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I am planning to add bananas to a beer some time soon.

There is a lot of good info in "Homebrew All-Stars" (Drew Beechum and Denny Conn) from Joe Formanek about how he uses bananas in the mash. One thing that surprised me was the large quantity required. He says that you need about 10 pounds (weight with skin on) of fruit to get a noticeable banana character in the finished beer. By my rough calculation, that seems to be about 30 bananas!

But I'm also wondering about putting bananas right into the primary fermenter (post boil).

Can anyone comment on the relative merits of bananas in the mash vs. post-boil?


Edit to answer Denny's question (in a comment below):

Putting the bananas in the mash sort of seems like a good idea, especially if they are less ripe and more starchy. But I guess my general inclination when adding fruit would be to do so after the boil to prevent losing aromatics to the boil. Also, 10 pounds for a 5 gallon batch seems like a whole lot, and so I wondered if one could get more "banana bang for the buck" if the bananas went in post boil.

  • I was gonna suggest the book, but I see you've already found it! I'm wondering, though, what your issue is with Joe's method? I understand your curiosity, but with Joe's experience and awards I'd be inclined to just take his info and run with it. – Denny Conn Dec 4 '16 at 17:07
  • @DennyConn: Added to my question to answer what you're asking here. – Jeff Roe Dec 5 '16 at 19:42
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IMHO the bananas are best added (mashed up) to the hot wort post boil. Boiling for any significant time can drive off esters that add to the flavour and aroma. Adding to the mash can also increase the bulk volume to crazy proportions, making handling more difficult. A friend has brewed banana beer by vigorously mashing/blending the soft bananas separately in hot (boiled) water, allowing the mix to settle and then decanting the liquid into a fermentation vessel with whatever else is being fermented (eg malt liquor).

I recommend using (very) ripe bananas - the type that have black patches on the skin. These have maximum "banana" flavour and fermentable sugars and least starch. IMHO one doesn't want too much starch in banana beer or it becomes too "thick" and "gloopy". Various brewers have said the shorter (as opposed to the longer) variety of bananas give best results and flavour.

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I’m somewhat new to brewing but I’ve brewed a few different beers with fruit and in my experience adding fruit to the secondary fermentation seems to work better if you’re trying to keep the flavors and aromas intact. I don’t know about bananas but I’ve been curious about that too. My brother and I brewed a cantaloupe IPA and it was amazing.

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Even though your question pre-supposes using bananas to impart a banana flavour into the beer, may I humbly suggest an alternative? It requires FAR less effort than what you're getting yourself into here and has some very banana beer at the end of it ...

I brewed a beer recently that I called '21 Bananas' ... it was a Hefeweizen popular for the reason it tasted so heavily of bananas. It had zero bananas in the recipe!

The key is to use the right yeast and the right temperature.

The name of the beer included a 21 because that was the degrees Celsius it was brewed at - relatively high, which promotes the yeast to produce more banana esters. You could brew at a higher temp for even more banana, if that's what you're after.

The yeast I used was Mangrove Jacks M20.

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