How did you get started creating your own recipes?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

wsmith1625

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Messages
427
Reaction score
276
Location
Manchester, NJ
I would love to hear everyone's story on how they switched from brewing kits to creating their own recipes. I eventually want to brew my own recipes but don't know where to start. Thanks!
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,835
Reaction score
3,028
Location
Visalia
I brew about like I cook food. If I want to make something, I look for highly regarded recipes and dissect them, figuring out why each ingredient is there. Usually I will end up favoring one particular recipe, but like specific things about others, so I tweak it here and there, basically mashing all the recipes together. As I get more experienced with specific ingredients, I tend to lean more toward my experience than others recipes.

Sometimes I can even taste a beer in my head before it's ever made but not everybody can do that. I know my wife is completely incapable of visualizing anything that isn't in front of her. She cooks fine by a recipe, but just can't 'wing it'.
 

WestMichBrewer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2016
Messages
268
Reaction score
67
Location
Grand Rapids
I started trying to do it by hand using the calculations presented in Ray Daniels's Designing Great Beers book and quickly decided there had to be a better way and quickly found Brewers Friend online.
I think looking at and tweaking known good recipes in some recipe-building software, then brewing them, is the way to go. There are a lot of good recipes here in HBT to start with.
 

Velnerj

Simul justus et potator
Joined
Jul 27, 2017
Messages
347
Reaction score
484
Location
Czech Republic
I started with my own recipes I have never used a kit. I don't say that to brag but to tell you that it's not as complicated as you think.

I take the same approach as I do to recipes in the kitchen. Let's say I want to make chili con carne, I go to the interwebs and I find a miriad of recipes for Chilli con carne. There's as many recipes as tastes, where to start? I usually look at several recipes and then I can start to see what are the common ingredients in almost every recipe and can start to see where others have thrown in an ingredient to add a particular flavor. I determine necessary ingredients versus optional ingredients. I start with the essential ingredients and if I want a basic chilli I can just go with that, but I also know my tastes and I can add any additional ingredients that agree with my palate/mood.

It's the same with beer or beer styles. Start with what you know, let's say heffewizen, look up 20 recipes for heffewizen and you'll see they all have healthy dose of pilsner Malt and healthy dose of wheat malt. You'll find primarily German noble hops (but this style is not about the hops) You'll see there only a few select yeasts that characterize the style (for other styles this might be a hop or a malt). Other recipes will add caramel malts, flaked wheat or hops that are not German nobles etc and stand out as different. Decide if you want a basic beer or cater it to your tastes, experiment and try it out.

Now the hard part is doing the math, however if you have already brewed on your system from all grain kits you have a good idea of how much grain you need and how much bitterness hops will add etc. So look more at grain percentage and ibu contribution than weights given in a recipe.

Don't be afraid to try it. Make a recipe and then compare it to others make adjustments if necessary and try it out. At least you'll make beer!
 

gunhaus

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Mar 8, 2006
Messages
609
Reaction score
597
Location
Just north of the middle of the mitten
I started brewing when LHBS was a pretty rare commodity in my part of the country, and even the ones that were around were always "out of stock" on a whole lot of stuff. Places to order ingredients were fewer, and it was ALL by snail mail and land line; you needed to be "adaptable" with your ingredients or give it up. I made some pretty good concoctions that I still brew. I made some wretched abominations that make me cringe 30 years later! I say look over recipes in the styles you like, look at what they share in common, and add or subtract those ingredients that you find enjoyable. AND NEVER be afraid to go off the rails!!!!! It's your beer rock it your way. My son took a Marzen bill we have brewed for years as a true lager and a "Mocktoberfest", a tasty malty brew for sure - and he brewed it with all cascade, including a dry hop addition, and fermented it with 34/70 at 62 like he was doing a common. I don't know what you want to call it and don't care! It was stupendous and I dipped into the stash a NUMBER of times:ghostly:
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,835
Reaction score
3,028
Location
Visalia
Do you buy ingredients in bulk or just what the recipe calls for?
In bulk usually, 5lbs grain or 8oz hops minimum,unless it's an ingredient that I don't foresee using again in the next year. My homebrew club membership allows me to get 55 pound bags of 2-row and wheat malt from the local brewpub at his cost.
 

balrog

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2013
Messages
3,803
Reaction score
3,510
I started with kits, then started tweaking them. A site like Ritebrew helps as you put together, by ounce if needed, what you want into your own kit.
 

