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Old 07-02-2009, 01:56 AM   #1
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Default Refractometer, which is best?

I'll be brewing all the beer for an upcoming relative's wedding. The father of the bride said he wanted to buy us something for our brewery as a thank you gift (I said that wasn't necessary, but he insisted). Now I have to find something for him to buy me. This seems like a good opportunity to finally get a refractometer.

I've never used one before, so I don't know whether some are better than others. I've seen a lot of cheap ones out there, but given the situation I'd rather get one that I know will be quality. Is there a refractometer out there that is head and shoulders above the rest? I've read a bunch of threads and seen links to tons of units, but I can't tell whether people are recommending cheap units that work fine or whether they are top-of-the-line. Just picking out the most expensive unit I can find doesn't appeal to me. Thanks in advance.

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Old 07-02-2009, 02:05 AM   #2
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My $20 ebay refractometer has worked wonderful for me. They don't have to be expensive.

I can't compare it to any others though, as this is the only one i have owned.

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Old 07-02-2009, 02:21 AM   #3
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Old 07-02-2009, 03:41 AM   #4
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Most of the ones I have seen and the one I have are relatively cheap Chinese made instruments and they seem to be just fine for home brewing purposes. They are reasonably rugged and very reliable. I think I paid $59 a few years ago for mine and have had zero problems with it. It's also one of the handiest accessories in my arsenal. The commonly available refractometers are all remarkably alike in appearance for some strange reason.

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Old 07-02-2009, 10:00 AM   #5
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I endorse looking for the cheap (got mine for $20, I think $5 delivery) eBay refractometer. I got mine from something like the "Happy Fun Luck Trading Co." of Hong Kong, so no need to ask where it's made. It arrived perfectly calibrated to the RO water I use for brewing, and I'm very satisfied.

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Old 07-02-2009, 11:20 AM   #6
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I agree with what eveyone has said. I picked one up for about $20 off ebay and it seems to work fine.

Just make sure you get one designed for beer and wine brewing that has a brix scale. Usually 0-30 or 0-40 brix. There are refractometers made for other applications and they can be tricky to convert the readings for brewing usage. Beer Smith will convert brix readings for you to ABV

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Old 07-02-2009, 09:52 PM   #7
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Hmmm...I'd certainly be happy to never take an OG with a hydrometer again.
Do refractometer users also use them for FG? I vaguely recall something about the alcohol preventing FG from being accurate.

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Old 07-02-2009, 10:01 PM   #8
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Thanks for the advice everyone. I guess I'll just get a regular cheap refractometer since it sounds like they work just as well as the higher priced units. I plan to use it during the sparge and pre-boil to check gravity readings. Post boil I'll use both at first until I feel comfortable with the accuracy. I'll probably still use my hydrometer for FG readings, although I know there are equations to account for alcohol. Maybe I'll eventually put away my hydrometer for good, but the main reason I want one is to better estimate my OG without having to cool down wort samples.

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Old 07-02-2009, 10:15 PM   #9
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It's best to have both a refractometer and a hydrometer. I use the refractometer for several things. Check the runoff with it and monitor the gravity during the boil. I get the OG with it prior to pitching and I usually cross check that with the hydrometer. Post fermentation you can use both to back into the OG in case you forgot to get it pre-ferment. I usually do a hydrometer check on the finished beer for my records. Both are valuable tools and each have their drawbacks, but together they work well for home brewing.

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Old 07-02-2009, 10:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gxm View Post
Hmmm...I'd certainly be happy to never take an OG with a hydrometer again.
Do refractometer users also use them for FG? I vaguely recall something about the alcohol preventing FG from being accurate.
Morebeer has published a small spreadsheet that makes all the necessary calculations to compensate for alcohol content. It works very well, I don't even know where my hydrometer is anymore!

Like others here, I'm using a cheapie refractometer from eBay. It works great, and is quite sturdy.

[youtube]0O9wbmVslDQ[/youtube]
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