As I mentioned in the post about the saison I recently made, I’ve started using brewing software as a sort of preparation/planning tool for making my beers. I’d always (i.e., since I’d started brewing) heard of brewing software and, not being much of a computer guy, was pretty dismissive of the entire idea. So then finally on a lark I downloaded some open-source brewing software, Brewtarget, and fooled around with it for a little while. Again, I’m not much of a computer whiz so my fooling around on the computer usually resembles the opening scene of 2001–after a few days of slapping and backing away, nudging and backing away, I figure out how the damn thing works. Just with no Also Sprach Zarathustra playing in the background.
Full disclosure: I watched a youtube video tutorial on how to use Brewtarget. It doesn’t have sound, but it is pretty helpful.
So but here’s why I’m telling you about Brewtarget: if you don’t use brewing software, you should. Regardless of what level you’re brewing at–all-grain 10 gallons batches or beginner 5 gallon extract batches–brewing software comes in pretty handy. Let me clarify in the most unconcise way possible.
Brewing software is fuckin neat.
It can help you plan a beer and keep a consistent record of your brewing process, but it will do this only if you are attentive to the data you put in the program. It is still just a computer program. So you have to make sure that you input the temp. you mash at, or the temp. you steep specialty grains at if you’re extract brewing. You still have to input the amount of extract/grains and hops you use. Basically, the software can be a great record of the beers you make, but you still have to have a certain amount of record-keeping bones in your body for it to be worth it.
Also, brewing software, when used correctly, can help you do the math of beer making. That is to say that you can input variables (i.e., mash temp., amount of extract or hops, boil time, & c.) and it will calculate how much water you need to start the mash, how bitter the beer will be, how caloric the beer will be, and how much wort you’ll have after an hour boil. Now these are all values that are less than hard to derive without this software, but for the mathematically disinclined, having a calculator to do the work is pretty handy. If you’re at all interested in creating your own beer recipes, this software will knock some of the guesswork out.
Brewing software also will formulate your recipe and brewday instructions so you can print them out and use them as a guide while making beer. It’s just like getting instructions with a kit, except that you made the instructions and picked out the ingredients. Even though you might not really need instructions, they’re not a bad fall-back crutch to have around. Especially if you like to start cracking open homebrews when you start homebrewing.
There are lots of options for brewing software out there on the ole’ internet, and I’ve only really played around with Brewtarget. Which it’s an open-source software (and to me, if you can get something open-source, all the better (for more reasons than just it being free (which most aren’t germane here), open-source seems like the best option for software, to me)), and you can grab up, for not too many bucks, lots of those other options. I’d figure that most of the other options operate comparably to Brewtarget–there’re probably a few perks/conveniences depending on which one you get, but they all do basically the same thing. And at the end of the brewday, you make the beer, not your computer (i.e., your computer doesn’t make the beer, not that you don’t make your computer).
I’ll be honest, I’d always thought brew software was dorky, unnecessary computer antics that just complicated what didn’t need complication. I’m now a fan. This software can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be. You can use it as much or as little as you like. In short, it’s just the same as any computer software–the software itself isn’t what makes or breaks the end result, the user does.
So until the robot apocalypse arrives, your computer is still just a helping hand you can make do your bidding. Make it do your homebrewing bidding.