Cloud-based brewing software is the way of the future for homebrewers and professionals alike. Brewers are starting to embrace this convenient solution to design and share their delicious beer recipes. We’ve been using Brewer’s Friend for a few months – here’s our review.
Brewer’s Friend is a cloud-based brewing program and website that calculates vital characteristics of beer. This includes bitterness (IBU), original gravity (OG), color (SRM), and expected alcohol percentage (ABV). An integrated recipe designer gives brewers access to thousands of pre-loaded ingredients. Use Brewer’s Friend to design, edit, and share your beer recipes in a seamless virtual environment.
Along with the recipe designer, Brewer’s Friend is a web-based community where brewers can share, critique, and discuss recipes. Many added resources, like water chemistry and priming sugar calculators, round out the website for a full user experience.
Brewer’s Friend has a few tiers of memberships. If you’re not sure about committing to a subscription, we recommend trying out the free Trial membership to get to know if the software is right for you.
Trial: Free to sign up and can save up to 5 recipes in the cloud. There are ads with this version. And you can’t integrate brewing devices such as a Tilt hydrometer.
Premium: Unlimited number of recipes in the cloud. Advertisement free and full integration of brewing devices.
Premium Plus: All of the premium features, plus the ability to create groups and edit recipes with other users. This option is great for homebrewing clubs and professional brewers looking to collaborate on recipes.
For our review, we’re taking a look at the most popular option, the Premium subscription.
Brewer’s Friend has everything you need to design a beer recipe. From the mash and boil, all the way to packaging, integrated and easy to use features make brewing calculations a breeze.
Before you start creating and editing recipes, the first step is to create your user profile. Within your profile, you’ll need to specify your equipment, water, and default units. You can use gallons, liters, or a mix if you prefer (for you Canadians).
Setting up your default equipment profile is an important step to make sure you calculate your numbers accurately. If you’re unsure about your specific equipment profile, Brewer’s Friend has several pre-loaded profiles to choose from (BIAB, Anvil, Grainfather, etc.). After you brew on your own system a few times, you can make precise adjustments to ensure you consistently and accurately hit your numbers.
Water can also easily be loaded into your profile. Select from a massive library of various municipalities around the world. You can also easily add in your own water report values for a more accurate calculation.
Since Brewer’s Friend is also a community of brewers, you can set a profile picture, a bio, and links to your social networks – if desired. Any recipe that you choose to share publicly will also be visible on your profile.
The recipe editor is the main feature of Brewer’s Friend. It’s where the majority of the calculations happen. You can easily edit pre-existing recipes, copy recipes to a new file, print brew sheets, and control the visibility of the recipe online.
A blank recipe editor is quickly loaded after clicking “New Beer Recipe” from the upper toolbar. Your default equipment profile should automatically load. If you desire another profile, simply change it from the drop down menu “Equipment”.
Recipes can be created for all types of brewing – all grain, extract, or partial mash. Parameters can be adjusted for each brew, such as boil length and brew house efficiency. You can also easily scale up or down recipes – great for those brewers looking to go pro!
Adding ingredients to a recipe is quick and straightforward. Simply click “Add” and a new blank item instantly appears. In the dropdown menu, hundreds of options are available to choose from. Searching for your ingredient is the simplest way to find what you need. Then you add your quantity.
Once an ingredient is added, the beer’s specifications automatically update. This helps easily monitor your OG, IBU, and SRM during the design phase.
It takes some getting used to the layout and ingredient lists, but after 10 minutes of playing around, the whole process is relatively pain free.
If designing a beer within a certain style guideline, first select the specific style from the “Style” and “Sub Category” drop down menus. The guidelines are as per the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). Clicking “More” expands the page to show the range of beer characteristics within the style. That makes it easy to tweak the recipe to hit all the targets.
Water chemistry calculations can be done completely through Brewer’s Friend. The water chemistry calculator is not part of the recipe editor directly, but it’s connected by linking another page within the site. It’s a bit annoying to move to another page, but it works fairly well and quickly once you get used to it.
