Extra Special Bitter (ESB)

Extra Special Bitter Recipe

If you like English ales and English hops with lots of malty goodness, than you’ll like this extra special bitter recipe. It’s perfect for a slow-sipping afternoon. ESBs tend to be darker gold or a copper colour. And if you’ve ever had the perfect pint of ESB (no doubt with your eyes closed picturing yourself in a London pub), you’ll notice that it is lightly carbonated by North American standards. And don’t let the name fool you. It might be labelled bitter, but by today’s standards, you’ll find ESBs to be nicely balanced.

Recipe Profile

  • Method: 1 gallon BIAB (Brew-in-a-bag), single stage
  • Target OG (Original Gravity): 1.058
  • Target FG (Final Gravity): 1.017
  • Bitterness (IBUs): 45
  • Estimated ABV: 5.3%
  • Boil: 90 minutes


  • 2.25 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter
  • 1 oz  Crystal Malt (60L)
  • 1 oz  Chocolate Malt
  • 0.50 oz Goldings, East Kent Hops at 90 minutes
  • 0.25 oz  Goldings, East Kent Hops at the end of the boil
  • SafAle English Ale Yeast (S-04)

The Mash

  1. Bring 10.75 litres of water to a temperate of 163°F. Add your grains and give everything a good stir until the whole thing looks a bit like oatmeal. Shut off the heat, cover with a lid, and let it steep at 156°F for an hour.
  2. Then you need to “mash out.” You put the heat back on, and raise the temperature to 168°F (75.6°C) and keep stirring for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the grains and prepare for the boil. If you’re using a bag, just pull it out and let it drip near-dry above the pot. If you’re using a colander, strain to remove the grains, preserving the wort, which you’ll add back to the pot.
  4. Check that your gravity is on track and correct it, if neededYou need 76 gravity points for this recipe, and our target post-boil volume is 1.3 gallons.

The Boil

  1. Start the boil by bringing your wort up to a boil. Once boiling, start your timer. Add your bittering hops, as prescribed above.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your sanitizer solution.
  3. Just before the boil is complete, make an ice bath in your kitchen sink. Load it up with as much ice and cold water as you can. Once the boil is over, transfer your pot to the sink to cool your wort to pitching temperature, as prescribed on the yeast pack. Remember to sanitize your thermometer every time you check the temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, thoroughly clean and sanitize your carboy, screw cap, airlock, funnel, and strainer/colander. You want everything to be ready to go once the wort is at the right temperature.
  5. Once the wort is at pitching temperature, transfer it to the carboy by passing it through a strainer overtop the funnel. Do not fill the carboy higher than the one-gallon mark.
  6. Aerate the wort.  Cover the fermenter with a screw cap and gently rock the carboy back and forth for a few minutes to mix in some air.
  7. Pitch the yeast! Use sanitized scissors to cut open the package and pour in only half the yeast.
  8. Seal the carboy by filling the airlock with sanitizer. Fit it in the screw cap. Move the carboy to a dark spot, free of the home’s daily commotion for at least 14 days (but ideally not more than 21).

Bottling Day

  1. Move the carboy to the countertop, if it wasn’t already there. If the wort got lots of movement during transfer, let it sit so that any stirred-up yeast has a chance to re-settle.
  2. Sanitize everything that will come in contact with the beer: bottling bucket, auto-siphon, tubing, filler, bottles, and bottle caps.
  3. Dissolve 0.59 oz (16.7g) corn sugar in enough boiling water to dissolve it. Add the dissolved sugar solution to your sanitized bottling bucket.
  4. Fill your auto-siphon and hose with sanitizer before submerging in the carboy. Transfer the solution to a spare container until the beer has completely replaced all the sanitizer in the tubes. Now you can place the end with the bottle filler in the bottling bucket, which should also be on the floor and gently transfer the beer from the carboy to the bucket.
  5. Transfer all the liquid up and the point where it reaches the sediment. Leave the sediment in the carboy.
  6. Now, move the bottling bucket to the counter and siphon the beer quietly into each bottle. When the liquid gets to the very top of the bottle, remove the bottle filler, which will leave the perfect amount of headspace at the top of the bottle.
  7. Cover each bottle with the sanitized caps and cap them into place, or secure your sanitized swing-top caps if using those.
  8. Store the bottles upright in a quiet, dark corner at temperatures between at 65F (18.5C).
  9. Wait 30 days, if you can. If you’re way too curious (I can’t blame you!) try and hold out for 14 days. If you absolutely can’t wait, you can try after 7 days, but the beer really needs at least 14 days to condition.


5 responses to “Extra Special Bitter (ESB)”

  1. Jason

    Did you mean .8 oz or actually 8 oz of the crystal and chocolate malTs?

    1. Hi Jason, yes, I meant 0.8oz for both.

    2. I have since updated the recipe to make it more user-friendly on the grain bill, and to lengthen the boil to 90 minutes.

  2. James


    Should i get the shop to mill the grains when i buy them? Also do you have any videos of the process?

    1. If you don’t have a mill, yes, get the shop to mill them. I don’t have videos of the process yet, but hope to develop some this year. Thanks James!

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