FloppyKnockers

Well-Known Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2014
Messages
2,096
Reaction score
1,875
Location
Fort Worth
Pretty much exactly like @Velnerj. I never bought a kit. In the beginning I did, however, grab some recipes from my homebrew supply place and brewed them. I would experiment with editing and substituting ingredients later on. After a while you get to know what combination of grains, hops, yeast, and temp will do what. You get to the point where you can look at a recipe and your brain just switches to "beer mode" and you can picture the SRM, smell the grains in the mash, and even taste it when it's done.

If I want to make a new IPA, for instance. I will start with enough of a base malt to get me close to the gravity I want. Then add some specialty malts to get mouthfeel, color, and maltiness I'm going for. I then choose the hops and amounts based on if I want floral, fruity, earthy, etc. How I want these hops to come through is where I decide to put them in the boil - bittering, aroma, or flavor. Then which ones I whirlpool and/or dryhop. The yeast is probably the easiest choice and what will likely drive your fermentation temperature decision.

After a little tweaking and I like the looks of it, I will brew it. Almost never is it perfect. I will return to the drawing board to mess with it a little here and there. By the second or third iteration is when I am happy with my new concoction.

Do you buy ingredients in bulk or just what the recipe calls for?
I do bulk for as much as I can. I get bags of 2-row and Pilsen. Hops by the pound from Yakima Valley or Hops Direct, and one pound packages of US-05. If I need a different yeast, hop, or specialty grain, I will get those from my homebrew shop.
 

bleme

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2012
Messages
4,835
Reaction score
3,028
Location
Visalia
Also like cooking, I will admit to sometimes brewing based solely on what grain/hops need to be used soon....
 

kevin58

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2017
Messages
1,023
Reaction score
607
I have found that there are so many recipes available online that there really isn't much need to create one from scratch. And even when you do it's likely someone else has already thought of it.

That being said however, I have started a series of Michigan themed beers based on some of our family's favorite places to visit in our state. I start with a list of characteristics I want to achieve. Not even a style, just things like color, flavor components, bitterness and yeast characteristics. For my first one I wanted to have it represent Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's upper peninsula.

My list of characteristics was pretty short... color and an an earthy or malty character. Tahquamenon is in the middle of a cedar forest so the water is a deep, coppery color so matching that was key. I actually started building the recipe with specialty malts first to achieve the color and then I added a base malt. I then picked both hops and a yeast that might give me the earthy character I was after. The first test batch ticked the color box but I want to tweak the hops and yeast. My first thought was to stay with all U.S. varieties but that earthy quality was missing so I may opt for English hops and a cleaner yeast that won't get in the way.

As far as buying ingredients in bulk don't buy more than you can use up before they stale. I buy base malt in 50 or 55 lb sack but my local homebrew shop isn't too far away and I can get all the smaller amounts that go into a recipe from them on a case by case basis.
 

bracconiere

Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 19, 2018
Messages
12,484
Reaction score
5,389
Location
S.AZ
i brew really simple stuff...don't need a recipe

if i want light, 100% base malt, if i want a degree of amber, crystal malts will accompany it....brown or black, black patent, or roast barley


now that you mention it, i haven't used chocolate in a while....might just have to pick up a 5lb bag...

(and honestly, being that i malt my own crystals most of the time, i don't even know what they are! ;))
 

Hwk-I-St8

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
1,868
Reaction score
816
Location
The Hawkeye State
I brew about like I cook food. If I want to make something, I look for highly regarded recipes and dissect them, figuring out why each ingredient is there. Usually I will end up favoring one particular recipe, but like specific things about others, so I tweak it here and there, basically mashing all the recipes together. As I get more experienced with specific ingredients, I tend to lean more toward my experience than others recipes.
This. I literally spent months, and probably well over a hundred hours reading about the brewing process, what processes help to make a good beer great, and reading tons of recipes, water profile info, hops and ingredient descriptions, etc. before I brewed my first all grain beer.

