Want Better Beer? Start A Brewer’s Log Now!
Your first step to getting consistently good results from your beers is to track your brews. A brewer’s log or journal is the best way to get consistent repeatability in your beer. Either keep notes in your brew software or keep a good old paper log.
Problems are probably the best thing to address first. There are any number of things that can go wrong on a brew day. We all know brew days are sometimes chaotically long and if you don’t track things then there’s a good chance you won’t remember what went wrong that day. I’ve had everything from being over efficient to an overly strong boil off rate. Your notes will at the very least give you something to look at if you brewed a drain pour.
There is definitely a few stats you’ll want to include at the minimum in your brewer’s log. The first ones are of course your batch size, actual grain bill, and hop schedules. Dates can also be extremely helpful. At least include the brew date and fermentation completion date. Remember to note anything that is added at boil or bottling. Next you’ll want your original and final gravity. Finally you’ll want to include your yeast type and pitch rate.
Those are the minimums but a good brewers log will have much more. Mash temperature, length as well as your mash process can very helpful. A few extra dates I would include are carbonation time, conditioning time, and finally expiration date if you keep the beer too long. You can find the butter zone for yeast as well as off flavor issues if you track your fermentation temperature.
Sometimes a problem can actually give you a better beer. I’ve had missed mash temperatures and slight grain bill shortages cause a tasty defect. Don’t let a random dumb luck issue cause great beer and not be able to repeat it. Detailed notes are probably the only way you’ll be able to figure out variations that caused the unexpected windfall.
There are quite a few options for where to keep your brewer’s logs. Many of the brewing programs do let you keep notes but I’d advise you go with a physical option or at least keep a physical backup as well. All it takes is one computer glitch to lose everything. If you still opt for digital then at least make a backup that you update consistently. There are also numerous Excel brew sheets available on the web if you prefer using them over your brew software.
The most basic option is of course a plain notebook. There’s nothing wrong with using one and saving money for ingredients. The premium option is to buy a journal specially made for a brewer’s log. These can include everything from a fancy leather cover to the minimum of preformatted pages. They’re nice but rather expensive for a journal. The third option and my personal favorite is a travel journal. These are typically waterproof and the perfect size for important notes. You’ll end up splashing beer or spilling water at some point so it’s nice to not worry about your brewer’s journal. Finally you could always print out one of the bazillion brew sheets that can be had through a google search of “brewer’s log” and either keep them loosely or in a binder.
Aside from better gear and new equipment nothing has improved my brewing quite like my brewer’s journal. Seriously go out there and at least get a cheap notebook. Better beer and consistent results will be your reward.