Can I add Honey to a cooled wort (Brown Ale) and then vanilla at bottling time? It is for a wort transformation contest and I will receive the Brown Ale after boil!

1 Answer 1


Yes to both.

Honey is not all that uncommon in beers, as it is often used to increase the gravity, and/or add a distinct honey flavor to the beer, giving it a mead-hybrid taste. To avoid giving it an overly mead flavor, and adding to your fermentation time (honey is notorious for taking a while to mature in flavor), it's recommended that you use up to 10% of your grain bill (by weight) of honey. If you want to add more more? Whatever blows your hair back.

There's several ways you can add it to your wort. You can dilute it in water to the same original gravity as the rest of the wort, pasteurize it by heating it to at least 176°F/80°C for an hour, cool it, and add it to the batch, or you can simply add it to the cooled wort for an increase in your original gravity. The former method prevents your OG from going up, the latter will increase your OG. A lot of people are advocates for adding it to the wort during high krausen, when the yeast is most active and ready for it. Expect to wait an additional 3-8 weeks for fermentation and aging depending on how much honey you add.

A lot of people have reported greater success using vanilla later in the fermentation and aging rather than earlier. You'll only want to add vanilla extract at bottling. If you are using vanilla beans, you'll want to cut them down the center, scrape out all the goods inside of the been, and chop all of it up very finely. It's best to soak them in vodka for a couple of days, and add to secondary slowly until you reach the flavor profile you're looking for. You can add all of it at once if you're feeling brave, or add half of it, wait a week, sample it, and potentially add the other half if you're dissatisfied with the lack of vanilla flavor.

If you go the extract route, the best way to determine how much extract you would want is to find a good commercial example of a brown ale, pour it into a glass, and slowly add drops of vanilla to it over time, and stir. Determine how many drops it takes to get the right profile you want, and then scale the number of drops up to your full batch size. Add it to your bottling bucket and stir well before bottling off your beer, or add the drops individually to each bottle before capping. Keep in mind extract is powerful stuff, and it is very easy to overdo it.

  • Do I still add the priming sugar at bottling time with the vanilla extract? Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 14:18
  • After doing some brief Google'ing of various extracts available (most accessible for me is McCormick's), yes, there is no sugar in the extract, therefor you will need to still use priming sugar. If you choose a different extract, be sure to check the ingredients to determine whether or not there are fermentable sugars, in which case you'll need to account for when priming your bottles.
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 14:29
  • 3
    "honey is notorious for taking a while to ferment" - Why would you think that? Honey is virtually all simple sugars, and beer yeast will ripe through it very fast, up until you get to the high end of the yeast's alcohol tolorance. MEAD takes a long time to make (for various reasons) but adding honey to a beer takes as long to ferment as if you had added corn sugar (ie, not very long at all). I make a Blonde Ale with 3lbs of honey in the secondary, and it ferments the honey out in less than 3 days usually.
    – GHP
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 15:00
  • I've added honey in a couple of beers, and have found that in excess, the flavor remains sticky on my palette, which refines out to a smoother, almost maple syrup character over the course of time. At most, I believe I've added up to 2lbs to one high gravity ale, and it remained that way for about 4 months before it smoothed over. In that sense, yes, I should have used the term "notorious for taking longer to mature".
    – Scott
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 15:10
  • If I add the honey to primary and don't do a secondary do I have to prepare the honey or can I just add it to the primary out of the bottle. I was thinking about 1 pound for a 5 gallon batch. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 17:13

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