Monday, July 25, 2016

Beer Recipe Design: First Time

My in-depth recipe design post generated enough interest last November to already land it as my 7th most view post of all time! However, several people rightly pointed out that some of the steps were overkill for a new homebrewer working on their first few all-grain recipes. So here is my simplified version at around 30% the length!

Design a Beer Recipe in 10 Easy Steps

1. Select a style you want to brew. Read the BJCP Guidelines, as well as relevant blogs (the list of those I follow), magazine articles, and books (my book reviews). Drink fresh examples and visit the breweries’ websites to get ideas for ingredients to use and avoid.

2. Determine if there is anything required for the style that you do not have available (fermentation temperature, ingredients, time etc.). If there is, pick a new style for now!

3. Select a batch size, the amount of wort you want to finish the boil with.

4. Determine the malt bill:

    Select a base malt suitable for the

       • American 2-row brewers malt
       for American styles.

       • English pale ale (including
       varieties like Maris Otter) for
       English styles.

       • Pilsner for pale Belgian and
       German styles.

       • Vienna or Munich for darker
       Belgian and German styles.

    Select up to two specialty malts to achieve the desired flavor profile. Use .1 lb/gallon (.012 kg/L)
    for a light flavor or .2 lb/gallon (.024 kg/L) for a strong flavor:

       • Crystal malts add honey sweetness on the pale end
       (10-20L), caramel in the middle (40-60L), and
       dark fruit into charred sugar at the dark end (80-
       150L, including CaraAroma, special B, etc.).

       • Toasted into roasted malts start bready (dark
       Munich), to biscuit/cracker (Victory, amber, and
       biscuit), burnt toast (brown), coffee (pale chocolate,
       Kiln Coffee), chocolate (chocolate, roasted barley),
       and finally char (black malt, black barley).
       Dehusked roasted malts (Carafa Special, Blackprinz)
       have a mellower flavor with less acridness than
       other malts of a similar color.

       • Flaked or malted grains other than barley can
       provide body (e.g., wheat, rye, and oats) or make
       the beer crisper (e.g., rice and corn) depending on
       their protein content.

       • Up to 20% of the fermentables can be derived from
       sugar if the style calls for it. Select table sugar
       for pale beers (e.g., tripel) where you want to dilute
       the malt flavor, and dark candi syrup for darker beers
       (e.g., dubble and Belgian strong dark) where you
       want to add a unique flavor.

       Pay attention to the maltster not just the generic type of malt, and taste the grain before adding it.

    The amount of malt/sugar should be enough to produce an original gravity within the style’s
    range. As a general rule at 70% efficiency use: 1.5 lbs of grain per gallon (.18 kg/L) of finished
    wort for a session beer (1.038), 2 lbs/gal (.24 kg/L) for a moderate gravity beer (1.050), 3 lbs/gal
    (.36 kg/L) for a strong beer (1.075), and 4 lbs/gal (.48kg/L) for a really strong beer (1.100). With
    75% attenuation the alcohol by volume will be approximately the last three digits with a decimal
    after the first two (e.g., 1.100 is 10.0% ABV). A hydrometer and recipe calculator will help you
    track and predict your original gravity based on your efficiency.

5. Select a yeast strain – White Labs and Wyeast both provide charts suggesting which of their strains work best for each style. However, if you aren't interested in making a starter, dry yeast is an excellent option! Plan to start fermentation at the low end of the lab's suggested range to prevent excess fusel alcohol and ester production. Once fermentation begins to slow, allow it to warm so that it finishes near the high end of the range to ensure complete attenuation and clean up.

6. Mash with 1.5 quarts of water (bottled, carbon-filtered, or metabisulfite-treated) for each pound of grain. Target 152°F (67°C) for moderate attenuation (near the middle of the yeast lab’s stated range), 156°F (69°C) to lower the attenuation, or 148°F (64°C) to increase attenuation. Fermentable sugars will also increase attenuation above the stated range even with a moderate mash temperature. Sparge to collected the required pre-boil volume (pre-boil volume = post-boil volume + evaporation + losses to hops/trub).

