A nicely-flavored stout is possible, and when one is made right, the results can be surprising. Stout additions and flavors come in a wide variety. There are a lot of badly flavored beers out there, resulting in many good beers ruined. But, with a few tips for adding flavors to your homebrew stout, we can help you make something you’ll enjoy.

Chocolate

Chocolate is a tasty and natural flavor to add to any stout. Since chocolate comes in numerous forms and flavors, from cacao nibs to cocoa powder to actual chocolate bars, it can be fun to play with. Dark chocolate is the traditional addition to beer, its bitterness both complementing and cutting through the stout’s dark malts. But milk chocolate is also very popular lately and can find its way into stouts,delivering a chocolate milk shake taste.

Cacao nibs and cocoa powder are the easiest forms to use. You can crush cacao nibs as you would specialty grains. Both crushed cacao nibs and cocoa powder should be added to the mash, the boil kettle, or to the secondary fermenter for a couple of weeks. Start with 4 ounces per 5 gallons of beer.

Grains

Do you like oatmeal stouts? Even those who wouldn’t normally drink stouts are drawn in by these beers because of their silky texture and subtle sweetness. But, you can use grains other than oats. Rye offers a slick texture and creates a spicy, smoky note to the brew.

Adding grain to your beer is very simple. Replace a portion of your barley malt (up to 20 percent) with the grain(s) of your choice. Be careful as oats and rye can gum up a mash. Lauter slowly and consider including some rice hulls during the process.

Coffee

Coffee is a wonderful addition to a stout. The most important thing to remember if you are planning to brew a coffee stout is to resist the temptation to add coffee during the boil itself. Leave the coffee bags in hot (but not boiling) water for a maximum of 5 minutes and then promptly remove them.

Your best bet is to prepare a separate coffee infusion— French press, filter cone, espresso, or cold-brewed toddy—and add the cooled coffee to the carboy . Four cups of prepared coffee per 5 gallons of beer is a good place to start and you can add more later if you wish.

Fruit

Fruit additions to stout can work surprisingly well. Dark fruits, such as plums will amplify dark fruit notes already present in many types of stout. The most common way to add fruit to your brew is the secondary fermenter. Fruits with a lot of sugar will likely induce a true second fermentation. Avoid boiling pectin-rich fruits such as berries and cherries, as this can cause the pectin to set, making your beer gummy. Fruit amounts vary widely, so this is all about experimentation!

Remember, any time you add flavoring to a beer, start small and increase the amount as you learn. Stouts are a great beer to have fun with, so if you are looking for a brew to experiment with, try a chocolate, cherry, coffee, or oatmeal stout to start!