Hard seltzer has become all the rage these days. Millennials are very health conscious, but still want to have a good time. So it makes sense that this low calorie drink has taken center stage. The problem is flavor seems to take a hit, so lets take a look at the best ways to flavor hard seltzer.
Flavoring Extracts are the primary method for adding flavor to seltzer water. However, cold steeping real fruit, or adding flavored vodka are all effective methods. Water salts are also important to achieving a crisp and clean flavor.
After taking a sip of White Claw I found the taste absolutely terrible. I though there has to be a way to make this taste better. So I dug deep into different ways to make a hard seltzer actually taste good.
1. Build Hard Seltzer Flavor with Your Water Profile
Water has flavor, I know it sounds crazy but its true! In fact water can even have a bad taste and with hard seltzer this is what we are trying to avoid.
PH balance is very important when it comes to achieving a good taste with seltzer water. When the sugars ferment they produce acidic compounds throwing of the PH balance in your water. In order to combat this you will need to add potassium bicarbonate.
You will need approximately 10g of potassium bicarbonate to get the desired PH range of 3.5-4. Ultimately, your PH will also depend on the yeast. You should measure the PH to see if more potassium bicarbonate is needed to balance PH. You can do that with a PH meter.
Its also best to use distilled water and add your salts from there, rather than relying on tap water or filtered water. There are so many other compounds that could wreck the flavor of your hard seltzer.
2. Choose a Clean Yeast and Keep it Healthy
I know, not too exciting but it is important to keeping the overall taste of your seltzer from going off the deep end. Since you’ll want to add other flavoring agents to your hard seltzer you will need to keep clean.
This means choosing a yeast without many esters. The most popular yeast used for seltzer brewing is Safale US-05. Choosing a neutral yeast is not the only thing you need to worry about though. You will also need to keep this yeast healthy as unhealthy yeast can produce unpleasant flavors and aroma.
The best way, aside from keeping a healthy PH balance in your water, to keep yeast healthy is with yeast nutrient. Make sure you add this when you begin fermentation along with your yeast.
3. Build Flavor with Individual Extract Flavoring Shots
Flavoring Extract is an easy way to add flavor once your homebrewed seltzer is finished. Without it your seltzer with be nothing more than fizzy water. Assuming you carbonated it.
There is a near endless number of flavorings that you can add to the seltzer. The problem with flavoring extract is that they are typically made in a lab and try to mimic specific flavors.
Sometimes the depth of the flavor may fall short as there are endless compounds that make up specific flavors. Also some flavors are harder to manufacture than others.
But, if you don’t mind the flavor not being exactly the same as what it claims to be only a few drops of any flavor will transform your drink.
Where to Find and How To Add Flavoring Extract
Take a look at some possible flavors you can add below. Remember that often one drop will be enough to flavor your entire beverage. Make sure to read the suggested directions and taste as you go just as you would with cooking.
- Natural Blackberry.
- Natural Butterscotch.
- Natural Cherry.
- Bavarian Cream.
- Butter Rum.
The possibilities are essentially endless. You can find these extracts for hard seltzer at many homebrew stores. The ones that I described above came from Adventures in Homebrewing. They have two categories for extract, beer flavoring and LorAnn flavoring extracts.
You can either make your hard seltzer all one flavor or add the extract per glass, it could make for a fun party trick. Check out how they did it over at the homebrew challenge.
Although this was not explored on the video above, many hard seltzers like Truly or Whiteclaw have a combination of flavors. You can mix and match the extract flavors to come up with a nice fruit combination or something else unique.
4. Cold Steep Fresh Fruit For True Natural Flavor
If you want to go a more natural route with your hard seltzer water you can use real fruit. Its a bit tricky and takes a lot more work but it can be worth it if you are health conscious. Also what could be more natural and healthy than fresh fruit!
Cold steeping fruit to extract flavor works in much the same way as you would see fruit sitting in chilled water in a hotel lobby. The lime or lemon gives to water a nice fresh citrusy taste.
The problem with just letting the fruit sit in water is that the flavor very mild. To get the most of your fresh fruit its best to steep it in alcohol. You will need to pick a flavorless neutral alcohol like vodka to make this happen.
It’s best to add your fruit infusion after fermentation is complete. You will also need to make sure to pasteurize your hard seltzer before adding the fruit infusion. This will keep it from fermenting the sugars from the fruit you just added. If that were to happen your infusion would lose flavor.
Steps to Make a Cold Infusion Tincture.
Cold infusions can take a while, so if you want to use fresh fruits for your hard seltzer you will need to plan ahead. It can take as long as you want it but, you may want to let it sit for at least 1-2 days for it to have any effect.
Luckily, hard seltzer has zero flavor so it wont take much to infuse it with fresh herb or fruit flavors. The longer you let your cold infusion sit in vodka the more potent the flavor will be. So test accordingly, I would try one after 2 days and set another aside for a week.
Follow these directions to make your cold infusion tincture.
- Find a base alcohol like vodka.
- Choose fresh highly flavorful fruit and herbs, store bought strawberries often have no flavor, so find a juice flavorful fruit.
- Cut up the fruit, create a good amount of surface area to increase contact with vodka.
- Add your desired fruit to a mason jar and cover with vodka. Make sure the fruit is entirely covered.
- Let sit to your desired strength, then add to your hard seltzer.
- The ratio can be a bit nuanced, so I would add 3-5 oz of fruit infused vodka to a 5 gallon batch of hard seltzer to start, then taste as you go. Increase the strength of flavor by increasing the number of days you cold infuse the vodka.
Fruit isn’t the only type of flavor you can add to a hard seltzer. You can add any spices you want just as you would add to beer.
5. Garnish Seltzer Water or Use Syrups
It sort of defeats the purpose of keeping a hard seltzer light on calories, but you can add some simple syrups to your hard seltzer to give it some flavor.
The last remaining method of flavoring your seltzer water is not really to flavor it much at all. To keep it as a fizzy water with alcohol, but this can often times be super bland. So instead of infusing the flavor into the drink you can simply garnish it or muddle it with some fruit and herbs.
Either garnish it by adding some lemon or lime, or even muddle some mint. It will give it a slight hint of whatever flavor you choose to add, but keep calories low.