Refractometer vs. Hydrometer Pros and Cons - Home Brew Forums
Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > Refractometer vs. Hydrometer Pros and Cons

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 10-01-2012, 03:43 PM   #1
nicholaswebber13
Recipes 
 
Feb 2012
Clemson, SC
Posts: 20


Hi everyone,

I recently broke my trusty hydrometer and was wondering if I should upgrade to a refractometer or not. I was wondering what the pros and cons are of a refractometer. I know all about hydrometers but not refractometers. Can I use them for FG readings? Thanks for any help!

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 03:48 PM   #2
Cromwell
Recipes 
 
Aug 2011
Thousand Oaks, CA
Posts: 779
Liked 74 Times on 60 Posts


Some will say yes, some will say no for FG. You have to do a conversion - you can't read FG without adjusting for OG. But my experience is the conversion is pretty accurate. I love the refractometer. I use way less beer, it's much cleaner, and it's much easier. I take more readings during the brewing process to see where I am because it only uses a couple of drops.

Beersmith does the conversion for you in it's refractometer tool, so it's not a hard thing to do.
__________________
Primary: Beer / Secondary: Beer / Lagering: Old beer.

justin2001fox Likes This 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 03:53 PM   #3
two_hearted
Recipes 
 
Apr 2010
Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 2,251
Liked 192 Times on 155 Posts


Both. I use my refractometer several times through out the brew day. It is great for quick readings to make sure everything is going as planned. However, I always do an OG and FG measurement with my hydrometer too.

Refractometers are fast, simple, no need to bring down to calibrated temps. As mentioned above, they are not as great post fermentation and only a hydrometer will be accurate.
Hydrometers require calibrated temps, break easily and use more beer. They are trustworthy though, and always have a place in a brewers toolbox.

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 03:54 PM   #4
brycelarson
Recipes 
 
Jul 2012
Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 529
Liked 55 Times on 49 Posts


If you have the cash on hand - then yes, get one. It's vastly superior during the brewing process. You can grab tiny samples as you run wort and throughout your boil - no cool down time for your hydro.

Once I'm into fermentation - then the hydro is where I go. It gives me a sample to taste as well as FG readings without conversion.

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:26 PM   #5
rhamilton
Recipes 
 
Sep 2011
Austin, Texas
Posts: 1,249
Liked 66 Times on 54 Posts


A refractometer doesn't replace a hydrometer.

Use the refractometer for everything except the last FG reading -- use the hydrometer for that.

'Conversion factors' are not reliable.
__________________
On Deck: Cornucopia Oktoberfest
Primary: Centennial Blonde v2, Ed Wort's Kolsch
Secondary: none
Kegged: County Jail Pale Ale, AHS Anniv IPA, AHS Brooklyn Brown, Raspberry Wheat, Blood Orange Hefe, Ranger IPA clone (x2), Newcastle clone, AHS Irish Red, Centennial Blonde
Bottled: Session Series Belgian Saison, Apocalypso, Pecan Porter, DFH 90 Minute Clone, Apfelwein (x2), Wytchmaker Rye IPA Clone, Vienna/Simcoe SMaSH, Munich/Cascade SMaSH

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:28 PM   #6
smooth
HBT_LIFETIMESUPPORTER.png
 
smooth's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Sep 2012
near Rochester, NY, New York
Posts: 151
Liked 10 Times on 9 Posts


I use both.
Just bought an ebay refratometer, with atc.
I'm keeping records of both instruments now.
Looking ahead, I think I'll still use both.

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:31 PM   #7
Shooter
Almaigan Brewing Co.
HBT_LIFETIMESUPPORTER.png
 
Shooter's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Dec 2008
Dublin (No, not that Dublin)
Posts: 4,563
Liked 271 Times on 209 Posts


I use a refractometer for everything. I still have a hydrometer and never use it. I consider a converted FG close enough for my purposes.
__________________
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. - C. S. Lewis, English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 - 1963)

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:33 PM   #8
Homercidal
Licensed Sensual Massage Therapist.
HBT_MODERATOR.png
 
Homercidal's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Feb 2008
Reed City, MI
Posts: 30,632
Liked 4764 Times on 3216 Posts


Some say the refractometer is not accurate for FG readings, but my experience says Differently. Note that I haven't measured a really big beer with a refract. but my several head-to-head comparisons have always been dead on. Your results may not.

