How To Scale Beer Recipes for Commercial Use
Posted on October 14, 2020 by Paige Pesko
For many brewery owners, their careers began in their own homes, brewing beer for their family and friends to enjoy. In this setting, brewers were able to experiment with new recipes until they could get them just right.
But when it comes time to bring your homebrew recipes to the commercial marketplace, a lot of brewers run into problems. How do you make a five-gallon recipe fit a brewing system designed to produce multiple barrels? We are here to break down how to scale beer recipes for commercial use.
Fortunately, scaling a beer recipe up or down is a matter of simple arithmetic. Different sources provide different equations for scaling a recipe up or down, but these are a few that are easy to reference.
This equation will work for each ingredient in the recipe, including hops, grains, yeast, and other flavorings such as spices and fruits. If you take the original ingredient volume, divide it by the total volume of the original recipe, and then multiply it by the total volume of the new recipe, you’ll get how much of that ingredient you need for the new recipe.
You can write that out this way:
(Original ingredient volume/original recipe volume) x New recipe volume = New ingredient volume
Let’s take a five-gallon IPA recipe and scale it up to 3 barrels, or about 94.5 gallons, of beer. If the original recipe calls for 3.5 ounces of Amarillo hops, then how many should go into our new recipe? We would take the 3.5 ounces divided by 5 gallons, then multiply that amount by 94.5 gallons to get 66.15 ounces of hops for the new recipe.
(3.5 ounces/5 gallons) x 94.5 gallons = 66.15 ounces
But volume isn’t the only number you are contending with when it comes to scaling up a beer recipe. You need to take into consideration what percentage of your fermentable ingredients are going to convert into sugar in your wort. Since your brewhouse’s efficiency only takes into consideration the malts and grains of the recipe, we will not need to factor hops, yeasts, or flavorings into the equation.
This equation is a variation of the volume equation. In this case, you take the amount of the grains or malt in the original recipe, multiply it by the efficiency percentage of the original recipe, and then divide it by the expected efficiency of the new recipe.
You can write that equation this way:
(Original grain or malt amount x original efficiency)/expected new efficiency=new grain or malt amount
Let’s take another 5-gallon IPA recipe with an efficiency of 70% that uses 5.5 kilograms of pale ale malt. If we were to scale it to a system with a 78% efficiency rate, we would start by taking the 5.5 kilograms and multiplying it by .7 to represent the original 70%. Then we divide that number by .78 to get 4.93 kilograms of pale ale malt for the new 78% efficiency recipe.
(5.5 kilograms x .7)/.78 = 4.93 kilograms
As you can see, if a brewhouse is more efficient, then fewer grains are necessary to achieve the desired effect.
You could see that if we were to scale a recipe down to a less efficient brewhouse size. Let’s say we had a recipe that used the same amount of malt, 5.5 kilograms, but had a 77% efficiency, and we needed to scale it to a 72% efficiency. That would be 5.5 kilograms, multiplied by .77, and then divided by .72 to get approximately 5.88 kilograms.
(5.5 kilograms x .77)/.72=5.88 kilograms
Of course, in commercial brewhouses, efficiency is typically higher than it is in homebrew systems, so most likely, you’ll have to scale your system for a higher efficiency than a lower one.
Many breweries utilize brewing software for their operations nowadays. These systems have features that assist breweries in inventory management, production scheduling, accounting, and communication. Along with this, brewing software has features that can help manage the brewing process itself, including scaling up recipes. Some of the more popular choices for brewing software include Beer Smith, Unleashed, Ekros, and Brewd.
The Hop Utilization Factor
Hop utilization is both extremely important and extremely difficult to account for when scaling beer recipes for commercial use. When brewing larger batches of beer, hop utilization often increases, making the beer far more bitter than brewers expect.
However, the batch size of beer isn’t the only thing that affects hop utilization. The form of hops, the boiling time of the hops, and agitation after boiling are just a few of the myriad of things that can have an appreciable impact on hop utilization. All these factors can change when going from a home brewing to a commercial brewing set-up.
Because of how unpredictable hop utilization can be when you scale up a recipe, the best way to account for this is to consult your brewery tank’s manufacturer or those with a similar brew system to yours, as well as doing some of your own research. Otherwise, doing some test runs on your system may be the best way to determine whether you need to adjust your recipe.
Gravity of Beer
High-gravity beer, such as barley wine, scotch ale, or imperial IPA, is somewhat notorious for taking more effort throughout the brewing process, so it should come as no surprise that high-gravity beers can be trickier to scale up or down. High-gravity beers often have a lower efficiency than other beer recipes, a fact that, unfortunately, often doesn’t factor into brewing software.
Accounting for this requires an understanding of how this change in efficiency occurs. Usually, this happens during the mashing and sparging stage because you are using significantly less water per unit of grain. To compensate, try to scale the volume of wort before you boil it to your grain bed.
Just because a beer-making platform expands, that doesn’t mean that a company has to lose its homebrew charm. Bringing in unique, quality brews is what makes a brewery stand out among its competitors. Knowing how to scale beer recipes for commercial use will help you keep your company in touch with its roots as it looks to the future.