There are lots of tools and methods out there for designing homebrew recipes. Varying from very simplistic to crazy detailed, every brewer has their favorite go-to methods, depending on their brewing style. Here are a few of my favorites.
BrewR Android App
I love being able to write recipes on-the-go. I’ve used a few different apps since I started using smartphones, and the one that I have stuck with is BrewR. I highly recommend this app for any homebrewer, especially for brewers just getting into recipe writing.
One of my favorite things about this app is its simplicity. It certainly isn’t as robust as programs like BeerSmith, but it does the job perfectly for what it is designed for – recipe writing on-the-go. It doesn’t have strike water calculations, equipment profiles, or mash profiles, but it does have a very easy to use interface, easy to adjust recipe settings (i.e. batch size, specifications for extract, all-grain, or partial mash on each recipe, etc.), a flexible and expandable ingredients database, a cloud sync feature (which was a lifesaver when my last phone bit the dust), and flexible sharing features. Really the only downfalls are that it is not as robust in the equipment and mash profile department, and that it is not in BeerXML file format.
This is app is a no-brainer for any extract and partial-mash brewer and for any brewer getting into writing their own recipes. Even for all you all-grain brewers out there, this is a great app to have in your tool box for writing on-the-go. Trust me, you won’t mind forming up the recipe in this app, even if you have to re-enter it in another tool for the final version, because the interface is so smooth and easy to use. Even as I move into more all-grain batches now that I have an outdoor brew rig, I still plan on using this app for writing on-the-go rough drafts.
It’s probably no shocker to see BeerSmith on any brewer’s list of favorite tools. One of the most popular brewing software packages, BeerSmith has a lot going for it. It uses the BeerXML file format standard, has customization for mash and equipment profiles, has a customizable ingredients database, has a variety printing and reporting options, allows for easy exporting, and even allows for inventory tracking for ingredients. As one of the most popular tools, it also means that there are plenty of great recipes and ingredient databases out there from other brewers that can be easily imported. The program even has recently released mobile companion apps that make it easy for synchronizing to a pocket-sized platform, or for convenient viewing on a tablet for easy reference on brew day.
The only downfall of the program is its enormous strength. For a lot of brewers BeerSmith is a little overkill, particularly for extract brewers just starting out. I got my copy of BeerSmith a few years ago and found myself not using it a whole lot because I was mostly doing extract and partial-mash recipes and didn’t find myself in front of a computer when I wanted to write a recipe. Now that I do more all-grain, I will start using BeerSmith a bit more for fine-tuning recipes and dialing-in mash calculations.
Pen and Paper
As much as I love the power of brewing recipe software packages and apps, having good ol’ pen and paper around is invaluable as far as I’m concerned. I actually keep two sets of books (insert book-cooking joke here) – one that I write down the final recipes and batch statistics for every batch I brew, and one that I use for brainstorming and writing down new concepts and ideas I want to try (because if I don’t write that stuff down, I forget half of it).
The obvious drawback of pen and paper is that none of the calculations are done automatically for you. That’s why I suggest using pen and paper as a supplement to a computer- or mobile-device-based tool. The benefits of pen and paper are pretty numerous – no worrying about dead batteries, no worrying about a hard drive dying, no worrying about ruining an expensive phone/tablet/laptop around the multitude of hard objects and containers of liquid on brew day, and it is very flexible for note-taking and formatting. Sometimes, high-tech is not the best answer.
I recommend using a combination of a couple of tools when writing recipes and keeping a log of recipes you have done in the past. Keep a set of the recipes in electronic format as your working copies since this is probably the format you are using to calculate your recipes out, but keep a hard copy of the recipes too. Whether you are recording your recipes by copying them down with pen and paper, or printing your recipes out from your computer, it’s always to have a hard copy of your recipes. Hard copy redundancy is your friend if your hard drive or phone bite it.
That’s all I got for you today, so go forth and brew!
Song of the Day: “Mother and Child Reunion” by Paul Simon
Beer of the Day: Free Will Citra Pale Ale