What do you think of the new SmartRef from Anton Paar?

Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum

Help Support Homebrew Talk - Beer, Wine, Mead, & Cider Brewing Discussion Forum:

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
Do you think this device would fix a lot of my frustrations with a typical refractometer? Is it just as good as the EasyDens for our purposes (really just OG and FG)

I’ve brewed for 7 years and still have some frustrations with inconsistent gravity readings. What gives!

I use a typical hydrometer calibrated to 68F and a refractometer. On brewdays I use the refractometer throughout, after wort is chilled I use the hydrometer for a true OG. I sometimes use a refractometer during fermentation (just for a trend) till fermentation stops. Hydrometer for a true FG.

My problems are on brewday my readings are totally inconsistent - during the mash, pre boil and post boil often don’t make sense and bounce up and down. The refractometer doesn’t do a good job predicting what the true OG will be according to the hydrometer about half the time.

I think some of the causes are typical to lots of other people: I have to cool the sample down to a proper temp. I have big problems with a hot sample evaporating on the refractometer or before driping it on there. I have problems with indexing my refractometer to be accurate at SG over 1.080. Even though I’ve spent lots of time indexing it the way you should. My refractometer alcohol correction calculations are unreliable, I don’t think this is fixable. I have problems with wort stratification, the top always seems to be less dense than the bottom, despite a good stir.

So I’m open to more tips for my procedures BUT do you think the new Anton Paar SmartRef will fix my problems?

I’m also considering a mash temp hydrometer (which might also help for pre and post boil samples if I chill it a little, but kind of a pain to do that. ) Or the Milwaukee digital refractometers

For reference: SmartRef by Anton Paar - Digital Refractometer - Sugar, Brix, Salinity, Plato, Specific Gravity (SG) SmartRef by Anton Paar - Digital Refractometer - Sugar, Brix, Salinity, Plato, Specific Gravity (SG): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific (david Heath has a helpful video on it) Or MILWAUKEE'S Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer, Range 0-85% Amazon.com: MILWAUKEE'S Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer, Range 0-85% : Industrial & Scientific Or American-Made Beer Mashing Hydrometer Calibrated at 155 Degrees Fahrenheit - Specific Gravity Pro Series Brewing Triple Scale - Brew Better All Grain Beer Amazon.com: American-Made Beer Mashing Hydrometer Calibrated at 155 Degrees Fahrenheit - Specific Gravity Pro Series Brewing Triple Scale - Brew Better All Grain Beer : Home & Kitchen
 
Last edited:

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,791
Reaction score
1,621
Location
Paremata New Zealand
I use a milwaukee digital refractometer. It seems very consistent with corrected readings from a hydrometer. Nice big display, a little bit of work to do using the calculators on brewfather ( or other programs ).
I use the hydrometer for OG and FG but really only for historical sake as the refractometer matches it perfectly. You need a sample of less than a ml.
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,791
Reaction score
1,621
Location
Paremata New Zealand
Yes I use the brix to OG tool on brewfather. You do have to calibrate for fermented wort but this is a one time operation. Just adding in the measured gravity with a hydrometer and it will work out the correction factor needed for fermented wort. So for fermented wort partial or fully done you just indicate if fermentation has occurred , input the original gravity ( which can be the reading from your refractometer ) and then it outputs the current gravity using the correction factor.
 
OP
OP
I

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
Yeah that sounds a lot like what I do with my traditional refractometer. I have used a hydrometer to index the refractometer in the past (index is 1.05) and that yields me accurate BRIX to SG conversions but really only for unfeented wort 1.040-1.060. Outside of that and it’s a crap shoot. Does the digital refractometer really change anything?
 

McMullan

wort maker
HBT Supporter
Joined
Dec 22, 2015
Messages
2,071
Reaction score
2,709
It's a refractometer. I'm sure it's good quality and performs very well at its intended use, which doesn't include fermenting wort. Seems like a lot of money for something you'd have to learn to live with. I'd rather save a little extra and get an EasyDens, tbh.
 
OP
OP
I

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
Ok I’m all ears… what makes you think the easydens is better for our purposes?

Really appreciate the responses so far!
 
OP
OP
I

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
Yeah great…. So why wouldn’t the SmartRef also be quick and easy and work? (I know it would have to make calculated adjustments for alcohol)
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,791
Reaction score
1,621
Location
Paremata New Zealand
I reckon the small sample and calculation doesn't take long with the milwaukee, sometimes you can faff about for a while degassing and trying to read a normal hydrometer then correct for temperature. I'm not sure how the easydens copes with fizzy beer, but a 2ml sample is easy to degas.
 

Bobby_M

Vendor and Brewer
HBT Sponsor
Joined
Aug 3, 2006
Messages
26,698
Reaction score
6,935
Location
Whitehouse Station
The biggest problem with refractometers of all types is that the tiny sample size is very prone to rapid evaporative concentration so it's not quite as accurate as the easydens. I wouldn't suggest that $349 is "worth" the difference in accuracy but I also would argue that if you're already justifying a $249 digital refractometer that has a little extra smarts built in, what's another hundred? If not, just go with the $125 Milwaukee that already has a digital display.

"I'm not sure how the easydens copes with fizzy beer"
Just one degassing via pulling a vac on the syringe is enough to read accurately.
 

IslandLizard

Progressive Brewing
Staff member
Mod
HBT Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
20,235
Reaction score
10,525
Location
Pasadena, MD
I have big problems with a hot sample evaporating on the refractometer or before driping it on there.
I've had issues with that too. Until I read somewhere on these forums a simple way to fix it: Have a cup with ice handy!

I use a squat 1" high plastic takeout container with ice (it lives in the freezer normally). I take it out of the freezer right before doing a (hot) wort gravity reading using a refractometer.
I scoop out a small wort sample, around an ounce, from the mash tun runnings or the kettle, using a 1/4 cup stainless steel measuring cup, which gets placed directly into that container with ice. Within 30-60 seconds that wort in the measuring cup is cold. I then transfer a drop onto the refractometer prism. Always reliable readings and no evaporation. The refractometer's ATC will compensate for the ambient temp, while the single (chilled) drop won't change the temp of the crystal in any significant way.

The takeout container with ice gets returned to the freezer, ready for chilling a next sample.
And the wort sample poured back into the kettle.

If you brew outside, use a small cooler with some ice and/or a few ice packs.
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,791
Reaction score
1,621
Location
Paremata New Zealand
I keep a mug in the freezer and put the small sample directly into this. A swirl and it's good to go. Rinse and return to freezer. Sample remnants back into the system.
 
OP
OP
I

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
It seems like most people think the SmartRef won’t live up to its accuracy claims and be a bit of a pain based on previous experience with other refractometers being inaccurate. Fair?
 

DuncB

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 5, 2019
Messages
2,791
Reaction score
1,621
Location
Paremata New Zealand
I can't believe it's any more accurate than the Milwaukee, I clean the lens with a tissue for the wort then drop the calibration water i sucked back up onto the lens to wash it and suck that up with tissue. Yes you need to use a converter on brewfather or another app to convert to gravity but thats minimal hassle. Not sure that the extra cost of smart ref over this is worth it. But give it a go and report back.
 
OP
OP
I

ihavenonickname

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
305
Reaction score
254
Location
San Diego
Well after much deliberation I ordered the EasyDens! The adjustable index on the SmartRef clued me in that it wasn’t going to be as accurate as I want, but the easy dens will be.

Seems like a good buy to me, 20% off for Black Friday, free shipping and no tax to CA.
 
Last edited:

Brooothru

Supporting Member
HBT Supporter
Joined
Feb 16, 2012
Messages
2,413
Reaction score
2,405
Location
Either in the brewery or on the road
Well after much deliberation I ordered the EasyDens! The adjustable index on the SmartRef clued me in that it wasn’t going to be as accurate as I want, but the easy dems will be.

Seems like a good buy to me, 20% off for Black Friday, free shipping and no tax to CA.
Wise choice. I used the Milwaukee for about 18 months for both beer and wine fermentation. I've now used the EasyDens for about a year and have found it easy to use, easy to clean, highly accurate, etc. I like it much more than the Milwaukee digital refractometer. No regrets making the switch.
 
Top