Welcome to the forum Dave
I'm listed as one of the major contributors to BeerSmith 2 so I can certainly check your file if you post it up here. I know the program back to front.
This site, which never sells anything, also sold Beersmith 2 for a short time after it's release. This site even produced a comprehensive guide on how to set it up. (Oops! Just noticed the guide is not appearing???) And, we even wrote some of the stickies on the Beersmith site. So, what are Scott and Mad_Scientist talking about???
Unfortunately, no where near the amount of changes we'd hoped for were made to Beersmith 2. The fact that we had to write a comprehensive guide just for the set up reflects this. On top of this, trying to help people learn Beersmith chewed up hours and hours. There were no alternatives at the time (besides a primitive thing we had here called "The Calculator") because all brewing software had most or all of the following problems:
Some terms (e.g. "batch size", "brewhouse efficiency") can mean different things in different programs. In fact, two brewers using the same program often will use that program in different ways because of their interpretation of terms. (One brewer might interpret batch size as being volume into fermenter while another would interpret it as volume at the end of the boil).
Bitterness and colour calculations are often incorrect as they are based on misinterpretations of the basic formulas. (This was a big flaw in BeerSmith 1.)
The User Does All the Work:
The above two factors are major problems. However, brewing software forces the user to make all the hard decisions such as losses, evaporation, "brewhouse efficiency" etc
The Fundamental Flaw:
All brewing software (except one - more below) asks the user to type in the "efficiency" of their system. This makes the software very easy to write but totally ignores the main factor that determines "efficiency" which is, to put it simplistically, the gravity of the brew. So, brewers think that if their "system" or "brewhouse" efficiency is x
%, then it will be x
% on every recipe they brew regardless of it's gravity. This is simply incorrect. In the fine print (eg buried in a forum post), you'll occasionally see the simplistic instruction, "Just decrease your 'efficiency' for high gravity brews."
[center]Solving the Above - Putting in Your Inputs
Dealing with the above problems simply became too time-consuming and frustrating for this site so they decided to write their own 'software' that fixed all the above problems. It actually ended up taking many thousands of hours over several years to write The BIABacus but we now have "dynamic" software that has easy terminology and correct formulas. By dynamic, I mean that the software looks at many factors and then estimates the variables for the user. It is the only software that can do this.
This software was also built with another primary goal - to be an educational tool. It is also very fast to learn and faster to use than anything else. The major problem is that other software is divided into sections whereas The BIABacus has everything on one sheet. This means it looks scary but, in reality, there is very little the user has to type in. The advantage of having everything on one sheet is that the user can immediately see how an input they make affects the brew. It's actually quite fun!
Let's have a look at what you have to put into BeerSmith 2....
As mentioned above, this term is a major problem as the actual recipe affects the "efficiency" far more than the brewhouse itself. There is another problem though. In BeerSmith 2, officially, batch size and "brewhouse efficiency" are based on the volume into fermenter. This throws another major spanner into the works because it means that any small changes to your kettle to fermenter loss (loss to trub and chiller) on an actual brew day can severely affect this number. For this reason, a lot of experienced brewers, just type in a batch size equal to the end of boil volume they want and then use "efficiency into kettle" (mash efficiency in BS2) instead of "efficiency into fermenter" as their brewhouse efficiency number. The best I can do for you is say type in 80% but that will just be an average.
In contrast, the BIABacus auto-calculates kettle and fermenter efficiency for you by looking at all the critical factors. You have to do nothing.
Mash Tun Addition:
Another ambiguous term but you just need to type in 0 for that.
If you let me know the dimensions of your kettle, I can give you a number to type in there. (The BIABacus does this automatically). Another fallacy is that people think their evaporation rate will be the same for every brew day but this too can vary a lot depending on weather etc.
Loss to Trub/Chiller:
Once again this is far more dependant on the recipe than your "system". A hoppy or high gravity brew has far more trub than a non-hoppy, average strength brew. The BIABacus, once again, estimates this for you on each recipe based on several factors. (An unreleased version even looks at the hops in the brew to further improve the accuracy of the estimate). The best you can put in for that would be say 15% of your "batch size" however, once again, in reality, this will vary wildly from recipe to recipe.
The same comments apply here as above. For this number though, use 10% of your batch size.
[center]Summing It Up
In summary, BeerSmith and other brewing software, is very difficult to use correctly because, amongst other things, they ignore the fact that what you are brewing dramatically affects many numbers that you have to type into your 'Equipment Profile'. In other words, they treat critical variables as constants.
In contrast, with The BIABacus, you don't have to type in any variables. It calculates these for you based on your kettle dimensions and your recipe.
This post will probably not be seen as good news by you Dave and that is perfectly natural. It's frustrating to learn of the above. Most brewers are not even aware of many of the problems outlined above and, if they do, it can be shattering information. In fact, it can even take a while to even accept it, the first and very logical question being, "Well, if all the other software is fundamentally flawed, why is everyone using it?
To answer that excellent question properly would involve explaining the history of brewing software. Many factors combined to create the problems we have today and pages could be written on this so I'll just mention one factor here; the limitations of the software's capabilities turned into a belief that critical brewing numbers were constants not variables. Other brewing software was written based on the same fallacy and the vicious cycle grew.
The next obvious question is, "Well, if you guys fixed these problems, why hasn't everyone else?
When I said above that many thousands of hours were involved in developing The BIABacus, in reality, it was probably 20,000 hours, maybe even double that? That's 7 to 14 years of full-time work. Several people worked on it and it was a gradual process of discovery, a series of shocks really. For example, it took quite a while to even discover there were some incorrect formulas in existing software. It took a while to see that the same term could mean two different things to two brewers. Like you now, we asked, how could that be possible/true? It took several years of conversations with advanced brewers, experiments, testing existing software etc to realise we were even right as we had the same 'beliefs' as everyone else.
Once we realised the above problems were real, then we had to fix them. Just developing Clear Brewing Terminolgy was incredibly difficult although, hopefully, it seems very simple to a new brewer. We then had to write the formulas, create a layout, deal with cross-platform problems etc.
However, even though we have solved the above, for an existing brewing software to adopt our solutions would be an incredibly daunting task for them. For example, something as seemingly simple as changing to our clear brewing terminology would mean that all existing information on their program would suddenly be obsolete. A whole re-education of existing users would have to be undertaken which would mean shattering the foundations their existing software was built on.
Even if the above could be done, the hardest thing would be that their software would have to be completely re-coded and, the calculations used in The BIABacus are incredibly complex - great for the user but a nightmare to write, let alone code. I doubt it could be coded in even 2,000 hours and what existing software provider is going to spend over two years full-time doing that?
Have a browse of some of the stickies on BIABrewer.info in the new members forum as some of these will help you digest the above Dave. I hope that they'll lead to an easy and enjoyable run for you once digested. And ask as many questions as you like.
P.S. Usually a long post like that (1,600 words) takes six beers to write. That one just took six pods of coffee