Getting Started with Grails on Heroku

Last Updated: 29 June 2015

beta grails java

Support for Grails is currently in Beta.

Table of Contents

This quickstart will get you going with a Grails application that uses a Postgres database service, deployed to Heroku.

If you have questions about Java on Heroku, consider discussing them in the Java on Heroku forums.

Sample code for the Grails demo application is available on GitHub.


Create a Grails app

If you don’t already have a Grails app, you can create one quickly following the standard Grails Quick Start or clone this sample from github:

$ git clone git://

Set up the database

Heroku automatically provisions a small database when you create a Grails application and sets the DATABASE_URL environment variable to a URL of the format


You can also provision a larger database service yourself using the heroku addons command. Either way, the database connection information will be stored in the DATABASE_URL variable.

Configure your app to use this database by changing the production database configuration in grails-app/conf/DataSource.groovy to this:

production {
    dataSource {
        dbCreate = "update"
        driverClassName = "org.postgresql.Driver"
        dialect = org.hibernate.dialect.PostgreSQLDialect

        uri = new URI(System.env.DATABASE_URL?:"postgres://test:test@localhost/test")

        url = "jdbc:postgresql://" + + ":" + uri.port + uri.path
        username = uri.userInfo.split(":")[0]
        password = uri.userInfo.split(":")[1]

Configure dependencies

Edit grails-app/conf/BuildConfig.groovy to add the postgres JDBC driver as a dependency. Your BuildConfig.groovy’s dependencies section should look like this:

dependencies {
    runtime 'postgresql:postgresql:8.4-702.jdbc3'

Check in to Git

Create a .gitignore file tailored for Grails to prevent generated files from being checked in:


Check your app into Git:

$ git init
$ git add .
$ git commit -m init

Create a Heroku app and deploy

Create the app:

$ heroku create

Optional: Declare Process Types with Procfile

You declare how you want your application executed in Procfile in the project root. Create this file with a single line:

web: java $JAVA_OPTS -jar server/webapp-runner.jar --port $PORT target/*.war

Running Grails on the Cedar stack automatically generates the Procfile above. But you can take full control of how your app is executed by defining your own Procfile.

Optional: Choose a JDK

By default OpenJDK 1.7 is installed with your app. However, you can choose to use a newer JDK by specifying java.runtime.version=1.8 in a file called and adding it to the root of your application.

Here’s what a file looks like:


You can specify 1.6, 1.7, or 1.8 (1.8 is in beta) for Java 6, 7, or 8 (with lambdas), respectively.

Optional: Choose to run with Jetty

By default your Tomcat will be used to launch your app (via webapp-runner). You can specify Jetty to be used by using the same file you’d use to choose a JDK.

Just add this line to your


Note: You can do this with or without a JDK version being specified

Optional: Grails Wrapper

If your project uses the Grails Wrapper, the generated wrapper script will be used during build time instead of the default Grails package provided by Heroku. To start using the wrapper script, run the grails wrapper command and commit the generated files:

$ grails wrapper
$ git add .
$ git commit -m "Add Grails Wrapper"

Deploy your code

$ git push heroku master
Counting objects: 110, done.
Delta compression using up to 4 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (80/80), done.
Writing objects: 100% (110/110), 163.34 KiB, done.
Total 110 (delta 17), reused 110 (delta 17)
-----> Heroku receiving push
-----> Fetching custom buildpack... done
-----> Grails app detected
-----> Grails 2.2.0 app detected
-----> Installing Grails 2.2.0.....
-----> Done
-----> Executing grails -plain-output -Divy.default.ivy.user.dir=/app/tmp/repo.git/.cache war

       |Loading Grails 2.2.0
       |Configuring classpath
       |Downloading: ivy-1.0.1.RELEASE.xml
       |Done creating WAR target/grails20Test-0.1.war
-----> No server directory found. Adding webapp-runner automatically.
-----> Discovering process types
       Procfile declares types  -> (none)
       Default types for Grails -> web
-----> Compiled slug size is 31.1MB
-----> Launching... done, v6 deployed to Heroku

Congratulations! Your Grails app is now up and running on Heroku. Open it in your browser with:

$ heroku open

Local testing

Normally you run your Grails apps locally with grails run-app. This works great for quick, iterative development, and is fine to use when developing for Heroku. However, it is often useful to run the app using the same configuration as the server.

Add an embedded server

As you might have noticed from the build output above. Heroku added Tomcat via webapp-runner as the application server to run your app, but you don’t have to let Heroku do this. Simply download the webapp-runner or jetty-runner jar yourself and add it to your project:

$ mkdir server
$ curl > server/jetty-runner.jar


$ mkdir server
$ curl > server/webapp-runner.jar

You can put any server configuration in the server directory. For example, you can put a complete Tomcat distribution there.

Configure your local database URL

To run your app in the same configuration as Heroku, you must run a local Postgres database. It’s a common source of issues to use different databases in development and production. Set up a database on your Postgres instance and set the DATABASE_URL variable in your environment:

$ export DATABASE_URL=postgres://user:pass@localhost/dbname

Run your app

Note: you can also run your app with foreman using foreman start if you specified a Procfile previously. Read more about foreman and procfiles.

Build the war file:

$ grails war

Execute jetty runner (or webapp-runner):

$ java -jar server/jetty-runner.jar target/*.war

2012-01-23 15:22:30.792:INFO:omjr.Runner:Runner
2012-01-23 15:22:30.793:WARN:omjr.Runner:No tx manager found
2012-01-23 15:22:30.820:INFO:omjr.Runner:Deploying file:/Users/test/dev/devcenter-grails/target/grails20Test-0.1.war @ /[o.e.j.w.WebAppContext{/,null},file:/Users/test/dev/devcenter-grails/target/grails20Test-0.1.war]
2012-01-23 15:22:30.836:INFO:oejs.Server:jetty-7.x.y-SNAPSHOT
2012-01-23 15:22:30.865:INFO:oejw.WebInfConfiguration:Extract jar:file:/Users/test/dev/devcenter-grails/target/grails20Test-0.1.war!/ to /private/var/folders/b2/wfscp_952tn6gd6dhssbr7q00000gn/T/jetty-
2012-01-23 15:22:32.683:INFO:oejpw.PlusConfiguration:No Transaction manager found - if your webapp requires one, please configure one.
2012-01-23 15:22:33.478:INFO:/:Initializing Spring root WebApplicationContext
2012-01-23 15:22:37.780:INFO:oejsh.ContextHandler:started o.e.j.w.WebAppContext{/,file:/private/var/folders/b2/wfscp_952tn6gd6dhssbr7q00000gn/T/jetty-},file:/Users/test/dev/devcenter-grails/target/grails20Test-0.1.war
2012-01-23 15:22:37.849:INFO:/:Initializing Spring FrameworkServlet 'grails'
2012-01-23 15:22:37.870:INFO:oejs.AbstractConnector:Started SelectChannelConnector@ STARTING

Your app is now up on http://localhost:8080.

Of course you don’t have to use Jetty at all. As you have seen, you are in full control of what web server you use for your app and how it is launched by Heroku. This gives you the benefit of being able to control your production runtime in detail and being able to run exactly the same configuration in development and production.

Grails Heroku plugin

The Grails Heroku plugin provides a set of simple commands to set up your Grails app with Heroku add-on services like Postgres, Heroku Redis and other Redis providers, MongoDB from MongoLabs or MongoHQ and RabbitMQ.