Hydrometer optional?

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histo320

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Yesterday I bought "How to Brew." I love HbT but if I would have bought that book several months ago I probably wouldn't even be here and wouldn't be bothering all of you seasoned brewers.

I came across one thing in the book I am unsure of. It said that a hydrometer was 'optional.' I thought it was a necessity but I guess if you think about everything but the kettle and fermenter would technically be considered optional.
 

xbabyboy4021x

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its not really REQUIRED as long as you wait long enough to be absoultely sure that it is done fermenting, i suppose they probably say its optional because if you follow exactly how they tell you to brew it you should be fine but you should definately have one if you really want to be precise about your beers
 

ChshreCat

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Not required until you bottle up a stuck fermentation and bottles start exploding. :D

+1 on that.

You can operate a car without wearing the seat belt, and as long as nothing goes wrong you'll be fine. The that one day sneaks up on ya...
 

Revvy

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Read this...it will give you an idea why, especially starting out a hydrometer should be considered a necessity...if anything it prevents the starting of "stuck fermentation" or "is my beer ruined" threads...

Revvy's Blog-Think Evaluation Before Action

It's your choice but it is the only way besides a refractometer (which pretty much does the same thing) of being able to tell how your beer is doing...

+1 to the cat for his car analogy!!!!

At the minimum it helps you know how strong your beer is....
 
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histo320

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I have always used one just to be safe but thought it was funny that it says optional. I'm not the most precise person because I'm not particularly knowledgeable about some aspects of beer making such as hop utilization, attenuation, etc., but the first thing most of my friends ask is "How much alcohol is in this one?"
 

HOOTER

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Some people never use them. Some people use them constantly, checking gravity multiple times on a single batch. I'm somewhere in the middle. I rarely, if ever, check original gravity. It's easy to calculate within a couple points and getting an accurate OG reading can be tough. Usually I check gravity when I rack, and then again when I bottle, both of which are the same. This method works for me and I have yet to have a bottle bomb. If you treat your yeast properly by rehydrating/making a starter, fermenting at the proper temps and giving the yeasties the time they need to do their job the likelihood of bottle bombs is extremely slim.
 

carnevoodoo

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I have always used one just to be safe but thought it was funny that it says optional. I'm not the most precise person because I'm not particularly knowledgeable about some aspects of beer making such as hop utilization, attenuation, etc., but the first thing most of my friends ask is "How much alcohol is in this one?"

Yeah. Can't tell how much alcohol is in it if you don't measure! Also, you may not be fully versed on things like attenuation, but as you continue to improve your processes and really work at making better beer, it is a good thing to have notes. You can always look back at your successes and failures and eventually realize what contributes to them.

I know a lot of people make beer that is good enough for them, but I see this as a craft. The more you hone your skills, the more you know, the better you get. There's some science and experimentation involved, but that's all part of the fun.
 

malkore

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Not required until you bottle up a stuck fermentation and bottles start exploding. :D

Been there.

Done that.

Hated it!


Sure you can make good beer w/out one...but reproducing good beer over and over is a science. Your oven has temperatures not "warm, hot" settings...to improve reproducable results via accurate methods.
 

Grinder12000

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it's the difference between making drinkable brews and very good brews! So yea - it's sort of optional but . . . .
 

HOOTER

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it's the difference between making drinkable brews and very good brews!

You can make drinkable (or not so drinkable) brews with a hydrometer, and you can make very good brews without. The problem with not using a hydrometer is that you really don't know for sure what your making until it's done, or until your bottles blow. Part of making good beer is knowing what the yeast are up to and getting the timing right. A hydrometer will make this happen. Can you make amazing beer without a hydrometer? Without a doubt, but why take the chance?
 

eschatz

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You can get by without it technically and make good beer if you're doing extract. Any of us that AG know it's impossible to live without it. :mug:
 

flyangler18

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Can you make a satisfactorily drinkable beer sans hydrometer or refractometer- yes.
Do you have any means of extracting data about the ferment without either tool - no.

Both instruments get used all the time in my brewhouse - but I've be known to leave the hydrometer aside on a single recipe. I've brewed my March Brown Mild so many times, I know what to expect from the yeast and the grain bill and my system and can recognize the signs when the beer has reached FG.

Some comments,
Jason
 

Baldy_Beer_Brewery

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I'll measure before pitching my yeast to see how far off or how close to target I am at that point. But that's about it.
 

mw20

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At first I thought I didn't need to use mine. I just gave my beers plenty of time in primary. I've never had a bottle bomb or gusher. But when I learned what gravity readings were actually telling me about my beer and it's progress, I started using it every time. I check my gravity for all grain batches preboil to check my mash and lauter effiency and I can correct if necessary. I now am doing just a couple of recipes over and over again and I want to be able to reproduce these beers. You can't do that without keeping records of your process and readings.
 

DougBrew

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I usually don't bother with extract batches. Patience Patience Patience is my approach. However, brewing AG....totally different.
 

Figbash

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People were brewing beer thousands of years before the hydrometer was invented. And there is no reason why you can't brew without one now. Use a brewing calculator, measure carefully and maintain consistent brewing practices and you'll do just fine without one. As for the infamous bottle bombs, I've been brewing sans hydrometer for more than three years and have yet to experience one.

I do plan on going all grain this summer and since it involves many more variables than with extracts I'll probably dust mine off, at least for the steep part of the learning curve.

Tom
 

Nurmey

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The point isn't that you can't brew without an hydrometer, the point is why would you?

Until fairly recently (in the grand scheme of things) brewing was hit and miss at best. We know how to do it consistently with the right tools so it seems silly to do it without.
 
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