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Old 01-13-2009, 02:48 PM   #1
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Default An easy one for you all - explain method of taking a hydrometer reading

Ok, I have read a ton on this forum site, and I have learned an equivalent mental weight in brewing know-how, but I have never actually heard anyone describe how they take a hydrometer reading. I mean, do you open up your bucket day after day and pull a sample or drop the hydrometer in the soup or what? to me, every time the lid is cracked open, I'm afraid that oxygen is ruining my beer and I hate doing it....so how do you guys do it, especially those of you talking about taking readings everyday? what is the simplest, most fool proof technique? and should I worry about the air that I am letting in when I open the fermentor? thanks.

Edit: sorry, I didn't make this very clear. I know how to read a hygrometer, I just feel uncomfortable dipping into my brew over and over and exposing it to the air. is it safe to do this? do you use a thief or a ladel to get your beer out, etc?

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Old 01-13-2009, 02:54 PM   #2
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a video made by a fellow HBT'er. It should cover your question.
Best Regards

Oh, and yes. Just open up the lid. Make sure anything (wine thief or turkey baster) that will come in direct contact with the beer is sanitized.
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Old 01-13-2009, 03:03 PM   #3
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One thing I've learned from experience is to not just let the hydrometer bob in your wort's container. Only use a test tube or something outside of your main container. An accident with the hydrometer isn't a big deal if it happens outside of the majority of the beer. Lead+beer+human consumption=not a good brew.

I've used a sanitized turkey baster, and the bottom component to my siphon with the one way valve. I prefer the latter since I can get a lot more sample without as much mess. A long sanitized plastic or glass pipette with a thumb on one end would also work well to draw off some sample.

With beer, unless I suspect the fermentation is having problems, I will only take a reading at the beginning immediately before pitching yeast then not again until about 18 days or so later when I suspect it is done, then a follow-up reading a couple days after that to confirm the end gravity. The two at the end is just to confirm that the fermentation is indeed finished.

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Old 01-13-2009, 03:08 PM   #4
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I normally take one reading every time I move my beer. For instance. Just before I pitch the yeast, then again after two weeks in the Primary and I'm putting it in the secondary and then at bottling 1 or 2 weeks later.

I use a Wine Thief now but used to use a auto siphon which was always messy.

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Old 01-13-2009, 03:13 PM   #5
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I have a followup video that adds refractometer use but it also describes how to gain the sample. This whole idea of taking multiple readings is not something I would recommend. Leave the yeast alone to do their work. You don't like people busting into the bathroom while you're taking a piss do ya? ;-)

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Old 01-13-2009, 03:23 PM   #6
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I wait a minimum of 10 days (if I'm going to transfer to a secondary (clearing vessel). I use a SANITIZED turkey baster (wine thief is better) to transfer sample into a container like the one in the video. I take my gravity reading then wait another 3 days to take another one. If I'm not going to transfer, I don't worry about taking a reading until I'm ready to transfer to the bottling bucket.
Yes, it is safe because you have a layer of co2 on top of your wort that acts as a security barrier. Whatever co2 escapes will be built back up once you put the lid back on.

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Old 01-13-2009, 03:39 PM   #7
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I'm the guy who just plunks the sanitized hydrometer into my fermentation bucket & takes the reading. To me - no sense to use the wine thief for that ( but I do use the wine thief when pulling a gravity reading in a glass carboy I use for Cider.) The idea of pulling a sample and setting up a "satellite" fermenter in a separate small container makes sense to me - but I have to admit I've never bothered to do it. Then again, I don't check for gravity 5 times a week from day 2 of fermentation...... I guess if you're trying to read gravity through the krausen you'd have problems with my method.

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Old 01-13-2009, 03:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M View Post
This whole idea of taking multiple readings is not something I would recommend. Leave the yeast alone to do their work. You don't like people busting into the bathroom while you're taking a piss do ya? ;-)
[/url]
Har Har Har.... No, I don't!

I have read about 900 posts where people are taking readings daily over a period of time, and it just seems like kinda a bad idea...hence my question.

Seems like the pro's here have a "don't molest your beer" philosophy. I'm doing the best I can to adopt this attitude, though I have this incredible urge to rack to secondary a beer that I promised I would leave in primary for atleast 2 weeks...I don't know even know why! just wanna see it and smell it I guess.
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Old 01-13-2009, 03:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by XXguy View Post
I'm the guy who just plunks the sanitized hydrometer into my fermentation bucket & takes the reading. To me - no sense to use the wine thief for that ( but I do use the wine thief when pulling a gravity reading in a glass carboy I use for Cider.) The idea of pulling a sample and setting up a "satellite" fermenter in a separate small container makes sense to me - but I have to admit I've never bothered to do it. Then again, I don't check for gravity 5 times a week from day 2 of fermentation...... I guess if you're trying to read gravity through the krausen you'd have problems with my method.
The brew in question right now has definitely laid down for a rest....but I think I'll let it sit on the yeast for another week for a little extra clean-up.
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Old 01-13-2009, 05:28 PM   #10
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The problem with the hobby is that it is extremely hands on until you pitch the yeast. At that point, it's pretty boring. People want to keep touching it so that it feels like they're being productive. We'll see a ton of questions like "when CAN I rack", or "when CAN I bottle". Notice the anxious tone there. The answer would likely be "you CAN rack/bottle when fermentation has ceased and that can be judge by a static gravity ready over the course of XX number of days".

I think the appropriate question is "when SHOULD I...". The answer is more likely somewhere between 1-2 weeks after active fermentation has stopped and all the krausen has fallen back into the beer. I don't take a gravity reading to find out when to keg it. I take it WHILE I'm kegging just for my record purposes. It's not like I can do anything at that point.

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