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Old 05-27-2008, 08:51 PM   #1
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Default Proper Gravity Testing Techniques?

I am just getting into wine making and would like some advice on gravity testing. I see that hygrometers and refractometers are available but don't know which one to choose. If I get a hygrometer and test jar, what is the proper way to use it? What do you do with the test wine you removed from the carboy?

Any help is appreciated.

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Old 05-27-2008, 09:12 PM   #2
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Hey Tron. The biggest issue is of cost. A decent hydrometer will run you about $12-$25 and a decent refractometer will be anywhere from $50 - $120 (the difference being temperature compensation) and up to $300 for the digital models.

The biggest difference is sample size, since you won't need to cool your must like brewers need to cool the wort. Basically, a hydrometer needs a sample sufficient to float in and a refractometer just needs a couple drops and a light source to look at. I have to say, after having done the wine thing for some time and now into the beer thing, the refractometer is much easier, but the potential for error in the sample selection is a lot higher since you're testing a much smaller sample. Refractometers also are calibrated to Brix, which would require conversion to SG - which is easy. The small sample size is much more useful for tracking fermentation progress, which is also a benefit for a long wine fermentation and tracking the proper time to rack into secondary.

Basically, refractometers are easier but require a little more attention to detail. If you've got the cash, get a refractometer and then get a cheap hydrometer for more precision in original gravity readings. If you don't have the cash, just get a high-quality triple scale hydrometer w/ thermemeter. It'll cost you about $25 and will last a lifetime if you don't drop it like I do all the time.



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Old 05-27-2008, 10:49 PM   #3
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Since you are just getting started, get a hydrometer, a wine thief ,and a graduated cylinder.

its a cheaper investment that still gets you exactly what you need.

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Old 05-28-2008, 12:42 PM   #4
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Ok, thank you for the advice. I would assume that the tested sample is discarded and not returned to the fermenter?

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Old 05-28-2008, 12:58 PM   #5
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If by discarded you mean drank... then yes.

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Old 05-28-2008, 02:13 PM   #6
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Quote:
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If by discarded you mean drank... then yes.
You mean...........people actually throw those out?
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Old 05-28-2008, 03:05 PM   #7
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I was under the impression that without some sort of advanced formula you can not use a refractometer with fermenting or fermented wort. Ie. you would only use a refractometer for the SG.

Have I been misled?

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Old 05-28-2008, 03:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarvInSTL View Post
I was under the impression that without some sort of advanced formula you can not use a refractometer with fermenting or fermented wort. Ie. you would only use a refractometer for the SG.

Have I been misled?
That was my understanding also.
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Old 05-28-2008, 06:26 PM   #9
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Well, let me back up a little further. What else would I want to be testing besides SG? I want to know the SG so I can check progress or stop a batch at the proper SG. I also want to be able to calculate ABV. I actually own a refractometer for my saltwater aquariums and it should cover the range I need and it is already marked in SG and I won't have to convert from brax. It is even and automatic temperature compensated model, so I think I will try it out.

Also, anything removed with a wine thief could and should be consumed (if palatable) but I was more questioning the potential contamination of putting it back into the fermenter.

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Old 05-28-2008, 07:04 PM   #10
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If you sanitize everything you can put it back in. With wine the ABV is damn high so you are safer then with beer. Or you can just drink it like I do.



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