The production of recombinant proteins is crucial for both the development of new protein drugs and the structural determination of drug targets. As such, recombinant protein production has a major role in drug development. Bacterial hosts are commonly used for the production of recombinant proteins, accounting for approximately 30% of current biopharmaceuticals on the market. In this review, I introduce fundamental concepts in recombinant protein production in bacteria, from drug development to production scales. Recombinant protein production processes can often fail, but how can this failure be minimised to rapidly deliver maximum yields of high-quality protein and so accelerate drug discovery?