Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog

~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Barleypopmaker's Beer Blog - ~I know you drank the beer, but did you experience it?

Chocolatizing Your Beer

Like many other aspects of brewing, there is more than one method to achieve a specific end result. You have the Extract vs. All Grain methods (and those in between), dry yeast vs. liquid cultures, fly sparging or batch sparging (or even now sparge methods), and so on. So when it comes to adding chocolate flavor to beer, it should come as no surprise that brewers use various methods to impart chocolate character to  their beers. In this posting I will discuss my favorite method, which I have been using for years with great success, using roasted cacao nibs.

To add a distinct chocolate character to beer, brewers use roasted malts, cocoa powder, bakers chocolate, bar chocolate like dark chocolate,  cacao nibs, chocolate flavoring, or a combination of these. I have had beers that used all of these methods and some are better than others in my opinion. Out of these, the worst is the use of bar chocolate and Baker’s Chocolate. To make the chocolate into a bar, the manufacturer uses cocoa butter or other fats to bind the chocolate. You do not want these fats and oils in your beer, not only does it affect head retention, but fats go rancid fairly quickly. Chocolate flavoring can be OK, but many times it does not give you the chocolate character that goes well with beer. Most chocolate flavoring gives you a sweeter milk chocolate or chocolate candy flavor (maybe you remember Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager from Miller Brewing Co).  The use of Cocoa Powder is pretty popular, but in all honesty still tastes like cocoa powder in the beer, but it can work. The use of malts to impart chocolate is probably the best, but can sometimes be tricky to really get that chocolate character you may be looking for. For, me the use of Cacao Nibs gives you the distinct natural bitter-sweet chocolate flavor and aroma, non of the fats, and does not give you that cocoa powder flavor.

Cacao Nibs are chocolate at is roots. They are the roasted and broken up pieces of the cacao bean. You do need to find the roasted nibs, and not raw. There is a difference. There are several vendors that sell Nibs, and I prefer these.

You can add the nibs to the end of the boil for a small amount of chocolate flavor and aroma, or add them to either the end of the primary or in the secondary fermentor. The best way that I have found to impart the most the character from the nibs is to soak them in vodka for 24 to 72 hours prior to adding them. You use just enough to cover the nibs amount you want to use. For example, if you use 6oz for a batch of beer, the amount of vodka it takes to the cover the nibs in a small container is not enough to alter the ABV by anything you can detect by taste or smell. You do add the nibs and vodka to the beer. Just remember, only add enough to cover the nibs, no more than that.

So why the vodka you ask? Because there are volatile components to the chocolate that are not soluble in water. So for better extraction of the flavor and aroma qualities of the nibs, you need a medium like alcohol to draw them out. Vodka is neutral enough to do the job, while not affecting flavor or aroma in the small amount used for a 5 gallon batch of beer.  Another benefit is that the vodka is high enough in alcohol to sanitize the nibs prior to adding them to the primary or secondary fermentor.

So does it work? Yes, I have a special recipe I will share with you that I have done well with in competition. The extract version of the beer and the all grain version of this beer have both won awards. The all grain version also lost by only 4 votes in a “Best of the Fest” people’s choice award at a brewfest against 30 commercial brewers and one other homebrew club. The issue with this beer you can expect if you enter it in competition is that it is what I call a tweener beer. It is too dry to be a sweet stout, too sweet to be a dry stout, and does not fit in the oatmeal stout category well even though there is some oats in the recipe. But one fact remains, this is a very good people pleasing chocolate stout. Continue below for the recipe.


The 501st Vader’s Fist Chocolate Stout (All Grain Version)

Batch Size= 5 gallons

6.00 lb Pale Ale Malt 2-Row (Briess) (3.5 SRM)
2.00 lb Munich 10L (Briess) (10.0 SRM)
1.25 lb Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Caramel Malt – 60L (Briess) (60.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)
0.25 lb Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM)
1.50 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (30 min)
6.00 oz cacao beans (Secondary 7 days)
1 Pkgs US-05, Wyeast1056, or WLP001


Single infusion/Batch Sparge/Full Body
Mash in with 14.38 quarts of water at 174. Should equalize to 156 degrees. Mash at 156 for 60 minutes.

Batch Sparge twice with 2.5 gallons of water at 175 degrees.
Boil for 60 minutes using the hop schedule listed in the ingredients section.

Add Nibs to primary after fermentation has ended, do not rack beer to a secondary. Just add the nibs to the primary fermentor. 2-3 days before adding them, soak the nibs in just enough Vodka to cover the nibs. Then dump them in, vodka and all, let sit on the nibs for 7-10 days max, 3 to 4 days seems about right. Add Milk Sugar if preferred.

