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Old 08-24-2008, 01:52 PM   #1
Calvinfan1
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Default Hydrometers stink!

My frustration with hydrometers continues to grow. I know there has to be a better and more accurate way to take an original and final gravity reading. What are you using?

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Old 08-24-2008, 01:55 PM   #2
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Hydrometer.....Sorry, It's the only tool that can take both an original and final gravity...Even if you get a refractometer to take OG...you still need to use the hydrometer for FG...

The only other option is not to take readings...or knucking under and learn to read it...it ain't hard, nor is it that frustrating, it just is another part of the brewing process we master...

I used to use the wine theif and put the hydro in there...but I had trouble reading it, now I use one of those testing cylinders instead. I drain the theif into the cylinder (or use a sanitized turkey baster) then drop the hydro in, and let it set for a few minutes, before grabbing my "cheaters" so I can read the damn numbers, with my eyes.

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Old 08-24-2008, 02:07 PM   #3
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I understamd the frustration, I really do.

I had to learn to use a Hydrometer while working for a Petro/Chem inspection company. Large sums of $$$ were exchanged on our testing of the products, and the hydro reading was just one test.

I shudder when I think about how many millions may have been made or lost becasue I used the wrong hydro.

Tim

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Old 08-24-2008, 02:12 PM   #4
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What problems are you having? I will say - buying a clear cylinder to float the hydrometer in has helped a lot (rather than using the tube that the hydrometer came in). Heck - Ive been using an el cheapo $0.99 hydrometer that only measures brix and potential alcohol with a big red "bottle here" line It does the trick with the right on-line calculators.

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Old 08-24-2008, 02:21 PM   #5
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Here are a few tips for using your hydrometer. get a dedicated test cylinder, that way you know the volume and how much wort you really need to use and you wont knock the bottom out of the hydrometer case when you drop it in(this happened to me on my third batch, broke the hydrometer couldn't take my reading and had the mess to clean up). As you release the hydrometer into the cylinder give it a good spin, this will dislodge any bubbles sticking to it ,when it comes to a stop you can get an accurate reading. Take the reading as close to 60 degrees as possible, this reduces the math needed to convert it to an accurate reading. Hope this helps.

OH: nice avatar! I guess its time to change mine anyway.

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Old 08-24-2008, 02:24 PM   #6
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I'd just like to offer a few tips towards getting the best reading from a hydro.

First, get a sample tube that stands on its own, instead of using the tube it came in, which doesn't stand and is too narrow. A wider tube keeps the hydrometer from getting stuck to the side as easily. I got a stand up tube ages ago and that really helped. It developed cracks in it earlier this year, so I got a new one and was kind of upset about it being much wider since I didn't want to waste any more beer. When I actually used it though I saw that it was even easier than the tube I'd had for so long.

Second, get a hydro with thermometer.

Third, after filling the sample tube let the whole thing sit for at least 10 min. Maybe bump the hydrometer a few times. This degasses the sample, keeping the hydro from being rendered more boyant from gas bubbles on the side of it. It also allows the thermo to get a good reading.

Fourth, read it in an area with good light and spin the hydro, reading it when it stops bobbing from the bottom of the meniscus (unless you COMPLETELY fill and overflow your tube, in which case you can read from the top).

Personally, I know I'll probably eventually get a refractometer, but there's a lot of other things I could spend money on and a hydro does the job just fine. Besides, my friends and I always enjoy drinking the sample at all the different stages, which I think is really important to understanding the beer we're making.

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Old 08-24-2008, 02:29 PM   #7
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For the OG, I use a refractometer. For the FG, I use an hydrometer. You could use an ebulliometer and some math to get the FG, but this will cost you major bucks. There are also other methods involving distillation and titration, but that is much more of a pain than using the hydrometer.
There are two ways I am aware of that make the hydrometer easier to use.
1. When taking a reading, take a photograph with a digital camera, download it onto the PC and enlarge it so that you can actually see the markings.
2. Get a finishing hydrometer that has a smaller range, but a larger distance between the graduations, making it much easier to read. Downside to this is that they usually require a much larger sample. Mine needs a whole pint.
Now if only somebody would produce an hydrometer like I had back in the 1970's. It had a triangular cross section, and wouldn't roll off the counter and fall on the floor when you put it down.

-a.

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Old 08-24-2008, 03:44 PM   #8
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One of the points most people miss is accurate volumes. If you test your wort without knowing that the volume you have is actually that volume then the reading is flawed so no matter how accurately you read the hydrometer.

When taking hydrometer readings 4 things have to be accurate.

  • Calibration of the hydrometer
  • Volume of the wort
  • Temperature of the wort plus correction if not at the calibration temperature (testing at calibration temperature is best)
  • Accuracy of the reading
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Old 08-24-2008, 03:46 PM   #9
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just do like my lazy ass and don't take hydrometer readings, lol

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Old 08-24-2008, 04:52 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WBC View Post
One of the points most people miss is accurate volumes. If you test your wort without knowing that the volume you have is actually that volume then the reading is flawed so no matter how accurately you read the hydrometer.

When taking hydrometer readings 4 things have to be accurate.
  • Calibration of the hydrometer
  • Volume of the wort
  • Temperature of the wort plus correction if not at the calibration temperature (testing at calibration temperature is best)
  • Accuracy of the reading
Actually, if all you want to know is the Specific Gravity of your sample, then the volume is irrelevant. If you want to use that value to calculate efficiency or to figure out how much water to use to dilute to a certain SG, then, yes, you need an accurate volume.
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