Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Brewing Software Review: BrewMate

Freeware downloadable from
Overall Grade B+

I almost didn’t review this package. The problem was that I tried to install it to the “Program Files “ directory on a Windows 7 PC. Windows 7 has a cow when BrewMate tries to write to the C:\ Program Files\BrewMate directory, and the program crashes at startup. After a PITA uninstall and re-installing to C:\ Brewing\BrewMate, Windows 7 will actually let the program run. You should be fine on any other version of Windows, or Windows 7 if you install to a similar "safe" location.

I’m on the initial settings and liking this program already. I can have my default grain measurement in pounds (like my large scale) and my hops measurement in grams (like my small scale.) IBU can be calculated using Tinsleth, Rager or the Average. Oh, and you can turn the “Style Nazi” on or off. It has default settings for all the standard stuff: Batch size, efficiency, etc, etc. There are a ton of other default settings from boil time to sparge temperature to mash thickness to anticipated system losses.

The program is super-configurable, because you can easily edit the lists of Styles Hops, Fermentables, Yeasts and Miscellaneous ingredients. You can adjust the values for anything already on each list, add your own, and delete the ones you don’t want. It includes all the standard BJCP styles and a few more. The various ingredient lists seem pretty solid. The UI is simple and easy use. You can override any of your default settings for a recipe. The “Style Nazi” feature just puts yellow highlights your values that out of style. That’s not too hard to take – I was expecting search lights and sirens. Along with the calculations that other software provides, BrewMate gives you BU:GU ratio and Balance. Unfortunately, those numbers aren't put into context for the style, so you'll need to look up a bit of info to make sense of them.

BrewMate also includes three timers, one for boil, one for mash and a generic stop watch. As you would expect, you can save your recipes and load them when you need. It stores your recipe in BeerXML and can read Promash files. It will also backup your recipes and settings, export to a text file in regular and “Forum Friendly” mode, and even “Publish” your recipe to the BrewMate website.

There are additional calculators for Carbonation, Refractometers, Boil off/ Evaporation, Hydrometer temperatures, Water Dilution, Gravity Adjustments and Alcohol/Attenuation. I'm hoping that they will add a mash calculator that lets me enter target temp and mash thickness, and gives me a strike water temperature and volume.

Minor annoyances: You can't select pounds AND ounces. Instead you see pounds and decimal fractions of a pound... but this problem isn't unique to BrewMate. BrewMate doesn't keep track of whether or not you've edited a recipe, so it prompts you every time you go from one recipe to another, and the button you need to click is the opposite of the button on the "more intelligent" software that keeps track of what you're doing rather than just nagging.

I haven’t done a side-by side comparison between the outputs of this program and others, and I haven’t made use of the additional calculators yet, but based on my test-drive, BrewMate is Highly Recommended. If this works as well in daily use, I have an new favorite. Just beware of the installation issue on Windows 7.

You can also find BrewMate on Twitter and on Facebook. (And Jamil likes BrewMate.)

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