HomeBrew record keeping

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by riptorn, Dec 2, 2018.

  1. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (95) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Mine usually starts with a nice, neat printed recipe or reference sheet and ends up being a hodge-podge of notes made on that sheet or whatever scrap of paper is available for spur of the moment thoughts or changes. Same with info on profiles and providers of grain, yeast, additives, etc., although those are often scattered about as bookmarks on multiple devices.
    I’ve GOT to devise a better way to record, store and access the data I have/will accumulate....So I'm asking, what works for you?

    How do you store your notes, reference materials, inventory list, etc.? Do you keep everything electronically; or make hard copies of all/some? Write in a spiral-bound notebook? Keep things in 3-ring binder/s or tri-clasp folders, spreadsheets, use commercial database software (e.g. MS Access), online or standalone recipe calculators.
    Have you made your own forms for recording data on/after brewday, or for packaging, or for longer-term sampling?

    My current method is pretty much no method, and I’m not at a point where repetition causes enough good stuff to be committed to memory.
    Something’s gotta change if, in the future, I want to refer back to how particular ingredients and processes interacted. (....maybe a tape recorder a la Michael Keaton in "Nightshift")
  2. skleice

    skleice Aspirant (247) Aug 6, 2015 Connecticut

    I use Brewers Friend for recipes and Google Sheets for water volume calcs, gravities/abv, tasting notes, yield, any change in process not noted in BF, etc.

    Google drive is great for storing everything...can access it anywhere on any device.
  3. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Devotee (498) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    All my brewday records are on paper. All my brewing records, inventory, and so on are kept in beersmith.
  4. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    My homebrewing logs are 'old school': paper in a three ring binder.

    I started homebrewing back in the 90's and my LHBS (Beer Unlimited) gave me a three ring binder with included a few pre-printed recipe sheets. These sheets have areas for things like:
    • Batch number
    • Brew date (and bottle date)
    • Batch name
    • Style
    • Batch size
    • Entries for list of ingredients
    • Procedure including hop schedule
    • Specific Gravity (Original, 2nd, Final)
    • IBU/HBU (I enter HBUs at beginning of boil)
    • etc.
    I saved one of these sheets as a master sheet and make copies as needed. My last sheet (so far) in this notebook is for batch #425 (an Oatmeal Stout) which is presently at day 4 of the primary fermentation.

    I suppose I should transition to using an electronic logbook (e.g., a spreadsheet or word list) but I have gotten used to the 'old school' paper and pencil method - this 'works' for me.

    I do scribble into the margins 'extra' details like water mineral salt additions, mash procedure (water amounts), length of boil if I boil longer than 60 minutes, measured mash pH, etc.

  5. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (99) Jan 10, 2018 California

    I use Brewers Friend and all this madness...

  6. Jimbob-gbr

    Jimbob-gbr Initiate (72) Apr 18, 2017 Nebraska

    Wife made me a 3 ring binder made of wood with the sleeves for sheets of paper. After I brew she rewrites it all for me on one paper and puts it in the binder. As long as i write everything down and have it for her it will be saved, sometimes I get in a hurry and forget to write some stuff down.
  7. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (393) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    I'm almost done filling my second 3 ring binder.

    I think I use the Brewers friend template. Always enter WC where they want to know which number brew it is. Who cares, shits already been drunk long before I wanna make it again.

    Current beer invintory, go down cellar. Look at ageing rack, then at scattered milkcrates with tags.

    Current brewing supply invintory , go to bark look in freezer, totes, trash cans and alluminum tool box an see what's left.

    Yeast is in da fridge.
    NorCalKid, skleice and riptorn like this.
  8. Maestro0708

    Maestro0708 Aspirant (225) Feb 27, 2015 Kentucky

    I formulate my recipes on beersmith mobile and then hand write them in a spiral notebook when I brew. I use 2 full pages per brew, leaving plenty of room for notes. My problem is that I often forget to write things down and then become frustrated when I refer back only to find the information I am looking for is not there.

    This is what I do, but now that I'm milling my own grains I'm going to have a lot more ingredients on hand at home. May need to find a more sophisticated method of keeping track of it all.

    GormBrewhouse and riptorn like this.
  9. GormBrewhouse

    GormBrewhouse Disciple (393) Jun 24, 2015 Vermont

    I mill as well and. Have lots of different grains.

    Gorm tip # WC

    If a you use up a bag of specialty malt, fold it up, put it in yer pocket and keep it on your gun cases. That way when you get a stack of emptys they will fall to the ground when you are reaching for a rifle or shotgun. You may. Swear and curse,,, but you will know what you used.
    Maestro0708 likes this.
  10. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (368) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    I started using an online log, Brewtoad, a few years back. Probably have 40 or 50 recipes on that site.
    Then it became a real PITA to use, full of worthless suggestions, tons of advertising and just more of a hassle to use than nothing at all.

