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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 01:19:31 pm

Title: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 01:19:31 pm
I calculate my alc. % using my starting and final gravity readings from my hydrometer.

How accurate is this?  Is a refractometer worth it for this task?  They're a bit expensive. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: theDarkSide on March 29, 2011, 01:33:29 pm
I find them invaluable.  They are great for taking readings during the boil to see if I'm going to hit my target.  I actually haven't used my hydrometer since I got it.

For checking fermenting wort, need to make an adjustment.  Most ( if not all ) brewing software has a function for this or there's a spreadsheet on morebeer.com that will do the calculation for you.

You can buy a refractometer on ebay for about $25-$30 I believe.  That's where I got mine.  Calibrate it with distilled water and you're ready to go.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: bluesman on March 29, 2011, 01:35:51 pm
I have one and use it primarily during the mash and the boil. They're very quick, accurate and easy to use. I can sample boiling wort with a dropper and get consistent readings. I wouldn't brew without it. It may be the most valuable tool in my brewery.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 01:36:51 pm
I find them invaluable.  They are great for taking readings during the boil to see if I'm going to hit my target.  I actually haven't used my hydrometer since I got it.

For checking fermenting wort, need to make an adjustment.  Most ( if not all ) brewing software has a function for this or there's a spreadsheet on morebeer.com that will do the calculation for you.

You can buy a refractometer on ebay for about $25-$30 I believe.  That's where I got mine.  Calibrate it with distilled water and you're ready to go.
I guess I'm not familiar w/ all of their functions.  What target is it you're checking during the boil?  IBU's?  You can't adjust gravity at that point beyond boiling off, right?  

What 'adjustment' needs to be done to the reading?  Don't you just put a sample on the refractometer & look through to read?

Perhaps I need to look into some brewing software.  I keep a manual (MS Word) brewlog and formulate all my recipes by hand.  
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: a10t2 on March 29, 2011, 02:35:12 pm
I guess I'm not familiar w/ all of their functions.  What target is it you're checking during the boil?  IBU's?  You can't adjust gravity at that point beyond boiling off, right?

Right, but if you take a reading right as you start the boil, but before adding hops, you can adjust the boil length and guarantee you'll hit your target OG exactly.

What 'adjustment' needs to be done to the reading?  Don't you just put a sample on the refractometer & look through to read?

Basically, but there are some subtleties. Pre-fermentation, you need to divide by a "wort correction factor". http://seanterrill.com/2010/06/11/refractometer-estimates-of-final-gravity/

I adressed more of how to use a refractometer in brewing in a BBR interview last year: http://media.libsyn.com/media/basicbrewing/bbr09-02-10refract.mp3
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 02:39:25 pm
OK.  Thanks for the info.  I'll have to start pricing.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: theDarkSide on March 29, 2011, 03:04:47 pm
I always check my boil before adding late addition hops to see if I'm going to be close on my numbers.  Based on the first 30-60 minutes, I can just what the rest of my boil will be like.  So if i have a 15 minute hop addition and my numbers gravity is still a little low, I'll add some time to the boil to raise it up and then add my 15 minute hops based on the new boil time.

If I add an extra 15 minutes to the boil, the bittering hop additions aren't going to be affected too much.  But if I have to add extra time at the end of the boil, my 15 minutes hops now start to become 30-45 minutes hops.

I'm probably not explaining it too clearly...I'm at work, have about 10 things going through my head...and I'm STARVING!!!  1 hour to lunch.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 29, 2011, 03:12:46 pm
I loved my refractometer when it worked.  For some reason, it started deviating from my hydrometer so I stopped using it.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 03:16:23 pm
I loved my refractometer when it worked.  For some reason, it started deviating from my hydrometer so I stopped using it.

That seems odd.  Perhaps it was defective?

What basic calculation do you use for your gravity readings?  Years ago I learned this one:

Starting Gravity - Final Gravity X 129 = Alcohol %

For example:

SG: 1.062
FG: 1.010
Alc: 6.708%

Is that how you calculate it?  What was your refractometer showing for something like this? 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 29, 2011, 03:19:21 pm

I loved my refractometer when it worked.  For some reason, it started deviating from my hydrometer so I stopped using it.

That seems odd.  Perhaps it was defective?[/quote]

Well, it worked fine for a couple years.

