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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: micsager on January 30, 2012, 07:02:05 PM

Title: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on January 30, 2012, 07:02:05 PM
OK, so I've now broken my third Hydrometer in five years of homebrewing. 

Is it time to spend the $50 yet?

Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: thetooth on January 30, 2012, 07:11:08 PM
I did it after breaking 3, but in hindsight I should have just bought one right away.

Although I still use a hydrometer for final gravity readings, I find a refractometer makes the brew day easier.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: euge on January 30, 2012, 07:12:17 PM
I broke one right off the bat. My second has lasted 5 years. But about 3 years ago I got the refractometer for quick reads while brewing.

I pretty much just use the hydrometer when I rack from primary these days.

Some days I just don't even bother with it at all.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: madscientist on January 30, 2012, 07:41:19 PM
I did it after breaking 3, but in hindsight I should have just bought one right away.

Although I still use a hydrometer for final gravity readings, I find a refractometer makes the brew day easier.

I do this as well.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: bluesman on January 30, 2012, 07:45:54 PM
They both have their place. I use my refractometer during mashing and boiling exclusively. It's quick and easy.

However, I like to use my hydrometer after fermentation because I think it's more accurate and it allows me sample the beer as well.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on January 30, 2012, 07:56:40 PM
I would buy a refractometer as soon as you can afford it.  I don't know how many hydrometers I've broken at this point, 3 or 4.  Maybe 5.  I keep one on hand, but mostly use the refractometer.  I just use the hydrometer for FG measurements, and often I don't even bother if it's a recipe/yeast I know well.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: brianbgarber on January 30, 2012, 08:50:41 PM
I've also been considering taking the leap to a refractometer. Apparently there are equations and spreadsheets to use the refractometer after fermentation to calculate f.g. and alcohol, but those seem like a pain in the butt and has been the biggest deterrent for me. However, the refracto's with both brix and s.g. scales look pretty cool.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: denny on January 30, 2012, 08:52:35 PM
Years back, when I broke a hydrometer, I not only bought a new one, I also bought a spare.  Haven't broken one since!
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: jmcamerlengo on January 30, 2012, 08:59:38 PM
I've also been considering taking the leap to a refractometer. Apparently there are equations and spreadsheets to use the refractometer after fermentation to calculate f.g. and alcohol, but those seem like a pain in the butt and has been the biggest deterrent for me. However, the refracto's with both brix and s.g. scales look pretty cool.

Dont theres a very simple one!

http://seanterrill.com/

Works great and simple and easy to use.  Also guys I scored a refractometer on ebay for 12 bucks including shipping.  Look around and you can generally find some pretty good deals.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on January 30, 2012, 10:37:41 PM
Years back, when I broke a hydrometer, I not only bought a new one, I also bought a spare.  Haven't broken one since!

So your saying I can head down I-5? 

Just kidding, I think it's time for a refractometer. 
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: denny on January 30, 2012, 11:11:22 PM
Years back, when I broke a hydrometer, I not only bought a new one, I also bought a spare.  Haven't broken one since!

So your saying I can head down I-5? 

Just kidding, I think it's time for a refractometer. 

I bought a refractometer a few years back.  Worked great at first, but then I stopped getting accurate readings with it.  I've calibrated it at least a dozen times.  I've gone back to using a hydrometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on January 30, 2012, 11:13:59 PM
Hmmmm.   Interesting Denny.  I wonder if I can get a volume discount.   LOL
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tygo on January 31, 2012, 02:51:20 PM
I have two hydrometers.  One I use and one spare.  Haven't broken one in years.  I use a refractometer on brew days for pre-boil readings unless it's too hot or too cold outside for the ATC function to work properly.  Sometimes I'll use both a hydrometer or refractometer to see if they're tracking closely and sometimes I'll just use one or the other.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: cash on February 06, 2012, 02:15:13 PM
I have two hydrometers and a refractometer. Here's the question:Using distilled water at 67 deg.  Hydrometer #1 reads 1.002 Hydrometer#2 reads dead on 1.000.But when I measured gravity of primary, I got #1 at 1.038, #2 at 1.032 and the refractometer(calibrated to .000 with 67 deg distilled water) reads 1.050.I've tried cleaning the blue glass and the cover bue still get the  1.050. Since there is obviously some malfunction of the spec., would there be anything wrong with adjusting the spec to read 1.032 and frequently cross checking it's reading with the same hydrometer#2. I really do like the ease of using it, but knew something was wrong after 7 days of active fermentation only reading 1.050. Any suggestions?
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: jeffy on February 06, 2012, 05:14:14 PM
Do you realize that you can't use the refractometer to read gravity after fermentation without making an adjustment based on the alcohol content?
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: euge on February 06, 2012, 06:02:18 PM
I have two hygrometers and a spectrometer. Here's the question:Using distilled water at 67 deg.  Hygrometer #1 reads 1.002 Hygrometer#2 reads dead on 1.000.But when I measured gravity of primary, I got #1 at 1.038, #2 at 1.032 and the spectrometer(calibrated to .000 with 67 deg distilled water) reads 1.050.I've tried cleaning the blue glass and the cover bue still get the  1.050. Since there is obviously some malfunction of the spec., would there be anything wrong with adjusting the spec to read 1.032 and frequently cross checking it's reading with the same hygrometer#2. I really do like the ease of using it, but knew something was wrong after 7 days of active fermentation only reading 1.050. Any suggestions?

