My thoughts and what I do is to keep making what wifey likes (and what you like) and experiment with a separate batch. Make one change at a time to understand the effects. As @sneezles61 says, split a batch before pitching the yeast and use different yeasts or dry hop differently. Making beer is like cooking eggs, there’s a zillion ways to do ‘em. If you like ‘em a certain way, make little modifications to see if you can enhance what you like about them.
As for excess goo in the fermenter, I’ve put 5# of cherries in a secondary and put a plastic filter and a nylon sock over the end of the racking tube to filter out the goo when I kegged it.