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I just put 5 pounds of blackberries in secondary fermenter with 5 of the 10 gallons of a Belgian wit. I was going to bottle it all one week from now, assuming fermentation has died down.

Are there any drawbacks to leaving the fruit in for a week? What about 2 weeks? I brewed again this weekend and might just wait and bottle it all together. Should I rack the beer off e blackberries at some point in the meantime?

Result:

photo 3.JPG

This doesn't show the color as well as I'd like. While you're pouring it, it's almost pink-ish, which is when it looks its most unnatural. In the glass it looks closer to a very reddish brown.

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Let us know how this beer comes out. I'm planning to do the exact same thing in a couple months as a summer beer - split a batch of wit to make half berry and the other half plain. –  JackSmith Jan 31 '11 at 13:36
    
How long did you leave it in, and how did it turn out. Are you drinking it yet? –  JackSmith Mar 10 '11 at 14:00
    
I ended up leaving the blackberries in for about two weeks, bottling all together like I wanted to. I now love the final result. The color imparted is so dramatic, not surprising for a wit, that it's not a natural beer color. Aside from this, the flavor is good, the smell is just powerful enough, and its popular enough that I'll probably stick with this process. Thanks for asking back, and thanks again for a great answer! –  Mlusby Mar 10 '11 at 14:12
    
Great to hear. One more request: next time you pour a glass, can you snap a pick and upload it to, say, imgur.com, and share the link here? I'd love to see the color. I'm going to be brewing this very soon, ingredients are on order. –  JackSmith Mar 10 '11 at 19:08
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think it's possible to leave the fruit in there for too long, but I don't think a couple of weeks or even a month will hurt. As a homebrewer and home winemaker, I have two ways to look at this issue...

Technically, when you ferment fruit you are making wine. When you add fruit to your secondary, one could argue that you're adding a bit of wine to your beer, because the beer yeast will ferment the fruit. In that sense, a beer with real fruit added to the secondary is a beer/wine blend.

Now, from the beer perspective, I've seen plenty of fruit lambic recipes that say to add the fruit to the secondary and leave it there for half a year or longer. I've never tried this, but lots of people do it. Lambic may be a bad example, though, because the sourness might mask any possible detriments caused by leaving the fruit in too long.

From the winemaking perspective, when you make red wine you ferment a big vat of crushed fruit (called must). When it's at or very near to it's terminal gravity (at or below 1.000), you press the must to free the wine from the solids. Most of the solids remain in the press to be discarded (this is called pomace). However, a good bit of smaller-particle gunk makes it through pressing and into whatever vessel you collect your wine in. After a day or two, this gunk precipitates out and settles on the bottom, along with a good deal of dead yeast. This layer of sediment is called the gross lees. It's mostly grape pulp. If you do not rack your wine off the gross lees after a few days, you could end up with a serious sulphur problem in your wine.

The differences I can see between what winemakers do and what brewers do when adding fruit to a secondary are

  1. The fruit is added to the secondary whole and unfermented, whereas gross lees are already fermented. Red wine usually takes about a week to ferment, give or take a week. Consider your racking of beer onto the fruit to be akin to the start of wine fermentation.
  2. When you rack onto the fruit in the secondary, you're pretty much only getting active, viable yeast that hasn't yet gone dormant, whereas the gross less in wine contain a bunch of dead & dormant yeast. The autolysis risk is lower when doing what brewers do versus what winemakers do.
  3. Beer yeast is less likely to give off H2S if left in contact with spent fruit and dead or dormant comrades, while wine yeast is more finicky about this.

In the end, I think if you leave your beer on the fruit for many months, you run the risk of some yucky odors & flavors in your beer, but a few weeks or even a month or two won't hurt.

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Thank you for the dual perspectives, that's quite interesting. –  Mlusby Feb 1 '11 at 15:39
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I left the blueberries in my melomel for a month. Though it was at around 10% alcohol when I put them in there, but you do want them in long enough to extract as much of the flavors as you can.

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