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Software for extract brewing?

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Brownyard

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Is software helpful at all for extract brewing? I recently got back into it, and am currently just brewing extract recipes from Northern Brewer and MoreBeer with distilled water. I do plan to try a few partial mash recipes soon, but I'm not sure I'll be going into All Grain or not. I've read good things about Brewfather, but is it necessary or that helpful for what I'm doing to merit the expense?
 

IslandLizard

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There are many free recipe softwares out there, from simple estimations of brewing details, such as needed volumes and kettle sizes to intricate recipe formulators.

If you're buying extract kits, no, you don't need a recipe formulator, or other brewing software, generally. You have the recipe and all the ingredients for it. With most extract brewing, what goes in, comes out, pretty much. Unless larger amounts of wort splash out, or you're leaving larger amounts of wort behind with kettle trub, etc.

The only thing you may need is an estimate of boil-off volume for your "brew system," which can be derived empirically with your first brew.
 

IslandLizard

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I do plan to try a few partial mash recipes soon, but I'm not sure I'll be going into All Grain or not.
Partial mash is very rewarding! I started doing them in my early brew days before I even knew there was an official term for it. It allowed me to use flaked goods and specialty malts that can't be steeped, and use Munich and Vienna.

It was truly amazing how many recipes one can brew with Partial Mash!

I used a large (2 gallon?) kitchen pot to mash in (sometimes 1 or 2 additional, smaller, 1 gallon ones). It could easily hold 5-6 pounds of grist, plus enough water for a good mash. Put it in a prewarmed (but turned off oven, stirred and checking the temp 2x during the hour. Vorlauf-ed and Lautered through a large sieve, sparging 2x in the pot with warm water.
I didn't know sh!t about water chemistry then, but luckily, as it turned out, our tap water was very soft. :rock:

A few years later, I got in the mood for brewing a Belgian Wit (ah, brewing my own Hoegaarden!), which uses 40-60% raw/flaked wheat, it became clear I needed to step up to a mash/lauter tun, so I build one from a rectangular cooler. Later I discovered I could even do step-mashes (and decoctions) in the boil kettle, and use the tun just for lautering.
 

VikeMan

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Is software helpful at all for extract brewing? I recently got back into it, and am currently just brewing extract recipes from Northern Brewer and MoreBeer with distilled water.
As @IslandLizard mentioned, you don't really need software if you're just brewing kits for now. But, I'd recommend auditioning some software anyway. If you (re)build the kit recipes in software, you'll learn a lot about how to build recipes from scratch, so you'll be ahead whenever you decide to make the jump.
 

IslandLizard

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But, I'd recommend auditioning some software anyway.
Very good idea! ^

In that light, let me make a shameless plug for Brewer's Friend's Recipe Calculator. It's free, and run/owned by the same people that run/own our HomeBrewTalk forum. Actually, Brewer's Friend is loaded with all sorts of calculators and tools for brewing.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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I've read good things about Brewfather, but is it necessary or that helpful for what I'm doing to merit the expense?
IIRC, both Brewfather and Brewers Friend have free (limited) membership, BeerSmith has a trial period.

If the recipe software has a "free" option, sign up and start using it. If the recipe software has only a "trial" offer, you would want to dedicate some time to the trial/evaluation period.

Each (Brewfather, Brewers Friend, BeerSmith) has a "community" that you will want to explore during the limited/trial membership.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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Is software helpful at all for extract brewing?
Similar to what @VikeMan suggested, there is value in using recipe software with the kits you brew. Use an hydrometer and/or refractometer to compare estimated OG/FG values to actual values. Actual values for IBUs and SRM are more challenging to measure (or approximate).

Be cautious about the precision that comes with software estimates. While IBUs can be estimates to 10th or 100th of an IBU, if you are measuring by taste, the accuracy of the actual approximation (based on taste alone) may be +/- 5 IBUs.
 

