Using Cacao Nibs in Brewing
Cacao nibs (theobroma cacao) are the crushed pieces of the cocoa bean. Cocoa nibs have a wonderful coco smell and will provide a subdued coco or brownie-like, nutty, roastey flavor. Each nugget is roughly the size of a barleycorn and can be used directly in the mash, the boil, or suspended in conditioning beer like hops or spices.
To get the maximum effect in the mash or kettle, crush them in a blender or mill them as you would your grain. For a five gallon batch, three ounces is a good starting point. During the mash the flavor is fully extracted adding another dimension to the beer. Any addition of cacao nibs pre-boil will impart some bitterness.
Added to a secondary, cacao nibs will provide a distinct and natural chocolate flavor and subtle chocolate aroma. If used in conditioning beer, simply fill a small mesh bag with 4 ounces of nibs for a 5 gallon batch and suspend in the beer with a string. Leaving cacao nibs in a secondary fermenter for a couple weeks is generally sufficient. Inside a keg, nibs can remain in contact with the beer for up to eight months. Since the extraction will be lower and mellower than if it is mashed or boiled, this approach will give a softer edge to the finished beer.
Cacao nibs are this brewer’s preferred choice for most brewing additions, as they are relatively unaltered, and can be sampled in their natural state prior to use.