Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Fermentation & Yeast > Taking hydrometer readings from fermenter
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:06 PM   #1
jmelbye
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Default Taking hydrometer readings from fermenter

A common piece of advice on these forums is "use your hydrometer." So how do you guys do it? I only take a final reading when I've made up my mind it is time to bottle, and then I pour a sample out of my bottling bucket in between filling bottles. I've never had any surprises, so far so good, but I'm beginning to think this is something I should add to my practice.

I have a glass carboy and am worried about taking the airlock out and getting the beer infected. Do you drop the hydrometer in? Siphon some beer out?

Do you always take (at least) 2 readings, or if the first one is about what you are expecting do you stop there?

Cheers


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Old 05-18-2012, 11:18 PM   #2
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most people use a turkey baster to pull samples.. you can get away with 2 readings. one at start and one at finish.. most mine are done at 1.010 so if i take a reading and it there i consider it done.. some people like to take two final reading a day apart to be sure its not moving. ill be the first to admit i'm a bit of a lazy brewer tho


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Old 05-18-2012, 11:59 PM   #3
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I just used a sanitized turkey baster. Homebrew stores also carry wine thiefs, which are used to pull samples. Infection due to airborne spoilers are probably not a huge concern, just make sure any equipment that touches the product is properly sanitized. And it probably wouldn't hurt to work quickly.
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Old 05-19-2012, 12:59 AM   #4
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If your budget allows, these are the way to go.

Only takes a single drop of liquid.
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Old 05-19-2012, 02:54 AM   #5
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I usually just use a visual inspection with hydrometer readings at the start and finish (while bottling). Typically 2 -3 weeks with an ale yeast is plenty of time to see all stages of fermentation. Little to no airlock activity and no krausen after a few weeks is a good sign that fermentation is complete (no need to take several readings unless you have an itchy hydrometer finger).
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Old 05-19-2012, 03:04 AM   #6
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You'll get a feel of what goes into the fermentation process over time - but always trust your hydrometer. Measure your gravity BEFORE pitching yeast, do your temperature correction, and record it. Then your (typical gravity) beer ferment around 3 weeks (unless otherwise stated in the recipe for certain beers) and take another gravity reading. If you've hit your target, you're good. If not, try searching 'stuck beer fermentation'. You'll get a ton of discussion on the subject.
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Old 05-19-2012, 05:26 AM   #7
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I have been doing similar to what dankbeer says - take a reading before transferring to the primary and pitching the yeast, and take a reading while bottling. The second reading is for my records, but it is too late if some correction needs to be made - the beer is in my bottling bucket and the priming sugar has been added.

Regarding the priming sugar (corn sugar), I've seen it quoted around 37 ppg. I buy 5oz packets and add that to a 5 gallon batch (ignoring the extra 2 cups of water the priming sugar is dissolved in). If math serves me right, that adds:
37 points / pound / gallon * (5 / 16) pounds / 5 gallons = 2.3125 points which is more than I realized.

So if my last recipe had a FG of 1.014 while I was bottling (after the addition of priming sugar), the gravity before adding the sugar would have been around 1.012.

I appreciate the replies. I don't currently have a turkey baster to pull a sample out of my carboy, but those look cheap enough. But that refractometer looks pretty slick...
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Old 05-19-2012, 02:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmelbye View Post
I have been doing similar to what dankbeer says - take a reading before transferring to the primary and pitching the yeast, and take a reading while bottling
IMO, both of these are poor times to take readings, if they are your only readings - depending on your process.

If you take your initial reading before the wort is in the primary, how are you aerating and properly mixing it for the hydrometer?

If you waiting until you are bottling to take a FG reading, what if it's not done or got stuck?

For my process, I chill the wort, pour into my primary, aerate very well, then immediately take my OG reading. I take a FG reading sometime around 3 weeks, depending on the brew - and IF it's done, I will consider bottling.

Maybe I misunderstood your post, but if not - I suggest giving it a second look.
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Old 05-19-2012, 03:06 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sulli
If your budget allows, these are the way to go.

Only takes a single drop of liquid.
This is only good for SG or OG. This does not work after alcohol its present. Well it does but not without a excel calculation that is a PITA
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Old 05-19-2012, 03:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NineMilBill View Post
If you take your initial reading before the wort is in the primary, how are you aerating and properly mixing it for the hydrometer?
I had not given the effect of aeration on the gravity reading much thought. My beer goes from my kettle into my bucket with spigot. I believe it gets a lot of air in that transfer. I slow the pour down at the end to try and leave the gunk that fell to the bottom of the kettle behind. Then I open the spigot and transfer the wort into the fermenter. I position the fermenter so that the hose coming out of the bucket is only about 3 inches into the carboy, to get some good splashing. Before it gets to heavy, I'll give it a couple shakes too.

What is the effect of aeration on the gravity? Would I tend to get higher gravity readings if I took my sample from the carboy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by NineMilBill View Post
If you waiting until you are bottling to take a FG reading, what if it's not done or got stuck?
I agree, and that's why I'm asking how you guys typically take your readings. I have not had any stuck fermentations yet. I'm limited in space and supplies (1br city apartment brewing) so I'm pretty much confined to ales around 1.04-1.06 starting gravity. Typically my beers are in the 1.045 - 1.055 range.

I've not made a practice of taking readings from the primary because I don't have a good way to get a sample out. A turkey baster seems easy enough, provided it reaches far enough. Even though you need a larger sample, I think I like that more than the refractometer because in addition to being cheap, it allows me to taste and smell the beer.


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