How important is the hydrometer?

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tomek322

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I have one brew under my belt... didn't buy a hydrometer. I'm a big fan of the KISS principle in most things in life. My only fear is that it's just one more thing to freak out about.
 

Bobby_M

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It's a nice thing to have to know when fermentation is done and gives you an idea of how well it attenuated. You can use those numbers to calculate alcohol content. If you end up with a stuck fermentation, you wouldn't know otherwise. It's only a $5 item so pick one up with your next batch of ingredients.
 

homebrewer_99

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I don't care what anyone else thinks, but if you don't use a hydrometer --you're only guessing. You have no clue if your fermentation is stuck, your beer has more fermenting to do, whether or not it's done, or what your gravities are resulting in the calculation of your potential alcohol percentage. ;)

I put it on the same level as not making a starter. If you brew and toss the yeast in you can wait for days to find out the yeast is bad.

Making a starter and using a hydrometer takes the guess work out of your brewing experience. Period. :D
 

Whelk

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And it only takes a minute to use the hydrometer--of course, I -always- forget to check my OG.
 

pa-in-utah

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I need to check my gravity since I will be racking to the secondary. Not sure of the FG of my brew so any advice??

OG was 1.038-1.040. Yeast has anntenation of 74-78%. Brewing a Belgian WIT. Any advice?
 

chillHayze

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A hydrometer is good to have. Not necessary, but good to have. For instance, you could taste the beer when bottling and it it is still sweet and perhaps you did not notice much fermentation bubbling, you could have a stuck ferment.
On the other hand if your beer had a large percentage of higher kilned crystal or roasted malt and you read 1.020, you could speculate it is done.

I've had many beers over 1.020 but knowing that number gives the confidence to bottle knowing you will be bottle bomb free.

Especially in the beginning, use a hydrometer. Once you get your methods and tastes down you really won't need to. I still do just cuz I'm an engineer and have to see the numbers.
 

Brewsmith

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pa-in-utah said:
I need to check my gravity since I will be racking to the secondary. Not sure of the FG of my brew so any advice??

OG was 1.038-1.040. Yeast has anntenation of 74-78%. Brewing a Belgian WIT. Any advice?
FG should be somewhere near 1.008 to 1.010
 

loopmd

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tomek322 said:
I have one brew under my belt... didn't buy a hydrometer. I'm a big fan of the KISS principle in most things in life. My only fear is that it's just one more thing to freak out about.

I brewed my first 2 batches and took gravity readings and freaked out about them. That was 5 years ago. I can't tell you how many batches I've brewed without using one. It's all part of the hobby. Many like them and really get into using one. Some, like me could care less, and there are probably some that are in the middle somewhere. I've had a few stuck ferments, and repitched yeast or sometimes transferring to the secondary is just enough rattling around to get things going again. If you like the KISS method and part of the "simple" part is not using a hydrometer, then I say toss that worthless thing out and have some fun.


loop
 
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tomek322

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loopmd said:
I brewed my first 2 batches and took gravity readings and freaked out about them. That was 5 years ago. I can't tell you how many batches I've brewed without using one. It's all part of the hobby. Many like them and really get into using one. Some, like me could care less, and there are probably some that are in the middle somewhere. I've had a few stuck ferments, and repitched yeast or sometimes transferring to the secondary is just enough rattling around to get things going again. If you like the KISS method and part of the "simple" part is not using a hydrometer, then I say toss that worthless thing out and have some fun.


loop
I like your train of thought, got to assume the monks back in the day didn't have gravity readings either... they seemed to like what they produced. That said I think i'll get one, out of curiosity.
 

homebrewer_99

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pa-in-utah said:
I need to check my gravity since I will be racking to the secondary. Not sure of the FG of my brew so any advice??

OG was 1.038-1.040. Yeast has anntenation of 74-78%. Brewing a Belgian WIT. Any advice?
A good rule of thumb is to divide your OG by the attenuation (75% is about average), so 40/75%=10. When it's in the 1.010 range it's about finished.:D
 

BierMuncher

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Brewing beer without a hydrometer is like driving a car with cardboard over your windshield.

When you're handing out homebrews to your friends and they ask, "what's the alcohol % in this?"...what's the answer going to be?

When I'm on my 400th brew, I'll still want to know whether I ended up with a 3.5% session ale or a 6.2% night capper.
 

PUD

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yeah i'm a beginner and am still trying to read my hydrometer correctly.. all in all i feel like i have to use it. such a valuable tool! i'm also trying to figure out all the acronyms what is the KISS method??
 

Pumbaa

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BierMuncher said:
Brewing beer without a hydrometer is like driving a car with cardboard over your windshield.
and Run! Hide!! The sky is falling . . .

Hydrometers are more hassel then they are worth. Time and patence let ya know when your beer is done not farting around with a guage. About the only time I find using my even neccessary is if I want to check my effency cuz I may have screwed up my mash/sparge.

With that being said if ya really want to use one go for it, if ya dont thats fine too. And when your friends ask what the ABV is you can either reply with "It's ABOUT blah blah balh %(based on a guess)" -or- "how does it taste? cuz it's not about the ABV"

Stick your head out the window and enjoy the ride
 

Bobby_M

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tomek322 said:
I like your train of thought, got to assume the monks back in the day didn't have gravity readings either... they seemed to like what they produced. That said I think i'll get one, out of curiosity.
Monks don't drive cars either, care to give up yours?
 
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tomek322

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PUD said:
yeah i'm a beginner and am still trying to read my hydrometer correctly.. all in all i feel like i have to use it. such a valuable tool! i'm also trying to figure out all the acronyms what is the KISS method??
KISS isn't an acronym from this message board... It's been around for a while...

KISS= keet it simple stupid or stupid simple... i forget myself sometimes.
 

knipknup

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If you don't have a hydrometer, you might break something else instead - not good, get a hydrometer, you'd rather break it...

I typically use the bubble and clarity method - when the bubbles slow waaaaaay down and the beer is clear, time to keg. The hydrometer is my excuse to get a little taste:D
 

RichBrewer

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As far as I'm concerned, a hydrometer is a must. Recording the gravity of your brews will do a number of things for you.

It tells you if you hit your target OG. If you didn't measure it and it was off, how will you know? Your finished beer may not taste right and you will have no way of knowing if it was because you missed your target OG. This is critical for AG brewers because their mash efficiency can vary.

It can tell you where your beer finished. With this you can figure your alcohol content. You can also be sure the beer is actually finished and is not stuck.

If you brew the same recipe more than once and it comes out different, don't you want to know why? This it the whole purpose behind documenting your batches. Gravity readings are a very important part of this documentation.

If you try different yeast strains don't you want to know how they attenuated your beer? This is a huge contributor to the taste of the beer and you need to know this information if you are going to make your beer better.

Gravity readings along with all your other brewing notes are truly important to understand all the variables that affect the taste and enjoyment of your beer. I don't see the big deal. How hard is it really to check the gravity of your beer?
 

david_42

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I frequently leave the hydrometer & sample sitting next to the fermenter. It's fun to track the action. Since I leave ales in the fermenter for 3-4 weeks and then keg, completion isn't a concern, mostly. There are the occasional stuck batches & this method makes it easy to spot them early.

My latest was pitched on a yeast cake at noon yesterday (1.046). It's at 1.015, 20 hours later.
 

Pumbaa

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Dont get me wrong Hydrometers can be nice tools and yes they can tell you alot about the brew you are making BUT they are not neccessary. If you are extract brewing you know what your OG should be and as long as you can messure out 5 galloons you have no excuse not to hit your OG.

As for the stuck fermentation, whats the remedy for that? Agitate it and warm it up a touch to get your yesties working again . . . so rack it to a secondary and throw a shirt on it. Unless you are making a BIG beer I would have a hard time believeing your brew hasn't completely fermented in 3 weeks.

Get your mechanics down and master the basics. After that if you want to tweek your brewing and are interested in the things Richbrewer posted then by all means break out the hydrometer and have at it.

Having fun and enjoying your brew is the most important thing. If that means you use or dont use a hydrometer thats your choice.

Saying a hydrometer is neccessary to make good beer is equal to saying that you cant use bleach as a sanatizer, that Better Bottles are superior to glass carboys, and extract brewing is somehow less then all grain brewing.
 

boo boo

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Such a cheap and accurate tool. I never brew without one.

I can understand the KISS principle, but I also understand producing the same results, as much as we can replicate them, takes using a hydrometer.
 

Tophe

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My first few brews I never used one....Now I use it al the time. Its nice to know what your abv is, and if everything went as it was supposed to.

Buy a wine theif and then its really easy to pull samples to test it. That was my problem at first, it wasnt easy to pull a sample from a carboy, with the theif it is.
 

NYeric

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MY question is how do you know what the gravity is supposed to be? The whole hydrometer thing confuses me.

Even when you know that the OG is suposed to be lets say 40 and it isn't...What do you do? I am trying to understand all the nuts and bolts about this whole thing..haha even though all that matters is it tastes good
 

Whelk

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NYeric said:
MY question is how do you know what the gravity is supposed to be? The whole hydrometer thing confuses me.

Even when you know that the OG is suposed to be lets say 40 and it isn't...What do you do? I am trying to understand all the nuts and bolts about this whole thing..haha even though all that matters is it tastes good

If your OG is too low, you can add in extra fermentables. The easiest way to do that is to put in some priming sugar--you can have corn sugar make up almost 30% before you get a cidery taste, supposedly.
 

RichBrewer

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Whelk said:
If your OG is too low, you can add in extra fermentables. The easiest way to do that is to put in some priming sugar--you can have corn sugar make up almost 30% before you get a cidery taste, supposedly.
Or better yet, have some extra dried malt extract on hand. Boil it in some water for 15 minutes and cool before adding to the fermenter.
 

david_42

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knipknup - the cake was third generation, Mild, 3CPA, BRR. There was a LOT of yeast.
 

boo boo

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NYeric said:
MY question is how do you know what the gravity is supposed to be? The whole hydrometer thing confuses me.

Even when you know that the OG is suposed to be lets say 40 and it isn't...What do you do? I am trying to understand all the nuts and bolts about this whole thing..haha even though all that matters is it tastes good


Using your OG you then look to the attenuation of the yeast you selected to brew with. The attenuation will tell you how much percentage will be fermented.
If your og was 1040 and your attenuation is 75% then your fg should be 3/4 of your OG or 30 points. your FG will be 1010 give or take ideal fermentation and the amount of unfermentables making up your wort composition.
 
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