Chocolate flavored beers combine the best of desserts with your favorite drink. However, the techniques, methods, and tips for Choco-flavored beers are a much debated topic in the brewing world. Here, in today’s post, we take a look at the nitty-gritty of brewing with chocolate, giving you some handy tips to get it right.
The Myriad Flavors of Chocolate
When it comes to chocolate, there are a plethora of flavors and types. You can classify them into the following different types:
- Fruity – citrus, tropical, dried, berry, tree-fruits
- Vegetative – Fresh, dried, cooked
- Floral – citrus, jasmine, violet, rose
- Spicy – black pepper, cinnamon, vanilla, coffee, licorice
- Nutty – peanut, almond, hazelnut, walnut
- Caramel – butter, milk, butterscotch, honey, molasses
- Earthy – mushroom, truffle, musk
Once you’ve decided on the flavor you want to include in your brew, the next step is to decide on the right form of chocolate to include in your brew.
The Various Forms of Chocolate to Use in Your Brew
Chocolate is available in different forms like roasted beans, cocoa powder, chocolate extracts and so on. The flavor in your brew depends on the form of chocolate you use. And, chocolates are available in a wide range of prices. If you are looking for the best flavor, then make it a point to stay away from cheap chocolate compounds. These usually have other fillers instead of expensive cocoa butter.
Let’s take a look at the Popular Forms of Chocolate and How it can be used for Brewing
Raw cacao beans are easily available at online retailers or at health food stores. The color of the bean impacts the final flavor. So, make sure to taste test the raw beans before adding it to your brew. While choosing raw cacao beans, choose beans that have been fermented and dried. Roasted cacao beans don’t work for brewing.
Pros: It offers a great flavor to the final brew
Cons: You have to prepare the bean (crack it) before using it
Cocoa powder is one ingredient that is easily available. However, all cocoa powder isn’t the same. Just like chocolate, cocoa powder takes the characteristics of the bean it was made from. The three main types of cocoa powder are:
Natural cocoa powder
This is the most common type of cocoa powder and is the one that is found in most supermarkets and grocery stores. It has a pH value that ranges between 5 and 6. It’s light brown in color.
Dutch processed cocoa powder
This is also known as European cocoa powder. In this, natural cocoa powder is washed in a solution of potassium carbonate to make the pH value around 7, thereby making it acidic. It’s darker compared to natural cocoa powder, and has a dark brown shade.
Brute or black cocoa powder
The alkaline value of this cocoa powder is around 8, thereby bringing out the bitter tones of chocolate. It has a dark brown color, similar to Oreo biscuits.
Apart from these, there are other specialty cocoa powder types like: Double Dutch – a mix of Dutch and black cocoa powder, Triple Blend – a mix of natural and double-dutch cocoa powder, cocoa rouge – a Dutch processed that has a reddish color, Bensdorp Dutch – has fat mixed in it, and raw cocoa powder – made by cold pressing unroasted cocoa beans.
Pros: Cocoa powder is easily available and offers a range of flavors depending on the type of powder used.
Cons: however, the heat applied during brewing sometimes gives off flavors that impact the taste of the drink.
This is the syrup used as toppings for desserts and to flavor milk. Chocolate syrup is usually made from cocoa powder, sugar and water. It may also include other ingredients like preservatives, corn syrup, artificial flavorings and emulsifiers. If using chocolate syrup for brewing, make sure to read the ingredient label carefully, to avoid adding unwanted additives to your drink.
Pros: Easy to use, readily available
Cons: Contains sugar, preservatives and other additives
Chocolate used for baking. It’s available in variety of flavors.
Pros: Plenty of flavor choices
Cons: Likely to sink to the bottom of the brewing pot and more chances of getting burnt. Head retention, uneven distribution in the wort, and mouthfeel.
Adding commercially available chocolate bars to your brews is a whole different ball game. When using chocolate bars, you don’t just add cocoa butter but also sweeteners, dairy solids and oily fillers. If using chocolate bars for brewing make sure that you study the ingredient list carefully, so that you avoid adding unknown elements to your brew. These other ingredients don’t just accelerate fermentation but also add bacteria and other micro-organisms to the wort.
Pros: Plenty of flavor choices including white chocolate.
Cons: The same as baking chocolate.
When to Add Chocolate during Brewing?
Adding chocolate to your brew depends on the style of beer you are brewing. For instance, cloyingly sweet chocolate flavors don’t compliment an IPA. On the other hand, if you are brewing a peanut butter stout, then you can add an intense chocolate punch flavor.
The time when you add chocolate to the brewing depends on the chocolate form used. For instance, if you are using chocolate bars then adding them to the bottle isn’t possible. Similarly, if using chocolate extract, it loses its flavor, if you add it before the pre-boiling stage.
Top Ways to incorporate Chocolate to the Brewing Process
Steep/mash it with the grains
This adds complexity and gives a full-body chocolate flavor. Works well for most beer styles. You can use cocoa nibs, cocoa powder and raw beans using this method.
Add to the grain bed before sparing
The flavor is less pronounced compared to mashing. Works for all beer styles and all types of cocoa powders.
Gives a high pronounced chocolate flavor. However, it can add to the bitterness of the drink. So, make sure to adjust the hops accordingly if using this method. Works for all beer styles and can be used for adding cocoa powder, chocolate bars, baking chocolate and choco chips. Make sure to melt the chocolate completely in the wort before adding to the kettle to avoid burning it.
Add to the Keg/Bottle
Use this method when chocolate is a major component of the final flavor of the brew. Works well for chocolate liqueur, and chocolate extract.
Experiment with Chocolate
Don’t be scared to experiment with your brews. You can substantially alter the flavor of your brew by adding chocolate to your favorite recipe. Whichever style or technique you use, brewing with chocolate is a great method to expand your beer profile.