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Take good notes!!! Take good notes!!!

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BongoYodeler

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I see the phrase "take good notes" issued all over this forum. I know I started taking notes right off the bat, but as I brewed a few batches my note-taking evolved. I think it would be quite helpful to new brewers (which I consider myself), to give some examples of your note-taking. What notes do/did you take that you feel are most helpful and how much detail do you go into?
 

JohnSand

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I start with the date and batch number, name and source of the recipe. Next I note the types and weights of the grains and water volume. Then the mash temp. The times, weights, types and AA% of hop additions in order. Flame out and chill times, volume into fermenter, original gravity, yeast type, amount and time of pitch. Type and temperature of temp control. (Fridge with controller set at 66, or basement floor at 55, for instance) As it ferments, the temp of the wort, and progress judged by airlock bubbles, any temperature changes. Date packaged, final gravity, appearance, taste at that time. Later, tasting notes, possible changes, reception by others including competition results. Along the way I note anything unusual in any part of the process. I also note when the last of the batch is consumed, and any changes over time.
That seems like a lot, but most of the notes are on brew-day.
 

bernardsmith

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I would add that you want to note any even minor changes to the recipe that you make - or find you have made - are useful. The idea of keeping good notes is, IMO, two-fold - 1. Notes help you gain a better understanding of your actual -rather than the planned - processes ("this is how I did X" ) and 2. Notes help improve your processes either by helping you see where your processes need to be better monitored and controlled or where you may need to change what you do to achieve what you want given the equipment you use.
 

mongoose33

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My notetaking evolved as well. I like keeping notes in a spiral-bound notebook. I tried Beermith as a way to do that, it just seemed too complicated and I have to access it to have access to those notes. Others mileage varies, and that's fine.

My early notes were pretty sparse. Here are the "notes" from my first beer; they're in a text file and were largely done after the fact:
*************
Brewing notes:
I added 5 gallons of water, brought them [sic] up to 170 degrees, steeping the crushed grains in the muslin bag.

The instructions said to then remove the bag of grain, bring the pot to a boil, remove from heat, then stir in the malt extract. Somehow I misread them and stirred in the malt extract at 170 degrees. I chatted w/ one of the brewmasters at Northern Brewer and he said it would be ok, but may come out somewhat darker than it would otherwise have been.

Xfered to the Primary Fementer at 5:30pm on Dec 5. The fermenter showed no activity until the morning after, where it was bubbling away. Quite active bubbling, it seems.

Primary fermenting ended by Wednesday morning. On Dec 13, morning, racked into Secondary Fermenter. Tasted the beer, it wasn't bad--bitter finish, but not a bad flavor, and this without carbonation.

***********

Pretty useless, eh? But it was the first time, and over time I began to record more and more things. The rationale was, if I hit on a really good beer, wouldn't I want to brew it again? Sure! I'd need careful notes to do that.

Attached is a page from my notebook. I record the date, batch number, grain bill, hop bill, additions what and when, water composition, mash temp, pH of mash--mostly everything I can measure.

Some things I wrote down on earlier notes but stopped after a while as it was part of my usual process--things like oxygenating the wort, which I always do.

I also include fairly detailed fermentation notes, though some of that too is routine. With an ale, when the krausen falls I'll bump the temp up to 71 for a couple days, then back down to fermentation temp, then after that crash. I do an accelerated lager fermentation process, so those notes are there as well.

I've thought about putting all that stuff on a form, and I may yet do that. But for now, this suffices.

**********

I think there's an additional benefit to good notetaking new brewers may not think of at the outset. That is, when you have detailed notes you can compare brews, see what happens when mash temp changes, or a different ferm temp, whatever. You also begin to get a feel for what "normal" is.

darthnotes.jpg
 

balrog

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I'm with Mongoose. I note everything. Too much. Notes during recipe formulation (why I did as well as what), during prep and brew day and everything afterwards including the good the bad the ugly and the truly hilarious. My problem is that I have one spreadsheet for recipes, another form for step by step brew day, and another place to store fermentation notes, and another for the minutia like mash conversion efficiency, what I want to try and why, etc.
 

Mothman

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I set up my recipes in Beersmith, and in the Notes section I add some extra info (eg. water additions, if I am going to use different volumes/temps/etc that aren't the same as what Beersmith gives, ie from Priceless Brewing). I make one copy of the recipe and put it into an "In Progress" folder, and make any desired edits on that copy, leaving the original recipe intact.

On brew day I print that out, and as I'm going, check off or record items as I've done them (salt additions, temperature check, volume check, grains added, SG readings, etc). Anything that differs from the printed info (either intentional or not), I just cross out the original info and write in what I actually did.

On the back, blank, page of my print out, I record things like the date, how long it took me, things like pitching temperature, any notable things that occurred (eg. if I lost too much temp in the mash, or if I over/undershot efficiency, anything I noted that didn't go to plan).

I carry on the note taking on that same page through primary, noting date/time/temperature/notes (like when activity began, full krausen, krausen dropped, dry hop dates and methods, SG checks, etc) and into bottling (temperature, priming sugar, amount that made it into bottles, anything else noteworthy)

For my first several brews I also recorded what I was putting into my Coolbrewing cooler, as far as ice, to help me dial in how much ice I needed to achieve desired results (eg. Feb 20, 8am, 67*F, 2L ice ...... Feb 21, 8am, 65*F, 3L ice.....). I now am comfortable with the cooler, so I don't keep track of ice any more, but it's a great example of where the notes helped to inform my brewing process.

