How To Brew a Delicious Extra Special Bitter

Extra Special Bitter

The Extra Special Bitter, or Strong Bitter, is one of my absolute favorite beer styles. While this style can vary slightly regarding the prominence of bitterness, my favorite renditions have a wonderful balance between a bready, biscuity malt profile and an earthy, floral hop profile. Don’t let the name of this style fool you, even the more bitter examples of this style are still not quite at American IPA levels. The 2021 guidelines for this style of beer are below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.048 – 1.060
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 4.6% – 6.2%
  • Bitterness: 30-50 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 8-18

Extra Special Bitter Ingredients


The Extra Special Bitter has a more pronounced malt profile than both the ordinary bitter and best bitter, but it is still balanced with the hop profile. To do this, I recommend using an English pale malt, such as Maris Otter, as your base. Between 80% and 85% of our grain bill is dedicated to Maris Otter to build up a rich, malty, and nutty base. To this, I have found that around 10% of a medium British crystal malt, right around 80 Lovibond, adds a perfect amount of sweetness, along with pleasant notes of caramel and toffee. Finally, I finish off the grain bill with 5% Victory malt to enhance the toastiness.


For the Extra Special Bitter, I recommend using British hops, such as Fuggle, East Kent Goldings, Willamette, Northdown, and Challenger. I would add bittering, flavor, and aroma hops to this style. I like to use Fuggles as my bittering hop and East Kent Goldings as my flavor and aroma additions. Keep the total IBUs right between 35 and 40.


For the Extra Special Bitter:

  • English Ale Yeast – WLP002 (White Labs)
  • British Ale Yeast – WLP005 (White Labs)
  • English Special Bitter -1768-PC (Wyeast)
  • British Ale – 1098 (Wyeast)


Last but not least, the water. I use a reverse osmosis filtration system for all beers I brew and build up my water profile from scratch. My water profile looked like this:

  • Calcium: 50 ppm
  • Sodium: 15 ppm
  • Sulfates: 110 ppm
  • Chloride: 50 ppm

Extra Special Bitter Recipe

The following is a 5-gallon batch of an Extra Special Bitter. The numbers for this beer are included below.

  • Original Gravity: 1.057
  • Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.016
  • Alcohol by Volume: 5.6%
  • Bitterness: 36.9 IBU
  • Color (SRM): 12.3

Grain Bill

  • Maris Otter – 9 lbs (84.9%)
  • Medium Crystal 80L – 1 lb 0.8 oz (9.9%)
  • Victory – 8.8 oz (5.2%)


  • 1.20 oz Fuggle at 60 minutes (17.8 IBUs)
  • 1.15 oz East Kent Goldings at 30 minutes (14.5 IBUs)
  • 1.40 oz East Kent Goldings at 5 minutes (4.6 IBUs)


English Ale Yeast – WLP002


Add your salts and pH buffer if needed, and fill your mash tun to the required volume and temperature for your mash to drop to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. For me, it was 3.31 gallons at 163 degrees Fahrenheit. After 60 minutes, raise your mash temperature to 168 degrees for mash out. After mashing out, begin to sparge until you reach a pre-boil gravity of around 1.050. For me, it was 4.75 gallons.


Boil the wort for 90 minutes. Add the hops in as necessary. At 10 minutes, I added yeast nutrients and at 5 minutes I added whirlfloc tablets as my clarifying agent. Once the boil is complete, whirlpool the wort for 10 minutes and then let it wind down for 10 minutes.


Knock the wort out in your heat exchanger so that the pitching temperature is 64 degrees and then measure the gravity and pitch the yeast. My initial gravity was 1.057. Let the temperature free rise up to 67 degrees and hold through fermentation. Once you are within 5 specific gravity points from your target FG, let the temperature free rise up to 72 degrees. After 48 hours, cold crash to 33 degrees and hold for another 48 hours. Once your cold crash is complete, transfer it to the brite tank and carbonate it to 2.4 vols. After 3 days in the brite tank, keg it and enjoy!

If you decide to try this recipe, or another Extra Special Bitter recipe, feel free to send us a comment and let us know how it went! And if you want to see more recipes like this, sign up for our newsletter below to be notified when a new post is released. Cheers!

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1 Comment

  1. Dear owner, You always provide clear explanations and step-by-step instructions.

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