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samueld

When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade and put it in your wort (I think)

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I got this question from someone in the Mr. Beer chatroom: "I want to make something similar to Leinenkugels Summer Shandy. Can I add 1/2 cup of lemon juice into the fermentor or something?"

First of all, if you wish to make a shandy, why not do it the traditional way? Make a beer and then mix the finished product with lemonade or something of the sort. I would bet money that this is how Leinenkugel is making it.

Despite that, I liked the question, and wanted to find out if the yeast would tolerate the increased acidity of the lemon juice. So I told him to give me his email and I would crank some numbers and give him an answer....except I lost his email address (DOH, sorry!!). In any case, I felt like posting the topic here. Hopefully he frequents the forum.

We will assume a typical wort pH of about 5.0. Google tells me the pH of lemon juice is around 2.0. So what would the ending pH be if you mix ½ cup of lemon juice into a normal 2.13 gallon sized wort? I won't expound too much on the math (unless anybody really wants to know), but the calculations show that adding ½ cup of lemon juice to a beer would drop the pH of the wort down to around 3.80, which is just outside of the acceptable range of 4 to 6 (according to the yeast book by Chris White). With that said, assuming your wort pH is around 5, the most lemon juice you should ever add is about 72 mL, or around ¼ cup. In general, however, I wouldn't particularly encourage adding lemon juice to wort.

Of course, these are all numbers on paper, which is nothing compared to good hard experience. Has anyone here had experience with this?

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Though I've not tried this with lemon juice, I have done it with lime juice several times with excellent results.  In all cases, I've used an entire 11.5 grams of Fermentis dry yeast (sometimes dry pitched and others rehydrated) for a LBK sized batch.  I do believe, however, that I've been below 100 mL of juice each time - never measured, just used what I squeezed from 3 limes.

[Edit:  just went and measured using my previous receptacle, and it is indeed right at 95 mL, give or take a little]

Rick

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Good to know! I think I will set up an experiment and monitor yeast activity with varying wort acidity....stay tuned...

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Interesting question. I knew from experience that the juice of one lime wouldn't do any harm, since I tried it, but there wasn't much lime flavor either. Lemonade, as opposed to lemon juice, includes a fair amount of sugar. If the yeast was active wouldn't there be a major risk of "bottle bombs"? Even if nothing exploded, wouldn't the sweetness of the lemonade be lost? Pasteurizing and force carbonating my beer is well beyond my level. Possibly using a lemonade made with artificial sweetener would work, but they all have aftertastes that would affect, probably ruin, the shandy. I suspect that for most of us mixing it in the glass is the safest approach. 

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