Homebrew Recipe Formulation

written equations on brown wooden board

Making it Easy to Make Good Beer at Home

Homebrew School: Recipes and Recipe Formulation

One of the first things new homebrewers are in a hurry to do is to re-create their favorite commercial beer at home. This is often easier said than done. Part of the problem is that new homebrewers typically buy all-inclusive ingredient “kits” that are packaged and sold as a particular beer style. Unfortunately, the companies that package these kits either don’t have a good grasp of the various beer styles or, more likely, they assume the buyer doesn’t –which is also very likely.

The sooner new brewers can wean themselves off these pre-packed kits and start buying their brewing ingredients separately, the greater success they will have in the long run. It all begins with recipe formulation.

A Recipe for Success

It’s important that new brewers not try to reinvent the wheel –at least not right away. There are hundreds, if not thousands of good, proven beer recipes to be found on the internet and in published books and magazines. These tried-and-true recipes not only tell you which ingredients are needed but they typically spell out the procedural uses for the ingredients.

There are also many books devoted to the topic of homebrew recipes, including these two top-selling books, “The Complete Joy of Homebrewing” and “Homebrewing for Dummies

Recipe Formulation

Once you feel you have a good grasp on the various beer styles you are interested in brewing at home, you can start formulating your own recipe. At the core of all beer styles are these three main beer style variables that are scientifically measurable:

  • Color
  • Bitterness
  • Gravity


The color of beer is determined primarily by the grain (or malt syrup) used to make the beer. Light colored grain (and malt syrup) will result in a pale colored beer; conversely, dark roasted grains will produce dark beers. The spectrum of beer color ranges from straw to black and this color range is measurable using something called a spectrophotometer –an instrument used to measure the absorbance of light. This numerical measurement of beer color is expressed as “SRM” (Standard Reference Method) in beer recipes.


Bitterness in beer is primarily the result of the extraction of alpha acids from hops during the boiling process. A range of hop varieties are grown in a number of locations throughout the world, resulting in various alpha acid contents –not only from region to region, but from one growing year to the next. Hop bitterness in beer can be controlled by the brewer in three different ways- by using hops with lower alpha acids, using smaller quantities of higher acid hops, or boiling them for less time, thus extracting less of the available acid. This numerical measurement of hop bitterness is expressed in “IBU” (International Bittering Units) in beer recipes.


The term “gravity” refers to the density of beer -or any liquid. Gravity in beer is determined by the amount of soluble sugars in the beer and it can be raised or lowered simply by increasing or decreasing the amount of dissolved sugars. The primary soluble sugar in beer is derived from the malted grain, which is called maltose sugar. Beer gravity can be measured by using an instrument called a hydrometer. The gravity reading in a fermented beverage will lower as the yeast consumes the available sugar in solution and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide in return (also known as fermentation).

Yeast: The Final Factor

Color, bitterness and gravity are beer style parameters that are established by the recipe and achieved in the brewing process. A fourth variable in beer style determination is in the yeast used for fermentation. Yeast varieties are either top-fermenting (ale) or bottom-fermenting (lager). Therefore, a single beer brewed according to a single recipe, using the same ingredients, producing identical color, bitterness and gravity, can be made into two entirely different beer styles by simply changing the yeast type and fermentation temperature.

5 thoughts on “Homebrew Recipe Formulation”

  1. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the long run and it’s
    time to be happy. I have read this post and if I may just I desire to counsel you few fascinating issues or tips.
    Perhaps you could write next articles relating to this article.
    I desire to learn even more issues approximately it!

  2. Hey there this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use
    WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML.
    I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get guidance from someone with experience.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just
    your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all.
    Nevertheless imagine if you added some great
    pictures or videos to give your posts more, “pop”!
    Your content is excellent but with images
    and videos, this blog could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in its field.
    Superb blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *