# Super Confused

### Help Support Homebrew Talk:

##### Member
So I recently purchased a light refractor for testing my ABV in my mead. This last batch I made surprised me because it read 25%!

The issue is, when I drink the mead it doesn't affect me like a 25% should. (A full glass of this doesn't get me drunk and I should be wasted after a full glass)

There's alot of sediment still leftover in my batch. Is the sediment giving me a false reading?

#### bernardsmith

##### Well-Known Member
Hi OregonMEAD and welcome to this forum. If by "light refractor" you are referring to a refractometer this device can be used to measure the amount of sugar (not alcohol) in a liquid (water) - Let's call that liquid "juice". The moment that juice is mixed with any alcohol light refracts (bends) at a different angle as it passes through the liquid. In other words, while there are indeed calculators that can adjust for the percentage of alcohol in your liquid, simply using a refractometer moments after pitching the yeast without applying a set of quite complex formulae will give you a false reading.

The best use of a refractometer for the wine maker is to check the sugar content of fruit - which is to say so that you know how much (if any) sugar you will need to add to the juice (must) to raise the specific gravity (density) to the level you want/need to make a wine to the percentage ABV (alcohol by volume) you want.

The best tool for a wine maker to use to measure the approximate ABV is an hydrometer. Hydrometers measure the density of liquids where water is given a nominal density of 1.000 and water with dissolved sugars will be greater (you would look for something like 1.090 for juice for a wine and about 1.050 for juice for a cider and about the same or slightly less for wort for a beer.

Remember a refractometer measures the amount of sugar in a juice; an hydrometer measures the density of a liquid. And as the yeast ferment the sugars in your must (the juice) the density drops closer and closer to 1.000 and then drops (hopefully) a little below 1.000 because alcohol is less dense than water and when the hydrometer reads below 1.000 you know that there is no more sugar in solution so all you have is a mixture of water and alcohol with the flavors of the fruit or honey or flowers that the water and the alcohol have extracted. Hope that that helps.

#### Dan O

##### Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Hi OregonMEAD and welcome to this forum. If by "light refractor" you are referring to a refractometer this device can be used to measure the amount of sugar (not alcohol) in a liquid (water) - Let's call that liquid "juice". The moment that juice is mixed with any alcohol light refracts (bends) at a different angle as it passes through the liquid. In other words, while there are indeed calculators that can adjust for the percentage of alcohol in your liquid, simply using a refractometer moments after pitching the yeast without applying a set of quite complex formulae will give you a false reading.

The best use of a refractometer for the wine maker is to check the sugar content of fruit - which is to say so that you know how much (if any) sugar you will need to add to the juice (must) to raise the specific gravity (density) to the level you want/need to make a wine to the percentage ABV (alcohol by volume) you want.

The best tool for a wine maker to use to measure the approximate ABV is an hydrometer. Hydrometers measure the density of liquids where water is given a nominal density of 1.000 and water with dissolved sugars will be greater (you would look for something like 1.090 for juice for a wine and about 1.050 for juice for a cider and about the same or slightly less for wort for a beer.

Remember a refractometer measures the amount of sugar in a juice; an hydrometer measures the density of a liquid. And as the yeast ferment the sugars in your must (the juice) the density drops closer and closer to 1.000 and then drops (hopefully) a little below 1.000 because alcohol is less dense than water and when the hydrometer reads below 1.000 you know that there is no more sugar in solution so all you have is a mixture of water and alcohol with the flavors of the fruit or honey or flowers that the water and the alcohol have extracted. Hope that that helps.
Every day's a school day. Thank you
@bernardsmith. All the time I've been making mead, & I never knew what a refractometer did. THIS is why I love this forum.

#### bernardsmith

##### Well-Known Member
Refractometers are great for checking fruit to see how much sugar they contain. Unlike an hydrometer that might require - what? 10 fluid oz of juice, you can take a single berry and squeeze a drop or two of juice onto the glass plate and measure the sugar content through the way that liquid bends the light. If you are growing grapes for wine and you want to make sure not to harvest them before they have produced at least 20% sugar or more then you need to sample only a few grapes.. Same with raspberries or black currents, blue berries or strawberries (tho these other berries never produce that amount of sugar which is why we chaptalize country wines but rarely grape wines)

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
there are calculators to use to tell ABV. but you need to compare a refrac reading, to a hydrometer reading....

what was the BRIX reading you got? it'd be a safe bet that if the mead is done fermenting the SG would be around 0.995, i think.

OP
O

##### Member
Hi OregonMEAD and welcome to this forum. If by "light refractor" you are referring to a refractometer this device can be used to measure the amount of sugar (not alcohol) in a liquid (water) - Let's call that liquid "juice". The moment that juice is mixed with any alcohol light refracts (bends) at a different angle as it passes through the liquid. In other words, while there are indeed calculators that can adjust for the percentage of alcohol in your liquid, simply using a refractometer moments after pitching the yeast without applying a set of quite complex formulae will give you a false reading.

The best use of a refractometer for the wine maker is to check the sugar content of fruit - which is to say so that you know how much (if any) sugar you will need to add to the juice (must) to raise the specific gravity (density) to the level you want/need to make a wine to the percentage ABV (alcohol by volume) you want.

The best tool for a wine maker to use to measure the approximate ABV is an hydrometer. Hydrometers measure the density of liquids where water is given a nominal density of 1.000 and water with dissolved sugars will be greater (you would look for something like 1.090 for juice for a wine and about 1.050 for juice for a cider and about the same or slightly less for wort for a beer.

Remember a refractometer measures the amount of sugar in a juice; an hydrometer measures the density of a liquid. And as the yeast ferment the sugars in your must (the juice) the density drops closer and closer to 1.000 and then drops (hopefully) a little below 1.000 because alcohol is less dense than water and when the hydrometer reads below 1.000 you know that there is no more sugar in solution so all you have is a mixture of water and alcohol with the flavors of the fruit or honey or flowers that the water and the alcohol have extracted. Hope that that helps.
Thank you so much for this info. I'm still kind of new to this and bought the light refractor because it was advertised for being able to give you you're ABV! (It was never mentioned that you need to take multiple readings)

Follow up, my refractor doesn't have the 1.000 scale on the side, only the percentage on the side. Is there a perfect ratio from percentage to decimal reading to get accurate readings?

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
Doesn't it have BRIX %?

OP
O

##### Member
Doesn't it have BRIX %?
No it doesn't, just the percentage reading for sugar in the water

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
No it doesn't, just the percentage reading for sugar in the water

i believe that's BRIX? what does it read now with the mead?

if it's a typical mead, and at about 12%ABV...it would read somewhere around 8, if it finished dry anyway....

OP
O

##### Member
It's been 25% since the ending of my fermenting process

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
do you have a link for the type of refractometer your using? just for my curiosity?

and what was the recipe for this mead? i could punch it in and see about what you should have.....

#### bernardsmith

##### Well-Known Member
Alcohol in solution completely distorts the reading. Light bends at a specific angle when it passes through water and at a different angle when it passes through alcohol but any wine or spirit is never 100 percent ethanol. So there is a mixture of water AND alcohol and that mixture CHANGES as the amount of alcohol rises in relationship to the volume of water and so any sugar remaining would never be accurately indicated in any simple way.
But a refractometer that gives you a reading in percentage is not one I am familiar with . Who is the manufacturer?

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
i think you're using something like this?

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
But a refractometer that gives you a reading in percentage is not one I am familiar with . Who is the manufacturer?

i think they have a proof/trales refrac? more useful for distilling....i'm trying to find a calc to convert 25% v/v to what ever brix that would be.....not sure if it's possible though...

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
well i've been racking my head around this conundrum...i looked up the refractive index of alcohol solutions. then compared that too, refractive index of salt water, converted to BRIX....and a reading of 25% ABV on a ethanol refrac would give a BRIX of 10....and assuming a FG of 0.995...i get a ABV of 15.6%

and the OG would have been 1.112, or....let me punch in how much honey would get that...3lbs 4oz in a 1 gallon batch? sound about right?

OP
O

##### Member
do you have a link for the type of refractometer your using? just for my curiosity?

and what was the recipe for this mead? i could punch it in and see about what you should have.....
Ok sounds good. My must is a 1 gallon to 9 lbs. of honey ratio along with some apples.

OP
O

##### Member
i think you're using something like this?

Yep that's the exact one

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
wait? 9lbs in 1 gallon? that seems like it'd be pure honey?

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
what yeast did you use? i got for 9lbs honey dilluted with 1 gallon water, a 2 gallon batch with a og of 1.155....which would give you ~25% ABV, but no yeast can ferment it that high.....the most, most yeast can get up to is like 13-16%....

#### bracconiere

##### Jolly Alcoholic
HBT Supporter
Can you say, "Osmotic Shock"?
yes, but i didn't want too......lol (i learned about that back when i was poking at protein purification, need a strong sugar solution for the osmotic presure, so your enzymes don't break)

to @OregonMEAD how does it taste? is it sweet?

at this point, i think the only way to tell how much ABV it has is to buy a BRIX refrac, AND a hydrometer. test it with both, then punch it into a calc....

OP
O