Taking hydrometer readings

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Turfmanbrad

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This is potentially a stupid question but before I mess anything up, I'm just gonna do a little CYA here. I'm fermenting my first non-mr beer batch in a 6 gal bucket now. To take my hydrometer readings from mr beer I just opened the spout and voila. Now I'm concerned about contamination and such. Im assuming it's fine to take the lid off to steal a sample, then do I just steal a bit using my transfer tube? Im only 4 days in, so I know I have time but I want everything set when it's time! Thanks in advance
Brad
 

unionrdr

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Did you take an OG before you pitched? You can use the siphon to take a hydrometer sample,but sanitize it 1st with some star-san. I just stick my auto siphon in my jug of star-san,& siphon into a small glass bowl to sanitize it before using. Then dump the bowl back into the jug & fire away.
 

Revvy

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With simple sanitization practices openning the fermenter to take a reading is perfectly safe. You won't spoil your beer.

This is what I use, and it works with both buckets and carboys.
I replaced the plastic one a year ago with an extra long stainless baster from a kitchen ware store and it is awesome. But the plastic one from any grocery store works fine.



And



Here's what I do....

1) With a spray bottle filled with starsan I spray the lid of my bucket, or the mouth of the carboy, including the bung. Then I spray my turkey baster inside and out with sanitize (or dunking it in a container of sanitizer).

2) Open fermenter.

3) Draw Sample

4) fill sample jar (usualy 2-3 turky baster draws

5)Spray bung or lid with sanitizer again

6) Close lid or bung

6) add hydrometer and take reading

It is less than 30 seconds from the time the lid is removed until it is closed again. More like 15 if you ask me.

Probably less if you have help. And unless a bird flies in your place and lets go with some poop, you should be okay.

ANd then you drink the sample....don't pour it back in....
 

unionrdr

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I dump the first OG sample back in all the time. But I clean & sanitize the hydrometer & tube. Not to mention the spout on the spigot as well. No problems. I know it's just wort,so back in it goes. After that,samples go down the hatch.
 
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Turfmanbrad

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Excellent. Turkey baster it is! Thanks for the sanitizing info too. Can't wait for a taste!
 

Revvy

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I always felt my theif leaked a lot, plus it was usually too foamy to take a good reading in, and I ended up trasferring it to a sampler jar anyway, so that's why I switched to a baster.
 

jsweet

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I find my thief leaks less than when I used a baster, and I find it way easier and faster to get a sample of sufficient size. I do always transfer it to another container, though.

In any case, the baster vs. wine thief thing can be added to the other 1001 things about brewing that come down to personal preference. I would say Revvy is in the minority in preferring a baster, from what I have seen -- but the takeaway is that there is certainly nothing wrong with just using a baster, and at least one very experienced brewer prefers it.

My recommendation would be to try it with a baster (assuming you've already got one on hand), and if you find it irritating then shell out for the wine thief. That's what I did -- because I found the baster irritating. But you may not, then you can save the ten bucks or so.
 

63belair

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I use the auto-siphon method already mentioned, but that is just because I don't have a good turkey baster at the moment. Once October/November rolls around I'll switch over to that method. Much easier to dry out the baster than the auto-siphon IMO.

EDIT: to add to the wine thief comments - whatever floats your boat. I like taking a sample in a graduated cylinder because it makes me feel like a mad scientist, and then you get to drink your sample when you're done. Also you don't have to deal with sanitizing (and possibly breaking) your hydrometer.
 

jsweet

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Also you don't have to deal with sanitizing (and possibly breaking) your hydrometer.
Slightly OT, but this is as good a time as any to remind people: Don't put your hydrometer directly in your fermenter! If your hydrometer breaks inside your wine thief or your graduated cylinder or whatever, then you have to buy a new hydrometer. If your hydrometer breaks in your fermenter, then you have to choose between dumping the whole batch or risking that you might drink broken glass.

There are a hundred and one legitimate ways of getting a sample, but putting the hydrometer straight into your fermenter is a really bad idea IMO. Some people do it, but.... I really wouldn't.
 

unionrdr

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+1. I just use the tube the hydrometer comes in. Good enough,& a lot safer. And never try to shake the hydrometer dry after cleaning/sanitizing. I broke my 1st one that way.
 

jsweet

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+1. I just use the tube the hydrometer comes in. Good enough,& a lot safer.
That's what I do too. I seem to remember somebody saying they heard you aren't "supposed to" do that, but I can't see why in the hell not. The only problem I've had is that sometimes it kinda gets caught on the side and then due to one of those funky liquid affects (adherence, I think?) it is hard to read accurately. But honestly, for me I don't really care if my hydrometer readings are off by a point -- the computed ABV is only an approximation anyway.

So my procedure is: Spray StarSan on the mouth of the carboy and on the butterknife I used to pry the cork if it gets stuck, spray StarSan inside and out on the wine thief, take the hydrometer out of the tube and set the tube where I can easily reach it, pop the cap, grab a sample with the thief, immediately transfer the sample to the hydrometer tube, spray the bottom of the airlock, and reclose. The beer is exposed to the air for maybe 30 seconds at most. After recording the gravity, I pour the sample into a rocks glass to evaluate color, clarity, etc., and then drink it.
 

unionrdr

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It's a little easier for me,since all my fermenters,& bottle bucket/secondary have spigots. Don't leave the LHBS without it.lolz. I just clean & sanitize the hydrometer & tube,along with the spout on the spigot. Fill tube & test. Then further oral/olfactory analysis...
 

jsweet

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It's a little easier for me,since all my fermenters,& bottle bucket/secondary have spigots. Don't leave the LHBS without it.lolz. I just clean & sanitize the hydrometer & tube,along with the spout on the spigot. Fill tube & test. Then further oral/olfactory analysis...
Out of curiosity, if you are taking the sample from the spigot, and you are drinking it afterwards, why do you sanitize the hydrometer?
 

unionrdr

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Mainly because I don't want any real nasties getting in my guts,& messin with the ol' Hershey highway. Explosive combo. :drunk: But I especially do it on the OG,since it's just wort,& nothing to be gained by drinking it.
 

choffon

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I feel it's just good practice to sanitize everything then u will never forget
 

jsweet

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Mainly because I don't want any real nasties getting in my guts,& messin with the ol' Hershey highway. Explosive combo. :drunk: But I especially do it on the OG,since it's just wort,& nothing to be gained by drinking it.
I still don't understand... when you go to drink the finished product, do you sanitize your pint glass before pouring the beer??? You only need to sanitize stuff that comes in contact with the beer IF said beer is going to be sitting around for awhile. If you are going to drink it in five minutes, then what's the difference between that and, you know, eating off of a plate? Do you spray StarSan on your silverware before dinner? :p

As to the OG sample, yeah, that makes sense... Of course, I like drinking wort anyway :) But I agree it really doesn't tell you jack about what the beer is going to taste like.
 

unionrdr

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You wouldn't drink out of a filthy glass,would you? You wouldn't eat off of a crusty plate,would you? Same thing here. It's going into your body,better safe that oh shnikeis!
 

BrewerinBR

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I may be just to much of newbie... but I only test ounce after I put it in the fermenter and that is just before I put it in the bottling bucket. Once the wort is cooled I take a sample for OG then pour it through a fine strainer into the carboy add air, pitch add air. Then Ales go to a cool (68F) dark room for 21 days. At day 21 I move it to a 58F room for 7 more days then I bottle it. Lagers, go to a 48 - 52 F room for 28 days, then chilled to 34F, racked to secondary and then back to 48 - 52 F for 28 more days. Then bottled, set at 70 for 7 days and then 28 days at 34. I normally check them once about 36 hours after pitching to make sure there is some evidence of krausen ... should I be testing more often? I thought the little yeasties would just do their stuff if I left them alone... like making bread; don't play with it, let the yeast do their thing and it will be just fine... also...

I know the styles all have the OG Range and the FG Range... but if I am not brewing to style or for ABV% but for taste and I have an OG of 1.054, and an FG of 1.016 is that bad? What would a good FG?

The beer is great, carbonated nicely, tasty, good color, head retention and mouth feel. Like the oatmeal stout I bottled several weeks ago, the style guide was just that a guide, a place to start... So am I a nut?
Thanks
George
 

jsweet

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You wouldn't drink out of a filthy glass,would you? You wouldn't eat off of a crusty plate,would you? Same thing here. It's going into your body,better safe that oh shnikeis!
Right, by the same token I wouldn't put a FILTHY hydrometer in a sample and then drink it... but sanitizing it? Really?

I repeat: Do you sanitize the pint glass you are about to pour your beer into? Do you sanitize your silverware before eating dinner? Maybe you do, hell, I dunno. :D

Not trying to pick on you, I guess I still just don't get it. Do what you want though, of course! :mug:
 

jsweet

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So am I a nut?
Nope, I don't think so. Some people don't even take hydrometer samples at all, at least on beers they've made before and so they are confident when fermentation is done. If you are giving the beer plenty of time to ferment, there's no real need to take a gravity reading (after all, people made beer for centuries without it, right?). The only risk is bottle bombs if the beer is not done fermenting, but if you give it enough time, that shouldn't be a real risk.

It's all personal preference. I like to know the approximate ABV, and I like tasting the hydrometer sample anyway. But if you don't care about that stuff, no reason to sweat it.
 

unionrdr

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Right, by the same token I wouldn't put a FILTHY hydrometer in a sample and then drink it... but sanitizing it? Really?

I repeat: Do you sanitize the pint glass you are about to pour your beer into? Do you sanitize your silverware before eating dinner? Maybe you do, hell, I dunno. :D

Not trying to pick on you, I guess I still just don't get it. Do what you want though, of course! :mug:
What do you think a dishwasher does with all that heat? Even dish soap is more than just grease cutters. You want the dirt & germs off of them,so they don't go inside you. Some give you the Hershey squirts,some make you sick,or worse.
When you clean eating/drinking vessels,you're removing that which bacteria & enzymes live on that make things rot eventually. Not all bacterium are good,or low impact. A few can even kill you.
Do you want that on something you eat/drink from?
 

BrewerinBR

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Nope, I don't think so. Some people don't even take hydrometer samples at all, at least on beers they've made before and so they are confident when fermentation is done. If you are giving the beer plenty of time to ferment, there's no real need to take a gravity reading (after all, people made beer for centuries without it, right?). The only risk is bottle bombs if the beer is not done fermenting, but if you give it enough time, that shouldn't be a real risk.

It's all personal preference. I like to know the approximate ABV, and I like tasting the hydrometer sample anyway. But if you don't care about that stuff, no reason to sweat it.
I normally only care about the OG and the FG ... and the reason is bottle bombs. The FG is supposed to tell me when fermentation is done but how do I know what the FG should be for the fermentation to be done? What is that based on? Yeast? Fermentables?
So I guess my question is:
What is the FG of beer "Y" with Yeast "X" and OG "A" ???
 

unionrdr

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Well,I've noticed that the higher the OG,the higher the FG,generally. So it's good to know the OG,so you have a better idea of what to expect for an FG.
Especially if you're on the OG doin it on the low low to prevent hassle from the SWMBO...:D
 

jsweet

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I normally only care about the OG and the FG ... and the reason is bottle bombs. The FG is supposed to tell me when fermentation is done but how do I know what the FG should be for the fermentation to be done? What is that based on? Yeast? Fermentables?
So I guess my question is:
What is the FG of beer "Y" with Yeast "X" and OG "A" ???
You can't answer that question reliably, because there are a hundred other factors that effect fermentation as well. Tiny variations in temperature, even half a degree, could affect your final gravity.

That's why the recommended procedure is to take two samples 2-3 days apart and confirm that they are the same. But if you are leaving the beer in the fermenter as long as you are, and your FG is at least reasonable, then I wouldn't lose sleep over it.
 

jsweet

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What do you think a dishwasher does with all that heat? Even dish soap is more than just grease cutters. You want the dirt & germs off of them,so they don't go inside you. Some give you the Hershey squirts,some make you sick,or worse.
When you clean eating/drinking vessels,you're removing that which bacteria & enzymes live on that make things rot eventually. Not all bacterium are good,or low impact. A few can even kill you.
Do you want that on something you eat/drink from?
Ever eaten off a dish that was washed by hand? I guarantee you it wasn't hot enough to kill bacteria. Some would be killed by the soap, but you ought to be cleaning your hydrometer the same way (the sanitizer won't help you if there is a sticky bit on there, even one too tiny to really see).

And do you insist that your dishes came straight out of the dishwasher before your meal? Cuz bacteria can land on them while they are in the cupboard. Even bacteria that can kill you! :p

Ever eaten a salad with uncooked veggies on it? That stuff was sitting OUTSIDE, in the rain, where animals could poop on it, and then all you did was rinse off the outside with some water, and maybe a weak cleaning solution if you are really thorough (which most people aren't). I 100% guarantee you that there are harmful bacteria in your salad -- it's just there are so little of them that your immune system promptly fights them off.

It just doesn't make any sense to me. If you would drink out of a pint glass that had been washed by hand but not sanitized, then I don't see why you would feel uncomfortable about using a hydrometer that had been washed but not sanitized. And if you are sanitizing it but not washing it, then you're actually in worse shape bacteria-wise than I am!

I'll leave it alone at this point. I'll just recommend, if that worries you at all, then every time you eat at a restaurant you should carry a spray bottle of StarSan with you....
 
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