7. Select a hop variety based on the flavor descriptions or your preferences. For one gallon at flame-out add 1 oz (28 g) for a strong aroma, .5 oz (14 g) for a present aroma, or .25 oz (7 g) at 5 minutes for a subtle aroma, or none if you want to showcase malt/yeast. Use a recipe calculator to determine the weight of hops to add at 60 minutes to hit the target IBUs based on the style guideline and hop alpha acid percentage (AA%). Try to keep the ratio of IBUs in line with the style, i.e., if your gravity is near the top of the guideline so to should your IBUs and vice versa. Add a .5-1 oz (14-28 g) dry hop per gallon as fermentation slows for additional aromatics if desired. Always smell your hops before adding them to learn what the aroma should be for each variety.

8. Add spices, fruits, or other flavorings at the end of the boil after chilling the wort to 180°F (82°C). This is hot enough to kill any unwanted microbes, but gentle enough not to degrade the flavor excessively.

9. After fermentation is complete, bottle with the amount of sugar suggested by a priming sugar calculator taking into account the volume of beer in the bottling bucket, and the highest temperature the beer reached after the end of fermentation.

10. Take notes, taste, and rebrew based on your results! Great recipes come from knowing your ingredients and process. Learning how to fit together flavors from a variety of places to create an overall experience that suit your palate! You may end up prefering a dubbel brewed with Maris Otter, but best to stick to tradition when you are starting out!


Mad Fermentationist t-shirts are back again until August 9th! This time with black outlines on the logo, and a variety of lighter colors to take advantage. $20 while the unlimited supply lasts!


Anonymous said...

I'd probably add that people should take style guidelines with a grain of salt.

When I read forums, I think the biggest source of stress for new brewers is conforming to styles. Things like "It came out great but...." and then some worry like "it's too dark for an ESB" or "it's not bready enough for a Dunkels" or "it's not juicy enough for an East Coast IPA" (whatever that is) and so on.

It's destructive for new brewers because it gets in the way of tasting the beer. Many experiments have shown that expectations highly affect the enjoyment people get from food and drink, and when new brewers worry about meeting style guidelines they set themselves up for disappointment.

Stressing about styles also leads brewers away from brewing to what they want and toward meeting external rules. Instead of thinking "With my latest beer, I like this but I want to change that" brewers start fiddling with three different types of Crystal malt to meet a specific SRM, three different hops to get the "right" IBU, and then they have changed so many variables they have no idea what's going on.

I believe there's a lot of value to beginning brewers to making time-tested recipes because they help establish strong baselines for the tastes of new brewers. But style guidelines tend to be both maddeningly abstract and overly specific, and probably one of the greatest joys of a home brewer's career is that moment when they really understand how style guidelines are secondary to what's really important -- tasting and enjoying their beer on its own merits.

red. said...

That was such a good article! Even though ive been brewing for a few years, this is a massive help. Ill be printing this one out.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think there is value in targeting something and striving to hit it. Doesn't need to be a style guideline, but for your first few recipes using them as scaffolding is certainly helpful. I agree completely that learning to brew (using proven recipes) should come before designing your own recipes. I rarely use the guidelines these days, but part of that is the things I learned from brewing a variety of classic styles (using a variety of techniques and ingredients). My target is no longer a style, but some particular "perfect" beer in my head, but it is tricky to start brewing that way!

Mattias said...

Chocolate malt does not taste particularly like chocolate, nor does black malt generally taste ashy. Both are common misconceptions based on old brewing texts and passed on by word of mouth. If we have to generalize (and maltsers vary a lot) it would be more helpful and accurate to say that the lighter the roast malt is the closer it gets to coffee, bitter and astringent flavors while the darker roasts trends towards more espresso and then dark cocoa-like, with the dehusked varieties being the smoothest of all.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Of course those single flavors are generalizations (different maltsters' variants have different flavors), and expression is influenced by things like final pH, sweetness, bitterness, and other malt flavors etc. I've been amazed how much just changing the basemalt can change my impression of roast. I certainly get some more acrid/char notes from black patent when it is used in excess or if the pH is allowed to drop. Chocolate malt certainly isn't like adding cocoa powder, but I certainly get some mocha notes from some porters brewed with it.

Rachel said...

Hey mike! I'm trying to create a recipe for a pretzel Belgian style wheat beer. A lot of commercial breweries appear to use a pretzel flavoring, but I'm not sure what that is. What Malts would you suggest to get a cooked pretzel flavor?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Pretzels are made in a very specific way (boiled with alkali ingredients to increase maillard reactions in the bake that follows) that is tough to recreate with malts... so I'd add some actual salt-free pretzels to the mash! Then you can always dose in some salt to taste at bottling/kegging! Jonny Lieberman brewed a pretzel ale way back in the day:

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