Sundy

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I have been brewing kits since I re-started brewing. I have entered the kit recipes in Brew Father and Brewersfriend, I copied the recipe and re-named it so I could fiddle with the ingredients. My long term goal is that I can buy ingredients in bulk and make less expensive beers compared to kits. I found that one recipe in Brewersfriend, a Celebration Ale clone, had a problem with the IBU's. Brew Father worked just fine with the recipe. Brewing Software is the thread I started when I was looking for advice. All that being said I will probably pay for both Brew Father and Brewersfriend and keep using both till I decide which is best for my use. It's less than $50 a year for both.
 

mabrungard

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Depending upon the quality of the water you are reconstituting your extract with, a brewing calculator could be very important. Ideally, extract should be reconstituted with distilled or RO water. That's easy to deal with and you may or may not add salts and still produce a fine beer. But if you're using your tap water and it has must ionic content, you'll almost certainly be wise to use a calculator to control alkalinity in order to produce better beer.

I recommend that you review the Water Knowledge page of the Bru'n Water website to gain a better understanding for dealing with water and extract brewing.

Enjoy!
 

Birrofilo

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Although programs can be nice stuff, if you use extracts the most likely calculation that you will have to do is how much DME, or water, or both to add to reach a certain target density.

Those are calculations that can be made "by hand" easily.

A kg of DME adds 380 "total density points" to the wort.

Let's say you find yourself with 23 litres at 1,048 and you want to hit 23 litres at 1,055. Normally with extracts you should land straight on the theoretical density, but things happen.

So, you have 48 points x 23 litres = 48 x 23 = 1104 "total points";
You want to reach 55 points x 23 litres = 55 x 23 = 1265 "total points";
You lack 1265 - 1104 = 161 "total points".
(Considering that the volume remains constant, you could have calculated those "total points" as 7 missing point per litre x 23 litres = 7 x 23 = 161).

A kg of DME adds 380 total points. You need to add 161 / 380 = 0,424 kg or 424 grams of DME.

Another case:
You have 19 litres @ 1,050 and you want 23 litres. If you add water, which will be your wort density?

You have 50 x 19 = 950 total points;
If you dilute those 950 points in 23 litres, you will have 950 / 23 = 41,3 points in each litre (1,0413).

Another case:
you want to make two operations at once: add water and add density.

Let's say you have 19 litres at 1,045 and you want 23 litres at 1,050. You want more water and more "total density points".
Water: that's easy, you need to add 4 litres;
Density: you start from 19 x 45 points = 855 and you want to obtain 23 x 50 = 1150 points. You must add 1150 - 855 = 295 total density points.

Considering that a kg of DME has 380 total density points, you must add 295 / 380 = 0,776 kg or 776 grams of DME.

Adding 776g of DME and 4 litres will bring you exactly at the volume and density which you wanted.
 

VikeMan

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Adding 776g of DME and 4 litres will bring you exactly at the volume and density which you wanted.
It should be mentioned that the DME itself also adds volume, not just gravity. The calculators/programs (the good ones anyway) take that into account. Back of the envelope calcs are great, and very educational, but they get unwieldy if you want to include everything.
 

Birrofilo

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It should be mentioned that the DME itself also adds volume, not just gravity. The calculators/programs (the good ones anyway) take that into account. Back of the envelope calcs are great, and very educational, but they get unwieldy if you want to include everything.
Yes that's true but for this sort of "fine tuning" calculations it is IMHO negligible.
In my notes a kg of DME adds 595 ml to the volume, so to make an example in the first case the 424g of DME add 252 ml to the 23 litres (from 23 litres to 23,25 litres, a 1% error. You end up with 1,0544 instead of 1,055, a difference which is different to evaluate on a hydrometer).
A greater approximation is due to the real potential of the DME because not all DME have the same potential, it could be 350 points instead of 380, not to mention that volume measurement are never precise to 1%.
But all in all I find this method pretty fast and useful.

If instead of "fine tuning" one has to make those calculations for the entire batch volume then yes, the volume of the DME must be considered into the calculation.
 