Clicking “Link” brings you to a separate page for detailed water calculations. This is where all of the water chemistry inputs and outputs are detailed. I recommend reading their instructions before using this feature. It’s not as complex as Bru’n Water, for example, however it does require a bit of background knowledge. Check out our guide on easy water chemistry to help you along.
Search through an impressive database of nearly 200,000 recipes from Brewer’s Friend users. Recipes can be rated and commented on – you can also see how many people have viewed or brewed each recipe.
There are some great clone recipes of popular beers and many award winning brews. Be warned: many (even most) of the recipes are unrated. You can always try reaching out to the user who posted the recipe for their thoughts – that’s what’s great about the online community.
You can copy any recipe into your editor, and change the equipment profile to match your settings. From there, edit and tweak to your liking.
On top of the core recipe editor and water calculations, Brewer’s Friend offers plenty of super practical brewing calculators. From bottle priming and keg pressure calculators, to ABV, IBU, and SRM estimators – they’ve covered every aspect of brewing.
These calculators are mostly available without even signing up to Brewer’s Friend. It’s this straightforward and practical aspect that helps set Brewer’s Friend apart from the rest. I find myself coming back to the basic calculators, like their bottle priming sugar calculator, for their ease of use. The fact that the full brewing recipe editor is at the same location has simplified my recipe design documentation and process.
If you use an electronic gravity monitoring system like the Tilt Hydrometer, iSpindle, or Plaato, Brewer’s Friend links to the readings. You’ll be able to see complete fermentation graphs, including temperature and gravity, directly on your recipe on Brewer’s Friend.
When other users open your public beer recipe, they’ll be able to see those beautiful graphs documenting your beer’s fermentation.
Homebrewers have long had a love/hate relation with BeerSmith, one of the pioneers of brewing software. While BeerSmith does have it’s faults, the newest update addressed many pitfalls and it continues to modernize.
What sets Brewer’s Friend apart is the full, easy-to-access cloud service. Within minutes, you can sign up and have a comprehensive brewing software on your phone, PC, or tablet. Though BeerSmith is moving in that direction as well, it’s not currently as fully integrated and practical as Brewer’s Friend.
Brewer’s Friend is less clunky than BeerSmith 3, but neither platform will be nominated for any UI awards. Each one has its own idiosyncrasies. Whether that’s the annoying pop-up windows on BeerSmith, or the flipping of pages on Brewer’s Friend, patience is often required.
We recommend Brewer’s Friend for brewers who are on the move a lot, needing the functionality of a mobile and cloud based brewing software. BeerSmith is a bit more advanced, with richer features – especially the water calculation. It’s more suitable for advanced brewers who like to spend time on their PC dialing in the nitty-gritty of each beer recipe.
Brewer’s Friend is a very practical and easy to use brewing software. The fact that it’s completely web-based is a positive, and using it seamlessly across multiple devices makes it even better.
Here are some Pros and Cons to consider when deciding if you should go for Brewer’s Friend:
- Full online cloud-based integration across desktop, smartphones, and tablets.
- Smartphone usability is seamless, great for use during the brew day or to build and edit recipes while commuting or killing time.
- Very affordable monthly or yearly subscriptions.
- Regular updates and a growing user base, giving confidence in the long-term support of the website.
- Easy to use recipe editor with various accurate brewing calculators.
- Not a very modern user interface.
- Certain features are slow and lag, like the water calculation in a separate window.
- There is no desktop or offline version – meaning an Internet connection is required for full functionality.
With the growing number of brewing software options, it can be hard to pick one and stick with it. With Brewer’s Friend, you can be guaranteed a stable and practical program, with the convenience of having all of your recipes stored on the cloud. Although some of its functionality could be better – like water calculation integration or UI design – the software is impressive.
Having once been burned by a smartphone-based app, and losing all my recipes, I highly recommend a cloud-based brewing software. Brewer’s Friend is the best and most affordable option out there. With its low cost, host of functions and calculators, and a seemingly dedicated team behind the software, you can’t go wrong with Brewer’s Friend.