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Brewing with Chocolate

by Scott Russell

 

Cocoa powder and Hershey bars? You can use chocolate to make your beer more complex. Tips, techniques and a quintet of recipes.

 

In my experience as a homebrewer, the manager of a homebrew shop and a writer for Brew Your Own, I have learned many things. But there remains one enigma: Why do homebrewers insist on messing with success? Why can't we be satisfied with a great pale ale or a perfect pilsner? Why do we insist on adding that one extra ingredient - or giving some oddball technique a try - at the risk of brewing something undrinkable? I don't know the answer, but I'm willing to guess that it has something to do with why we began homebrewing in the first place.

 

One of the ingredients with which I often have experimented over the years is chocolate. With slightly more success than failure, I am proud to say. I will spare you the gruesome details and ugly results, and merely give you tips on doing it right and doing it well.

 

Chocolate: How to Brew With it

 

Chocolate begins with the cacao tree, which grows in the tropics of America. The beans of this small evergreen are roasted, husked and ground into cocoa powder. The natural fat, which is called cocoa butter, is removed. (The tree is spelled "cacao," while its byproducts are more commonly spelled "cocoa.")

 

The types of chocolate available to the consumer usually have sugar, oils and other flavoring and smoothing agents added. A chocolate bar, for example, is made from cocoa powder, sugar, cocoa butter and (often) other fats; the more cocoa butter it contains, the more awesome the mouthfeel!

 

If you can find pure, untreated cocoa beans (good luck!) you can use them in your homebrew like you would coffee beans - roasted, crushed like a specialty grain, and added in small amounts as a steeping grain or in the mash. Otherwise, you must deal with the added ingredients that I mentioned above. Each poses a slightly different challenge, but each of the available kinds of chocolate can be used with great success in your homebrew, provided you do it with reasonable care.

 

First and foremost, do not confuse what we are discussing with chocolate malt. Chocolate malt is malted barley, kilned to a dark brown color (anywhere between 200 and 400 SRM, usually). It can give beer a roasty, chocolate-like aroma and taste, but it is definitely not a cocoa-based product. Many commercial brewers use the word chocolate in the names of their beers, but only a few actually use real chocolate. Several of the recipes below use chocolate malt as well, just for fun!

 

Ground cocoa - in other words, unsweetened and pure cocoa - can be used in the mash or in the boil. In the mash, simply sprinkle the desired amount into the grain bed at the beginning of the sparging process, or for a strong cocoa taste, add it to the grains during the mash itself. Ground cocoa will lend a dark and bitter flavor to the beer. It may not be recognizable as chocolate, but it will add a layer of complexity. (Note: Don't confuse ground cocoa with hot chocolate mix or chocolate milk powder, which are sweetened and often have powdered milk added. Ground cocoa is the defatted powder made from the beans, with nothing else added.)

 

Baker's chocolate is the same as ground cocoa, except that oils have been added - or, in some cases, not removed - to make a solid "cake" of unsweetened bitter chocolate. These oils, whether added or natural, cause a minor inconvenience for the brewer. Any beer made with these and other types of oil-containing chocolate must include a long and vigorous boil time to volatilize the oils, otherwise the beer will suffer from poor head retention. Most baker's chocolate is unsweetened or bittersweet, but it is now also possible to find milk chocolate and white chocolate in the same basic format - they will act the same, but will obviously be sweeter. All of these should be broken or chopped into small pieces and added to the boil with any syrup or dry malt extracts. Care should be taken to stir well, making sure the chocolate is not burning onto the bottom of the kettle.

 

A slight further refinement is the chocolate chip - sweetened, high-quality chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk chocolate or white chocolate) are still more cocoa than additives. They should be used in the same way as the chopped baker's chocolate, above.

 

All candy bars are not created equal - if your goal is to add a chocolate flavor to your brew, be sure to use a candy bar that contains only chocolate - coconut, caramel, nougat, mint or little bits of crushed cookie may go well in the chocolate, but they will most definitely detract from the beer. Candy bars, if only chocolate, can be used like the chocolate chips.

 

Some of the best chocolate flavor in a beer can come from something you add at the end, at bottling or kegging. Extracts for making homemade liqueurs (white or darkcreme de cocoa, for example), can be added along with the priming sugar, with little or no effect on the carbonation, body and color of the beer. The liqueurs themselves, since they are largely sugar-based, can be added to replace a part of (or all of, in some cases) the priming sugar.

 

Oh, one last item - chocolate syrup, or as my wife's family calls it, "slurp." The kind you stir into your milk, or drizzle over your ice cream, or use for baking. This one is tricky, because it's a sweetened, souped-up chocolate product, for the most part. Ordinarily, I would steer you away from using it, but, as you will see below, I have a secret recipe in which a little slurp does wonders. A final word of caution: Don't use chocolate pudding, chocolate ice cream, brownie mix or chocolate body paint. Under any circumstances. You have been warned.

 

The following recipes are extract-based recipes with small quantities of specialty steeping grains. Each yields 5 gallons.

 

 

 

Bitter Chocolate Imperial Stout

OG = 1.070, FG = 1.022, IBU = 45

 

Ingredients:

 

4 oz. black malt

4 oz. chocolate malt

4 oz. roasted barley

7 lbs. dark dry malt extract

2 oz. unsweetened baker's chocolate, broken

8 AAU Target hops (1 oz. of 8% alpha acid)

4 AAUs Fuggles hops (1 oz. of 4% alpha acid)

1 pint starter of English ale yeast (White Labs WLP002 or Wyeast 1968)

3/4 cup dry malt extract for priming

 

Step by Step:

 

Steep the black and chocolate malts and the roasted barley in 2.5 gallons of cold water. Gradually raise heat to 150 F, hold 30 minutes. Remove grains and rinse them back into the pot with hot water. Stir in dry malt and baker's chocolate, bring to boil. Boil 15 minutes, add Target hops. Boil 45 minutes, add Fuggles hops. Boil 15 minutes, remove from heat, cool 15 minutes. Add to fermenter along with enough chilled, pre-boiled water to make 5.25 gallons. Cool to 70 F, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment for ten days, rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place for a month. Prime with dry malt and bottle. Bottle condition cool and dark for a month or more.

