Hi Pat! See, I really do lurk here.
Here is my reply email to you:
Thank you for the reply, Pat! I admit that my level of research and history with different brewing software is a lot more limited than yours, and I agree with a lot of the points that you make. However, there are a few things that I don't find satisfactory in your response here.
I completely agree with you on the inconsistent use of the "efficiency" terms, however it seems to me that there are common understandings of the terms. I only did a little bit of research, but according to Kai Troester, there are really only two calculations for conversion and lauter efficiency (which is probably a clearer way to say "mash efficiency"). http://www.braukaiser.com/wiki/index.ph ... efinitions
. Interestingly, that article is a great example of the mixing of different terms, although Kai does a great job of explaining the different usages of the terms in such a way that the reader can understand the rest of his article. But in the end, as far as "mash efficiency" goes, although different terms are used to communicate the same concept and formula, many of them use the term "mash efficiency":
http://beersmith.com/blog/2008/10/26/br ... r-brewing/
(second half of the article)
I concede that the use of the term "brewhouse efficiency" is even more inconsistently used. It seems that some sources use that term to refer to the conversion and lauter efficiency. I suspect that the wide use of BeerSmith and the article from Michael Uchima have played a role in the adoption of the term to mean the efficiency going into the fermenter. I believe Brad chose to base a lot of BeerSmith's functionality like scaling recipes on "Brewhouse Efficiency" to solve the issue of having so many variables between different brew systems. Whatever the case may be, the term has wide adoption currently, and instructions are available for homebrewers to use brewhouse efficiency in BS (http://www.beersmith.com/forum/index.ph ... 579.0.html
As far as IBU's go, I only found one tool that was really off with it's calculations. Admittedly, I didn't do extensive testing, and only tested with Tinseth. I compared four tools: the BeerSmith hop Calculator, the BIABacus tool (which is awesome by the way), the Brewer's Friend online calculator (http://www.brewersfriend.com/ibu-calculator/
). BeerSmith and BIABacus calculated a couple of tests with the same exact results. The Tinseth calculator was off by a couple of decimal points, which was probably due to some rounding and to me wasn't a large enough dependency to say there is a problem using it. The biggest problem I found was with the Brewer's Friend calculator, which appears to incorrectly use pre-boil gravity instead of post-boil gravity. Thus far, I would say that errors in computer programs are unfortunate, but they are not cause to say that there is a problem with the hop formulas themselves. The hop formulas themselves may not be accurate, but we have to remember we are not talking about the accuracy of the formulas but the ability to use them as a tool to communicate recipes.
One thing to note about BeerSmith is that IBU calculations appear at first to be different in the recipe design versus it's own Hop Calculator. Brad explains what is going on here: http://www.beersmith.com/forum/index.ph ... l#msg25744
. Essentially, Brad is trying to calculate more accurate hop utilization due to some systems having more loss to chilling and trub. While this does make things more confusing when transferring recipes, it doesn't necessarily mean that the calculations are wrong.
BeerSmith is trying to force brewers to think "the BeerSmith" way, this is true. However, the agenda here is that if brewer A has his system set up correctly in BeerSmith and shares his recipes with Brewer B who also has his system set up correctly in BeerSmith, the two recipes should come out more the same than if the recipes were shared another way. This sort of thing gives an advantage between BeerSmith users, but more difficulty for those who aren't. I can see both arguments here, and I don't think either one is necessarily right or wrong.
As far as saying that using IBU percentages for wort that is topped up is not going to work, the same can be said about using any measurement of hops. It's a problem that I suggest should be resolved by the brewer and/or his brewing software, and perhaps also through trial and error. I don't see how any system can fix this problem when it comes to converting all grain recipes to those that use top up water.
To sum up, I am in agreement that the terms used are confusing as hell. New all grain brewers have a lot of wrap their heads around, and I certainly had difficulty figuring it out for a while. However, I would suggest that certain terms like "mash efficiency" and "brewhouse efficiency" are used widely enough that they should be adopted instead of creating an entirely new set of terminology.
On another subject, the BIABrewer.info site really helped me learn how to brew. I used the old calculator for a while for my BIAB brews. Despite my arguments here, the tools and information you guys offer are amazing.
What I am essentially saying is that the ambiguity of these terms is being overstated. I argue that there is a common understanding of what "mash efficiency", "brewhouse efficiency", and even "batch size" mean. They are not just backed by internet articles though, but by books as well. For example, from "Brewing Better Beer" by Gordon Strong (pg 92): "Your recipes should be based on the final boil volume, not the final finished beer volume. Scale your recipes appropriately to get the finished beer volume you desire." I am sure there are other references as well, but practicality also dictates that this is what is meant by "batch size" once we start thinking about triple dry hopped IPA's that lose 4 liters of beer to fermenter trub. While I appreciate the preciseness of this proposed terminology, it seems like overkill to me. Remembering all of those acronyms is not going to be easy (who is lazy now?).