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General Category => Equipment and Software => Topic started by: flbrewer on April 11, 2015, 09:00:17 PM

Title: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: flbrewer on April 11, 2015, 09:00:17 PM
My hydrometer and I have had a pretty good run so far. What would be the advantage of picking up and using a refractometer in addition or in place of my trusty friend?

Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: BrewBama on April 11, 2015, 09:18:00 PM
I like to take refractometer readings when I am lautering and sparging to see if I hit a projected OG for 1st and 2nd runnings. Other than that I use a hydrometer (when I think about it). Quite frankly, I rarely take FG readings. I don't really care. I figure the yeast gave what it had to offer and I graciously and thankfully accept it.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: denny on April 11, 2015, 10:31:07 PM
I have 2 refractometers.  I've never been able to get them to agree with each other or my hydrometer, so I don't use them.  I can cool a hydrometer sample from boiling to 60F in less than 60 seconds so I don't really feel like I need a refractometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: Phil_M on April 12, 2015, 01:47:34 AM
I'm on the fence with mine. Hygrometer works every time, and it's tough to beat it for precision and accuracy. Where it loses is convenience.

I calibrated my refractometer on two points, distilled water and a 1.080 (I think? was a while ago) sugar water solution. Sadly neither of the scales my refractometer read in were correct, however using the "refractometer tools" selection on Beersmith corrects for this error, and it now matches my hygrometer.

Where I've really run into issues is that I can't always get a repeatable reading. My concern is that this device could be just as temperature sensitive as the hygrometer, but without any way of measuring that temperature. Maybe other on here can explain.

I use the refractometer during the mash, always take original and final gravity readings with a hygrometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: majorvices on April 12, 2015, 10:28:19 AM
I finally spent some real money on a decent refractometer. I can't remember where I got mine now but it cost closer to $80 and is much more accurate than then cheap ones I tried off ebay for a couple years.

The ability to get a quick OG reading is invaluable for me since I have a lot going on during brewday, especially since I often have 2 brews going on at the same time.

one of the things you have to do is cool the sample first, I use a metal spoon and pull a few teaspoons out, blow on it and then put it on the sight glass, blow on that again and then close the lid and it sit a few seconds to stabilize.

I always use a hydrometer to check for FG because I want to be sure my reading is accurate.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: Slowbrew on April 12, 2015, 12:05:59 PM
I finally spent some real money on a decent refractometer. I can't remember where I got mine now but it cost closer to $80 and is much more accurate than then cheap ones I tried off ebay for a couple years.

The ability to get a quick OG reading is invaluable for me since I have a lot going on during brewday, especially since I often have 2 brews going on at the same time.

one of the things you have to do is cool the sample first, I use a metal spoon and pull a few teaspoons out, blow on it and then put it on the sight glass, blow on that again and then close the lid and it sit a few seconds to stabilize.

I always use a hydrometer to check for FG because I want to be sure my reading is accurate.

During the Winter at least, I take a sample with my brewing spoon and then pull a couple of cc's into a plastic pipet.   I cap the end of the pipet with my finger and stick the bulb in a snow bank.  Then I shake up the sample and add it to the platen.

Paul
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: jeffy on April 12, 2015, 01:09:34 PM
Phil, a hygrometer is an instrument to measure humidity.  I only mention this because you typed it three times when you obviously meant hydrometer. :)
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: HoosierBrew on April 12, 2015, 01:47:36 PM
Maybe I just got lucky, but my refractometer reads consistently close to my hydrometer. I love the refractometer for preboil readings and OG, but I use the hydrometer for FGs.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: reverseapachemaster on April 12, 2015, 04:19:56 PM
I switched to a refractometer because I brew mostly small batches in which I would have to waste huge volumes of the batch taking a hydrometer reading. The testing jar takes what, six or eight ounces to get a hydrometer reading? On a one gallon batch taking an OG and FG reading is like 10% of the batch. I can take a refractometer reading with a few drops.

I expect that even adjusted with Sean Terrill's excellent calculator that the refractometer readings may be slightly off but a slightly inaccurate reading is better than no reading when I need one and I wouldn't take one on a small batch if it means sacrificing such a large percentage of the batch.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: Phil_M on April 12, 2015, 07:13:08 PM
Phil, a hygrometer is an instrument to measure humidity.  I only mention this because you typed it three times when you obviously meant hydrometer. :)

Oops…though a means of measuring humidity may not be a bad idea on your typical outdoor Maryland summer brew day...
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: homoeccentricus on April 12, 2015, 08:59:13 PM
+1 on the small batches. You just lose too much volume with a hydrometer.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: a10t2 on April 12, 2015, 09:54:25 PM
Even on larger batches, I like being able to (roughly) check gravity every day without having to take a full sample.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: mabrungard on April 12, 2015, 09:54:53 PM
My primary use for my refractometer is for gauging the gravity of final runnings. In that case, it's going to be pretty accurate since the wort is nearly pure water and the instrument was calibrated to that and I know its correct. So its quick and accurate in that situation.

I guess I should kick myself for not having compared hydrometer and refractometer values in the past. So I'm not actually sure that my instruments agree at higher gravities. Guess I got some 'sperimentin' to do on the next brew.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: bengelbrau on April 12, 2015, 11:16:47 PM
A couple years ago, I mixed up a 1.040 solution with sugar and water, and compared the refractometer ($17 cheapo) and hydrometer. The hydrometer read 1.036 and the refractometer read 1.038. Since then, I have not used the hydrometer. All that cooling and excess wasted volume is too much a PITA.

But then, I'm not very worried about accuracy in either OG or FG. I'm just looking for comparisons to use in adjusting the next batch.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: Stevie on April 12, 2015, 11:35:06 PM
I put a digital version on my wish list. They are very nice and not much more compared to the higher quality standard refractometers.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on April 13, 2015, 12:02:37 AM
I use refractometer to check glycol.

Hydrometer is for wort and beer.

I have three hydrometers one is 0-8 Plato, another is 8-16plato and third is 16-some number I never hit.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: brewsumore on April 13, 2015, 05:48:39 AM
I trust the accuracy of my narrow range hydrometers for OG and FG, so as to correctly calculate ABV.  I figure that guests like a number they can trust, mostly for gauging how much they might consume before driving home.  That is, for each tap I show the beer name, the ABV, and the IBUs.

I batch sparge and use an $80 refractometer to check combined mash and sparge runoff in the kettle pre-boil, to compare it against the calculated pre-boil SG, to see if I am on track / want to make adjustments during the boil.
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: jtoots on April 13, 2015, 06:11:18 PM
I broke so many hydrometers that it was actually becoming a significant cost.  Haven't dropped my refractometer yet........
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: denny on April 13, 2015, 06:17:22 PM
I broke so many hydrometers that it was actually becoming a significant cost.  Haven't dropped my refractometer yet........

I haven't broken one since I bought a spare as a backup...go figure!
Title: Re: Refractometer, what am I missing out on?
Post by: jeffy on April 13, 2015, 07:06:26 PM
I broke so many hydrometers that it was actually becoming a significant cost.  Haven't dropped my refractometer yet........

I haven't broken one since I bought a spare as a backup...go figure!
For the same reason that I never had a water pump failure on my antique BMW 1600 when I had a spare in the trunk.  You have to scare it into behaving sometimes.