    Now, mostly after 25 years of brewing (holy shit!) it's all in my noodle. Yeah it's not ideal but brewing is still an enjoyable hobby. Too much note taking seems like a job. For me anyway.

    My greatest resource for brewing info, like when I need get an opinion on one yeast over another, that is right here at Beer Advocate. I do however still use any random software to calculate IBUs, knowing full well that hop utilization is specific to my system and no one else.

    Edit- Don't go back and review your hand written notes circa 1998. Just don't.
  11. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (95) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    One format for all brews makes sense, plus maybe a supplement for notes and “Aha!” moments. That's where I'm headed.
    I notice you didn't mention mash parameters, which seems like something you'd write out....I'm guessing it's in "etc."?
    Hey, if it works for you that’s what's important. At least you’ll be able to rebrew #128 or #207 when TEOTWAWKI gets here. :open_mouth:

    Gorm, I’m following pretty much everything you’re saying, even the shotgun bit. But I’m curious about the WC thing....not sure about using Water Closet for naming brews. :stuck_out_tongue:

    10-4 on that. Knowing which note crosses the threshold of “too many”? I’m still feeling that out. I take copious notes and expect to find over time that the bulk of them are inconsequential.
    +2 ^ ^ ^

    Oh, that my system was so organized and straightforward; and I’m not being sarcastic. To call mine a disjointed mess would be generous....it's orderly disarray, minus orderly.

    I’m leaning toward continuing with a standalone recipe builder (comfortable with Brewcipher) and keeping all my recipes with their notes in a 3-ring binder.
    Then reference materials for info on ingredients in a separate binder; same for procedural stuff.
    Inventory of ingredients will come later, if at all.
    Equipment list? Not at this point...it’s almost static now and spartan enough that I can keep it ‘all in my noodle’.

    All responses have been helpful....
    GormBrewhouse and NorCalKid like this.
  12. Buck89

    Buck89 Poo-Bah (2,326) Feb 7, 2015 Tennessee
    Premium Trader

    I love my Moleskin notebook. Pricey but it's lasted me for almost 4 years. I use a combo approach, with a digital folder of BrewCipher recipe files and then the notebook for notes on and after brew days. Keeps me off the computer during the brew. I also use the left hand side of the pages for ideas, inventory, ingredients, wish lists, shopping lists, etc. Works for me.
    GormBrewhouse and riptorn like this.
  13. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (95) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    @Buck89 do you have a link for that book? I'm guessing it came from http://www.craftbrewednashville.com/ but their online store only has three items and the notebook isn't one of them. Probably NLA?
    It's not 3-ring but I'd still like a peek inside.
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  14. Buck89

    Buck89 Poo-Bah (2,326) Feb 7, 2015 Tennessee
    Premium Trader

    Actually just a plain old Moleskine plus a Craft Brewed sticker from their taproom. Sorry for the confusion! @mattflippin thought the same thing.
    GormBrewhouse and riptorn like this.
  15. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I posted: "I do scribble into the margins 'extra' details like water mineral salt additions, mash procedure (water amounts), length of boil if I boil longer than 60 minutes, measured mash pH, etc."

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  16. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (95) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    So you did. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.....again. :flushed:
    GormBrewhouse likes this.
  17. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (118) Dec 25, 2015 New York

    Paper,Memory card & google drive so i can access them anywhere.
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  18. Maestro0708

    Maestro0708 Aspirant (225) Feb 27, 2015 Kentucky

    Love craft brewed, I didn't know they sold those.

    Buck89 and GormBrewhouse like this.
  19. premierpro

    premierpro Aspirant (239) Mar 21, 2009 Michigan

    I use a diary. Everything hand written. every recipe contains what I feel is important.

    Date of brew
    Beer name
    Water source
    Grain bill
    Hop schedule
    Yeast energizer
    Irish moss
    Mash temp
    Mash time
    Qts per pound
    Yeast type
    Fermentation temp

    Then I have a space for tasting notes and recommendations if I think the recipe needs to be tweaked.
    JackHorzempa and GormBrewhouse like this.
  20. epk

    epk Initiate (164) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    BrewPal for formulating and brewday, but most of the specifics were always repeated in Google Sheets along with process notes of the brewday and tasting notes throughout the life of the keg(s). Over the years I added additional fields as well (like pre-boil gravity, ferm temp, effciency, etc). The Google Sheets also includes water chemistry now even though they are all in Bru'n Water.