501st Vader’s Fist Chocolate Stout (Extract Version)

6.00 lb DME Dark Traditional (Briess) (8.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Chocolate (Briess) (350.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM)
0.25 lb Roasted Barley (Briess) (300.0 SRM)
1.25 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (60 min)
1.00 oz Fuggles [4.10%] (25 min)
1.00 tsp Irish Moss (Boil 10.0 min)
6.00 oz cacao beans (Secondary, 7 days)
1 PKG US-05, Wyeast 1056, or WLP001

Prepare 7 gallons of water for brewing. Bring 1.5 gallons of water to 158 degrees and place grains in pot, place cover on pot and allow to steep for 30 min. Remove Grains and allow to drain. Add remaining water for your system to achieve final volume of 5.5 gallons (adjust as needed for your system). Bring Water to boil and add 3LBs DME and Fuggle hops.  Add Fuggle Hops at 35 min in. Then Add Irish Moss and remaining 3LBS DME with 15 min left in boil. Cool and add top-up water to fermentor to reach 5.5 gallons if needed. Soak nibs in Vodka for 2 to 3 days and add nibs and vodka to primary after fermentation slows allow to sit on the nibs for 7-days. This recipe has been redesigned to accomodate full volume boils. Use Beersmith to tweak the recipe to fit your needs.


If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask.
MoreBeer! Absolutely Everything!

Category: Homebrewing
  • Threepwood says:

    Great article, well presented. I was looking for a complete overview for using nibs (in secondary) in a stout I’m brewing and your notes are great. Looking forward to seeing how it works.

    April 12, 2011 at 10:31 pm
    • barleypopmaker says:

      Let me know how it turns out for you! I have had great results and heard back from others with good results as well.

      April 14, 2011 at 7:28 pm
      • Brian says:

        I’m new to the whole brewing process, and plan to make a chocolate porter from extract. I tried this once before, but the recipe only called for chocolate barley, and now I want to kick it up a notch. I’m thinking of using a combo of Dutch cacoa power and the roasted nibs. How and when should I add this?

        October 11, 2012 at 9:47 am
        • barleypopmaker says:

          The only advice I can give you is from my personal experience. I have no scientific studies or lab results, but I brew a lot of chocolate stout and have had very positive results. For me, I like to add coco powder to the mash. You have to sprinkle it in with the grains and stir before you add water, or it will clump into chocolate balls. I have found that adding the powder to the boil or even to the secondary makes it taste like, well….coco powder. But adding it to the mash, for some reason gives it a nice hint of chocolate in background for the aroma and a bit of chocolate that comes through a lot more in the finish. I’m not sure why the coco powder in the mash seems to linger in the finish, but it does. For the nibs, I do the soak in vodka for a few days, with just enough to cover the nibs. If you want to grind them in a blender or food processor, a bit more you can, but don’t reduce it powder. I then add the vodka with the extracted chocolate to the beer at bottling/kegging. This will give you a bit more depth of chocolate flavor and aroma.

          October 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm
      • Ioannis says:

        Dear sir ,

        I would like to ask you can I use 37% alcoholic liquid . Will I have any problems with wild yeasts ?

        Thank you in advance

        October 16, 2013 at 2:50 pm
  • KP says:

    What about putting the cacao nibs during the mash in?

    October 31, 2011 at 7:22 pm
    • barleypopmaker says:

      I have added them to the mash and to the boil in the past. From my personal experience you still get some flavor, but the boil and fermentation seem to drive off much of the aroma. If you add to the mash, It would perhaps be a good idea to at least add something after fermentation to bring the aroma back into play. Just remember that when you boil you are not only are driving off unwanted volatile compounds, but some that you want as well. Same during the gassing off during fermentation. But there is no harm in adding them to the boil or the mash if you want to go that route. You still will get chocolate flavor and some aroma. Just not as rich.

      November 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm
  • hawkinsob says:

    I notice that you stress using roasted nibs. I’ve read a number of positive articles and accounts re using raw nibs as well. They apparently are a little less bitter. Have you tried raw nibs with any negative experience?

    January 6, 2012 at 11:53 pm
    • barleypopmaker says:

      Cacao beans are a fermented product. When you purchase them raw, there is a risk of contaminants from the fermentation process of the beans. Roasting them helps kill all unwanted bacteria, molds, and wild yeasts. Also, just like in roasting grains, there are chemical reactions that take place in the bean which gives it that dark chocolate flavor. I always try to stress that there is more than one way to do things, and I’m sure there has been a lot of success with raw nibs, but when you have a fermented product and you don’t sanitize them, add them to your fermented product, you run a risk. Now with that said, if they are adding them to secondary the risk is lowered, and if they are soaking them in vodka prior, they are sanitizing them. Now the only difference if the depth that roasting adds to the beans.

      January 14, 2012 at 10:34 am
      • hawkinsob says:

        Thanks, I picked up some roasted and went with those just to be on the safe side.

