Creating Home Brew Recipes From Scratch
- Saturday, 13 August 2016
We’ve made a few of our own home brew recipes, and we frequently have interesting ideas, so we’re often developing new recipes. It all takes a bit of trial and error and therefore time. Developing a beer recipe means that failure might happen. But with tweaks and persistence, success is eventually found.
At first, it can be a bit daunting coming up with a new home brew recipe. It’s hard to know where to start, but creating a beer recipe isn’t that tough. Of course recipe creation isn’t something to jump right into, a brewer needs to have experience with recipes made by others first. This helps home brewers learn and understand how different ingredients work, learn what’s reasonable, what may be a little extreme, and of course when to take a calculated risk or two.
There are a lot of online tools for getting estimates of OSG and FSG, beer strength, bitterness, and even colour. Our beer recipe method is a little more basic. While the tools to estimate all of these things are pretty accurate, OSG and FSG estimates can be difficult to generalise across all different types of brewing equipment. We prefer to wing it, knowing from experience approximately what to expect for specific gravities and tweaking the recipe as needed.
From there, we have our own ABV calculator to to work out the alcohol of a new recipe once it’s been made. We also use our IBU calculator to work out the bitterness of a new recipe. This tool needs to know specific gravity, so we can get an idea of that with general estimates, and then drill down once a final gravity is found through a hydrometer.
Where to Start When Developing a New Beer Recipe
As mentioned it’s important to get experience with other people’s home brew recipes before developing new ones for yourself. From there, it’s easy to learn generalities and “rules of thumb” about how big a grain bill should be, good mashing temperatures, appropriate hop additions, and much more.
It’s also very important to be familiar with a wide range of grains and hops. Even knowing the general “rules” doesn’t help if you can’t select some interesting flavours for your new home brew recipe!
The first beer recipe we developed used this method. From other recipes, we learned about what reasonable grain bills for a pale ale were as well as how much hops to use and boil times. All we did was start with a barley base and selected some hops based on what we knew we liked.
Sure, we could have used some sort of recipe formulator to help with things, but those sorts of tools still won’t tell a brewer how the new beer is going to taste. Eventually you have to just jump in and brew! See how the beer tastes and modify it appropriately.
If you want to start developing your own recipes, take someone else’s recipe and start modifying it to suit your tastes. Experimentation is key. Add or remove something and see where the beer goes. Maybe gold will be found in the first iteration, maybe it will take longer.
Getting to Grips With Ingredients
Of course some barley and a random selection of hops does not a recipe make.
It’s easy to go overboard with speciality grains. As you’re developing your own beer recipe, try to stick with best practice and grain bill ratios. Especially if the recipe is something basic like a pale ale or even an IPA, there’s no reason to try and reinvent the wheel. A few speciality grains to add some interest will be a nice touch, but avoid going too far at first.
Similarly with hops. It’s tempting to add a myriad of interesting and exciting hops, but remember what style you’re aiming for. A brewer can try to show off their knowledge of all the hops, but, once again, it’s easy to over do it. Stay concise and try to create a hop profile. Bring the drinker on a journey of flavour. Bring them from aroma, to taste, and then bitterness. This needs to be smooth without wild turns just for the sake of it. Take a look at our introduction to hopping for some ideas.
All the ingredients are a team that will bring the drinker on journey. Select ingredients that will work together, not pull against each other. Remember the goal and the style you’re aiming for and get those ingredients to cooperate!
What About Mashing and Fermentation Temperatures?
This is something that’s often overlooked. We see a lot of home brew recipes on line that simply state what the grain bill is, but don’t outline how much water is needed for the mash, how long to mash is, or at what temperature. Similarly, a beer can change wildly depending on what temperature it’s fermented at. Yeasts can be fickle creatures.
Regarding mashing, our grain mashing basics article outlines what different temperatures and volumes of water will do for a beer. Remember to go back to a goal here. What are you trying to accomplish? Select a mash temperature based on how strong the beer is going to be and what sort of body is desired. Very often it’s possible to get this right on the first try, but if it’s not right, tweaking the mash temperature by a degree or two will change things up a lot. And don’t forget to calculate strike water temperature properly!
Similarly, changing the fermentation temperature slightly can add subtle flavour changes to a beer. Most yeasts will tell you what temperature ranges the yeasts like, so stick to this! Researching deeper into the yeast being used will often tell a brewer what the yeast will do at different temperatures. Leverage this to complete a flavour profile.
Creating Beer Recipes is About Trial and Error
As mentioned, even with all the tools in the world, the final product won’t be known until the beer is made.
If a new home brew recipe isn’t right the first time, change it and try again. It’s not to hard to get the right ball park on the first go around, but expect there to be minor changes. Persist. Make the changes required and before you know it you’ll have created your own home brew recipe.
And it will be great!