 

 

Mocha Brown Ale

OG = 1.038, FG = 1.014, IBU = 16

 

Ingredients:

 

8 oz. medium crystal malt (50 to 60 Lovibond)

2 oz. chocolate malt

2 oz. roughly cracked coffee beans

4 lbs. amber dry malt extract

2 tbsp. ground unsweetened cocoa

4 AAUs Goldings hops (1 oz. at 4% alpha acid)

1 pint starter of Irish Ale yeast (White Labs WLP004 or Wyeast 1084)

2/3 cup dry malt extract to prime

 

Step by Step:

 

Steep the crystal and chocolate malts and coffee beans in 2.5 gallons of cold water. Gradually raise heat to 150 F, hold 30 minutes. Remove grains and rinse them back into the pot with hot water. Stir in dry malt and ground cocoa, bring to boil. Boil 15 minutes, add half the hops. Boil 30 minutes, add the rest of the hops. Boil 15 minutes, remove from heat, cool 15 minutes. Add to fermenter along with enough chilled, pre-boiled water to make 5.25 gallons. Cool to 70 F, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment for seven days, rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place for ten days. Prime and bottle. Bottle condition cool and dark for two weeks.

 

 

White Chocolate Pale Ale

OG = 1.048, FG = 1.012, IBU = 24

 

Ingredients:

 

8 oz. light crystal malt (30 Lovibond)

4 oz. malted wheat

5 lbs. light dry malt extract

8 oz. white chocolate chips

4 AAU Cascade hops (2/3 oz. of 6% alpha acid)

4 AAU Willamette hops (2/3 oz. of 6% alpha acid)

2 AAU Tettnang hops (1/2 oz. of 4% alpha acid)

1 pint starter American Ale yeast (White Labs WLP008 or Wyeast 1272)

1/2 cup dry malt extract to prime

1 cup white creme de cocoa

 

Step by Step:

 

Steep crystal and wheat malts in 2.5 gallons of cold water. Gradually raise heat to 150 F, hold 30 minutes. Remove grains and rinse them back into the pot with hot water. Stir in dry malt and white chocolate chips, bring to boil. Boil 15 minutes, add Cascade. Boil 20 minutes, add Willamette. Boil 20 minutes, remove from heat. Add Tettnang, steep 15 minutes. Remove hops. Add wort to fermenter with enough chilled, pre-boiled water to make 5.25 gallons. Cool to 70 F, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment for seven days, rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place for two weeks. Prime, add creme de cocoa and bottle. Condition cool and dark for a month.

 

 

Black Forest Lager

OG = 1.038, FG = 1.010, IBU = 22

 

Ingredients:

 

4 oz. black malt

4 oz. dark crystal malt (90 Lovibond)

4 lbs. amber dry malt extract

4 AAU Hallertauer hops (1 oz. of 4% alpha acid)

2 AAU Saaz hops (2/3 oz. of 3% alpha acid)

1 pint starter Munich Lager yeast (White Labs WLP838 or Wyeast 2308)

1/2 cup corn sugar for priming

1 cup dark creme de cocoa

1 cup cherry liqueur

 

Step by Step:

 

Steep black and crystal malts in 2.5 gallons of cold water. Gradually raise heat to 150 F, hold 30 minutes. Remove grains and rinse them back into the pot with hot water. Stir in dry malt, bring to boil. Boil 15 minutes, add Hallertauer hops. Boil 45 minutes, add Saaz hops. Boil 15 minutes, remove from heat, cool 15 minutes. Add to fermenter along with enough chilled, pre-boiled water to make 5.25 gallons. Cool to 65 F, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment for two weeks at 65 F, then rack to secondary and age in a cold dark place (45 F) for a month. Prime with corn sugar, add liqueurs and bottle. Bottle condition cold (40 F) and dark for two months or more.

 

Milk Chocolate Mrzen

OG = 1.050, FG = 1.020, IBU = 35

 

Ingredients:

 

4 oz. Vienna malt

4 oz. Munich malt

8 oz. medium crystal malt (50 Lovibond)

5 lbs. amber dry malt extract

16 oz. milk chocolate candy bars

6 AAU Perle hops (3/4 oz. at 8% alpha acid)

4 AAU Spalter hops (1 oz. at 4% alpha acid)

1/2 cup chocolate syrup

1 pint starter Bavarian lager yeast (White Labs WLP820 or Wyeast 2206)

3/4 cup corn sugar for priming

 

Step by Step:

 

Steep the Vienna, Munich and crystal malts in 2.5 gallons of cold water. Gradually raise heat to 150 F, hold 30 minutes. Remove grains and rinse them back into the pot with hot water. Stir in dry malt and candy bars, bring to boil. Boil 30 minutes, add Perle hops. Boil 30 minutes, add Spalter hops. Boil 30 minutes. Add chocolate syrup, remove from heat, cool 15 minutes. Add to fermenter along with enough chilled, pre-boiled water to make 5.25 gallons. Cool to 65 F, pitch yeast. Seal and ferment for two weeks, rack to secondary and age in a cool dark place for a month. Prime with corn sugar and bottle. Bottle condition cold and dark for six weeks.

 

 

Scott Russell is the author of several homebrew books, including "North American Clone Brews" (Storey Books, 2000).