        January 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm
  • Michael B. says:

    This has answered some questions I had. I’m new at brewing, but I’m looking forward to this endeavor. Both my son in law and I are doing this. Recently we sampled Southern Tier Choklat. My god what a brew! A heavenly mouthfeel, aroma, taste all in one. So we’re looking for a manner in which we can create that chocolate taste. I’m thinking in addition to chocolate malts, that nibs are the way to approach this. I understand your reasoning on soaking the nibs in vodka also. Thank you for sharing your ideas and logic.

    March 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm
  • skydvr says:

    Appreciate your article – I think it will help with a brew that I’m planning… 2 questions, if you have a second…

    Do you crack the nibs or crush them in any way? Or just use them “as is”?

    Also, does it make a difference whether you put the nib “slurry” directly into the primary or put it in a secondary and rack onto it? You specifically point out the former, so I was wondering if that made a difference.

    Thanks again!

    September 1, 2012 at 12:37 am
  • CR says:

    I’m interested in making the 501st Vader’s Fist Chocolate Stout (Extract Version). I’m curious to know why there is an additional 1.75 ounces of Fuggles in the extract version compared to the all grain version. The other thing I am wondering is why it says the following in the extract version directions: Bring Water to boil and add LME and EKG hops. Add Sterling Hops at 30 min in. What I’m trying to find out here is the type of hops and amount of hops I should use in this recipe. Thank You.

    February 28, 2013 at 12:57 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      I apologize, I should probably clean up the recipe a bit. I believe because I tweaked the recipe over the years, I probably did not do a good job of clearing out my old data. Let me look clean it up for you and update it. I currently use fuggles but the first couple runs at the beer I was using East Kent Goldings.

      March 16, 2013 at 9:01 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      I have to admit, I’m a bit embarrassed. I think I was copying the recipe between my old original recipe and my updated current one. I couldn’t figure out what I did, until I noticed that in Beersmith my first original recipe is called “Vader’s Fist Extract Version” and the new final version is called “Vader’s Fist Extract”. The directions I was copying was a combination between the two. I noticed that when I had the nibs added to the boil only and not the secondary, which is what I do now. I also didn’t use Oats in my original recipe, but have since added them. I have fully updated the recipe with the way it is currently brewed. Again, I apologize for my mistake.

      March 16, 2013 at 9:46 am
  • leonard says:

    Great Article…. when should the lactose go in ?

    April 16, 2013 at 4:09 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      Generally the lactose will go in during the last 15 minutes of the boil.

      April 27, 2013 at 11:00 am
  • Alan says:

    Hi, First thing first, really like your site, learning a lot about oven roasting grain and I plan to try the AG of above chocolate stout but…
    I am wondering what formula you are running to come up with your SRM? I use the formula (L*lbs)/Gal and using the numbers you supply my SRM is 123 when you show a SRM of 40.5

    I ask because this is a huge difference and makes me wonder. I got my formula from


    July 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      I use Beersmith 2 (and beersmith 1 previously) and that is where my SRM numbers come from. I don’t really have a formula or mess with them. Whatever Beersmith gives me, is what I go by.

      July 22, 2013 at 7:10 pm
  • burnzie boy says:

    I am making a partial mash Russian imperial stout that I want to have a strong chocolate flavor. I am trying to make it more for dessert than casual drinking. I put 3 ounces of bakers chocolate in the last 15 of the boil and was going to add nibs to the secondary.

    Do you think I should be worried about the beer going rancid from the bakers chocolate? Also in your opinion do you think I need to add chocolate to secondary?

    July 20, 2013 at 3:09 pm
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      I don’t think you should be worried about using bakers chocolate, in my opinion its just not the best choice because of the fats added. Generally speaking oils and fats don’t go well with beer, but it has been done by many brewers without any noticeable ill effects or at least minimal ill effects. That’s why I say “generally speaking”. For the most part you want to avoid fats, but you can get away with using it if you use a very hard extended boil. This helps volatilize or “boil off” the oils. I think you should be fine, and the most ill effects you may notice would be lack of head retention. I would only worry about the rancid flavors if your boil was fairly weak and/or you used a lot of bar chocolate. I don’t know for sure but 3 ounces should be OK.

      It can never hurt to add chocolate to the secondary, I prefer the use of nibs but you can use cocoa powder if you wish. The reason to add a bit more, is because the primary fermentation will drive off some of the aroma you added by using the chocolate. If you can smell it coming from the airlock, it’s leaving your beer. Adding more chocolate to the secondary will help replace some of the aromatics lost during primary fermentation.

      July 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm
  • Felipe Menezes says:

    Dear friend, you have a nice recipe there. I’m going to try it soon, but I can’t find the nibs here in Brazil. I’m going for the powder Are the amount (oz) and timing (7 days in secondary) the same of the nibs? Do I need that vodka step too? Don’t you need a protein rest? Thanks!

