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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Brewing Software > New to BS - Very obvious flaw???
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Old 09-19-2012, 04:11 PM   #1
whenithitsyourlips
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Default New to BS - Very obvious flaw???

Hey guys, new user here. I actually posted this over at Beersmith but I though I would also post here to, since homebrewtalk is my go-to forum. I noticed that maybe some of the other threads reference this, but as I feel somewhat strongly about it I will not hesitate to re-post and bring attention to something. Original thread on BS:

Hey everyone, new member here. I have about 10 AG batches under my belt now, the last two of those I have used BS. I will preface this by saying I think BS is a great piece of software and will be a very valuable tool going forward, but it seems like there may be a very blatant flaw that should be brought to the attention of new users like myself.

This may be common knowledge, like I said I am new here, but it seems that using a certain aspect of the software as it was intended to be used will give the user less than desirable results. Before I first used BS, I felt like a had a very good understanding of my brewing system, I know that I get right at about 80% mash efficiency, boil off 1.5 gal/hr... etc., so it was easy for me to input this information into the software and dial my system in as accurately as possible. I saw the calibration field "Loss to Trub and Chiller" and read the description "The volume of WORT lost due to trub and chiller deadspace". I knew that this was actual wort being basically left behind and not transferred to the carboy. So, I put in a value of 1 gallon (I get a crap ton of cold break due to Whirlfloc) and went about my business.

So my first brew day with BS rolls around and when I go to take my OG reading I am 12 points low!!! I was horrified. For a 5.5 gallon batch I was shooting for 1.077 and actually ended up with 1.065. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what I did to get such a low mash efficiency. Everything for this brew went exactly as planned so it was very frustrating thinking that something I did was the culprit. Well later on I was messing with the software creating an updated recipe with my new horrendous efficiency numbers (well mash efficiency is calculated, but I updated BH eff). I also increased the "Loss to Trub and Chiller" filed from 1 gallon to 1.25 gallon (had a little more than usual) and I noticed something. No mater how much I changed the trub loss field, the recipe stayed exactly the same. The only thing that changed was the amount of water I fly sparged with and ultimately gathered for my boil. I thought, no way can I increase the amount of water and not increase the amount of grains. It is clear that the trub loss is described as the WORT left behind (which is not just water!). So it was obvious that I was diluting my wort by 1 gallon. No wonder I had such a low OG!

Well I didn't want to jump to conclusions right away, so I said F* it, I'll brew it again, same day. So this time I set the trub loss field to 0 and just scaled my recipe up by a gallon. This way I am getting an extra gallon of wort and not just water. What do you know, I nailed 1.077. My confidence had returned and I was king home brew yet again.

So, while this is a very simple work around, that I absolutely don't mind doing... I think it should be something that new users are aware of. Yes over time they will just assume that have a sh*t efficiency and adjust the grains according to that, but that should not be the answer. I was ready to completely abandon by fly sparging set up, adjust my grain crush and search high and low on ways to improve my eff, even though in reality it was great. Sorry for the long post and I appreciate any who reads it and responds constructively. Like I said, maybe I just completely missed something and am using the software in the wrong way, but based on the instructions, videos, and field descriptions it is very misleading.

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Old 09-20-2012, 12:23 AM   #2
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Yeah I've noticed it too... looks like its being addressed per this thread: http://www.beersmith.com/forum/index...ic,7459.0.html

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Old 09-29-2012, 04:41 PM   #3
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Yeah I've noticed it too... looks like its being addressed per this thread: http://www.beersmith.com/forum/index...ic,7459.0.html
Wow, lots of fanboys and denial in that thread
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Old 09-30-2012, 09:15 PM   #4
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The BeerSmith thread linked earlier is mainly about the extract error when using 'trub losses', though it strays into the general issue with using 'to the fermenter' efficiency. The extract error, which is only somewhat related to efficiency, will apparently be fixed in the next release.

The issue the OP is talking about is how BeerSmith uses 'to the fermenter' for Brew House Efficiency, which requires adjusting/recalculating 'to the fermenter' efficiency anytime 'trub loss' is changed.

This is a thread about the OP's issue:
http://www.beersmith.com/forum/index...topicseen.html

While the choice to make Brew House Efficiency "to the fermenter" is a poor design choice, it isn't a true error, just a flawed design that complicates use and increases user error especially among first time users. BeerSmith does have actual calculation errors related to using 'to the fermentor' efficiency, but they are fairly small for ~5G batches. The errors, both user and software, would disappear (for fly spargers) if 'to the kettle' efficiency were used instead.

If you fly sparge, the easiest way to use BeerSmith is to set trub loss to '0', increase your batch size to ferm + trub, and, if you want, notate your expected trub losses in the 'fermenter losses' field (it won't affect any brewday calcs).

There is also another different issue when using no sparge, batch sparge, or BIAB. If you batch/no sparge or BIAB, you need to do the above, plus you will need to adjust your brew house eff (now kettle/mash/lauter eff) according to the OG of your recipe- lower for high grav brews, higher for low grav brews. There are some guides for workarounds to this issue, as well as some spreadsheets to help with predicting volumes, efficiencies, and grainbills to plug into BeerSmith.

