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Old 01-04-2013, 02:33 AM   #1
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Default Thermapen, Refractometer, or pH Meter?

I'm an all grain brewer, and am looking to purchase my next equipment. If you were going to buy one of these items, which would it be and why?

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Old 01-04-2013, 03:10 AM   #2
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First would be thermapen. Lots of uses on brew day.

Second would be ph meter. With the caveat that it is easy
to make great beer without one.

I would not bother with a refractometer. I have one and don't use it anymore.
I just use a hydrometer. But I don't try to adjust my OG during brew day.
I take whatever I get and adjust the recipe as needed for the next time.

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:05 AM   #3
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Thermapen first, but that's because I use it for cooking and pull it out of the kitchen on brew day. Refractometer next, I never use a hydrometer anymore. I never owned a ph meter for brewing. I had one for my salt water aquarium and it was unreliable.

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:25 AM   #4
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Ditto on the thermometer as the first choice. Cheap ones are just not accurate enough for all grain. The thermapen is, but since it's a hand held it's a pain to use (literally depending on how hot what you are measuring is!) I went with this (the +- .2 C) and love it. I just leave the probe right in the mash tun, kettle, or whatever else I need to monitor. The unit velcro's nicely on the side of my brew bench where I can see it. It's great for heating infusion or sparge water.

http://vwrlabshop.com/vwr-waterproof-thermometers/p/0013422/

I'd go with the refractometer next. It's nice for taking gravity samples on the fly as you run off your mash. Just a few drops and you're good to go. The only down side is alcohol throws off the calibration so they're a pain to use post ferment. There's a calculation that gets them close but I just use my hydrometer for FG. The convenience during the mash more than makes up for the draw back in my opinion.

PH monitoring isn't necessary with proper attention to grain bill and water salts. You can actually calculate what it's going to be without monitoring (see "How to Brew", Palmer). You'll know if you were way off by poor efficiency, but it's really not hard to get it right the first time...

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Old 01-04-2013, 08:40 AM   #5
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Meh, I'd go for the Refractometer first if it were me. A decent RT600 is like $25, reads in less than 6 seconds and is very accurate. A pH meter is too much of a pain in the rear for the use the typical brewer will get out of it (and you want a good meter if you're really concerned about pH, not a cheap one).

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Old 01-04-2013, 03:50 PM   #6
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Thermapen for sure. The accuracy will help with getting your mash temps for exact and yeah it kicks ass for cooking too.

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Old 01-04-2013, 03:56 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Demus View Post
Ditto on the thermometer as the first choice. Cheap ones are just not accurate enough for all grain. The thermapen is, but since it's a hand held it's a pain to use (literally depending on how hot what you are measuring is!) I went with this (the +- .2 C) and love it. I just leave the probe right in the mash tun, kettle, or whatever else I need to monitor. The unit velcro's nicely on the side of my brew bench where I can see it. It's great for heating infusion or sparge water.

http://vwrlabshop.com/vwr-waterproof-thermometers/p/0013422/

I'd go with the refractometer next. It's nice for taking gravity samples on the fly as you run off your mash. Just a few drops and you're good to go. The only down side is alcohol throws off the calibration so they're a pain to use post ferment. There's a calculation that gets them close but I just use my hydrometer for FG. The convenience during the mash more than makes up for the draw back in my opinion.

PH monitoring isn't necessary with proper attention to grain bill and water salts. You can actually calculate what it's going to be without monitoring (see "How to Brew", Palmer). You'll know if you were way off by poor efficiency, but it's really not hard to get it right the first time...
I have the probe version of this thermo and love it...having the calibration sheet lets you know exactly where your temps sit. I use it to calibrate all my other thermometers.

I use a refractometer at least a half dozen times every brew day.
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Old 01-04-2013, 04:01 PM   #8
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Probably thermapen, but refractometer would be a close second. I've never had any real desire to fiddle with a ph meter. So, I've always just used test strips.

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:01 PM   #9
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I'd definitely go with the Thermapen. I just got one for Christmas and can't wait to try it out. I have neither a refractometer nor pH meter and have no plans to acquire either one anytime soon. My hydrometer works just fine and I have found that my pH is rather stable no matter what style I brew, that is, if those cheapo test strips can be believed. Confidence in my mash temps, however, is of utmost importance to me. My FGs have been consistenly higher than expected, which has me seriously questioning the accuracy of my $20 digital thermometer at mash temps. Hoping my new Thermopen uncovers an issue I didn't know I had.

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Old 01-04-2013, 04:27 PM   #10
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I think if you are interesting in getting a pH meter that you should just get some pH strips instead. Try them and see how important pH is to your process before purchasing one. I have worked with many pH meters and probes over the years. We now use the epoxy filled probes and toss them when the start acting up. You need buffers and to calibrate it before use. Calibration is no big deal but personally not something i want to do on a brew day. Probably because I do it at work. Those buffers though don't stay good for ever and neither do the probes. Even if you get one that you have to change out the reference solution (mo money mo money) it will need replaced over time. Proper storage helps but we have had one of those probes get used then stored, only to be pulled out for reuse and not work.

I'd get the thermapen. I'm saving for one myself.

I'm not sure how you get rid of your hydrometer completely as refractometers have issues when taking FG readings. The alcohol gives and unreliable reading once it's present (as far as i know, and i don't know it all). Feel free to correct me on that.

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