    August 31, 2013 at 8:34 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      The vodka helps extract flavors and aromas that are not soluble in water, and it will work with cocoa powder, however there is a lot more surface area of the chocolate exposed when you use the powder so it’s not really as necessary to do the vodka extraction as it is with the nibs. The timing would be same. I would still use the vodka, if anything, to sanitize the powder prior to adding it to the cooled beer. I do not do a protein rest in my chocolate beers, but if you want to it wouldn’t hurt anything.

      September 3, 2013 at 6:50 pm
  • Felipe Menezes says:

    Hi again! My Vader’s Fist version is fermentong right now! I’ll check back after I try to give my impressions. Have you tried to double this recipe and make an Imperial Stout? It looks like a good experimentation 🙂

    September 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm
  • Lucas Alcalde says:

    I’m glad i found your website! I was looking for the reason why we use vodka and couldn’t find it anywhere! I have an Oatmeal Stout in primary right now and i am planning on adding a chocolaty flavor to it in secondary using the vodka method. Hope it turns out good!
    Thanks a lot!!

    November 11, 2013 at 11:13 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      Not a problem! Good luck!

      November 28, 2013 at 11:01 am
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    December 14, 2013 at 2:49 am
  • Bob A says:

    How much cocoa powder do you recommend in the mash? 80z a good amount?

    December 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm
  • Ron Hoglund says:

    Very good article on cocoa nibs in brewing. One trick I learned from a Chocolatier friend. Roasted cocoa nibs will benefit from a quick “wake up” in the oven just prior to soaking them in the vodka. Spread the nibs out on a non stick baking pan in 350F oven for 15-20 mins. This will release a larger volume of the oils that you want to infuse into the vodka. Keep a close eye on this since you do not want to burn the cocoa nibs.

    February 26, 2014 at 4:44 pm
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      Hey, thanks for the added info! I’m surely going to try that on my next round of Chocolate stout. That’s some great info.

      March 8, 2014 at 9:53 am
  • Felipe says:

    I’ve tried adding cocoa powed with the vodka and it worked fine. I wanted a bit more flavor and aroma, though. I finally found the nibs and I’m trying the same method but with a Cacao IPA. Do you think it will work fine? I want only hop and cacao in the aroma, so I dry-hopped it too! I’ll tell you the results!

    April 15, 2014 at 10:22 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      I look forward to hearing back on this.

      April 19, 2014 at 9:42 am
  • Chris says:

    I’m looking for a true chocolate flavor, most chocolate recipes taste more like coffee. What was the taste result of your brew? Any advice for a more chocolate background flavor? The best chocolate beer I’ve has is chocolate rain from the bruery. Thanks for any advice!

    July 10, 2014 at 8:30 pm
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      Sorry I didn’t get to you right away. I’ve had a lot of spam lately. For more chocolate flavor, I would look to using using both Cacao nibs (6-8 ounces with the vodka soak), and something along the lines of pale chocolate malt if you want to avoid a lot of the more coffee and roasty flavors. Sometimes the addition of sweetness will tone down the coffee tones and bring out more chocolate. The small addition of lactose sugar can bring that forward. Don’t use a pound, but more like 1/4 pound, just to fill in some sweeter notes to enhance the chocolate.

      July 23, 2014 at 7:59 pm
  • Torpedo Brewing says:

    hey quick question. why do you say to only let the nibs sit on the beer for 7-10 days max? im putting 8 oz of nibs into the secondary of an oatmeal stout. is it bad to let the nibs sit with the beer for 2 weeks? because i usually do 1 week primary and 2 weeks secondary for every beer.


    April 4, 2015 at 9:37 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      According to some other brewers who have done extended aging on nibs, over time you can start to get some slight astringency from the nibs if they are left in too long. This doesn’t mean it will happen, or even be at a level that you can detect. But if someone puts in a lot of nibs, it will be noticeable. So I thought it best to suggest a limited time. After 7-10 days you will pulled all you can from nibs anyway so leaving them in longer doesn’t add any benefit. Chances are you will be just fine leaving them in for 2 weeks or so if you need to.

      April 4, 2015 at 11:54 am
  • Carlitomarron says:

    Hi Barleypopmaker,
    How would you scale the cocoa nibs on a bigger brew ? 500liters for example .
    Thank you

    October 14, 2015 at 9:47 am
    • Barleypopmaker says:

      Wow, scale the batch to 500liters, that’s about 130 gallons or roughly 4bbl. You’re exiting my range of experience outside the homebrew scale. But I would say it should be an ingredient you can just scale to batch size. So if you use 8 ounces in 5 gallons, you would use 13 pounds in a batch that size. You probably could also do the vodka trick as well, but that’s a lot of vodka.

      October 28, 2015 at 5:00 pm

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