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Old 06-06-2012, 11:01 PM   #1
BigHead33
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Default Refractometer for Final Gravity of fermented beer?

I recently bought a refractometer, calibrated it and calculated my brix correction factor. I am looking to eliminate the need for a hydrometer or at least minimize it. Can anybody tell me if I can use the refractometer to get an FG? I have read many different things and cant get a direct answer. FYI...I have beersmith and I see there is a way to possibly do this, but I can't figure it out. Thanks for any help

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Old 06-06-2012, 11:17 PM   #2
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In short yes you can use a refractometer to get the FG of fermented beer. The alcohol will change the reading given off by the refractometer however there is an equation that only needs the original gravity. I use an iphone app called brew pal and just turn alcohol correction to "on". Also get used to taking your readings in Brix, even if your refractometer has SG readings because the calculatins use brix as input. I have used this on 2 batches so far and i feel like i can believe the numbers. happy brewing!

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Old 06-06-2012, 11:26 PM   #3
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Alcohol throws off the reading, but there are formulas for correction. I actually have always used one; never started with a hydrometer. Listen to the 4/27/2011 Basic Brewing Radio podcast in which Sean Terrill returned from an earlier episode where he had solicited help from other brewers for regression data, and he revised the common formula. actually the earlier one probably does better explanation of why the difference on 9/2/2010. His site SeanTerrill.com has his results (I think in a usable spreadsheet form) and more info.

I use the calculator in Beer Alchemy now. I previously used BrewPal. They have different results, and no idea which is more accurate as you can't see the formula. But for my purposes of determining when fermentation is finished (no change in subsequent readings) and comparison from one of my own batches to another, it works fine.

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Old 06-06-2012, 11:31 PM   #4
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It works- sort of.

It will not give you an accurate FG in my experience, even with correction tables and formulas. But it should be within .008 or so. That's a lot, so I don't trust it at all. It won't give you bottle bombs or anything- but the difference between 1.009 and 1.016 is pretty big.

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Old 06-06-2012, 11:32 PM   #5
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There's also a spreadsheet available from a number of sources that will help with the conversion/adjustment once fermentation has started. Rebel Brewer has one (a web page actually), I think I've seen the same thing posted on other stores, but can't locate them right now. I also believe there's another one somewhere in the threads on HBT (haven't looked yet).

You'll want to use the brix reading on the spreadsheet. At first, I was annoyed by this since my first refractometer was SG and brix. But, I just recently picked up some more refractometers (two that go to either 32 brix, with a .2 resolution, and another to 20 brix with a .1 resolution) which makes it easier. I also have one that goes to either 60 or 62 brix (starts at 20 brix I believe), for testing other things.

I used the spreadsheet for recent batches and it converted to a good number. It was actually the estimated FG from BeerSmith.

I think they must have updated the formula used in the spreadsheet since the podcast mentioned earlier. I'll also be running the numbers through BeerSmith to see how that works out. I really like how little a sample you need for refractometer readings. Since I give my batches enough time to finish, I'm just looking to see what the FG is, so that I can get the ABV% number.

--update--
Refractobeer spreadsheet link...

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Old 06-07-2012, 12:33 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the feedback. I think I figured it out on beersmith. It wants the final brix reading and the original SG reading and I guess it tells you the corrected FG and ABV. I may actually continue to use the hydrometer for FG's though, only because I enjoy drinking the sample and it seems i'll get a more accurate result. All my buddies always want to know..."whats the alcohol in this??"

Couple more questions: The brix correction factor, is that added or subtracted from the converted SG? I got a brix correction factor of 1.01544. does this sound right?

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Old 06-07-2012, 12:36 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigHead33 View Post
Thanks for all the feedback. I think I figured it out on beersmith. It wants the final brix reading and the original SG reading and I guess it tells you the corrected FG and ABV. I may actually continue to use the hydrometer for FG's though, only because I enjoy drinking the sample and it seems i'll get a more accurate result. All my buddies always want to know..."whats the alcohol in this??"

Couple more questions: The brix correction factor, is that added or subtracted from the converted SG? I got a brix correction factor of 1.01544. does this sound right?
Yes, that sounds about right. That is your correction factor for your hydrometer and refractometer. You plug your brix reading into the "refractometer tool" in BS and it will give you the corresponding SG number.
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Old 06-07-2012, 12:46 AM   #8
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So I've seen these threads a few times recently, and they all seem to feature several folks saying "yeah, you can use a refractometer for FG, you just have to use this or that Excel spreadsheet," and Yooper saying "I've tried it and it don't work for s&%t."

I don't have a refractometer, so I have no direct experience. I'm sure I'll get one at some point, to (1) help track OG during brewday, and (2) at a minimum be able to track changes in FG.

But I'm wondering if anyone besides Yooper has found that there are major failures in the FG correction tools? At this point I'm really just curious, but I've noted several times people saying this works and then Yoop throwing cold water on it so I was wondering

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Old 06-07-2012, 01:08 AM   #9
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Some may say I've always kept blinders on by never comparing side by side results. I haven't experienced any repeatability issues. So if in fact my refractometer measurements are off, I'm still consistent and routinely finish where recipe software predicts I should. So no reason for me to go get a hydrometer.

We could really have fun with the debate and suggest it has something to do with whether dry yeast or liquid was used.

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Old 06-07-2012, 07:48 PM   #10
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I still use my hydrometer for final gravity readings, but next time I may have to give it a shot with the refractometer as well and see how they match up. Personally, I don't mind using the hydrometer, because its a lot harder to taste test my refractometer samples!

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