I then put the paper recipes/notes into a brew binder. I havent yet actually done a recipe repeat, but when I eventually do, I'll go back to the original notes and look for anything I wanted to do different. Assuming the recipe won't change, I think on the repeated brews I won't reprint the recipe page, I'll use the original, but I will make a new note sheet for recording brewday/ferment/bottling notes. If I change the recipe, I'll do a whole new set.

Finally, in Beersmith, I copy the recipe to a "Brewed" folder, update any changes I made on brewday (eg. if I changed any ingredients, missed temperatures, missed timings, etc) I add a few notes to the Note section (anything I think is most important from my paper notes), as well as a few comments about the final product, once conditioned and I've tried the result. I've also taken to using the Version # field as a basic taste rating system, from 1-5... I rank how well I enjoyed the beer and make that column visible in Beersmith, so I can quickly see what my preferred recipes are.

Again, when the time comes for me to repeat a brew, if nothing has changed, I won't make a new copy in Beersmith, I'll just use the original file. If something is changed, I'll use a new copy, with the new info editted in.
 
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GPa Bob

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I'm another newbie. So far I have just followed the extract kits to the letter and have not made any notes other than brew day, recipe, OG, transfer to secondary day, FG and bottle day. What is Beersmith? Is it cloud storage...a data book...or????
 

ancientmariner52

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I'm another newbie. So far I have just followed the extract kits to the letter and have not made any notes other than brew day, recipe, OG, transfer to secondary day, FG and bottle day. What is Beersmith? Is it cloud storage...a data book...or????
Odd that no one has answered yet. Beersmith is probably the most widely used homebrewing software. I don't use it myself, so I can't be more specific.
 

bpgreen

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I'm another newbie. So far I have just followed the extract kits to the letter and have not made any notes other than brew day, recipe, OG, transfer to secondary day, FG and bottle day. What is Beersmith? Is it cloud storage...a data book...or????
BeerSmith is a computer program to help create and/or track your recipes. It costs about $30. There are free brewing programs available, but I think BeerSmith is worth the money. http://beersmith.com
 
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BongoYodeler

BongoYodeler

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Thanks everyone, a lot of good info here that will be helpful, and not just to me I hope.

Here's my notes from my latest brew. I'm continually trying to improve it. Like Mothman I print it out prior to beginning and then mark it up during the brew process. Then, afterwards I go back and input the edits and save it. I think I need to better detail my post boil through bottling day though.

****************************************************************************************************************

Amarillo-Golden Promise-SMaSH

Day before:
- Check/Set gap .022"
- Mill grains
- Measure hops, minerals
- Inventory and clean equipment

Brew day:
01/28/2017 10:00am
temperature at boil: 77F degrees at 11:30am
humidity at boil: 21%

Remove yeast us-05 from fridge, re-hydrate (this batch I used 2 pkgs. Did NOT rehydrate).
Fill a bucket with water/StarSan
Add 7.5 gal water to kettle. (Measured 7.25 gal on kettle marking)
Add minerals, stir.
Bring to temp and stir water to get temp universal. Target - 160 (160)
Cut flame and add bag
Add grains, stir for 5 minutes, take temp reading. Target - 152 (153)
Cover with blanket/sleeping bag to rest 1 hour
At 30 mins take temp (152.6)and stir for 2-3 mins.
Re-cover.
At 1hr take temp (149.6) Lift grains above wort level, let drain,
Light burner. Squeeze after dripping stops.
*Since strike water volume was on the low end sparged with 1/3 gal room temp distilled. Squeezed.
Remove bag to bucket.
Measure - Pre-boil gallons: (7.25g)
Stir
Take hydrometer reading at room temp: (45 minutes later) (1.050)


Bring water to boil

30 mins - Add 1.5 oz hops in hop sack
30 mins - Clean and santize fermenter
15 mins - Add Whirlfloc (1) tablet
15 mins - Hook up pump/hose to Chiller and add set in kettle to sanitize
15 mins - Add 20# ice, water to cooler
10 mins - Add yeast nutrient - 1/2 tsp
Flameout - Add 1.5 oz hops in hop sack


Post boil gallons including trub: (5.5g) (1.75g boil off)
Wort Chiller with tap water to around ~112 degrees
Then chill with ice water to ~67 degrees F
Remove hop sack, gentle squeeze

Transfer to fermenter (5.25gal)
Take hydrometer reading (1.066)
Aerate
Add yeast
Sanitize and add airlock with StarSan/water

Active fermentation (airlock activity) started within (12-24) hrs
Active fermentation lasted (7) days (one bubble every 1-3 seconds); continued another 6 days (one bubble every 40-60 seconds).
House temp was around 63-64 at night and 68-70 during the afternoons.
First 4 days - kept three 1.5 liter frozen water bottles in the insulated fermenter bag. After that no ice. Just room temp.

2/6/2018 (day 9) - Dry hop in hop bag - 3oz Amarillo hops
2/13/2018 (day 16) - Gravity reading 1.015 (6.69abv). Moved fermenter to counter, propped with two folded hand towel


2/17/2018 - Bottling day
Final gravity unchanged at 1.015
Sugar measurement? 4.30 oz. (for 5 gallons @70 degrees) 2.3 volumes
Transfered wort - 3.65 gallons (a bit too much sugar for the amount in bottling bucket).

--
 

danielthemaniel

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I've made a brew day check list specific to my equiptment and process. Its certainly an evolving document that gets tweaked with each brew. For my first 20ish brews I would use brewersfriend checklist and make notes if you want something free and available that will help you keep track. I also always plug in my notes to the sessions tab on Beersmith and utilize the notes section. I think its imperative to take great notes if you want to develop a recipe and develop your process.
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