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
• Pilsner for pale Belgian and
• 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!