Hydrometer. Refractometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: cash on February 06, 2012, 07:11:31 PM
Thanks, I do remember reading that awhile ago. I'll have to do some reading on the adjustment for alcohol and gravity.So its refractometer during mash and hydrometer afterward.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: morticaixavier on February 06, 2012, 07:22:43 PM
Thanks, I do remember reading that awhile ago. I'll have to do some reading on the adjustment for alcohol and gravity.So its refractometer during mash and hydrometer afterward.

you can use the refractometer for both you just have to make adjustments to the reading. Sean Terril has a spreadsheet that is apparently quite good for that purpose. I just use a hydro all the time cause I'm cheap.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: Hokerer on February 06, 2012, 09:12:20 PM
Sean Terril has a spreadsheet that is apparently quite good for that purpose.

Sean's actually now made it into a calculator on the web so you don't need the spreadsheet.  Just enter OG and FG from the refractometer and click "Calculate".  Here...

http://seanterrill.com/2012/01/06/refractometer-calculator/ (http://seanterrill.com/2012/01/06/refractometer-calculator/)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on February 06, 2012, 11:02:45 PM
Do you realize that you can't use the refractometer to read gravity after fermentation without making an adjustment based on the alcohol content?

OK, now I'm confused.  How can you know the amount of alcohol to make that adjustment, if you can't use the refractometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 06, 2012, 11:57:02 PM
Do you realize that you can't use the refractometer to read gravity after fermentation without making an adjustment based on the alcohol content?

OK, now I'm confused.  How can you know the amount of alcohol to make that adjustment, if you can't use the refractometer.
The adjustment as made based on the OG of the beer.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on February 07, 2012, 12:05:25 AM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: Hokerer on February 07, 2012, 02:00:34 AM
Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?

Not exactly.  It's the presence of alcohol that messes up the reading.  The refractometer is fine with reading the sugar content in water (which is basically what wort is).  The problem comes in when there is also alcohol as it's refractive index is enough to mess up the readings.  So what you're really basing the adjustments on is the amount of alcohol present.  Knowing the OG just gives a good way to estimate that amount.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 07, 2012, 05:26:31 AM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Both alcohol and sugar have a non-zero refractive index.  In a mixture you can't tell how much is from one or the other.  Knowing the OG lets you solve the equation.  It is not as straightforward as knowing the % of each though, there are corrections that have to go into it.  This is why Sean's spreadsheet is good, it is based on results using fermented wort rather than the others which I suspect come from making mixtures of known sugar and alcohol concentrations and taking a reading.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: micsager on February 07, 2012, 04:37:48 PM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Both alcohol and sugar have a non-zero refractive index.  In a mixture you can't tell how much is from one or the other.  Knowing the OG lets you solve the equation.  It is not as straightforward as knowing the % of each though, there are corrections that have to go into it.  This is why Sean's spreadsheet is good, it is based on results using fermented wort rather than the others which I suspect come from making mixtures of known sugar and alcohol concentrations and taking a reading.

Sounds way too complicated for me.  I'm gonna stick with a hydrometer.  Thanks for all the advice though. 
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: euge on February 07, 2012, 06:37:41 PM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Both alcohol and sugar have a non-zero refractive index.  In a mixture you can't tell how much is from one or the other.  Knowing the OG lets you solve the equation.  It is not as straightforward as knowing the % of each though, there are corrections that have to go into it.  This is why Sean's spreadsheet is good, it is based on results using fermented wort rather than the others which I suspect come from making mixtures of known sugar and alcohol concentrations and taking a reading.


Sounds way too complicated for me.  I'm gonna stick with a hydrometer.  Thanks for all the advice though. 

Awww don't give up!

It really isn't that complicated and Sean's alcohol % calculator is awesome. The refractometer is a great tool because all you need is a few drops of wort/beer to take a reading. Those of us that use a refractometer do it because of the simplicity and quick accuracy.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 07, 2012, 07:09:10 PM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Both alcohol and sugar have a non-zero refractive index.  In a mixture you can't tell how much is from one or the other.  Knowing the OG lets you solve the equation.  It is not as straightforward as knowing the % of each though, there are corrections that have to go into it.  This is why Sean's spreadsheet is good, it is based on results using fermented wort rather than the others which I suspect come from making mixtures of known sugar and alcohol concentrations and taking a reading.