That said, you can save a ton of time by taking a very small pipette of wort and swirling the bulb in 60 degree water and taking a reading. Literally less than 1 minute. It's just way faster during the brewing process.

And if you can't, or don't, trust your refractometer for FG readings, you should still buy a hydrometer to have on hand anyway. They are cheap.

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:43 PM   #9
Yooper
Ale's What Cures You!
HBT_ADMIN.png
 
Yooper's Avatar
Recipes 
 
Jun 2006
UP of Michigan, Winter Texan
Posts: 69,201
Liked 7702 Times on 5413 Posts


Quote:
Originally Posted by Homercidal View Post
Some say the refractometer is not accurate for FG readings, but my experience says Differently. Note that I haven't measured a really big beer with a refract. but my several head-to-head comparisons have always been dead on. Your results may not.

That said, you can save a ton of time by taking a very small pipette of wort and swirling the bulb in 60 degree water and taking a reading. Literally less than 1 minute. It's just way faster during the brewing process.

And if you can't, or don't, trust your refractometer for FG readings, you should still buy a hydrometer to have on hand anyway. They are cheap.
In my experience, the refractometer is not accurate for FG readings. It'll tell you when the beer or wine is finished, in that it will not change, but even with the conversions I haven't had it all that accurate.

I use both. The refractometer on brewday, and the hydrometer on bottling/racking day.
__________________
Broken Leg Brewery
Giving beer a leg to stand on since 2006

 
Reply With Quote
Old 10-01-2012, 04:44 PM   #10
Golddiggie
HBT_SUPPORTER.png
Recipes 
 
Dec 2010
Posts: 11,995
Liked 491 Times on 427 Posts


Using a quality refractometer kicks ass. I have three now. Two cover the range I use for brewing beer (one up to 32 brix, in .2 increments, one up to 20 brix in .1 increments, and one up to ~60 brix for mead OG). These were not cheap though. The two for beer cost me about $100 each (they all have ATC). If you're looking to be cheap, then get a few hydrometers and check them for accuracy. There are enough threads about hydrometers not reading properly to warrant checking every one of them. For me, I'm good with using the software to offset the presence of alcohol (it will throw the reading off once fermentation starts) since I can use such a tiny amount for the reading sample. I use 4 dram vials to reserve wort, and finished beer, to get my readings. That's about 1/2 ounce in each vial, so 1 ounce from each batch for the OG and FG readings. As previously noted, it's accurate enough (with the software adjustment) for an OG, and even FG, reading, for me. I give my beers enough time to be finished, so I'm just checking to see what the numbers are before putting them on tap.

I've never broken my hydrometer, and still have the one that came with my original hardware kit. It sits in a closet now, unused for many batches. Not sure if I'll ever use it again, since it does require such a large (compared to a refractometer) sample to get a reading.
__________________
Hopping Tango Brewery

跟猴子比丟屎 ・ Gun HOE-tze bee DIO-se

On Tap: Caramel Ale, Mocha Porter II, MO SMaSH IPA
Waiting/Carbonating: 12.5% Wee Honey II, 8.9% Old Ale, English Brown Ale, Lickah ESB, Mocha Porter II
Fermenting
K1:
K2: Epic mead
K3: TripSix
On Deck: Caramel Ale
Aging:mead
Mead [bottled]:Oaked Wildflower Traditional, Mocha Madness, Blackberry Melomel, maple wine

 
Reply With Quote


Reply
Thread Tools


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
HERMS vs. RIMS (electric) Pros and Cons Bobby_M Equipment/Sanitation 58 07-24-2016 09:36 PM
Auto-Siphon Pros and Cons madewithchicken Equipment/Sanitation 47 11-13-2013 04:02 PM
Pros and cons of a Laser thermometer skyace00 Equipment/Sanitation 8 03-14-2012 11:32 PM
Sabco vs conical pros and cons help! JCTM Equipment/Sanitation 15 08-27-2011 03:26 PM
Conical or Tank fermenter... pros and cons Mirilis Equipment/Sanitation 14 06-04-2009 06:41 PM


Forum Jump