[/quote]What basic calculation do you use for your gravity readings?  Years ago I learned this one:

Starting Gravity - Final Gravity X 129 = Alcohol %

For example:

SG: 1.062
FG: 1.010
Alc: 6.708%

Is that how you calculate it?  What was your refractometer showing for something like this? 
[/quote]

No, the refractometer doesn't show anything like that.  It's just an alternative for taking a gravity reading, not calculating ABV.  And once the beer has started fermenting, the alcohol in it skews the refractometer reading so you have to apply a correction factor.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 03:22:33 pm

I loved my refractometer when it worked.  For some reason, it started deviating from my hydrometer so I stopped using it.

That seems odd.  Perhaps it was defective?

Well, it worked fine for a couple years.

[/quote]What basic calculation do you use for your gravity readings?  Years ago I learned this one:

Starting Gravity - Final Gravity X 129 = Alcohol %

For example:

SG: 1.062
FG: 1.010
Alc: 6.708%

Is that how you calculate it?  What was your refractometer showing for something like this? 
[/quote]

No, the refractometer doesn't show anything like that.  It's just an alternative for taking a gravity reading, not calculating ABV.  And once the beer has started fermenting, the alcohol in it skews the refractometer reading so you have to apply a correction factor.
[/quote]

Gotcha.  I'll guess I'll learn all that when I pick one up and read about how to use it. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: glastctbrew on March 29, 2011, 03:30:49 pm

Gotcha.  I'll guess I'll learn all that when I pick one up and read about how to use it.  

A great place to start are the links that Sean (a10t2 ) posted above.  I use his refined algorithms for my conversion from brix to sg.  I check against a hydrometer reading every 4th batch or so and its close enough that I rely on the refractometer for all my sg measurements.  I can't imagine brewing without it.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 29, 2011, 05:19:23 pm
For checking fermenting wort, need to make an adjustment.  Most ( if not all ) brewing software has a function for this or there's a spreadsheet on morebeer.com that will do the calculation for you.
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

I use my refractometer pre-fermentation and stick to the hydrometer for post fermentation.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 05:22:38 pm
For checking fermenting wort, need to make an adjustment.  Most ( if not all ) brewing software has a function for this or there's a spreadsheet on morebeer.com that will do the calculation for you.
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

I use my refractometer pre-fermentation and stick to the hydrometer for post fermentation.

Which comes back to my original question.  If I'm getting the info I need from my hydrometer, do I really need/is it really worth getting a refractometer?  I have other things I could use the $$ for. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 29, 2011, 05:24:46 pm
Which comes back to my original question.  If I'm getting the info I need from my hydrometer, do I really need/is it really worth getting a refractometer?  I have other things I could use the $$ for. 
I love my refractometer and if it broke I would get another one.  The small sample needed for testing and the ability to chill/test quickly makes it worthwhile for me.  It's a bit of a luxury and I don't know what other things you want to spend the money on, you'll have to prioritize :)
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: bluesman on March 29, 2011, 05:37:23 pm
I use my refractometer pre-fermentation and stick to the hydrometer for post fermentation.

+1

This is my practice as well.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: euge on March 29, 2011, 05:51:08 pm
I use my refractometer pre-fermentation and stick to the hydrometer for post fermentation.

+1

This is my practice as well.

Mine too.

Get the refractometer with ATC. Invaluable.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: a10t2 on March 29, 2011, 05:52:43 pm
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

Does "conversion factors" plural mean you've tried mine out and it didn't work for you? As far as I know every other tool uses the same formula.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Tim McManus on March 29, 2011, 06:04:54 pm
If you're calculating %alcohol in the finished beer, a hydrometer is the way to go.  Yes, you can use a refractometer but there is a bit of math involved, whereas if you use a hydrometer, it's the difference between the pre-fermentation gravity and the post-fermentation gravity.

If you want to take gravity readings through the mash and boil, then a refractometer is more practical.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 06:07:24 pm
OK.  Thanks guys.  I've got a decision to make.....
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: glastctbrew on March 29, 2011, 06:09:38 pm
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

Does "conversion factors" plural mean you've tried mine out and it didn't work for you? As far as I know every other tool uses the same formula.

+1 to Sean's "conversion factors".  I modified the morebeer spreadsheet with his formulas and have found the post fermentation results to be with in a point of the hydrometer reading.  I'm pretty much at the point where I use the hydrometer because I have too much beer to rack into a keg and not enough to fill a bottle.  I'll grab a hydrometer reading before I drink it for s***s and giggles.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 06:11:08 pm
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

Does "conversion factors" plural mean you've tried mine out and it didn't work for you? As far as I know every other tool uses the same formula.

+1 to Sean's "conversion factors".  I modified the morebeer spreadsheet with his formulas and have found the post fermentation results to be with in a point of the hydrometer reading.  I'm pretty much at the point where I use the hydrometer because I have too much beer to rack into a keg and not enough to fill a bottle.  I'll grab a hydrometer reading before I drink it for s***s and giggles.

