Brewing SolutionsHow to Design Your Own Beer Recipe from Scratch

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Do you want to create your own beer recipe from scratch, but don’t know where to start? Worry not, here in today’s guide; we give you all that you need to know to create your very first beer recipe.

Step 1: Decide What You Want to Brew

The very first step in creating a new beer recipe is to decide what type of beer you want to brew. While choosing beer styles, we recommend that you pick something that you already know – one that you have brewed countless times before. Starting with a well-known and practiced recipe makes it easy to tweak it to add your special touches.

Once you have decided on your brew style, we recommend that you look it up in the BJCP. The BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) has detailed info about all popular beer styles. It gives you the features of your beer style – the ABV, original gravity, colour, bitterness, taste, key ingredients and more.

Step 2: Evaluate Existing Beer Recipes

Once you have decided on the beer style, you want to brew, check out a few different recipes for that particular style. Compare the different recipes and evaluate the ingredients used. Check out the volumes on ingredients used in each recipe.

Convert the grain weights into percentages while comparing different recipes. You can also use a spreadsheet to help you tabulate the percentage of different ingredients used in each recipe. This gives you a clear idea of how the various ingredients are balanced to get the right colour, taste, and flavours.

Identify the key ingredients used for your preferred beer style. For instance, brewing a Bavarian weissbier requires good Bavarian wheat yeast.

Knowing the key ingredients and the roles they play help you get a clearer picture of your beer style and the recipes used.

Step 3: Build Your Own Recipe

By now, you would have a list of ingredients used in your preferred beer style and their proportions. The next step is to design your beer recipe by tweaking these ingredients. You can either do it manually or use an online beer recipe calculator or software to help you out.

While creating the recipe, use the BJCP style guide to help you figure out the following:

  • Original Gravity – This range helps you find out how much malt you require to brew your preferred beer style.
  • Bitterness – This is expressed in IBUs (International Bitterness Units). To reach the desired IBU, you have to adjust the quantity of hops and the hop boil times.
  • Colour – This is generally mentioned as SRM (Standard Reference Method) units. Adding more dark malts to the recipe gives you a darker colour.

Adjust the various parameters till your recipe fits the BJCP style guide.

Other Factors to Consider:

While designing your beer recipe from scratch, here are some other key factors to consider and common mistakes to avoid:

Keep it Simple

Very often, beginner brewers take a “kitchen sink” approach. They try to add in all the ingredients they have at hand – multiple varieties of hops and grains. The result – they end up with a muddied recipe. Initially, try to keep your recipes as simple as possible – and ensure that all ingredients you add in the recipe serve a specific purpose.

Make use of your Hops Efficiently

To reach the target bitterness IBU levels, consider a single boil addition of hops. Use whirlpool/steeped hops or dry hops to add aroma to your brews.

Don’t add Too Much of Specialty Malts or Caramel Malts

The general rule of thumb is that a typical grain bill should be around 85 to 100% of the base extract of base malt. When you add too much specialty malts, it can easily overwhelm the flavour, thereby reducing fermentability. Also when you add too much caramel malts, it can add harsh, astringent flavours to your beer.

Practice Caution when Adding Fruit Extracts

Adding fruit extracts is a simple way to add a flavour to a base style, without altering the base malts/specialty malt ratios. However, remember that when you are adding fruit, you are also adding simple sugars to your brews. These sugars are highly fermentable.

If you forget to factor this added sugar in your recipe calculations, you could end up with a brew that is cloyingly sweet or a drink that has a higher alcohol content, than expected.

To avoid this, you can add fruits or the extract to a secondary vessel after primary fermentation has stopped.

When it comes to Spices, a Little Goes a Long Way

Another easy way to tweak a beer recipe is to add your preferred spice mixtures. For instance, you can alter a standard porter to a smoked pepper porter, perfect for the summer by adding jalapenos. For the winter, the same drink can be tweaked into a mint-chocolate peppermint porter.

As you can see, while both the drinks mentioned above have the same base, you can dramatically alter the final flavours by adding different spices.

However, remember that when it comes to spices – a little go a long way. You don’t want the final drink to be overwhelming. So, make sure to keep the spices minimal. You can spices directly to the primary boil, or wait until the secondary boil or add it during the bottling stage.

Don’t Experiment Much with the Techniques

While there are plenty of brewing techniques you can use, we recommend that you keep your first few recipes simple and at beginner levels. Work with techniques that you have practiced and understand. This reduces the chances of your brews from becoming a major flop.

Final Thoughts

The thought of creating and building a beer recipe from scratch may seem like a daunting task. However, if you stick to the basics, with just a dash of creativity and individuality, you can create results that are simply stunning to taste.

Start with familiar beer style and techniques and move on to advanced styles once you understand how to do it. Finally, even if the results don’t work your way for the first few times, make sure that you keep on experimenting till you get it right!