Whether you’re a seasoned homebrewer or a novice, you may be wondering what a brew log is as well as how and why to keep one.
A brew log is simply a place you can record details about each batch of beer on brewing day, throughout the fermentation process, and after packaging your beer.
A brew log will help you improve your brewing experience over time. Once you’ve achieved that perfect brew, it will also help you keep your brewing practices consistent so that you achieve your desired results in future batches.
When starting to log your brews, it’s essential to consider what to record in your brew log, the measurements you’ll need to take, methods for keeping your log, and how to evaluate your beers.
We’ve broken the brew logging process down for you so that you can achieve that ideal, tasty beer each time you brew. Let’s jump in!
What to Record in Your Brew Log
You want to keep track of each beer you brew in your brew log, even when you brew a bad batch. The best pieces of information to include in your beer brewing log to ensure you’re capturing everything you want about your beer include:
- Style: Is the beer an American IPA, Saison, Weissbier, etc.? You can categorize your beers using the Winning Homebrew Beer Style Chart.
- Quantity: How many ounces or gallons of beer will your recipe make?
- Recipe: Record every ingredient you need to make your beer. You can use Winning Homebrew’s Beer Recipes guide for help formulating your unique homebrew recipes.
- Process: Make any notes about your process for brewing this specific beer. Include the exact times for each step in your process notes.
- Measurements: Note all data when you measure your homebrew. This should include gravity, alcohol content, international bitterness unit (IBU) rating, and temperature.
- Evaluation: Once you’ve completed your brew, you’ll want to evaluate it and make detailed notes on your impression of the beer.
Check out our printable brew log below!
It’s essential to keep track of measurable data with each of your homebrews to ensure you’re achieving the same results each time you brew. At a minimum, you want to measure the original and final gravity, the alcohol content, and the IBU rating.
Gravity means the total sugars dissolved into your beer and is measured using a hydrometer or refractometer. You should shoot for a final gravity of 1.005 to 1.015. The higher your gravity, the more sugars remain in your beer. Therefore, the sweeter your beer will be.
There are a variety of hydrometers to choose from for measuring your beer’s specific gravity. Some of the top-rated hydrometers include:
- Tilt Digital Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer for Smartphone or Tablet drops into your beer and can send data for your homebrew’s gravity and current temperature directly to your smart device.
- Chefast Triple-Scale Hydrometer measures gravity, Brix, and potential alcohol. This test jar set does not boast the smart data capabilities of the Tilt hydrometer, but it does start at a lower price point.
- Brewingon Hydrometer measures gravity and ABV and comes with a sturdy case, cleaning tools, access to videos, and an eBook to help you achieve the perfect homebrew.
Most refractometers will give you a Brix reading rather than a gravity reading. You can use Winning Homebrew’s Specific Gravity to Brix Conversion Table to convert your refractometer reading into specific gravity data.
Like hydrometers, you have many options when it comes to refractometers for measuring your beer:
- Ade Advanced Optics BCBI9177 Beer Wort and Wine Refractometer boasts the ability to measure both Brix and specific gravity and comes with a 2-year warranty.
- Tiaoyeer Brix Refractometer offers a digital Brix reading, making it easier to read data for some users.
- Atago 3810 Digital Pocket Refractometer can determine Brix by placing a few drops into the device. It may be the ideal refractometer for you if you don’t want to mess with test tubes and conversion tables.
In addition to measuring gravity, you’ll want to record data on your homebrew’s alcohol content or ABV. Alcohol is a result of yeast consuming fermentable sugars in your homebrew ingredients.
The more fermentable sugars consumed by your yeast, the higher your ABV will be. Most hydrometers also measure alcohol content. Once you determine your final ABV, you’ll want to record it in your brew log.
It also helps to record your beer’s IBU rating. IBU is determined by measuring the amount of isohumulone in your homebrew.
It is important to keep in mind that IBU does not necessarily correspond directly to the perceived bitterness of your beer when you drink it.
IBU simply tells you about the amount of bittering ingredients in your beer. Other flavor notes can offset your bittering ingredients, leading to a less bitter perception, even though your IBU may be higher.
You can find plenty of IBU calculators on the internet, like this IBU calculator from More Beer. You’ll need to know your original and final volume, your original gravity, and the hops you used in your brew, along with their alpha acid content.
Some calculators also take the altitude at which your beer is brewed into account, affecting overall bitterness ratings.
Finally, it is vital to keep track of the temperature of your brew throughout the brewing process. For consistent homebrew each time, you must control the temperature at which your beer is fermented.
If you are fermenting your beer in the fridge or a keezer, you can simply record the temperature reading from that device.
If, however, you’re fermenting your beer at room temperature, it’s worth investing in an infrared or attachable thermometer for your fermenter. A thermometer will ensure you’re fermenting at the same temperature each time you brew.
There are many beer thermometer options. You want to avoid opening your fermenter for temperature readings, so choose temperature measuring devices that don’t disturb your homebrew as it ferments. Thermometers for measuring your homebrew’s temperature fall into three general categories:
- An infrared thermometer will give you a reading by simply pointing a laser at your kettle or fermenter.
