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Old 06-15-2012, 11:08 AM   #1
Dr1nkBeer
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Default The Only Benefit of a Refractometer

I've been using one since december... and the only reason i would guess to use it is so you dont need to pull out 3-4 oz. of beer each time you want to take a Gravity Reading? only a coulple drops.

Is it worth the hassle?
You have to take the sample and get it to ambient temp of the refractometer, then you have wait 30 secs once you place the drop on the glass to equalize the temps, Then you have record your brix reading lets say its 12.3 like my last beer, then you have to use some software to conver that into a figure you can actual use like 1.049...
Thats all before you ferment...
Then...
You have take a sample do all of the above except now your brix reading needs to be adjusted for Alcohol content before you can accurately get the FG or current gravity. Now you have to go download some excel sheet and or buy an appliation that calculates the alcohol and then gives you your gravity.

Am I bugging or is 3-4 oz's of beer worth not going through this?...

I'm a cool tool guy so i got one and i use it, but man what we do for beer.

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:21 AM   #2
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I use it for checking OG, and a hydro for checking FG (when I bother). My refrac is temp compensated so I don't have to cool the sample first, although pulling a few mls into a pipette cools it quickly.

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:37 AM   #3
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My refract is temp compensated as well ad even if it wasn't, I am placing one drop on the plate so it cools almost instantly. I use the refract for OG during the boil because it is instant an I can confirm my gravity before starting to chill and then, like above, use a hydro for FG.

It terms of converting brix to gravity, I have a simple app on my phone that I got for 99 cents but I don't even bother with it... Just multiply the brix times four. There's your gravity.

I think the refract is absolutely worth it. It cuts down the time it takes to check gravity down to a few seconds.

It also helps that I got a great deal on my refrack and got it for about $30

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:38 AM   #4
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My refract is temp compensated as well ad even if it wasn't, I am placing one drop on the plate so it cools almost instantly. I use the refract for OG during the boil because it is instant an I can confirm my gravity before starting to chill and then, like above, use a hydro for FG.

It terms of converting brix to gravity, I have a simple app on my phone that I got for 99 cents but I don't even bother with it... Just multiply the brix times four. There's your gravity.

I think the refract is absolutely worth it. It cuts down the time it takes to check gravity down to a few seconds.

It also helps that I got a great deal on my refrack and got it for about $30

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:48 AM   #5
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Hydro works fine but my main issue with us that they are very fragile and have broken 4 of them. So I bought a refractometer for 30 bucks. Worth every penny.

Not having to wait to cool down is an added bonus.

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Old 06-15-2012, 11:53 AM   #6
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I use my refractometer pre fermentation for checking the runnings, the preboil gravity, and the OG. It's great because it's instantly read, not like a hydrometer where the wort has to be cooled.

I've never had good accuracy with using the refractometer post-fermentation even with correction tables, so I use my hydrometer once before packaging.

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Old 06-15-2012, 12:21 PM   #7
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I think you are thinking too much into it, lets compare steps:

Refract: (your list)
1. take the sample (use the pippette provided and it takes half a second and more sanitary than using a wine thief to get a big enough sample for a hydrometer)
2. get it to ambient temp of the refractometer, then you have wait 30 secs once you place the drop on the glass to equalize the temps (well no reason to wait an addition 30 secs if you are waiting and if you put it directly on the refract it cools almost instantly)
3. Then you have record your brix reading (half a second to look at it have to look at a hydrometer anyways)
4. convert that into a figure you can actual use (ok Ill give you this one but tons of free programs and for a rough estimate times it by 4)

now for Hydrometer:
1. Take sample (Need a lot more, so wasting beer and if you take multiple measurements that adds up, plus using a wine thief vs a pippette is a greater chance of contamination)
2. Wait 10+ minutes for it too cool to 60 degrees (which is what most hydrometers are calibrated at) (Id rather wait for a drop to cool than 3-4oz, and if you dont wait then you have conversion to do)
3. Read Sample (If you didnt wait for it to cool you have to use a program or do math to get the converted one so gaining a step)

So lets recap:
Pros:
-Smaller sample, equals more beer to drink and less chance of contamination when taking sample
-Quicker cooling for better accuracy
-Cant roll off the counter and break (havent personally had that problem but know a lot have)
-Easier cleanup (wipe of a lens vs washing the hydrometer and the tube and the thief)

Cons:
-Little more expensive, got mine for 30 off amazon and after one hydrometer break thats a mute point
-Have to convert to SG from Brix, ok Ill give it to you that it takes a couple seconds, but your waiting 10min+ (depending on chilling method) for your wort to cool
-Have to use calculations for post fermentation readings and arent as exact

Now not trying to be mean, but I dont see a negative to using a refractometer over a hydrometer, it is probably one of my best investments in brewing allowed me to take quick samples at every stage of brewing and get my setup dialed in and now I know my efficiency and can better predict recipe outcomes and repeat recipes. The only negative I could see is the post fermentation and if you need accuarte to more than 1.002 accuracy then use a hydrometer for the post, but mine has been within .002 of hydrometer on every case with the conversions

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Old 06-15-2012, 12:26 PM   #8
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Refract only comes out on brewday for measuring during boil. To convert to SG, I mentally multiply x4 and add 1.

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Old 06-15-2012, 12:37 PM   #9
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I can deal with a refractometer sample a lot faster than a hydrometer sample. For me, the biggest hassle of the hydrometer is dealing with the foam at the top of the sample. Also, having to take the temperature of the sample for a correction is a pain.

As for accuracy, I've never had any significant variation between my hydrometer and refractometer with FG readings. Those differences probably fall within the margin of error of my ability to accurately read the hydrometer.

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Old 06-15-2012, 01:00 PM   #10
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Yeah... I like using it... and your probably spot on by saying its better used for SG... I have done so as well it allows you to adjust on the fly since its instant so if you need to add a little dme you can decide sooner. I suppose it was the post ferment with the alcohol correction you need to make.

And dont get me wrong i'm not hating on the tool, i actually think its cool and people really get a kick out the science of it when I use it. I like the fact that I can take miniscule samples during fermentation and appreciate the applications/sheets out there to factor the alcohol as well.

for FG i usually sanatize and drop in my hydro right into the carboy after I take a quick sample reading with the refracto...I have this nifty computer tool that can reach in and grab it to get it out. It does kill me to take out 3-4 oz. to fill my hydro tube I suppose if you sanatize you can always throw it back in..

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