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Comparing Homebrewing Software

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The pioneering American homebrewers of the 1970s were on their own in many respects. “If you wanted to learn to brew you had to find someone who knew what they were doing or read a book,” wrote Stanley Kaminski in his article for homebrewsupply.com, The Complete History of Homebrew. The early homebrewers were intrepid do-it-yourself types with a common passion for beer.
Homebrewing as we now know it in the United States began in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter signed into law HR1337, which allowed brewing at home nationwide. The World Wide Web didn’t become publicly available until August 1991. Homebrewing and computer science have been booming side by side ever since.
Today you can hop online and watch video on how to brew. You can also make use of software apps that help with everything from recipe formation to inventory control. The rapid simultaneous growth of both homebrewing and computer science makes it tough to keep up with all the developments, so what follows is, at best, a small sample of what’s out there. Think of it as a jumping-off point on your journey through the world of homebrewing software applications.

Why use software?
There’s a fair amount of math involved with homebrewing, and software can take the tedium out of that. Some of the available software includes numerous calculators for things such as International Bitterness Units (IBUs), color in Standard Reference Method (SRM) or degrees Lovibond, and alcohol by volume (ABV). The more advanced you become, the more calculations you will want to make. The right software can help you improve your beer by keeping track of ingredients and noting how they change the characteristics noted above, as well as many others. This allows you to be more creative and more productive.
The right software can allow you to keep all your brewing records in one place for quick and easy reference, which will help as you work to improve your technique. Some apps will help you manage your inventory of ingredients, determine the cost of your next batch, and even generate shopping lists.
Which software app will suit you best? It really depends on what you want it to do and how much you want to spend.
Experience is one factor to consider. There are apps that will take a beginner step-by-step through the process. There are apps with details the most advanced homebrewers will appreciate. There are apps with everything in between.
Do you want to try recipes that others have found success with? Maybe you have some you’d like to share? Homebrewing software is very useful in both cases. It can also provide you a link to the ever-growing community of homebrewers via blogs, forums, and social media.

Comparison Chart of Popular Brewing Software

Paid apps
Cloud-based Brewer’s Friend can help a beginner get started but also has powerful tools for more advanced homebrewers. It’s free of charge for the first five recipes. Premium membership is $2.49 a month or $24.99 for a full year. Premium membership frees you from advertisements, allows you to sync with mobile apps, and gives you premium support.
Brewer’s Friend includes calculators for bitterness, color, original and final gravity and alcohol by volume. It adjusts hydrometer readings by temperature. It will also help you determine how much you need to dilute or boil down your wort volume to hit your target gravity. This app even has a calculator that lets you choose your pitch rate for yeast in cells per volume of wort. It also has calculators useful in making wine and mead. You can browse thousands of recipes quick and easily
Brewer’s Friend gives you the ability to record brewing-related notes and ideas. It also helps keep track of your inventory, helps you create shopping lists, and includes a timer to keep you on track on brew day.
With Brewer's Friend you can import and export recipes using BeerXML via the internet. The site also features a blog with informative articles to keep you abreast of the latest information and trends.



BeerSmith 3, at $27.95, offers many the same features with the exception of note-taking. It, too, includes support for wine- and mead-making. There are versions for Linux, Mac, and Windows. A 21-day free trial is available.
You can instantly search and access tens of thousands of recipes via BeerSmithRecipes.com. It has both a PC and a mobile version. Users tend to prefer the PC version for building recipes and the mobile version for brew day, utilizing the timers, etc. BeerSmith 3 supports English, metric and imperial units and has volunteer teams working on foreign language versions.


If you have an iPhone or iPad, you might want to check out Brew Pal 3, a recipe formulation app for iOS 7.0+ devices. It’s advertised as “Cheaper than a pint of beer at only $1.99.” This app provides easy access to the most often used homebrewing calculations and stats, such as color, bitterness, and alcohol content, to name a few. It also gives you audible and vibrating reminders of important steps in the brewing process. Brew Pal 3 saves all the information you enter. That means you won’t lose any info if you take a call while you’re brewing.
With Brew Pal 3, recipes are shared anonymously and deleted after seven days.



Mac users having OS 10.10 or later might take a look at Beer Alchemy. Priced at $29.95, it is designed for recipe creation. This app also aids in inventory management and shopping. It can import and export both Promash and Beer XML files and (with Beer Alchemy Touch 2.0 or later) can sync with iPhone and iPad.


Brewtoad is stopping service at the end of 2018 and will no longer be available. If you're a Brewtoad user, save your recipes in another software or in your own computer before the end of 2018. You can import Brewtoad's XML files into other software, such as Brewer's Friend.

