Not All Chocolate Is Created Equal

Brewers can easily impart a cocoa flavour to their beers by using chocolate malt in their grain bill. However, sometimes there's nothing quite like using real chocolate in your beer. Commonly used in stouts & porters, chocolate is found in many beers around the world. When it comes to brewing with chocolate there are several things to consider, much like brewing with coffee. It's not as simple as adding some random chocolate to your brew. Chocolate comes in many forms, and each adds specific flavours and aromas to your beer depending on what type you use, and when you use it.

The most common forms of chocolate used in brewing are:

Cocoa Beans

The beans from a cacao tree can be used like coffee beans in your homebrew. It's best to find untreated beans for best results. If you can't find untreated beans, there will most likely be extra ingredients (cocoa butter, sugar, etc.) added which could affect your beer.

Ground Cocoa

Ground cocoa is the product of roasting cocoa beans from cacao tree and removing the natural fat (cocoa butter). Not all cocoa powder is created equal - the best cocoa powder to use in brewing is unsweetened, untreated powder. 

Cocoa Nibs

These are crushed cocoa beans, and like using whole cocoa beans there may have added ingredients you don't want in your beer. Look for raw organic cocoa nibs for best results. These will impart a great chocolate flavour in your beer, but excessive amounts of cacao nibs can turn your brew bitter, and not in a good way.

Baker's Chocolate

Easy to source (just look in the baking section of your local grocery store), this form of chocolate is close to cocoa powder, but in solid form with oils added. These added oils reduce head retention in beer. Use bitter, semi-sweet or milk chocolate versions depending on the level of sweetness you want in your beer. This form of chocolate performs best when broken into smaller pieces. 


Chocolate extract is made by infusing cacao nibs in alcohol. Like all extracts, these vary in quality. Using chocolate extract is much easier than other forms of chocolate, but extracts can leave an alcohol note in your beer. Chocolate liqueurs can be used the same was as extracts and add very similar characteristics to your brew.

    When To Add Chocolate

    While you can experiment and add chocolate to your beer anytime during the brewing process, different forms of chocolate work better at different stages.


    Adding chocolate during your mash is great for any beer style. By adding it during this step, your chocolate will add some complexity to your brew but you will only get subtle hints from the chocolate in the end.

    Ideal Forms:

    • Roasted or raw cacao beans (crushed in a grain bag)
    • Cocoa powder
    • Cacao nibs

    If you're going for a slightly more pronounced chocolate flavour that doesn't overpower your beer, the boil is a great stage to add it in.

    Boiling Tips:

    • Be careful to make sure your chocolate doesn't sink to the bottom of your kettle during the boil and burn - keep it moving in the wort as much as possible.
    • When brewing a high gravity beer, add less chocolate. The alcohol will release more chocolate flavour. 
    • If you're using a form of chocolate with added oil (baker's chocolate, etc.) add more boil time to evaporate the oils.

    Ideal Forms:

    • Cacao nibs
    • Cocoa powder
    • Baker's chocolate

    Be careful when adding chocolate during your primary fermentation. Chocolate has anti-fungal properties that could affect your yeast. Instead, plan to add your chocolate during secondary fermentation. Adding during this stage will give you more pronounced chocolate flavours and aromas. 

    Ideal Forms:

    • Cacao nibs
    • Extract
    • Cocoa powder
    • Chocolate liqueur


    This is when you'll want to add your chocolate when you want chocolate flavours and aromas to be the most pronounced characteristics in your brew. 

    Ideal Forms:

    • Extract
    • Chocolate liqueur

    Give It A Try

    Looking to give brewing with chocolate a try? Experiment with one of our BrewHQ recipe kits. Chocolate goes great with the following brews: