Digital Hydrometer?

HomeBrewTalk.com - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Community.

Help Support Homebrew Talk:

waarhorse777

Active Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2014
Messages
36
Reaction score
2
Location
St Paul
Hey all,

I'm sure it's been asked but I'm having trouble finding an answer as I'm looking for a better way to measure. I've found out recently that a hydrometer and a graduated cylinder rely on your "point of view" as I had someone read measurements to me to record, where I went back and found a different reading later on. Has anyone heard of a digital alternative for measuring specific gravity? Is anyone using one they can recommend?
 

Nesto

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2012
Messages
74
Reaction score
7
Location
Danville
Refractometers are the alternative to hydrometers. Either an analog type:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AOCKWJI/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

Or a digital model:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007Z4IN58/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

Refractometers need calibration before use and may or may not be able to compensate for temperature. Although you can't directly measure fermenting wort or cider with low end refractometers like these, there are calculators (BeerSmith has one built in) that can determine gravity based on an initial reading (before fermentation) and a current reading. Refractometers usually measure Brix or Plato, although there are some that can directly display SG. Again, there are calculators to convert from Brix (Plato) to SG.


Check out my brewing blog... http://www.sycamorecreekbrewing.com/
 
Last edited by a moderator:

gregbathurst

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
1,148
Reaction score
106
Location
Australia
Another possibility is a precision hydrometer, same as a normal hydrometer but covers a smaller range and has better graduations. These are good for measuring the speed of fermentation if you are trying to cold crash.
 
OP
waarhorse777

waarhorse777

Active Member
Joined
Jun 24, 2014
Messages
36
Reaction score
2
Location
St Paul
https://www.thebeerbug.com/

I've only heard of one, and it ain't cheap. Sounds cool though.
Wow, that sure looks like fun. Has anyone spent the money on one of these and used it or know someone who has? I could see one of these on a 10 or 20 gallon carboy, (if they even exist), but as I'm brewing in 1 gallon vessels, I may have to pass on this investment.

Do refractometers have a higher level of precision than hydrometers?
 

Homercidal

Licensed Sensual Massage Therapist.
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2008
Messages
33,310
Reaction score
5,708
Location
Reed City, MI
Wow, that sure looks like fun. Has anyone spent the money on one of these and used it or know someone who has? I could see one of these on a 10 or 20 gallon carboy, (if they even exist), but as I'm brewing in 1 gallon vessels, I may have to pass on this investment.

Do refractometers have a higher level of precision than hydrometers?
Refractometers are generally about as easy to read, or *maybe* less so, depending on the model you have. Their main benefit is that they require a drop or two of wort, and can be used much more easily with hot wort because a small dropper of hot wort can be chilled to 70 in a few seconds, rather than several minutes for a hydrometer's measuring cylinder.

Their use after fermentation is questionable, but for me it's a moot point because at that point the beer is cooled and you can easily draw a cylinder of sample beer and drop in a hydrometer.

I don't fine either one particularly difficult. A precision hydrometer would be nice if you *really* needed to see a very small amount of change, but for most people that would be a bit anal retentive.

There isn't really a need to know fractions of gravity points in homebrewing.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,312
Reaction score
1,764
Location
Saratoga Springs
Hydrometers are not very accurate in and of themselves and our (often poor) ability to accurately read what they are showing makes them even less accurate BUT they are accurate enough if you are a home wine maker. What kind of accuracy are you looking for ... and why? If you get a reading of say 1.080 and it could be 1.078 or 1.082 then the difference is really quite small (does the wine or beer or mead or cider have a potential alcohol of 10.4% or 10.2% or 10.6% - could you taste that difference?) and if the issue is whether there is any residual sugar when you read the line as if it were at .996 but in fact it is closer to .995 or .997 is not really an issue if you age meads and ciders and wines as long as they should be to enable the flavors to come through and the sharp edges to smooth out. IMO, looking for a more accurate hydrometer is a bit like wanting an atomic clock because your analog watch is not accurate enough. Truth is it may not be accurate enough to measure a length of fiber optic cable by timing how long it takes a photon to cover the distance but it is accurate enough to catch a train, attend a meeting on time, and determine just when a poached egg will be ready to remove from the pan so that it is just the runny way your love likes it.
We don't really need to fetishize technology, do we?
 

ajdelange

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Aug 5, 2010
Messages
11,959
Reaction score
2,724
Location
McLean/Ogden
Yes, there are digital hydrometers e.g. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007Y9SNCW/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20. Anton Paar also makes laboratory models which are worth more than your car (well, more than my truck anyway). If you are doing research or proofing then you would need one of the latter (that's what TTB uses) but for most beer, cider and wine makers a set of narrow range hydrometers can be almost as accurate if properly cared for and properly read. I have found that such hydrometers can be read to better than 0.1 °P and that's good enough for most purposes.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

gregbathurst

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
1,148
Reaction score
106
Location
Australia
Precision hydrometers can be extremely useful for homebrewers is you are making a sweet cider by cold crashing and repeated racking. You need to know the exact speed of the fermentation, Claude Jolicoeur discusses this at length in his book.
 

bernardsmith

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2012
Messages
5,312
Reaction score
1,764
Location
Saratoga Springs
But methinks your average home cidermaker is not going to be monitoring a cider to ensure that it is dropping .01 of a gravity point a day.
 

gregbathurst

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2009
Messages
1,148
Reaction score
106
Location
Australia
Surely this forum isn't just for average cider makers? People go on a forum to improve their skills, hopefully rise above average.
 

ajdelange

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Aug 5, 2010
Messages
11,959
Reaction score
2,724
Location
McLean/Ogden
But methinks your average home cidermaker is not going to be monitoring a cider to ensure that it is dropping .01 of a gravity point a day.
As I indicated above the only place one is likely to care about 6 decimal places accuracy (which the DMA 5000 can do or 5.3 anyway) is in determining the true alcohol content of a fermented beverage. You do need that kind of accuracy to see down to and below a tenth of a percent ABV.
 
Top