Free apps
There are a number of homebrewing apps that are totally free. They have their limitations, but are worth a look if your budget is a limitation for you.
Brewtarget Beer Software is one of them. This is brewing software and an open source beer recipe creation tool that operates on Linux, Mac, and Windows. It automatically calculates color, bitterness and other parameters as you drop and drag ingredients into the recipe you have chosen. It offers tools such as priming sugar calculators and an original gravity correction helper. It also has a unique mash designing tool. This app lets you synchronize your entire library of recipes and ingredients with cloud storage such as Dropbox. Brewtarget allows you to export files for sharing with Beer XML and includes a brew timer with audio notification. It has a link to Twitter. This app has truly global appeal. It’s available in many languages, including Czech, Portuguese and Polish.


Brewgr, also free of charge, was created by Jason Zimmerman and Matthew Marksbury in 2011. It bills itself as an online homebrew community and recipe calculator to help homebrewers find, create and share homebrew recipes with other homebrewers. The site’s creators felt there should always be a free website and community “to empower homebrewers to become better at making great tasting homebrew.”
As you add ingredients with Brewgr, it makes calculations for aspects such as OG, FG, color, efficiency, bitterness, ABV, and even calories. It works for all grain or extract brewing. Brewgr has a place where you can add history, facts and other details that will interest brewers. You can add photos, too. The site includes an extensive, nicely illustrated blog.


Brewcipher is a free excel spreadsheet that acts as a recipe builder and brew day calculator. It comes with the main excel file (or open office spreadsheet) and instructions on how to get the most out of it. Multiple tabs within the file give different parameters, recipe inputs, water chemistry, a brew day printout and a tab to add any ingredients that don’t show up on the initial download.
To run Brewcipher, you must have Microsoft excel or Open Office. It’s not open source, but it is a collaborative effort with different people contributing to its various aspects. The developer said he created it “mainly because none of the other software programs or spreadsheets predicted attenuation, and thus final gravity, very well.” This app continues to evolve, based on ideas provided by its users.


Brewing Assistant from Brewology101.com is designed for recipe building, with calculators for bitterness, color, gravity and alcohol by volume. By syncing recipes to the website, you can share recipes, back them all up and transfer them to other Android and iOs devices. It features mash stirring reminders, using the interval you set, and reminders for adding ingredients during the boil.


Calculate Beer is an Italian-language Google Play app. While some language translation errors have been reported, users have been happy with it nonetheless. It allows you to create, calculate, adjust and store recipes using a database of fermentables, hops, and yeast. You can custom-add your own ingredients, as well. The developers have promised to work on the translation issues. “Really surprised at how good this app is,” said one reviewer of Calculate Beer. “Some English translation glitches, and some background information in Italian; but outweighed by quality, content and usefulness compared with other brewing apps. I’d also support at paid version if it tidied up the English.”


Qbrew is an excellent choice for most beginning and intermediate brewers. For a free product, it does a lot and is easy to use. You can enter and save recipes, adjust them to see how your changes should affect the finished beer, and tailor the information to your batch sizes and efficiency levels. It calculates gravity, color, and bitterness and includes a database of styles grains, hops, and other ingredients. It also has a brewing tutorial. Qbrew won’t allow you to calibrate refractometer readings, calculate carbonation or store recipes in the cloud. However, it will allow you to override any numbers associated with a given recipe ingredient.


For Android users, Wort Homebrew Calculator includes a recipe calculator, a large ingredient database, and style guidelines. After selecting the ingredients and beer style this app will compare the results (OG, IBU, ABV) to the style guidelines. That allows you to make any changes you might desire before brewing.
Wort Homebrew Calculator seems to be a work in progress (beta version) and some bugs have been reported, such as stored recipes being lost, timer not working, etc. Recipes are not included with this app, so if you want a large recipe database to start with this one wouldn’t be for you. Reviews for Wort Homebrew Calculator have been generally positive, with comments such as “it is quite accurate and has lots of options” and “has helped me make the jump from Coopers kits, to partial extract, to all grain.”
Find one that works for you
Those early American homebrewers most likely kept notes and records by hand and shared their know-how in chance face-to-face meetings. They learned from their mistakes and from each other. As their numbers have mushroomed, so has the common homebrewing knowledge. Meanwhile, the technology that allows information sharing has also grown by leaps and bounds. As a result, you now have the accumulation of three decades of homebrew learning at your fingertips. Why not put it to use? Here’s hoping you find an app that works for you at a price you can live with.

 
Mike Marsnik
Some mistakes in your table for Beersmith.
You can definitively add notes... and there is a timer.
There is actually a tab for each of those when you open a recipe ;o)
Check the link for a screenshot of the notes page...
 
How on earth do you not have brewfather on this list?! It's in development, but it does everything and even connects with devices such as iSpindel, Tilt and brewpiless so you have your logged data right in your batch notes.
https://brewfather.app/
 
I concur with other posters. BeerSmith 3 checks all the boxes, and has Cloud storage. Also has desktop and phone apps that work together. I've been very happy with BeerSmith 3.
 
Why do you not have the boxes checked for notes and timer with Beersmith3? Those features have been available at least as far back as v.2 and are clearly indicated in recipe design page.
 
Brewtoad announced they are discontinuing operations as of December 31st 2018.
https://www.brewtoad.com/shutdown
 
You should also note the various options for BeerSmith. In addition to the one time price, you can opt for three different subscription levels. This along with missing the notes and timer gives an unfair comparison.
 
Unless I'm mistaken, the "M" column in your table should be for "Macintosh", not "Microsoft"...
When I first started brewing (early 2000's...) there was NO brewing software for Macs. I tried running ProMash in VirtualPC (those are some blasts from the past!) and it worked OK. What an ugly interface, though!
Eventually, BeerTools Pro (beertools.com) came along and was released for the Mac as well as Windows. An it was a very Mac-like program with a great interface. I particularly liked its SRM visualization which showed you what a pint glass of your beer might look like (it was pretty accurate, too!) It is what I used for quite a while. It's still around, but it seems to have been stuck on version 2.0.x for a very long time with only minor updates.
I also used some online tools for initial recipe development. Anybody remember the Recipator? I particularly liked the Recipator Carbonation Calculator for figuring out how much priming sugar to use.
I was away from brewing for a few years, and when I came back, it looks like BeerSmith has not only released a Mac version, but appears to have surpassed BeerTools and looks like it's made some attempt to keep up with new techniques. Going forward, it looks like that will be my tool of choice.
 
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Sorry Maxine, and thank you for the info. In writing this, I went by the product descriptions I could find on-line and neither of those features showed up.
 
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Sorry Kevin. In writing it, I went by the product descriptions and comments I could find online and neither of those features showed up. Thanks for the new info.
 
Like a lot of articles on the subject, you missed out Brewfather. All the functionality of all the other apps, plus integration Tilt, iSpindel and Smart PID and regular updates with new functionality. Web-based, so works on any platform, without the need for Dropbox syncing or a local database. I've been using it now for 6 months (about 20 brews) and highly recommend it.
 
Brewtarget also has an inventory feature in it's latest incarnations... I haven't used it, though.
I have found it's Mash Wizard to be spot-on, however. I'm quite happy with BT.
 
Oh, there are also spots to leave recipe notes and tasting notes...
It's database driven, so you can a base recipe and then different "brew days" of that recipe... each brew day can have separate notes...
 
Good article. For the next time this topic arises, I'd like to submit my free shared brewing spreadsheet for review. It can be downlowed from https://beernbbqbylarry.com/BNBFiles/_Brewing_Recipe_Template_v2_2_5.xlsx or from any of my brewing recipe videos. Many of my followers use it and have pushed me further and further to enhance it over time (which I did). The current rev is 2.2.5, but I have a major update coming out soon (v3.0) that adds brewing water adjustments, updated hydrometer/refractometer options/calibration/adjustment, and will be easier for fly and BIAB brewers to use. I also have a separate accurate beer line length calculator spreadsheet (The one in brewcipher is not.) that I may also embed in to my main spreadsheet: https://www.beernbbqbylarry.com/BNBFiles/_Draft_System_Balancing.xlsx
 
You’ve totally missed the best software out there right now - Brewfather. I’ve tried BeerSmith and Brewers Friend for a long time, but Brewfather is far better and even still just in Beta mode.. Beersmith is falling behind in my opinion.
 
Brew Math for IOS. Brew Calculations such as
Mass Conversion: lb-kg-g lots others
Volume Conversions mm-oz-g lots of them
Temp F-C
Gravity Plato SG'
Mash- Strike- Infusion-Decotation-Batch-Mash Volume
SRM -Colors
and many more. I think .99 at App Store. Best Tool
 
How about Usability as a column - as some of the software on this list is barely usable, where as others are pretty intuitive.
 
Hello, I'm the developer for Wort Homebrew calculator. I've currently ramped up development on the 2.0 version of the app, which will be of much higher quality than the previous version. I am using a Google framework for authentication and database. A lot of the issues that users were having problems with will be fixed.
Since I'm using this new framework, it will enable me to offer an iPhone and web version shortly after I release the Android version.
Please reach out to me if you need anything.
Joe
 
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