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Learning to Build a Recipe

Hey guys, I’ve started home brewing this year and I’m completely obsessed. I’ve brewed at this point about 6 times and I think I have a pretty good handle on the process. However, I’ve either been using recipes on sites like Northern Brewer or stuff my friends have come up with for me. I think it’s time for me to start building my own recipes, but I don’t really know how to do it correctly.

Basically, I’m wondering how certain ingredients work together. How do you know which grains to use and which amount? I’ve got a better grasp on hops to be honest, but selecting which grains and even the yeast has me hesitating to start doing my own recipe. How do you guys come up with the right ratios? How do you know what goes where?

For context, I brew all grain.

I have 6 words for you:

Designing Great Beers by Ray Daniels.

The information is a bit dated (from the 1990s), but the basic concepts you will learn in that book are timeless.

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Whenever I cook, I tend to look for a bunch of reviewed recipes, then compare them. Look for similarities, differences, ponder what those differences might mean, and consider how much of the pattern I want to stick to, and if I want to tweak things to highlight something. That’s what Designing Great Beers does for beer. Seriously, I should just “heart” the previous post, but I can’t stress enough how good of a book it is.

I’m definitely going to get that on Amazon. Thanks a bunch man!

@uberculture I’ve started to see similarities through some of the recipes I worked with, but its always a question of ratio of the grain that bothered me. Some recipes have a much heavier grain bill even though they have the same types of grains in it, or they added some other ones I haven’t heard of. It just confused me and I don’t want to screw up

Learning how to come up with ABV is a great place to start… Then, look to base malts… They are the blank canvas you start with… They all have just a bit of a twist from each other… from Grainy Briess, bready Vienna… If you look at the variations of say pale ale… There is where the specialty malts start changing it up… Then, yeah, look at a difference from a doppel bock, and chase it up to a porter, then stouts… Pick one style and study that, brew it many times… Soon your taste buds will tell you where you want to go! Sneezles61

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You can’t think of it that way. All of us have had a beer not turn out how we like or as well as we thought it would. That’s part of experimenting.

Another great place to start is the BJCP guidelines. I’m by no means a style nazi but it will give you lots of great info.

Not that I’m an expert but I’ll give you some tips on what I’ve learned. Keep it simple. Generally you don’t need more than 3 or 4 grains for many only 2. When I’m trying a new style I’ll read some articles on the style BYO has some good ones. That will give you an idea of which grains and % s. Brew brew brew . If your nervous just brew small batches until your comfortable. The recipe is the easy part sounds like you already have a handle on the brewing part. The beer is going to come out good you can always add something to the next batch if you want to change it. Just don’t add anything crazy( at first, that comes later) and keep a lid on the crystal malts under 10% IMO. Yeast just save what you’ve been using and pitch that to start I’m sure you already know which you like. If your into hop bombs the grain bill is simple. 90% 2Row 10% crystal malt

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Like any food or beverage, it’s best to start with a basis recipe. Get good at it; be familiar with it. From there, you’ll recognize it needs more of something, or less of something else.

Think about making chocolate chip cookies. You have a base recipe, but think it needs more chips; so you try to double the chips, and realize that’s too much, so next time try 1.5x the base recipe, keep tweaking until it’s what you want. Here’s the rub, suppose you’re a real chocolate junkie. You may come to the point where you see if you put in the amount of chips you really want, the rest of the recipie simply can’t hold together. You may get the same with beer recipes.

For homebrew, keep detailed tasting notes every time you make a change.

After about 10 brews of your recipe, you’ll either have it perfect, or realize you’ll never think it’s perfect, and just settle on an ingredient list, and maybe come to an understanding that you’re your own worst critic… …or maybe that’s just me.

Its lots of building your own beer recipy. Read lots of info on this forum and online. Indeed reading the book designing great beers a good book with lots of info. What i did learn from the book on how to build you grain bill. To get a specific beer and on wich grains to use.

This is all great advice. Thanks everyone!

@loopie_beer Your comment especially helps me. I’m really rather afraid to fail in this venture, especially with all the time it takes to brew. But it’s all part of the experiment! Thank you!

@jmck I’m actually not a bad cook, so approaching brewing like cooking is interesting and makes a lot of sense to me!

If you think you’ll fail you’re setting yourself up to fail. Positive thinking is powerful stuff. Unless you have crappy water or put something weird in your beer it’s going to be good trust me. See what I did there.

Failed experiments are rarely horrible. And I’ve made some dodgy homebrew. I still drink most of it. The worst experiments just tend to sit for a while… usually, they mellow into something perfectly drinkable after long enough.

+1 to @jmck’s base recipe analogy. I haven’t yet made up a recipe from scratch, but I have taken NB’s Irish Red All Grain recipe and, over time, have kind of made it my own. First I swapped out the base malt for Maris Otter and thought that tasted better. I then swapped out the Wyeast 1272 American Ale Yeast II for Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale Yeast. I thought that tasted good, but but not better. Next I used Wyeast 2112 California Common and thought that tasted really good. Future tweaks are to try Denny’s Favorite 50 yeast and after that maybe swap out the Special Roast for Roasted Barley. Or maybe I’ll just pick another known recipe and start tweaking that. At some point I expect to have enough knowledge to build a recipe from scratch.

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