I was already a mult-decade consumer of craft beer when I got serious about brewing (I dabbled with some extract brewing in the early 90s).

My first all grain beer was my own recipe and it turned out far better than I imagined. Since then I've brewed 95% my own recipes with a couple kits that were gifts thrown in. Even with the kits, I tweaked them to make them fit my tastes.

Every new style I brew starts with research on dozens of recipes and, from that knowledge, I go to Brewer's Friend and have at it.

I also have a bunch of files with tasting notes on past brews, characteristics of ingredients (some hops are really dominant, some take a back seat, for example), IBU to OG/FG ratios by style, info on how to achieve certain characteristics (really viscous high gravity stouts, for example) etc.

I use all that to help formulate new recipes. With that experience, I was able to create a really tasty margarita gose for my son...the first shot came out really good and, other than a little less tart than we imagined, pretty much hit our vision spot on.
 

Oginme

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
1,966
Reaction score
934
I started brewing with a Mr Beer kit my daughter bought me for Christmas. When I wanted to expand (the second brew), I visited one of the local home brew shops where the owner 'helpfully' told me when I asked about 2.5 gallon kits that I could just brew a 5 gallon kit as a 2.5 gallon batch and end up with a much higher alcohol content. When I appeared unimpressed, he then suggested that I could just add half the ingredients and save the rest for the next batch. I have not been back to that shop.

From that visit, I did start looking into creating my own recipes, first by hand calculation and then using BeerSmith. I went haywire using the BJCP guide to create about 50 or 60 recipes. I ended up brewing four of those before getting the Daniel's book and taking a more enlightened approach to brewing. Not that my first set of recipes was bad, many of them later turned out to be fairly comparable to those in Brewing Classic Styles. One of them I still brew today without much of an adjustment from the original. Beginners luck maybe.
 

BrewingAroundtheRrealm

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 13, 2017
Messages
308
Reaction score
135
As with most home brewers I started with a kit. In my case a complete 1 gallon Chinook IPA extract kit from Northern Brewer. Not bad for a first try.

For my next brew I did some research, located a LHBS, and purchased the ingredients for a Belgian Wit. That turned out questionable at best.

Third try, more research and another extract recipe with ingredients purchased at my LHBS. This time I was mostly successful. Very happy with this brew.

Fourth brew, extract it from MoreBeer. Utter garbage. This is what made me swear off kits.

Fifth brew, hard cider. I'm definitely on to something. It was a little hot but I was headed in the right direction.

Sixth brew, only 3 months in to brewing, Belgian Wit partial mash. Not bad. My extract days are behind me.

Fast forward 2 months, I've worked through the DME I had purchased and it's all grain from this point out. Only 5 months in to brewing. It would take a few more months before I started making beer I would consider on par with commercial examples. All my own recipes with a little help and research from around the net.

That was 2 years ago and I haven't looked back. I've brewed a few kits since then. I wouldn't call any of them great. When I purchase the grain and hops myself I know they are fresh. Something you can't say for any kit.
 

Mumathomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2019
Messages
239
Reaction score
179
Location
UK
I look up who made something said to be nice on here, and copy recipes loads of others have copied, because it must be good. There is a supplier nearby so easy to get grains and it's easy online anyway. The cream of three crops is a nice one to begin with because it is light on grain in case of mistakes. I found it a lovely beer for an all grain start. People on here have always been lovely and helpful with recipe ideas and tweaks. It's like having personal tutors available day and night. (Thanks to all who've helped me.)

Any recipe elaboration mostly gets done with the second runnings for a small beer so not wasting grain by experimentation error. Mostly stuff has been pretty drinkable, and as long as it's beer then it's fine. Haven't made the most perfect beer yet but will keep trying. A January Golden ale was really nice but wasn't my recipe so can't take any credit apart from the bittering hop choice.

