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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > General Techniques > Stupid refractometer question
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Old 02-01-2013, 06:51 AM   #1
J-Pizzel
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Default Stupid refractometer question

Looking into buying a refractometer & read they're inaccurate in the presence of alcohol. So are these only good for OG and preboil, leaving FG for the hydrometer? Is this worth it?

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Old 02-01-2013, 07:10 AM   #2
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Get one that reads Brix. I don't recommend a refractometer that reads in SG, or a combination SG/Brix.... If you only use it for checking pre boil and post boil it is well worth the cost. As for how accurate they are at FG? Prepare for all the usual answers. You already posted the most popular. I use a refractometer throughout the process including FG and have abandoned my hydrometer.

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Old 02-01-2013, 07:28 AM   #3
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There are software programs that convert your fG brix so you can get your abv. For the first few after I got a meter for a christmas gift, I measured with both. No real measureable difference between the hydrometer and refractometer with the results. And I have to say the refractometer is far easier on the eyes to read.

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Old 02-02-2013, 12:42 AM   #4
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I've used a refractometer for brewing and winemaking for a couple years now and I can't imagine going back to my hydrometer. You can get one for about $25 on ebay and if you download the free magic spreadsheet from MoreBeer you can use it throughout fermentation. It's very accurate.

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Old 02-02-2013, 05:21 AM   #5
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Here are a couple of refractometer calculators to estimate the final gravity and ABV. You need an OG reading to estimate the FG.
http://www.northernbrewer.com/refractometer-calculator/
http://onebeer.net/refractometer.shtml

I have been using a refractometer for only a few weeks and it is much easier, cleaner, and faster than a hydrometer. Agreed that a hydro is more accurate in more cases. Like iaefebs said, a unit that measures Brix is all you need. On every dual-scale unit I have seen, the SG scale is significantly off above 1.050. Maybe there is one and I have not stumbled across it.

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Old 02-02-2013, 03:02 PM   #6
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I love my refractometer. Use beersmith to calculate ABV. Easy as pie.

I use a combo ATC SG/Brix and I've never had issues, iaefebs why are you not recommending one?

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Old 02-02-2013, 03:53 PM   #7
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Not to speak for iaefebs, but one thing you need to be careful with when looking at dual scale refractometers is that many use a linear scale that simply multiplies brix by 4 to get SG. This is fine at lower gravities but you'll be further off as the gravity increases.

A shorthand way of converting brix to SG is to multiply brix by 4. For instance, 10 brix times 4 would equal 1.040. It's actually 1.041, but still reasonably close. If you multiply 20 brix by 4 you would assume a SG of 1.080, but it's actually 1.084. The relationship between brix and SG is non linear.

I think buying a dual scale refractometer is fine as long as you find one that assumes this non linear relationship between brix and SG. They are out there. Mine only shows brix, which is fine for me because I'm always plugging the number into a spreadsheet or beersmith and the conversion to SG is right there.

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Old 02-02-2013, 04:02 PM   #8
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Interesting,my confusion is mine has two separate scales, one brix and one SG and they are separated (two independent scales/bars). I would think they would be independent entities and no different than a brix only.

Edit: this is what my scale looks like:

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Old 02-02-2013, 04:21 PM   #9
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It's kind of hard to tell from that picture but it looks like that one is fine. Maybe the linear problem generally has been fixed because all of the refractometers I looked at on ebay seem to have the proper scale.

Admittedly, my eyes aren't great but I can't imagine trying to read SG on that thing. Them's some tiny lines and numbers!

EDIT: I take that back. The scale on the refractometers on ebay seem off. 10 brix shows as 1.039 and 20 brix shows as 1.077. I'm at a loss. Time for someone more knowledgeable about this than me to chime in.

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Old 02-02-2013, 04:36 PM   #10
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Actually I just found mine: http://www.williamsbrewing.com/Produ...Id=1758&More=1

Better picture.

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