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-   -   I'm Interested in a Microscope (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f128/im-interested-microscope-350566/)

sidepart 08-28-2012 06:34 PM

I'm Interested in a Microscope
I've been trying to justify purchasing a microscope for a long time, and this might just be the justification I'm looking for. I just need a recommendation on the specs (zoom, style, etc).

Here's what I'm looking at right now: http://www.amazon.com/My-First-Lab-D...dp/B000NOU54O/

Here's the story:

I racked one of my brews last night and the sample I tasted hit me as a bit sour. Totally unexpected for the recipe and it had me concerned. I was out of the house last week (honeymoon) and figure that the basement temperature just got too hot. WLP007 at higher temperatures does produce a more sour flavor. Still...maybe there's some Lactobacillus afoot in my brew, and I'd love to see it. The scientific interest is too much for me to pass up here.

jeepinjeepin 08-28-2012 06:44 PM

I think 400x is the minimum for observing yeast. Bacteria are smaller. I'm not sure how much. I think 400x would still be useful but higher magnifications sure would be helpful. I think I've heard binocular styles are better. I've been thinking about a microscope also. I keep wondering if surplus lab grade units are available anywhere.

dbals 08-28-2012 06:58 PM

I spend a lot of time on a microscope- The glass is the most important thing-great glass= great imagine, binocular styles are better but unless you need to spend a great deal of time looking monocular works fine (hold your hand over your other eye to reduce fatigue). I do think it is possible to see the various yeasties and bacteria at lower than 100X, check here

I just got a hemocytometer and really was cool and plan to ranch and freeze soon. You might wanna check ebay for something used because who knows how good those objectives/ocular are from that amazon source. Now what to do with the 3 old microscope bodies I have....

Good luck,
Dan B.

ajdelange 08-28-2012 07:04 PM

A microscope is one of those things which requires that it be well made in order for it to really be useful. As a rule of thumb I'd say anything costing less than about $1500 new would turn out to be a piece of junk - a splendid example of the old saw that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotton.

Obviously, you don't want to spend $1500 so this is where jeepinjeepin's recommendation comes in. See if you can find a good used microscope. There are lots of ways to screw up a microscope, of course, but optics don't wear out by passing a lot of light through them so if the thing hasn't been dropped off the bench or had corrosive acid poured over it it should perform perfectly well.

As for magnification: for yeast counting 40 - 60x is fine. For being able to distinguish various yeast strains and identify bacteria 400x should suffice. If higher magnification is desired then one gets into oil immersion which is a real pain. Yes, you can buy microscopes advertising 1000X but without oil you get what is called 'empty magnification'. A yeast cell looks bigger but it's a big blur.

To really see into yeast cells phase contrast is needed (this involves a special condenser and set of lenses but can often be retrofitted to a garden variety bright field scope).

I guess I'm saying money spent on a First Lab Duo Scope would be money wasted.

jeepinjeepin 08-28-2012 07:16 PM


Originally Posted by ajdelange
As for magnification: for yeast counting 40 - 60x is fine. For being able to distinguish various yeast strains and identify bacteria 400x should suffice.

Thanks. I wasn't sure about it. I knew I had heard the 400x number. Glad to hear that is the upper end needed.

jeepinjeepin 08-28-2012 09:38 PM

I just found a half dozen or so on Craigslist near me at $300-500. One was even a Nikon SC with 1000x oil immersion lens. I do not have a disposable $500 though.

dbals 08-29-2012 01:55 AM

Just checked ebay..... plenty of AO Spencer, Fisher, Swift, Leitz and Wesco (I never used Wesco) for $100 or less.

passedpawn 08-29-2012 02:17 AM

I bought a scope off ebay and have been having a lot of fun with it. Lots more info, with lots of pics, here. Cheers!

Kaiser 09-09-2012 01:33 AM

I respect A.J's insight a lot, but I don't agree that a brewer's microscope has to cost $1500.

What we are using the microscpope would be:
- cell counting
- looking at yeast in general
- identifying haze
- possibly identifying contaminants

The latter is tricky since once there are enough bacteria so you see them in a sample your beer should have a significant off flavor already.

A few years back I bought a up to 1000x (100X oil immersion objective and 10x eyepiece) monocular student microscope new for $160 from Cynmar and I'm happy with it.

at 1000x yeast look like this:


Sure, the pic may have been better with a $1500 scope, but that doesn't detract from its usefulness.

These days I generally count yeast from cell-phone photos like this. The image is blurred on the edges b/c I just held the phone camera to the eyepiece. This is not how I see the cells when I look through the microscope.

I do cell counts with ImageJ:



passedpawn 09-09-2012 02:25 AM


Originally Posted by Kaiser (Post 4398417)
I do cell counts with ImageJ:

Hmmm... just downloaded. Very cool. I've mounted a cam into my microscope eyepiece, so pics and video are easy. Don't know why I didn't thing to look for counting software. Thanks!

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