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Hydrometer Reading Best Practices?

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HB92649

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Hopefully this isn't a redundant topic... I searched many a "hydrometer" variation but got waaaaay too many threads to get an answer in a single evening of internet use.

First batch went in the fermenter yesterday and although I remembered to get a hydrometer reading, I had to pull it off the bucket spigot because I didn't have a clean device with which to transfer the wort to the hydrometer for a reading... Needless to say @ 1.060 OG for a light ale (extract partial brew), I'm pretty sure my reading was bunk.

So here is my curiosity:

What is the best technique/practice for grabbing samples? (equipment, where in the bucket the sample is taken from, preparation & sanitation, etc)

Extract kit I used didn't have OG/FG targets, is there someplace I can find a consolidated list of expected targets based on the recipe?

Thanks for the help!
 

shauntraxler

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Brewing software like Beer Smith of ProMash will help with expected gravities...

Original samples should be taken from WELL mixed (if not doing a full boil) full volume brews and taken PRE-PITCH.

Once fermentation begins, samples can be taken from anywhere in the bucket and you'll get a fairly accurate reading.

What was the recipe?
 

C-Rider

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Hopefully this isn't a redundant topic... I searched many a "hydrometer" variation but got waaaaay too many threads to get an answer in a single evening of internet use.

First batch went in the fermenter yesterday and although I remembered to get a hydrometer reading, I had to pull it off the bucket spigot because I didn't have a clean device with which to transfer the wort to the hydrometer for a reading... Needless to say @ 1.060 OG for a light ale (extract partial brew), I'm pretty sure my reading was bunk.

So here is my curiosity:

What is the best technique/practice for grabbing samples? (equipment, where in the bucket the sample is taken from, preparation & sanitation, etc)

Extract kit I used didn't have OG/FG targets, is there someplace I can find a consolidated list of expected targets based on the recipe?

Thanks for the help!
Get a turkey baister from WalMart to take samples, and go deep into the bucket, try not to touch the sides of the bucket or your hydrometer tube.
 

Changeduser123

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I am very happy with my thief. Make sure to sanitize it by filling it up with your favorite sanitizing solution, and also spray the outside. Then insert your sanitized hydrometer in it, and you can dip the whole thing in your bucket/carboy to take a reading. Once your are done, press the end tip of the thief against the wall of your fermenter to release the sample.
 

jsweet

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I've used both a baster and a thief, and I find the thief waaaay easier. But there are also some very experienced brewers (e.g. Revvy) who still prefer a baster. And here ETOHunboard here says he/she uses the autosiphon. Find what works for you (though my endorsement is for the wine thief).

The only way in which I differ from "dittoing" everybody else is that I am not crazy about returning the sample to the fermenter. If you sanitized it properly, and your hydrometer is sanitized and all that, it should be fine, but... it just makes me nervous. My process is to transfer it from the sanitized wine thief to the (unsanitized) hydrometer tube, set that aside while I seal everything back up, and then I take the sample upstairs and can do the reading at my leisure, without also having to sanitize the hydrometer. The benefit for me is threefold: 1) I get the fermenter closed again in the minimum amount of time possible, 2) there's less to sanitize (and therefore less to screw up, in addition to being less work), and 3) I like tasting the sample anyway, as sometimes that can sometimes be as useful as a gravity reading in determining what to do next.

Even if you took, say, four or five readings over the course of fermentation, that's maybe going to amount to one beer's worth. I'm not worried about it.
 

jeagle1957

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I have noticed not one person of the posts I have read says anything about the temperature of the sample taken

Why? Does nobody remember Galileo?
 

jamorgan3777

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Best way to sample and read a hydrometer is to get pitch it and get a refractometer. For ~$30 you will wonder why you ever fiddled with that stupid contraption...
 

DaWhip

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Best way to sample and read a hydrometer is to get pitch it and get a refractometer. For ~$30 you will wonder why you ever fiddled with that stupid contraption...
I use my refractometer religiously...to confirm my hydrometer readings. I trust it 100% on the hot side, but not on the cold side. I have my wort correction factor dialed in for it and use the calculators available to adjust on the cold side, but I still never feel good about it until the hydrometer is floating at the right SG to confirm end of fermentation. The refractometer is a great tool for monitoring, but not for confirming anything about a finished brew, IMO. While I do think I can be trained to trust the refractomoter eventually, it is not a suggestion I would make to a beginning homebrewer. If you are concerned about taking accurate hydrometer readings, you definitely cannot take accurate refractometer readings.
 

Northbank

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Running the risk of giving you an answer to a question you are not answering, if you measure your water exactly, and put in the right amount of extract called for in the recipe you will almost certainly hit the OG specified by the recipe. Especially if you are using top up water. A refractometer is nice for the OG as well but with extract it might be a bit redundant.

As for later on, beer thief .... it always seems so wasteful so I wait for a couple of weeks unless something seems off before I start check to see where things have finished as I am setting up to bottle. One sample. Less chance of contamination, less beer lost.
 

petrolSpice

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If you took the sample from a spigot at the bottom of the fermenter it may have had a lot of trub which will artificially increase the SG reading.
 

sky4meplease

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I take my OG reading directly from the boil kettle after the wort is cooled before transfer to the fermentor.
If your fermenting in buckets and topping up with water you can drop the hydrometer right into the bucket assuming the wort is homogenized. I do this for FG readings as well.
If your in glass or something with a narrow mouth the thief is a good method or tie off the hydrometer with dental floss or thread and you can drop it in and pull it out without any gadgets or loss of liquid.
 

TomVA

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I just sanitize a one cup steel measuring cup and dip it into the wort right before pitching the yeast. This way I don't have to sanitize the hydrometer or the test cylinder and can taste the wort. I test it again after three weeks in primary, then I rouse the yeast and move the fermenting bucket to the kitchen at 70°F in the position I will bottle from. There I let it sit for another week, test again and bottle.

TomVA
 

RTL

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Make sure you are taking the temperature, as mentioned previously, then use the calculator here:

http://www.brewersfriend.com/hydrometer-temp/

Also all the advice on mixing well with extracts should not be taken lightly. Recall that you are taking relative density measurements but the barometric pressure will play a small role as well. I live at 4500ft and with my hydrometer presumably calibrated at sea level I noticed my offset is about 2 points. Could be due to the pressure or just the relative error in the calibration. Either way use a sample jar of distilled water, along with the temperature correction to ensure that you read 0, if not you need to add or subtract the delta from each measurement. Someone mentioned sediment in the bottom too that is another good thing to watch out for. Best case would be to avoid it entirely, but if its the only sample you took your next best bet would be to stir it up to ensure the greatest homogeneity possible.
 
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