Hydrometers stink!

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Calvinfan1

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My frustration with hydrometers continues to grow. I know there has to be a better and more accurate way to take an original and final gravity reading. What are you using?:confused:
 

Revvy

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Hydrometer.....Sorry, It's the only tool that can take both an original and final gravity...Even if you get a refractometer to take OG...you still need to use the hydrometer for FG...

The only other option is not to take readings...or knucking under and learn to read it...it ain't hard, nor is it that frustrating, it just is another part of the brewing process we master...

I used to use the wine theif and put the hydro in there...but I had trouble reading it, now I use one of those testing cylinders instead. I drain the theif into the cylinder (or use a sanitized turkey baster) then drop the hydro in, and let it set for a few minutes, before grabbing my "cheaters" so I can read the damn numbers, with my eyes.
 

MX1

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I understamd the frustration, I really do.

I had to learn to use a Hydrometer while working for a Petro/Chem inspection company. Large sums of $$$ were exchanged on our testing of the products, and the hydro reading was just one test.

I shudder when I think about how many millions may have been made or lost becasue I used the wrong hydro.

Tim
 

Seawolfe

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What problems are you having? I will say - buying a clear cylinder to float the hydrometer in has helped a lot (rather than using the tube that the hydrometer came in). Heck - Ive been using an el cheapo $0.99 hydrometer that only measures brix and potential alcohol with a big red "bottle here" line :eek: It does the trick with the right on-line calculators.
 

beerthirty

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Here are a few tips for using your hydrometer. get a dedicated test cylinder, that way you know the volume and how much wort you really need to use and you wont knock the bottom out of the hydrometer case when you drop it in(this happened to me on my third batch, broke the hydrometer couldn't take my reading and had the mess to clean up). As you release the hydrometer into the cylinder give it a good spin, this will dislodge any bubbles sticking to it ,when it comes to a stop you can get an accurate reading. Take the reading as close to 60 degrees as possible, this reduces the math needed to convert it to an accurate reading. Hope this helps.

OH: nice avatar! I guess its time to change mine anyway.
 

Moonpile

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I'd just like to offer a few tips towards getting the best reading from a hydro.

First, get a sample tube that stands on its own, instead of using the tube it came in, which doesn't stand and is too narrow. A wider tube keeps the hydrometer from getting stuck to the side as easily. I got a stand up tube ages ago and that really helped. It developed cracks in it earlier this year, so I got a new one and was kind of upset about it being much wider since I didn't want to waste any more beer. When I actually used it though I saw that it was even easier than the tube I'd had for so long.

Second, get a hydro with thermometer.

Third, after filling the sample tube let the whole thing sit for at least 10 min. Maybe bump the hydrometer a few times. This degasses the sample, keeping the hydro from being rendered more boyant from gas bubbles on the side of it. It also allows the thermo to get a good reading.

Fourth, read it in an area with good light and spin the hydro, reading it when it stops bobbing from the bottom of the meniscus (unless you COMPLETELY fill and overflow your tube, in which case you can read from the top).

Personally, I know I'll probably eventually get a refractometer, but there's a lot of other things I could spend money on and a hydro does the job just fine. Besides, my friends and I always enjoy drinking the sample at all the different stages, which I think is really important to understanding the beer we're making.
 

ajf

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For the OG, I use a refractometer. For the FG, I use an hydrometer. You could use an ebulliometer and some math to get the FG, but this will cost you major bucks. There are also other methods involving distillation and titration, but that is much more of a pain than using the hydrometer.
There are two ways I am aware of that make the hydrometer easier to use.
1. When taking a reading, take a photograph with a digital camera, download it onto the PC and enlarge it so that you can actually see the markings.
2. Get a finishing hydrometer that has a smaller range, but a larger distance between the graduations, making it much easier to read. Downside to this is that they usually require a much larger sample. Mine needs a whole pint.
Now if only somebody would produce an hydrometer like I had back in the 1970's. It had a triangular cross section, and wouldn't roll off the counter and fall on the floor when you put it down.

-a.
 

WBC

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One of the points most people miss is accurate volumes. If you test your wort without knowing that the volume you have is actually that volume then the reading is flawed so no matter how accurately you read the hydrometer.

When taking hydrometer readings 4 things have to be accurate.

  • Calibration of the hydrometer
  • Volume of the wort
  • Temperature of the wort plus correction if not at the calibration temperature (testing at calibration temperature is best)
  • Accuracy of the reading
 

Moonpile

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One of the points most people miss is accurate volumes. If you test your wort without knowing that the volume you have is actually that volume then the reading is flawed so no matter how accurately you read the hydrometer.

When taking hydrometer readings 4 things have to be accurate.

  • Calibration of the hydrometer
  • Volume of the wort
  • Temperature of the wort plus correction if not at the calibration temperature (testing at calibration temperature is best)
  • Accuracy of the reading
Actually, if all you want to know is the Specific Gravity of your sample, then the volume is irrelevant. If you want to use that value to calculate efficiency or to figure out how much water to use to dilute to a certain SG, then, yes, you need an accurate volume.
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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The only reason I use a hydrometer these days is so that I have an excuse to use some of the beer and taste a bit more afterwards.
 
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Calvinfan1

Calvinfan1

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What problems are you having? I will say - buying a clear cylinder to float the hydrometer in has helped a lot (rather than using the tube that the hydrometer came in). Heck - Ive been using an el cheapo $0.99 hydrometer that only measures brix and potential alcohol with a big red "bottle here" line :eek: It does the trick with the right on-line calculators.
I guess the biggest problem is that it seems to always stick to the side of the thief. I've tried using various amounts of a sample, I spin it, etc. etc. but the readings seem to bounce all over the place. Now the hydrometers have wider bases which seem to only increase the problem.
 
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Calvinfan1

Calvinfan1

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Hey Bobby!

Great video!!! Did I miss the part where you explained how you come up with the calibration temperature??
 

Laughing_Gnome_Invisible

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I guess the biggest problem is that it seems to always stick to the side of the thief. I've tried using various amounts of a sample, I spin it, etc. etc. but the readings seem to bounce all over the place. Now the hydrometers have wider bases which seem to only increase the problem.
Try to find a dead level surface, or adjust the base by putting card under it on one side until you find a level.
 

Seawolfe

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I've never tried it in a thief. You might have better luck with a cylinder.
 

Revvy

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Actually, if all you want to know is the Specific Gravity of your sample, then the volume is irrelevant. If you want to use that value to calculate efficiency or to figure out how much water to use to dilute to a certain SG, then, yes, you need an accurate volume.
+1 on this...volume is NOT necessary for specific gravity simply to know where your wort is at and the ABV...
 

Rick500

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Just stick a thermometer in there to find the temp. Google search for "hydrometer temperature calibration" for the actual numbers to add(/subtract) if your hydrometer didn't come with a chart.

Btw, I picked up a great hydrometer test cylinder a week or so ago for three bucks. I was helping some friends pick up some furniture from Ikea, and they had flower vases there that are just about perfect, other than not being deep enough for my hydrometer to read below about 1.009.

http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10067655

 

zoebisch01

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And as always, not all Hydrometers are calibrated at 68F, a good deal are at 60F.
 

truckmann

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And not all hydrometers are calibrated to read at the bottom of the meniscus. Mine is calibrated to 68F and to be read at the upper meniscus.

Moral of the story---Read the instructions that came with the hydrometer. :)
 

Bobby_M

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I have two. One is for a salt water aquarium which is calibrated at 68 and the one you see in the video is calibrated for 60F. It's written in small print on the paper scale inside the tube.
 

WBC

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Moonpile,
Actually, if all you want to know is the Specific Gravity of your sample, then the volume is irrelevant. If you want to use that value to calculate efficiency or to figure out how much water to use to dilute to a certain SG, then, yes, you need an accurate volume.
You are correct. :)

The whole point of my response was that even though you take a reading of the wort if you then use volumes that are not correct you will get false OG, FG For alcohol or efficiency calculations. What would be any other point of taking a reading anyway?

Edit: You do not need to know volume for alcohol calculations.
 

rdbeer

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Mine reads 1.006 in distilled water at the calibration temperature. I've had only one hydrometer out of 4 that has worked correctly and been accurate. The others were leaked, were cracked, or were way off. Of course I broke the one that worked like it was supposed to :(
Dirk
 

WBC

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I only use mine after I brew to see the reading after cooling and treat it like it was the last one in the world. I made a box that I keep it in so it won't get cracked and only use it in the Hydo tube, wash and dry and put it back in there. If you leave it laying around then all bets are off.
 

stonenic

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Moonpile,


You are correct. :)

The whole point of my response was that even though you take a reading of the wort if you then use volumes that are not correct you will get false OG, FG For alcohol or efficiency calculations. What would be any other point of taking a reading anyway?

I've always just used ABV = (OG-FG) x 105 x 1.25 I've never used any volumes. How are you calculating your ABV?
 

camiller

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IIRC There was a BYO article awhile back with a method of calculating SG by weighing a sample. You did need a pretty precise volume though. I'll have to root around my back issues.
 

WBC

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I've always just used ABV = (OG-FG) x 105 x 1.25 I've never used any volumes. How are you calculating your ABV?
Ok you got me. I guess I got a little too excited. You don't need volume for alcohol, I stand corrected but you sure do for efficiency calculations.

Brewhouse efficiency.gif
 

jchadscud

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Drop it in the cylinder and get as close of a reading as you can. 1.054 when it is really 1.056 isn't going to cause the world to implode.

Believe me, I strive for perfection as a member of the OCD club. I'm just not going to let a small rolled up piece of paper and a glass tube rob me of the joys of brewing.
 

HellenicHomeBrewer

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Since this was the closest thread to address the problem I've been having, but is there anyway to help avoid/prevent the hydrometer from sticking to the sides? I use Fermtech's wine thief and the last couple of batches i have been having this issue.

Thoughts? Ideas as to how to prevent this? (I give it a great spin as i'm placing the hydrometer)
 

HellenicHomeBrewer

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I know threads cycle quickly here, just a little TTT during the day..



Since this was the closest thread to address the problem I've been having, but is there anyway to help avoid/prevent the hydrometer from sticking to the sides? I use Fermtech's wine thief and the last couple of batches i have been having this issue.

Thoughts? Ideas as to how to prevent this? (I give it a great spin as i'm placing the hydrometer)
 
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Since this was the closest thread to address the problem I've been having, but is there anyway to help avoid/prevent the hydrometer from sticking to the sides? I use Fermtech's wine thief and the last couple of batches i have been having this issue.

Thoughts? Ideas as to how to prevent this? (I give it a great spin as i'm placing the hydrometer)
You could invest $2.95 in a hydrometer test jar. They have a larger diameter than the wine thief and therefore less tendency for the hydrometer to stick to the sides. One more thing to wash and uses a couple more ounces to fill but worth it IMHO.
 
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