Sounds way too complicated for me.  I'm gonna stick with a hydrometer.  Thanks for all the advice though. 
It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.  It's the same with a hydrometer to get the ABV, you need the OG and SG.  Easy.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: morticaixavier on February 07, 2012, 07:22:08 PM
Thanks Tom-

Would it be more accurate to say you adjust based on sugar content, rather than etoh content?
Both alcohol and sugar have a non-zero refractive index.  In a mixture you can't tell how much is from one or the other.  Knowing the OG lets you solve the equation.  It is not as straightforward as knowing the % of each though, there are corrections that have to go into it.  This is why Sean's spreadsheet is good, it is based on results using fermented wort rather than the others which I suspect come from making mixtures of known sugar and alcohol concentrations and taking a reading.


Sounds way too complicated for me.  I'm gonna stick with a hydrometer.  Thanks for all the advice though. 

Awww don't give up!

It really isn't that complicated and Sean's alcohol % calculator is awesome. The refractometer is a great tool because all you need is a few drops of wort/beer to take a reading. Those of us that use a refractometer do it because of the simplicity and quick accuracy.

besides if you are useing a hydro post fermentation you need to remember to de-gas the sample and then **shudder** you have to drink it. well okay you don't HAVE to drink it but you do have to de-gas it. ;D
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: bluesman on February 07, 2012, 07:43:08 PM
It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.  It's the same with a hydrometer to get the ABV, you need the OG and SG.  Easy.

I think you made it sound more confusing than it really is Tom.

...but I agree that it is easy.

Plug in the numbers and voila.  :)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: Al Equihua on February 07, 2012, 08:31:04 PM
i only broke one hydrometer since i began brewing, year and 3 months, and finally purchased two weeks ago this one, got it in 50 bucks....

http://www.midwestsupplies.com/refractometer-atc-with-brix-and-sg-scale.html

any comments? so if i got ir right in this one, do i have to make compensations in a chart depending the temperature of the sample?

pd im planning making some wine also this summer,thats why
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 07, 2012, 08:55:59 PM
It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.  It's the same with a hydrometer to get the ABV, you need the OG and SG.  Easy.

I think you made it sound more confusing than it really is Tom.

...but I agree that it is easy.

Plug in the numbers and voila.  :)
Well, I was explaining how it works, not what he needs to do :)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: bluesman on February 07, 2012, 09:33:23 PM
It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.  It's the same with a hydrometer to get the ABV, you need the OG and SG.  Easy.

I think you made it sound more confusing than it really is Tom.

...but I agree that it is easy.

Plug in the numbers and voila.  :)
Well, I was explaining how it works, not what he needs to do :)

True... :)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: a10t2 on February 07, 2012, 09:43:48 PM
any comments? so if i got ir right in this one, do i have to make compensations in a chart depending the temperature of the sample?

That's the one, although you should use the Brix scale since the manufacturer did the SG conversion incorrectly.

As far as temperature compensation, it has ATC (automatic temperature compensation), so it will give accurate readings from 10-30°C. That's the temperature of the refractometer, not the sample. *But* the ATC tables are calibrated for grape must (i.e. sucrose solutions), so they won't be totally accurate when used for beer. Ideally you should always use the refractometer at 20°C.

It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.

Yeah, I did the hard part! ;)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 07, 2012, 10:11:09 PM
It's not complicated for you Mic, all you need to do is plug in your OG and SG and see what the calculator says.

Yeah, I did the hard part! ;)
Exactly :)
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: Al Equihua on February 07, 2012, 11:39:24 PM
any comments? so if i got ir right in this one, do i have to make compensations in a chart depending the temperature of the sample?

That's the one, although you should use the Brix scale since the manufacturer did the SG conversion incorrectly.

As far as temperature compensation, it has ATC (automatic temperature compensation), so it will give accurate readings from 10-30°C. That's the temperature of the refractometer, not the sample. *But* the ATC tables are calibrated for grape must (i.e. sucrose solutions), so they won't be totally accurate when used for beer. Ideally you should always use the refractometer at 20°

ggeee, is more dificult that it think, so, how a im supposed to know the refractometer temperature?
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: tschmidlin on February 07, 2012, 11:45:32 PM
ggeee, is more dificult that it think, so, how a im supposed to know the refractometer temperature?
It will be close enough to the temperature of the room it is stored in, so you probably don't need to worry about it.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: a10t2 on February 08, 2012, 12:01:57 AM
ggeee, is more dificult that it think, so, how a im supposed to know the refractometer temperature?

On brew days I just keep mine in my fermentation chamber, which if I'm fermenting an ale is going to be around 17-22°C anyway.
Title: Re: Refractometer vs. hydrometer
Post by: Al Equihua on February 08, 2012, 12:07:27 AM
thats what i was thinking, usually my fermentors reads aroun 59-62 F so i think the aproximate room temp is around 65-68 ,maybe some days are max 70, so i think is good temp average and stored in the case...