- Stick-on thermometer strips, which can attach directly to the side of your fermenter.
- Kettle clips, which go directly into your homebrew and can be clipped to the side of your fermenter. Kettle clips are the least preferable option because you can only use them when your fermenter is open.
Keeping Your Brew Log
You’ll want to use your brew log throughout the fermentation process.
While it helps to keep a consistent brew log, where you’re recording the same information each time you brew, you may find that you want to add items to your brew log as you go along.
For example, you may not take initial water readings from earlier batches but decide later that you want to record your water measurements before starting your current brew.
There are many options for keeping a brew log. You can keep your brew log electronically or in paper form. The benefit of an electronic brew log is that it can make calculations for you, like converting your Brix reading to specific gravity.
However, lots of homebrewers prefer the good old-fashioned paper and pencil method. One benefit of this method is that you don’t have to worry about getting any electronic devices close to your brew.
If opting for electronic recording, you can use any one of a variety of brew log apps, or you can keep a spreadsheet with all of your brew data. Some of the top brew log apps include:
- Brew Tracker, on which you can record your brew data and give an overall review of your beers so you can make changes to your recipe or process over time.
- Fermenticus allows you to choose from an expansive list of ingredients programmed into the app, so you do not need to add data for each of your ingredients when brewing beer.
- BrewLog, which offers the benefit of tracking your brews from any device. You can record data using your smartphone on brew day, then compare data over time on your desktop or laptop.
Many members of the homebrew community have created spreadsheets that you can use if you want to record data electronically but don’t want to opt for an app on your smart device. Some of the best brew log spreadsheets include:
- Diesel’s Brewing Spreadsheet, which includes a nearly exhaustive list of data points for your homebrew.
- Brewer’s Friend Brew Day Sheets offers various brew log templates, including recipe builders and rating sheets for beer tastings.
- Brew Dudes Brewing Logsheet breaks down each step of the brewing process from determining the initial recipe through bottling or kegging.
If you’d instead opt for a paper and pencil method of keeping your brew log, consider purchasing a brew log journal. Some of the most helpful brew log journals include:
- Homebrew Journal for Craft Homebrewers features an antique leather look and includes helpful information like reference charts and tasting notes.
- 33 Brews, designed by a homebrewer, this brew log journal helps you plan each brew day to keep you on track.
- Home Brewers Log/Journal, which includes plenty of space for notes and is spiralbound, so it lays flat for easy use.
The best method for keeping your brew log will depend on your personal preferences and what you want to record for each brew. Try different apps or methods for keeping your brew log through a handful of batches to determine which works best for you.
Evaluating Your Homebrew
Your brew log should always conclude with an evaluation of your impressions of each beer. You won’t improve your homebrews over time if you don’t make notes about how each batch turned out.
When evaluating your homebrew, use your senses. You want to record notes on each brew’s aroma, look, taste, feel, and overall pleasure you get from drinking the beer.
You should start by evaluating the beer’s aroma before you taste it. Keep in mind that a beer’s smell will change with temperature and time, so record your impressions of the aroma as soon as you pour the beer.
You can take a few short sniffs or one long sniff, then record your impressions of the beer’s aroma.
In addition to recording the notes you detect in the aroma, you may also want to record any thoughts or memories the beer brings to mind for you. Memories can have a significant impact on your overall impression of the beer.
Next, evaluate the look of the beer. Elements should include its color, clarity, head size, and the amount of sediment in the beer. The background and light have a significant influence on the look of your beer; so, try to evaluate the look over a white background with good lighting.
After noting the aroma and look, it’s finally time to taste your homebrew! There are six basic flavors you can detect in your homebrew. These include:
- Umami (meaning how delicious it tastes)
Evaluate each flavor note you detect in your beer and record it in your brew log. It also never hurts to host a tasting party at which you can get notes from friends or family members about the taste of your homebrew.
In addition to flavor, once you finally taste your beer, you’ll also want to evaluate its feel. This includes making notes on the beer’s overall mouthfeel, body, and temperature. There are seven types of texture you’ll be able to detect in your beer. These include:
Finally, record the overall pleasure you get from the beer. Did you find the beer enjoyable? Would you want to drink it again? Would you pay to drink this beer if you didn’t brew it yourself? All of these questions will help you determine how well you enjoyed the beer overall.
Brew logging is an excellent practice for achieving your perfect brew and keeping your results consistent over time. You’ll want to determine what you need to record for your brews and make sure you’ve got the right equipment for measuring each datapoint.
There are lots of methods for logging your brews, from apps to spreadsheets to journals. The best brew logging method for you will depend on your personal preferences.
Keep in mind; your brew log doesn’t end when you package your brew. You’ll want to evaluate your impression of each brew after it’s packaged to achieve the best results.
And isn’t that the best part of homebrewing, after all, getting to enjoy your beer? Happy brewing and happy brew logging!