I'm making an Xmas brew. So far so good with the primary fermentation (this is my 4th beer so no worries there). It's an ale brewed with 2.5 lbs of grains and dry malt extract (only 8 AAU hops). I've bought the following ingredients for secondary fermentation:

  • madigascar bourbon vanilla beans
  • whole nutmeg
  • cinnamon sticks
  • 2oz oak wood chips (which have been soaking in bourbon for a week)

My batch is 5 gallons. What amounts of each of these ingredients should I place in the secondary to ensure that they don't overpower the beer? And how should I prepare each item for secondary? I read something about "scraping the vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks" - what does that mean?

Beer stats:

  • OG 1.054
  • FG 1.014
  • IBUs 20-25
  • SRM ~10
  • Sort of need to know the recipe of the base beer including: OG, FG, IBUs and SRM.
    – brewchez
    Nov 13, 2014 at 13:24
  • @brewchez sure, OG 1.054, FG 1.014, IBUs 20-25, SRM 10 or so.
    – Haney
    Nov 13, 2014 at 14:40
  • What about the malts used? Is that 10SRM all from crystal or is this beer all pilsner with 2oz of black patent in it? Or maybe the beer is 100% munich.
    – brewchez
    Nov 13, 2014 at 16:43
  • @brewchez 2lbs of the 2.5 is crystal.
    – Haney
    Nov 13, 2014 at 19:19

1 Answer 1


For the vanilla, make a tincture of extract by taking 1 to 2 onces of vodka then split and scrape the insides of the vanilla and place it int the vodka. Let it sit a week or 2 before throwing in. I like to do this on brew day then I pour the extract in the secondary after I rack.

For the cinnamon sticks I boil 1 to 1.25 onces for 60 minutes. I've read this is what great lakes brewery does with their Christmas ale. You can also add more later the secondary. Simply measure out the sticks until you get the weight you want then toss directly in at 60 minutes. Some people like to put them in spice bags for way retrieval but this is optional

Nutmeg can be irritatingly powerful. I suggest start with a few gratings (simply grate using the small holes of any kitchen grater)of the fresh nutmeg wait a few days taste and adjust. If you're not careful you can make a nutmeg bomb.

Other things to try for a Christmas ale, fresh ginger just peel and throw in whole with the cinnamon for a 60 minute boil roughly .75 once. Any orange peel is nice too.

Sounds like you have the oak cubes covered already.

  • Thanks for the info. What about secondary only? Primary is done. Just add things to taste? Clearly go light on the nutmeg.
    – Haney
    Nov 13, 2014 at 4:18
  • Yup, add it right in, for the cinnamon, I've used both sticks and ground when adding to secondary, but I prefer ground as I feel it gives me a little more control when fine tuning things before kegging, although sticks work good too. For the tincture of vanilla, just toss it in, same with the cubes. For orange peel, I would maybe go with fresh over dried, but i've only ever used it late in the boil, and for the ginger, if using fresh, be very careful, 3 years ago I turned a delicious x-mas beer into a ginger beer. Use very small amounts, or go with ground.
    – muck41
    Nov 13, 2014 at 13:12
  • I just made the vanilla tincture, thanks for the suggestion!
    – Haney
    Nov 13, 2014 at 21:38
  • 2
    No problem. I think the key takeaway to all of this, is to start small, and gradually add to get the taste you want. Remember to take notes so that next time you make the recipe you can start a little closer. Let us know how it turns out.
    – muck41
    Nov 13, 2014 at 21:42

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