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Tilt Bluetooth Hydrometer Detailed Review

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micraftbeer

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I just finished my hands-on review of the Tilt Bluetooth Hydrometer. This wireless baby drops into your fermentor and then broadcasts Specific Gravity and temperature readings over Bluetooth to an App running on your smartphone or a tablet. I tried this out just from the "cool tech" perspective, but it's even better than I expected.

It opens up a whole new realm of fermentation control. If you're someone that controls your fermentation temperature, you'd love to have this data. You can use it to track trends in your gravity and figure out when is a good time to bump up the temperature to prevent fermentation from stalling out, or know when things are done. So you're not sitting there counting airlock bubbles when your fermentation has finished and you could be kegging it!

Let me know if you have any questions that aren't covered in the review.

http://www.homebrewfinds.com/2018/02/hands-on-review-tilt-bluetooth-fermentation-hydrometer.html
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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If you're controlling fermentation temperature, you need one of these. Otherwise you're sort of flying blind. I never realized how incomplete my process was without having these gravity trend curves. I'm hooked.
 

day_trippr

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Not sure why there'd be any advantage over a temperature controller monitoring wort temperature and run against a trusted schedule...

Cheers!
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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I've been using temperature control on fermentation for some time now, with a few different systems. I'd start near the low end, and try to "creep up" on the start of fermentation. Then based on bubble activity in the airlock, ramp up temperature when things started to slow down, and/or maybe adjust based on what I saw was going on with the krausen (if I was fermenting in one of my PET plastic fermentors and could actually see). I was pretty happy with that.

I've now fermented 5 batches with the Tilt. I'm still using my exact same fermentation temperature control system, but now I have data I can use as feedback to adjust my temperature. I'm fermenting a lager right now using White Labs Czech Pils yeast. By WL info, and discussion threads here on HBT, the accepted temperature range is 50 - 58F. For whatever reason, the yeast decided to do nothing while I sat at 50F for a couple days. I could bump it up a degree every 12 hours or so until I started to see the gravity drop. Without the Tilt, I'd be wondering what was going on in there, pulling wort samples to test with my refractometer. And once it finally started at 58F, I could watch the gravity progression tracking down and then I could see it starting to slow down and plateau. Boom- I bump up the temperature 1 degree and then check in on it again 8 hours later and see if my gravity had started a downward trend again. I've been able to do this repeatedly throughout fermentation. If I were going to some pre-set schedule, I could be missing these plateaus, meaning either a longer than necessary fermentation or the chance of it stalling out before I bumped up the temperature.

I've been able to follow the same pattern/process on other brews to that did start when I wanted/expected. In those cases, I was able to see fermentation was done sooner than I had expected. I could then transfer out of my fermentor and be sooner able to drink it. And I could see with gravity trends/values that fermentation was truly done, even though my previously-thought reliable process of counting time between airlock bubbles might still have been bubbling every 10 - 20 seconds.

Now what would be really slick is if my fermentation temperature control could be run based on data transmitted for the Tilt. Write some algorithm that looked at the most recent gravity readings compared to the readings over the preceeding few hours, and then automatically detect the plateaus I was having to manually see and interpret. That would be ideal full closed loop control!
 

eric19312

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So I ferment in a plastic speidel fermentor in a temperature controlled refrigerator. How close will I need to be to pick up the signal?

Also have you had to replace the battery yet? Any issues with doing that? Did you need to recalibrate after doing so?
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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So I ferment in a plastic speidel fermentor in a temperature controlled refrigerator. How close will I need to be to pick up the signal?
I only have experience of being in the fermentors I have and the old Amana full-size fridge I use as my beer fridge. I don't know if your temperature controlled refrigerator has a plastic front door or metal/steel. If steel, you'd probably need to be within a few feet of it- based on my limited experience. If plastic, you should be a lot better. I know plastic fermentor itself, in my house, I can go through 2 levels and read from the basement to the 2nd floor. I'm guessing every situation is different and wouldn't hazard a guess for your house. I'm also not sure what a plastic fermentor behind a plastic refrigerator door does to Bluetooth signal strength.

Also have you had to replace the battery yet? Any issues with doing that? Did you need to recalibrate after doing so?
I have not had to replace the battery. I've used them on 2-3 batches so far, so I'd be bummed if I had to replace them already.
 
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micraftbeer

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Has your beer improved?
OK, so "need one of these" doesn't come across the same in written form as spoken. Obviously, tons of people ferment in temperature controlled conditions without monitoring gravity, so "need" is not a 100% accurate statement. To me, I look at it as if I'm going to be adjusting fermentation temperature throughout my fermentation, I greatly prefer to have a feedback signal (specific gravity of my beer) than to not having one.

As for "Has my beer improved?", I think we all know that there about 1,000 ways to screw up your beer. I approach my brewing by looking at variables that have the potential to affect the final beer taste. If I can eliminate some of those variables or control them, my end beer should become better. And control over process allows me to be more repeatable so if my particular set of inputs doesn't create the taste I was envisioning, I can make the batch again and just change certain variables, knowing the others aren't coming into play.

I know guys that never use a hydrometer or refractometer at all. They don't care about gravity and are still happy with the beer they make. Good for them. I'm not that guy.
 

Vandulus

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I have both an old and new Tilt and have had much better luck with the range. For reference, the Tilts are inside a SS Brewbucket inside a small kegerator. With the old Tilt the range was about 10 feet and I haven't tried it with the new one, though the range and battery life have been improved. For logging I ended up buying a $80 Samsung tablet that sits on top and works like a champ.
 

mabrungard

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After receiving one of these units for Christmas, I've used it in 3 brews and I'm appreciating its utility. No more guessing and no more sampling. The other thing that I found to be very useful was that I can now know when to transfer my beer when there is just a little bit of extract left so that I can spund my beer in the keg.

Now if I could only get the on-line logging with my Raspberry Pi Zero to work!!
 

Nagorg

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I'm having a hard time resisting pulling the trigger on one of these. Trying to figure out if its worth the money when I can sample from my temp controlled conical already and check attenuation progress via refractometer. Which I dont typically do through the fermentation cycle; I typically only check near the end of anticipated FG to see if things are done as expected.

Being able to see this readily and chart the progress while making sure my temp controller setting wasn't out of calibration seems neat. Just not sure its $130.00 worth of neat...

I've been eyeballing digital refractometers for a while. I do know the challenge for refractometers post fermentation. But honestly, I've had good success comparing the results of conversion tools to hydrometer readings.

Maybe I'll toss this out there on my wish-list since my birthday is around the corner... :yes:
 

boat_eggs

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I'm having a hard time resisting pulling the trigger on one of these. Trying to figure out if its worth the money when I can sample from my temp controlled conical already and check attenuation progress via refractometer. Which I dont typically do through the fermentation cycle; I typically only check near the end of anticipated FG to see if things are done as expected.

Being able to see this readily and chart the progress while making sure my temp controller setting wasn't out of calibration seems neat. Just not sure its $130.00 worth of neat...

I've been eyeballing digital refractometers for a while. I do know the challenge for refractometers post fermentation. But honestly, I've had good success comparing the results of conversion tools to hydrometer readings.

Maybe I'll toss this out there on my wish-list since my birthday is around the corner... :yes:
I use a pair of the original ones and they really opened up my eyes to my fermentation process. Previous to them I took samples the same way you describe but with these I have been able to package my beers much quicker. I too have cooled conicals, with my Brewometer/Tilt I can observe the huge temperature stratification layers in my wort, 20° difference sometimes. I have not killed yeast since getting these
 

singybrue

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I bought one, used it on one batch and immediately bought another!
I use them in SS BrewBuckets in a mini fridge, and don't have any problems picking up the signal, but my tablet is only a couple feet away. I use an Amazon Fire tablet that I picked up at Xmas time for $30.
 

Vandulus

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I use a pair of the original ones and they really opened up my eyes to my fermentation process. Previous to them I took samples the same way you describe but with these I have been able to package my beers much quicker. I too have cooled conicals, with my Brewometer/Tilt I can observe the huge temperature stratification layers in my wort, 20° difference sometimes. I have not killed yeast since getting these
I totally agree as this has allowed me to see the fermentation characteristics of each strain and allowed me to better tailor the temperature stepping due primary and secondary phases. This alone has improved the quality of my batches greatly as I now have temperature profiles for the handful of strains I use.
 

flemming

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Now what would be really slick is if my fermentation temperature control could be run based on data transmitted for the Tilt. Write some algorithm that looked at the most recent gravity readings compared to the readings over the preceeding few hours, and then automatically detect the plateaus I was having to manually see and interpret. That would be ideal full closed loop control!
Not exactly what you asked for, but if you use iSpindel in combination with BrewPiLess you can define fermentation profiles based upon gravity. For example: start at one temp, ramp to another when you've reached a certain gravity, do something else once it has stabilized, etc. Unfortunately as with all things DIY you need to be comfortable doing a little tinkering. I was able to build an iSpindel for about $17 in parts (with access to a 3d printer), but that's itemizing the cost for some of the components that I needed to buy in larger quantities than necessary from China.

Robert
 

WaltG

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I just did my first batch. While I had accuracy issues due to krausen I stilla like it.
 

Morrey

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I have used Tilt(s) for a couple of years and can add a bit to the well done review:

I use Ss Brewtech Uni Tanks and float the Tilt in the center of the cooling coils. The signal successfully goes thru the coils and the outer wall of the tank albeit the range is quite short. I often have to have my iPhone almost on top of the tank, but I always get a signal. Plastic pails inside freezers or refrigerators will provide much longer ranges but I have never gotten more than 10-15 feet.

I leave my beers in fermenter 14 days almost always. I will change my CR123 batteries every 5 brews which means I get 10 weeks of use from a battery. I prefer not to risk the battery going dead mid-fermentation, so I change the battery at this point regardless.

I run a calibration each time I use the Tilt. I remove the battery, reinstall and float it in a glass (not touching bottom or sides) of room temp distilled water to get my first calibration point. When using in fresh wort, I'll do a refractometer reading first, then see what the Tilt reads. I make one calibration point from that reading/adjustment and find it unnecessary to try and build a long sequence of calibration points. I clear the history each time I do this.

I would feel lost w/o a Tilt. I do lots of NE IPA styles where I want to drop in a dry hop addition with perhaps 10 points of fermentation remaining. Since I don't want to take excessive samples, Tilt gives me an instant read letting me know I am ready to dry hop. I also like to close off my BO valve with 5 points to go and self carbonate a small amount...I need to know when to close the valve. The Tilt eliminates sampling waste, instant no-fuss no-muss reads, reliable and very handy. Winner!
 
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Ban Yan

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I'm having a hard time resisting pulling the trigger on one of these. Trying to figure out if its worth the money when I can sample from my temp controlled conical already and check attenuation progress via refractometer. Which I dont typically do through the fermentation cycle; I typically only check near the end of anticipated FG to see if things are done as expected.

Being able to see this readily and chart the progress while making sure my temp controller setting wasn't out of calibration seems neat. Just not sure its $130.00 worth of neat...

I've been eyeballing digital refractometers for a while. I do know the challenge for refractometers post fermentation. But honestly, I've had good success comparing the results of conversion tools to hydrometer readings.

Maybe I'll toss this out there on my wish-list since my birthday is around the corner... :yes:
Did you say chart? I would like to get my Raspberry Pi to show a gravity and temperature chart, and I wonder if it's already been done. Or were you hand-charting the gravity?
 

augiedoggy

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Not sure if its been mentioned but the next version of brucontrol will support the tilt and will allow the fermentation temp control to be controlled by them (for example once a certain gravity is met the script will ramp up for dicetal rest and when final gravity is reached the script will cold crash the fermenter automatically)...

I intend one using 4 of these n my fermenters with brucontrol in the 3 bbl system im putting together now.
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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Not sure if its been mentioned but the next version of brucontrol will support the tilt and will allow the fermentation temp control to be controlled by them (for example once a certain gravity is met the script will ramp up for dicetal rest and when final gravity is reached the script will cold crash the fermenter automatically)...
This has great potential. From using these Tilts now across many batches, to me, it's more about the rate of gravity change rather than the particular value it's at. You can see a brief gravity flat spot at the beginning while yeast is reproducing, and then you get it dropping off. Probably with enough data/experience, I'd want to drop temperature a bit if that initial rate was too steep, or step it up a bit if too flat. And right now, I manually adjust temperature once I see the drop in gravity starting to slow. I get these minor stair steps when it drops at a steady rate, starts to slow down, I bump up the temperature, and then it starts to drop again at a quicker rate.

And then in the end, if I was expecting it to hit FG of 1.009 and I can tell from the trend over the last several hours/days that it's spent, I don't spend time waiting for the number to change. I pull a gravity sample with my refractometer, correct it, and record it and move on. Fermentation time is much quicker now. And I can get more specific feedback on brew processes or ingredients affecting the fermentation process since I have data. I love it.
 

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I learned something valuable from my tilt this week, on a hot day the temperature differential between my fermenters center mass and the top of the fermenting wort can be 10 degrees. I ferment in a temperature controlled chest freezer in a 10 gallon corny and always intended to add a small fan for air circulation but never got around to it. On my current batch the tilt temp sensor appears to be slowly oscillating back and forth between the freezers set point and about 10 degrees above it. I never saw more than a couple degree difference on batches during the winter and spring, but it’s significantly warmer here this week. I just put in a small fan to see if it will help stabilize temperatures. This might explain off flavors I got in a couple of batches last summer that I never found a good reason for.
 

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Has anyone used a tilt in a pressurized fermentation system? Would the carbonation throw off the accuracy?
I've been wondering the same thing. I just got my Tilt for this past Father's Day, so I haven't been able to test it yet. However, on the Tilt FAQ they indicate that the Tilt works great in pressurized fermentations. I'm guessing that in a sealed fermenter where the headspace pressure and CO2 in solution are in equilibrium, the readings will still be accurate. If no one else has any experience to share on this, I'll be sure to report back in a few weeks with data from a pressurized fermentation!
 

mcomb

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Yeah I pressurize ferment with my tilt. I generally only do 4 or 5 PSI but the readings have seemed perfectly normal at that level.
 

Aaron Beers

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Do you have to have something (e.g. iphone running tilt app) within bluetooth range all the time in order to catch the readings? Or does the Tilt store the readings and then you can sync up your iphone to it whenever you want? E.g. I drop the tilt into the fermentor at 10AM and then I come back with my iphone at 6PM, will I be able to see all the sample readings from 10AM through 6PM even though my phone hasn't been within bluetooth range of the tilt that whole time?
 

Dory Rules

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My main concern would be towards the end when ramping up pressure to start carbonating. Would carbonation affect the readings like it does with a standard hydrometer?
 

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My main concern would be towards the end when ramping up pressure to start carbonating. Would carbonation affect the readings like it does with a standard hydrometer?
From what I’ve been able to find on the topic, it sounds like the gravity readings for carbonated beer are primarily affected due to the CO2 degassing when taken out of a pressurized environment and measured in ambient conditions. Since a closed, pressurized fermenter stays in equilibrium the readings shouldn’t be affected. If you then release the pressure (or quickly add it using CO2 from a tank), readings will probably be affected for some time until things stabilize again.
 
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micraftbeer

micraftbeer

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Do you have to have something (e.g. iphone running tilt app) within bluetooth range all the time in order to catch the readings? Or does the Tilt store the readings and then you can sync up your iphone to it whenever you want? E.g. I drop the tilt into the fermentor at 10AM and then I come back with my iphone at 6PM, will I be able to see all the sample readings from 10AM through 6PM even though my phone hasn't been within bluetooth range of the tilt that whole time?
It doesn't store the readings anywhere. Every 15 minutes, it will take the current reading and push it out to the cloud. If your bluetooth device isn't connected at that point in time, no reading. At first I would have large gaps of time while I was at work with no data, and then lengths of time throughout the evening and overnight where I'd get data. In general, that was fine, because you could still visualize the trend even with the gaps. But I wanted a complete plot so I bought a used iPhone 4s for $25 off eBay and then just leave it plugged in downstairs (forced to not sleep) and I have full data plots now.
 

eric19312

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My experience is that taking 2 gravity readings a day is more than sufficient to assess and evaluate the beer's progress.
Not sure what you mean. Two hydrometer samples a day prob fine on commercial system but on homebrew scale would be a killer. Two refractometer samples a day ok if you know the right conversion formula for your current recipe. Two tilt measurements a day would be useless given the noisy signal...I seem to need lots of measurements to smooth things out.
 
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