I hear BeerSmith recently added a manual calculator tool to compute Brew House Eff (to the fermentor) to help with making efficiency adjustments based on measured mash eff and trub loss. Interestingly, the calculator only appeared after a snide remark was made to a fanboy about BeerSmith claiming to be the "Why do the calcs yourself" software, yet doesn't automatically calculate Brew House Eff, or even give a tool to do it, and it is the most important input a user has.

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Old 10-04-2012, 04:37 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input. I basically have started doing what you mentioned... Fly Sparging with a "0" value for trub loss and increased batch size. This seems to give me accurate preboil/OG numbers, which really is what I need from the software.

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Old 10-04-2012, 05:07 PM   #6
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There is also another different issue when using no sparge, batch sparge, or BIAB. If you batch/no sparge or BIAB, you need to do the above, plus you will need to adjust your brew house eff (now kettle/mash/lauter eff) according to the OG of your recipe- lower for high grav brews, higher for low grav brews. There are some guides for workarounds to this issue, as well as some spreadsheets to help with predicting volumes, efficiencies, and grainbills to plug into BeerSmith.
For what it's worth, I started a thread over there months ago related to the default BIAB calculations being horribly wrong and the Beersmith guy basically didn't help. I ended up writing my own calculators in excel, and now I know the math cold and am pretty good at estimating, so I have essentially stopped using Beersmith for what its primary purpose was for me when I originally bought it. I still use it to manage recipes and notes, but I am seriously considering writing my own brewing software with a more usable interface, which is my other major issue with Beersmith...how you can spend that many years between Beersmith 1 and Beersmith 2 working on a "total redesign" and still end up with a crappy user interface is beyond my comprehension.
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Old 10-04-2012, 08:21 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by whenithitsyourlips View Post
Thanks for the input. I basically have started doing what you mentioned... Fly Sparging with a "0" value for trub loss and increased batch size. This seems to give me accurate preboil/OG numbers, which really is what I need from the software.
Interesting. I fly sparge and have always set my "Loss to Trub and Chiller" to 0, so I've never noticed any inaccuracy.

My logic for using 0 though was because I recirculate at the end of the boil to sanitize the chiller and I then recirculate back into the kettle during chilling, so my ending kettle volume already includes liquid filled in the lines of the chilling equipment - thus my "Post Boil Vol" isn't going to lose any more to the chiller. Seem that my logic for doing it this way helped me.
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Old 10-05-2012, 03:23 PM   #8
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Interesting. I fly sparge and have always set my "Loss to Trub and Chiller" to 0, so I've never noticed any inaccuracy.

My logic for using 0 though was because I recirculate at the end of the boil to sanitize the chiller and I then recirculate back into the kettle during chilling, so my ending kettle volume already includes liquid filled in the lines of the chilling equipment - thus my "Post Boil Vol" isn't going to lose any more to the chiller. Seem that my logic for doing it this way helped me.
You made the right decision to not use 'trub loss', but the logic behind doing it is a bit flawed. If the liquid in your lines and chiller isn't recoverable, it is lost, as is any trub left in your kettle. If the liquid in the lines is recoverable, there are no chiller/line losses. I find it hard to believe you have no losses, though, unless you dump everything into the fermenter. In that case your trub losses would be shifted to 'fermenter to keg/bottle losses'. The 'Batch Size' would need to be increased accordingly if you are shooting for a specific keg/bottle volume.

Unless you want to have to recalc your efficiency 'to the fermenter' every time you change trub loss, like for a hoppy brew, keep 'trub loss' set to '0', and increase the batch size to include any losses. Your numbers and volumes will be more accurate, and also easier to manage since all that is needed is a gravity check and volume in the kettle to check 'brew house efficiency', since it is now properly defined as 'to the kettle' (mash eff in BeerSmith talk, and conversion eff * lauter eff in industry talk).
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:04 PM   #9
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Your numbers and volumes will be more accurate, and also easier to manage since all that is needed is a gravity check and volume in the kettle to check 'brew house efficiency', since it is now properly defined as 'to the kettle' (mash eff in BeerSmith talk, and conversion eff * lauter eff in industry talk).
Agreed. To me this is a more relevant efficiency number to have. If you are basing your grain bill off of Beersmith's definition of "Brew House Efficiency", I feel like there are too many fluctuating variables for that to be a consistent value from brew to brew. It's almost like the only way you can accurately determine this number is retroactively, after knowing measured trub loss, measured volume to fermenter, etc... then adjusting grain bill to get correct OG. Calculating how much grain you use based on a reading that includes the amount of wort that makes it to the fermenter is a bit ridiculous.
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Old 10-05-2012, 05:34 PM   #10
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Yes, my logic may be a little flawed, but since I do adjusted the batch size to account for my ending volume, I hit my numbers every time. My only real variable is trub loss due to the volume of hops as the plumbing and chiller are already accounted for in the post boil volume (due to recirc prior to chilling). I always wondered why BS didn't have a "Hop Absorption" variable like the "Grain Absorption" one. That would make it so the recipes could get pretty close on their trub loss numbers automatically.

Since my boil off rates are pretty consistent, I really only worry about my pre-boil volume and pre-boil gravity. After that point, I know everything else will fall in where it is supposed to be.

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