting a chocolate flavour in your beers:

1. Fake it.

This is definitely the most common solution. Most so-called ‘chocolate stouts’ don’t have any chocolate content in them at all, instead the brewer has simply used chocolate malt. Chocolate malt is simply a roasted malt – it doesn’t contain any actual chocolate at all! Used cleverly, however, chocolate malt can imitate the bitterness and sweetness found in actual chocolate. Chocolate malt is also great for imparting a dark colour on beers. If you haven’t experimented with dark beer styles and are considering making a ‘chocolate beer’ you should start out simple with chocolate malts.

chocolate malt

Chocolate Malt – The purists way of getting a ‘chocolate’ flavour.

2. Cocoa Powder

The easiest way to get a chocolate flavour into your beer (aside from using chocolate malts) is to add pure cocoa powder to your beer. For extract, BIAB, and All-Grain Brewers the process is simple – just add the cocoa powder in the last 10-15mins of your boil. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t really taste like chocolate – it tastes like cocoa. This might be fine if you’re looking for the bitter taste that cocoa imparts but for a more realistic chocolate flavour try method 3….

cocoa powder

Use sparingly – otherwise you could end up with a cloudy and gritty beer.

3. Cacao Nibs

Cacao is chocolate. Or, more accurately, it’s unprocessed chocolate – simply broken up pieces of the cacao bean. You might need to search around to find them (in brisbane Flannerys is probably your best bet) or buy them online but if you research the results of this method you’ll find that it reliably delivers better results than cocoa powder. You can use cacao nibs at the end of the boil or in your fermenter – use between 100g and 200g per 20L batch of beer. If you want to get the most out of your cacao nibs a good idea is to let cover them in a small amount of vodka for a day or two before you add them. The vodka helps to bring out the flavour of the cacao and also acts as a sanitiser. Cacao nibs give all the flavours of chocolate but without the powdery residue of cocoa.

It's worth the effort with cacao nibs!

It’s worth the effort with cacao nibs!

4. Use an essence.

If you do decide to use an essence you should do so once fermentation as finished. Whilst the purists may cry foul there is nothing wrong with using an essence in a specialty beer! The important thing to look out for is that you’re using a quality essence – otherwise you might get that ‘fake chocolate’ taste that isn’t very desirable! All of the essences we stock at brewers choice are of a very high quality and can be added to beers if you desire. It’s best to find essences without added sugar, but alternatively you can also use the sugary essence as a priming sugar if you bottle your beers. We’d suggest adding a small amount at first (1 small bottle for a 20L batch) and working your way up to more in your next batch if required.

The Top Shelf essence stocked by Brewers Choice is a good choice!

The Top Shelf essences stocked by Brewers Choice are a good choice!

Good luck with your chocolate beers. Here are a few recipes for you to use as bases for you chocolate experimentation:

KIT BREWING:

Jack of Trades Porter

Monteith Black Beer Clone Recipe

EXTRACT BREWING:

Hunchback Irish Stout
Adam’s Milk Stout

FRESH WORT BREWING:

A Girl in Every Porter
Black Cat Fresh Wort Stout

BIAB BREWING:

Dark Menace (Dark Penance Clone) – BIAB
Browntown Smoked Dark Ale

ALL GRAIN BREWING:

Dark Menace (Dark Penance Clone) – All Grain
Guinness Style Dry Stout Clone

Happy Brewing!

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