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Old 10-12-2012, 04:35 PM   #1
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Default Refractometer vs. Hydrometer

Hey all,

Hoping I can learn something today!

Expected my beer to be ready for kegging the other day and since I'm still green on the refractometer, I grabbed my hydrometer too, for good measure. I have the refractometer from Northern Brewer with the SG scale so the Brix to SG calculations are supposedly already done for me (supposedly?).

I calibrated my refractometer to zero with distilled water, checked the temp of the wort, was just about 60-61. Refractometer read 1.022 SG and hydrometer read 1.012. I was expecting about 1.012-1.014, so beer is now kegged!

But... what gives? I'm sure it's because I'm still learning the refractometer, but I know my hydrometer is pretty accurate because I recently tested it against my buddy's (who taught me to brew).

I'd really like to switch to the refractometer for the ease of checking -- especially since I want to play around with one gallon batches.

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Old 10-12-2012, 04:40 PM   #2
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You need to run the adaption/conversion software once fermentation starts, when reading from a refractometer. This is a VERY well known item (for anyone using a refractometer at least).

Also, I have one of the refractometers with both scales on it (from Bobby_M) but didn't like it since I wasn't 100% sure the scales were properly aligned. So, I've since moved to highly accurate (lab/pro grade) refractometers for my readings (about $100 each). While most probably won't/don't care enough for that level of precision, I do.

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Old 10-12-2012, 04:47 PM   #3
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I did read something about doing conversions after fermentation, but it only talked about brix to SG conversions, so I was confused & came here.

Does promash do this conversion, or is there a specific software I should be looking at? Or, website, java app, android, etc. lol

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Old 10-12-2012, 04:50 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MKEbrew View Post
I did read something about doing conversions after fermentation, but it only talked about brix to SG conversions, so I was confused & came here.

Does promash do this conversion, or is there a specific software I should be looking at? Or, website, java app, android, etc. lol
found a couple online:

http://onebeer.net/refractometer.shtml

http://seanterrill.com/2012/01/06/re...er-calculator/
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Old 10-12-2012, 04:53 PM   #5
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within my past couple batches i've switched to using only the refrac after the boil.. previously i have done both a hydrometer and refrac just to be sure and my refrac has never been off much at all to warrant losing a couple of ounces each time i test.. i use the conversion in beersmith and it hasn't failed me yet, though i have also used similar ones like brewknurd mentioned with equal success..

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Old 10-12-2012, 04:55 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Golddiggie View Post
Also, I have one of the refractometers with both scales on it (from Bobby_M) but didn't like it since I wasn't 100% sure the scales were properly aligned. So, I've since moved to highly accurate (lab/pro grade) refractometers for my readings (about $100 each). While most probably won't/don't care enough for that level of precision, I do.
So the reason for that is that they're attempting to account for the fact that refractometers are really designed to measure solutions of sucrose (pretty sure its sucrose). Wort is not primarily sucrose. So the refractive index of wort is not exactly the same as that of sucrose at a given gravity. So the SG scale on the dual scale hydrometers is an attempt to account for that.
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Old 10-12-2012, 05:02 PM   #7
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I just couldn't trust the readings on the dual scale refractometer since if I used software to convert from brix to SG, it wouldn't match what the scale on the refractometer read. So, I picked up the higher quality refractometers and haven't had any issues since.

As for the conversion once fermentation starts, it's due to alcohol throwing off the readings. It's highly predictable, which is why software does it so well.

I use 4 dram vials to capture the wort, and then finished beer, for my readings. So, that's a total of 1oz (each vial holds .5 oz) to get both readings. Far less than you'll use for a hydrometer (unless you drop it into the fermenter).

BTW, the refractometers I have don't specify a type of sugar for their readings. You don't want to get one made for salinity (or urine) tests, but you don't need to worry about the type of sugar being used.

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Old 10-12-2012, 05:08 PM   #8
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I've found that my refractometer reads pretty accurately if I use the android app I downloaded to my phone. I've checked against the hydrometer several times and it's always been right on. I haven't measured a very big beer though. And to be honest, once the beer has cooled, it's just as easy to grab a sample and use the hydrometer and I'm in no hurry to get it cooled down to testing temp at that point, unlike when I'm brewing and want to know my preboil and post boil gravities.

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Old 10-12-2012, 05:20 PM   #9
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I'd use a hydrometer over a refractometer any day of the week.

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Old 10-12-2012, 05:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stamandster View Post
I'd use a hydrometer over a refractometer any day of the week.
Why?? Is it because of the cost difference? Hydrometers can give off readings pretty easily. Plus, more people post about then breaking than almost anything else in brewing. Refractometers won't roll off the counter on you (and then shatter). Plus a hydromter reading is easily buggered by foam in the tube, or presence of any carbonation/bubbles in the sample. Then there's the vast difference in how much of a sample you need for the readings.

I wish I had a refractometer when I made my first batches of mead. It would have saved me a significant amount of must during the process.
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On Tap: Caramel Ale, Mocha Porter II, MO SMaSH IPA
Waiting/Carbonating: 12.5% Wee Honey II, 8.9% Old Ale, English Brown Ale, Lickah ESB, Mocha Porter II
Fermenting
K1:
K2: Epic mead
K3: TripSix
On Deck: Caramel Ale
Aging:mead
Mead [bottled]:Oaked Wildflower Traditional, Mocha Madness, Blackberry Melomel, maple wine
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