I've just made my most adventurous recipe to date. A banana and parsnip beer from the second runnings from a Blue Moon clone, so we'll find out if that's really yummy or totally vile later....

I love cooking and blending so the speed of beer makes it a perfect vehicle for creation. I only do half or one gallon at a time as yet, so not even using much material up whilst learning and playing. Just go for it....
 
OP
wsmith1625

wsmith1625

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2014
Messages
427
Reaction score
276
Location
Manchester, NJ
I look up who made something said to be nice on here, and copy recipes loads of others have copied, because it must be good. There is a supplier nearby so easy to get grains and it's easy online anyway. The cream of three crops is a nice one to begin with because it is light on grain in case of mistakes. I found it a lovely beer for an all grain start. People on here have always been lovely and helpful with recipe ideas and tweaks. It's like having personal tutors available day and night. (Thanks to all who've helped me.)

Any recipe elaboration mostly gets done with the second runnings for a small beer so not wasting grain by experimentation error. Mostly stuff has been pretty drinkable, and as long as it's beer then it's fine. Haven't made the most perfect beer yet but will keep trying. A January Golden ale was really nice but wasn't my recipe so can't take any credit apart from the bittering hop choice.

I've just made my most adventurous recipe to date. A banana and parsnip beer from the second runnings from a Blue Moon clone, so we'll find out if that's really yummy or totally vile later....

I love cooking and blending so the speed of beer makes it a perfect vehicle for creation. I only do half or one gallon at a time as yet, so not even using much material up whilst learning and playing. Just go for it....
Thanks for that really awesome reply. I imagine I'll do the same, borrowing recipes from other HBT members and experiment with them. What I liked about your reply was that you made me think about doing small batches. I always laughed and said it's too much work for a gallon of beer, but you give me something to think about. Makes a lot of sense. Thanks again.

BTW, good luck with that banana and parsnip beer. You have to let me know how that works out.
 

Mumathomebrew

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2019
Messages
239
Reaction score
179
Location
UK
I'm a mother of teenagers and I have to cook anyway. I make beer on the kitchen stove and it's in saucepans doubled up. There are no shining fermentors with fancy knobs on here. The nearest to technology is a hydrometer and a thermometer, some funnels, sieves and glass demijohns. You don't need loads of fancy equipment to make beer. I don't say I don't hanker for some though, but where would I put it?.
 

Toxxyc

New and loving it
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
442
Reaction score
330
Location
Pretoria, South Africa
I usually start off my recipes by drinking a beer that I like, and then thinking about what I'd like to tweak about it. I then do research into the style, see what parts do what and tweak that to how I think I'll like it. I've also dreamt up a few recipes. One turned out terrible (a rooibos cider made with concentrate, it's currently aging to see if it'll improve), and one turned out pretty good (a light tropical IPA, at only 3% ABV with strong notes of passion fruit).
 

McKnuckle

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2014
Messages
3,231
Reaction score
2,668
Location
Anywhere But Here
I have never bought a kit, either. I started creating recipes like many others, by examining classic examples of the styles I wanted to brew. Sites like BYO are great for this. So is the old book "Brewing Classic Styles."

I often break down recipes by percentage: How much base malt, how much crystal and what type(s), how much roasted malt and what type(s), and how much specialty malts. Also, am I adding any components for mouthfeel or head retention such as wheat or oats?

I've learned over time to look at the BU:GU ratio to gauge bitterness, both for style and moreover, for my taste. I've learned how to target an SRM for a desired color. I experimented with hop additions at every stage to get a feel for what they contribute.

Later, much later, I was considering mash pH and mineral concentrations in the brewing liquor. All in due time...

At the end of the day, the grain bill itself is very forgiving! Just realize the intensity that some grains contribute, and use moderation with those, and you'll be okay. You don't dump a container of black pepper into your marinara sauce, so don't use 40% roasted barley in your stout. Stuff like that.
 
Top