    I learned redundancy is a good thing the hard way, as I had to use an older backup to my phone and lost some BrewPal recipes. I was able to peice them mostly back together by my other sources and now repeat the full recipes in the spreadsheet - which is probably nice because I compare different iterations of the beer in one place.
    riptorn likes this.
  21. BeerMaverick

    BeerMaverick Initiate (193) Dec 14, 2010 Connecticut

    I made my own "software" (spreadsheet) that has all the recipe info on the same page with the notes. Each file is a different recipe (organized into style folders such as Stout, IPA, etc.) and I just bring the laptop into the brewery and type my notes into the notes section of the spreadsheet. I type my tasting notes into this same sheet as well when I do the tasting - it's all in the same place so it's very easy. Paper would drive me crazy with how much is involved in this... all that erasing!
    riptorn likes this.
  22. verniel

    verniel Initiate (1) Dec 3, 2018

    I have not tried homebrewing yet but based on the processes listed on this thread, it seems to cost too much hard work and needs intensive attention. I would love to try it soon.
  23. epk

    epk Initiate (164) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    I wouldn't be disheartened by this discussion or other threads that get very technical on this or that. You can basically start with a pre-constructuted kit, following the supplied directions, right on your stove top. You'll make beer and you can hone your process as you go. The things I do now are just second nature to me.

    I always tell people it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can brew on a stovetop or spend thousands on a turnkey system and anywhere in between. Will certain things improve the beer, sure (and you can find a plethora of knowledge on how to do some techniques, even on the cheap), but even with the basics, you can come up with something. I'd say the biggest thing you need right out of gate, is patience. Sometimes just a little more time can improve this or that.
    verniel, Buck89, NorCalKid and 2 others like this.
  24. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Aspirant (204) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    I put my notes either in my favorite software or in my "homebrewing drawer" which is less organized and has a lot of odds & ends that I still need to get into order. I'm going to work on that this Christmas vacation when I have not much else better to do.

    There was a previous thread about organizing notes, see here:


    I think once I finally get all my notes better organized, probably in Excel, then it will be way easier for me to maintain everything in one place... AND occupy less space in the desk drawer!
    riptorn likes this.
  25. dmtaylor

    dmtaylor Aspirant (204) Dec 30, 2003 Wisconsin

    Aw... I love doing that! Just read some of that old stuff a couple weeks ago. Man.... I was such a noob! But I also had a couple of pretty good ideas even back in those days. :slight_smile:
    epk, billandsuz and riptorn like this.
  26. Eggman20

    Eggman20 Initiate (51) Feb 14, 2017 Minnesota

    I use a combination of things. Every brew day starts with a recipe in Brewers Friend which is printed out. I then take notes on the brew day on the printed paper. After the beer is done it gets entered into a spreadsheet with other pertinent information and file the paper copy for future reference in case I want to repeat or for inspiration on what to make next. I try to keep just my favorite recipes in Brewers Friend otherwise it gets too crowded and I can't find what I'm looking for.

    Nothing really fancy about it but it doesn't take a lot of time but I have ways to get information if I really want it.
    riptorn likes this.
  27. wmeri

    wmeri Initiate (16) Jul 13, 2018 Maine

    I use a simple sheet I made in Excel to keep track of things. It doesn't have spots for everything a homebrewer can do, but it's fine for my casual homebrewing.

    Eggman20 likes this.
  28. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (95) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Cool. Thanks for posting an example.
  29. Buck89

    Buck89 Poo-Bah (2,326) Feb 7, 2015 Tennessee
    Premium Trader

    @verniel This. Just take the leap - it's not hard to make beer. I was hooked after my first brewday. Cheers!
    riptorn likes this.
  30. verniel

    verniel Initiate (1) Dec 3, 2018

    Thanks you, encouraging words. I'll follow your insights.
    riptorn and epk like this.
  31. Witherby

    Witherby Initiate (91) Jan 5, 2011 Massachusetts

    My dream is to have a leather-bound brewing log with pre-printed categories like the ones that English breweries used in the 19th century (from Ron Pattinson's blog):
    The reality is far less attractive, although I have pretty much used the same log sheet for the last 7 years and then file everything in a three ring binder with ales and lagers in separate sections so I can compare different recipes and ingredients more easily.
    riptorn likes this.
  32. Naugled

    Naugled Defender (612) Sep 25, 2007 New York

    Jack, I was looking through some old brew notes. Remember these sheets? A local shop used to give these to customers free of charge when they made a purchase. It was a nice idea. I think that was before computers were invented ;-)[​IMG]
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  33. frozyn

    frozyn Zealot (573) May 16, 2015 New York
    Premium Trader

    I use a combination of BrewCipher as my main tool and then BeerSmith. It's been much easier to dial in my recipes and system using BC with all the tools @VikeMan has incorporated in such an easy to use way. I've never been able to quite dial in BeerSmith over the past near 2 years, so I end up using Priceless to help with water calculations (and extra step not needed with BC!).
  34. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,712) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Well, I can report that I go my sheets in the 90's and I personally did not own a PC at that time.

  35. VikeMan

    VikeMan Meyvn (1,469) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    About 4 years ago I brewed a batch in a 15 barrel brewery that used something not very different from that pic. But I'm pretty sure they had a computer in the office somewhere.