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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > Refractometer question for FG
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Old 04-04-2013, 06:39 PM   #1
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Default Refractometer question for FG

I know some people love them, some people hate them.

Of everything i've read, most people feel they don't give an accurate reading of a FG, and thats fine. My main interest in it would be for making sure fermentation has stopped and the FG is stable.

Im getting sick of sanitizing my hydrometer and tube once a day for three days straight (or more if its not stable) and even moreso tired of wasting the wort in my tube used to test it with my hydrometer... so my question is... Even though it may not give an accurate FG reading, will it at least show consistent readings if the temps are the same over that three day period.

Again I would just rather use a few drops from my carboy with a small dropper, instead of having to sanitze the hydrometer and thief constantly and then waste all the wort im pulling out (I hate the idea of possibly ruining a full batch by dumping it back even though some people seem to do it).

So opinions please, is the investment worth it for that purpose?

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Old 04-04-2013, 07:01 PM   #2
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That's one of the main things I use it for. If the reading is the same for several days in a row, it's done. It doesn't matter what the numbers are. It's also handy if I I'm doing a lager and want to do a diacetyl rest. It gives me an idea (with the proper algorithm) of where I'm at without using much beer.

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Old 04-04-2013, 07:12 PM   #3
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If you are only checking to see if the number has changed then it is fine. However, it is not an accurate reading to see if you hit your target or to determine alcohol content, so when it is done you will likely have to pull out the old hydrometer to get a reading. I've heard there are calculations to get the correct number (or close) with a refractomer, but haven't tried this.

Why does it take so much effort to sanitize for these readings though. I keep a spray bottle of Starsan for this purpose. I also store my hydrometer in the storage tube filled with Starsan. When I need to pull a sample to read I spray the inside and outside of my thief, pull the sample, replace the airlock, and then read the sample. It takes five minutes tops--usually more like three. I never pour the sample back because this increases the chances of infection and I also want to taste the sample and examine it to see what processes are going on. I know many will talk about how much beer this wastes, but 1) it is not wasted because I am gaining knowledge with each, 2) I make my recipes for 5.5 gallons so I can have plenty to sample, 3) I have never needed to take more than two samples of the same beer in primary, and never more than two from any beer in secondary. In secondary I only sample enough to see where the flavors are on treatments like oak, dry hopping, etc.

How many samples do you need to pull from each batch? If you are taking many samples, then you started sampling way too early. Change your procedure and wait more days before the first sample is taken.

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Old 04-04-2013, 07:23 PM   #4
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why store you hydrometer in starsan, or bother with sanitizing your hydrometer at all if you are not pouring it back. The only thing that needs to be sanitized is the theif.

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Old 04-04-2013, 07:34 PM   #5
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I use my refractometer for FG and run the resting through an online calculator. It works great, and I just sanitize a small dropper with my spray bottle of starsan. It's easy and works. The biggest benefit for me is that I don't have to dig through my equipment to gather all the pieces. I live in a small Apartment and have to store most of my equipment in my brew kettle. My refractometer sits on top in its case, so it's easier for me.

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Old 04-04-2013, 07:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeepDiver View Post
why store you hydrometer in starsan, or bother with sanitizing your hydrometer at all if you are not pouring it back. The only thing that needs to be sanitized is the theif.
I store the hydrometer in Starsan for several reasons, even though I don't return the sample. 1) Accidents happen and things you didn't want to come into contact with your beer do make contact. 2) It helps keep it clean. 3) By storing in liquid it is a bit more protected if it falls over. 4) By having Sanitized liquid instead of just old water, I know, If I knock over the container while working with the hydrometer at packaging, instead of water pouring out and possibly contaminating my work area and even the beer being packaged, all that happens is some Starsan gets spilled. 5) If the question is, "Should it be sanitized or not?" I always take the side of sanitizing. 6) I really like knowing that when I taste the sample it is beer that I am tasting and not something disgusting that I didn't see on the hydrometer--like mold, which grows profusely here.

Besides, one time, many years ago without thinking, after reading the sample I reached up and poured the sample back into the fermenter. That absent minded slip is burned into my head.
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Old 04-05-2013, 04:59 AM   #7
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Well im only taking two samples to make sure the gravity is steady. But I think its a PITA plus im always worried im gonna infect the batch. To me it would just be simpler to use a small dropper to make sure and then test it with a hydrometer once before I bottle or rack to secondary.

Thanks for the input, its on my wish list for my SWMBO to get me for my birthday!

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