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VikeMan

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but but but ;) ... if one includes everything it's not longer a 'back of the envelope' calculation.
That's kind of the point I was trying to make. Back of the envelope calcs are great to get you in the ballpark, but I don't rely on them for actual brewing. And as I said, they're great for educational purposes. Not to mention for troubleshooting some "Why didn't I hit my expected OG?" posts.
 

BrewnWKopperKat

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I don't rely on them [back of the envelope calculations] for actual brewing.
Some of us (well, maybe it's just me) are comfortable brewing with "back of the envelope calculations".

But see also #8 for my reply to OP.
 

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Yeah. I appreciate the formulas but, I entered the ingredients from a couple of kits I bought and got nearly the same results as they expected. For less than $30 a year it is no contest for me. I can change the batch size and have the results almost instantly and not worry that I dropped a digit.
 

Sundy

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Depending upon the quality of the water you are reconstituting your extract with, a brewing calculator could be very important. Ideally, extract should be reconstituted with distilled or RO water. That's easy to deal with and you may or may not add salts and still produce a fine beer. But if you're using your tap water and it has must ionic content, you'll almost certainly be wise to use a calculator to control alkalinity in order to produce better beer.

I recommend that you review the Water Knowledge page of the Bru'n Water website to gain a better understanding for dealing with water and extract brewing.

Enjoy!
I am using RO water. I was wondering if it would be worth my time to get a profile of my RO water. It is an under-sink system.
 

Sundy

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Whoops, I thought this was the thread I started. I hope I did not hijack this thread, it was not my intention.
 

IslandLizard

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I am using RO water. I was wondering if it would be worth my time to get a profile of my RO water. It is an under-sink system.
As long as the membrane is working properly, RO (Reverse Osmosis) water is largely devoid of minerals. A TDS reading of <10-15 is to be expected in most cases. So get a (cheap) TDS meter. There's usually no need for a mineral report.
 

Sundy

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I can move your last 3 posts to the thread they do belong in. They're definitely off kilter here.
Which thread is it?
My thread is pretty dead. I went back and read this whole thread and while I was not the OP I think my posts were in the spirit of the thread.
 

IslandLizard

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My thread is pretty dead. I went back and read this whole thread and while I was not the OP I think my posts were in the spirit of the thread.
Yeah, I too looked at them again, they're better off here, where they are. They're really not that far out of context, may even help the OP's decision.

Although $30 a year seems like a small amount to pay, it's the subscription model that makes it add up to several 100s of dollars over the years, ongoing. I find that model very hard to swallow. Nope, I don't need cloud storage for recipes, or "design" them on a phone, either.

I've been using Beersmith 2 for over 10 years now, a single time purchase of around $20. About a year after v3 was (finally) released with a lot of tam-tam, I took the 2-week free trial, but was left unconvinced it added anything I couldn't live without. Actually, I found certain "improvements" very unappealing, with no customization available to remove them, or fix them. The interface is still the pits
 

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I use a spreadsheet that I developed. It does everything I want and is aimed at my process. I modify it as needed. And I don't think I have to worry about Excel and Open Office both going out of business and loosing continuity with my records.
 

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I use Brewers Friend for my recipes. The malt and extract are simple, so not needed for that. But I prefer low IBU beers, +/- 5 IBU is not much at 50, but a huge difference at 20 IBU. Since I started using it my bitter levels are right where I like them. I also get an est. of ABV with no extra effort... :bigmug:
 

eric19312

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My software is my brew log. I like to keep track of what I brew and how it came out. Also any issues that came up during brew day...especially problems or deviations from plan. On batches I really like I will enter my own tasting notes and if I entered the beer in a competition I will include the scores and judges comments.

I also keep track of a lot of brew day and fermentation measurements. The software gives me a place to collect and organize that data. That is really not necessary for anybody especially if you are brewing kits but I find it can be helpful to have the records if a batch doesn't come out they way I expected and I am trying to figure out what went wrong.

I don't use it to keep track of inventory or automate ingredient orders. That is too much like work. But I will use it to look back at my brewing history and think about future ingredient purchases...bulk hops, grains other ingredients. Again you are doing kits for now but if you start building your own recipes you might appreciate that ability.
 
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