I always drink my hydrometer samples too.  It gives me at least a basic idea of where things are at taste-wise. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 29, 2011, 06:19:13 pm
While this is true, in my experience none of the existing spreadsheets or conversion factors for post fermentation refractometer readings are very accurate.  They are sometimes off by more than 4 points from what my hydrometer reads.

Does "conversion factors" plural mean you've tried mine out and it didn't work for you? As far as I know every other tool uses the same formula.
I tried yours for a batch or two but it gave me similar numbers as the morebeer spreadsheet.  I'll test it again on my latest batch, I haven't bothered to get a refractometer reading from it post fermentation but I have the rest of the numbers already so it will be easy.  I'll report back.

Based on glastctbrew's post maybe I'm doing something wrong, I'll check that too.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 29, 2011, 06:47:37 pm
Which comes back to my original question.  If I'm getting the info I need from my hydrometer, do I really need/is it really worth getting a refractometer?  I have other things I could use the $$ for. 

When I brew, I boil to gravity, not volume.  The refractometer made it easy to get a really quick reading to see where I stood.  Now that I'm not using it, I pull a kettle sample (6-8 oz.) with a Pyrex measuring cup and put it in a metal cocktail shaker.  I put that in a bowl of ice water and swirl it around.  In about 2 minutes, it's cooled down enough to read.  Not quite as fast as a refractometer, but good enough.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Beer Monger on March 29, 2011, 06:49:48 pm
Which comes back to my original question.  If I'm getting the info I need from my hydrometer, do I really need/is it really worth getting a refractometer?  I have other things I could use the $$ for. 

When I brew, I boil to gravity, not volume.  The refractometer made it easy to get a really quick reading to see where I stood.  Now that I'm not using it, I pull a kettle sample (6-8 oz.) with a Pyrex measuring cup and put it in a metal cocktail shaker.  I put that in a bowl of ice water and swirl it around.  In about 2 minutes, it's cooled down enough to read.  Not quite as fast as a refractometer, but good enough.

If you're boiling to gravity, however, doesn't that mean you have to adjust the boil time as you go to account for evaporation until you hit your target? 

How big an effect doe that have on the bittering hops or other factors?

I usually boil a timed boil - and hope I hit my volume.  I'm not as concerned w/ having my beer be the exact alc. % I was shooting for. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 29, 2011, 06:53:11 pm

If you're boiling to gravity, however, doesn't that mean you have to adjust the boil time as you go to account for evaporation until you hit your target? 

How big an effect doe that have on the bittering hops or other factors?

There is so little utilization from bittering hops beyond 60 min. that it really doesn't matter.  For later additions, the gravity reading is crucial to make sure I'm on track and that my 10 min. hops don't turn into 30 min. hops while I wait for the wort to boil down.

I usually boil a timed boil - and hope I hit my volume.  I'm not as concerned w/ having my beer be the exact alc. % I was shooting for. 

I'm not as concerned about ABV as I am with making sure that my BU:GU ratio ends up where I want it to so that the flavor of the beer isn't impacted.  So I want to be sure I hit my predicted OG as closely as possible.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 30, 2011, 07:01:18 am
I tried yours for a batch or two but it gave me similar numbers as the morebeer spreadsheet.  I'll test it again on my latest batch, I haven't bothered to get a refractometer reading from it post fermentation but I have the rest of the numbers already so it will be easy.  I'll report back.

Based on glastctbrew's post maybe I'm doing something wrong, I'll check that too.

Ok, here's what I've got.  Two carboys with OG 25.5 brix (1.106 according to beersmith, not confirmed with a hydrometer)

Refractometer readings A - 13 and B -12.8 brix.

The different spreadsheets say:

Sean's: A - 1.0194
           B - 1.0172
  Notes: There are two different equations in column E for calculating OG from the refractometer reading. version 2.1.  One row says 1.106, the rest say 1.107.  I used 1.107 for these numbers.  The numbers reported are from the "new" column.

morebeer: A - 1.019
               B - 1.018
  Notes: Spreadsheet calculates OG as 1.108

Beersmith: A - 1.019
                B - 1.018
  Notes: I'm using the default correction factors, used 1.106 as the OG because that is what beersmith calculates from 25.5 brix.

FG readings with my hydrometer (I double checked calibration) 1.025 and 1.024 after adjusted for temperature.  None of them come that close, off by about 5 points across the board.  This is similar to what I saw before.

It's possible there is some user error when I wrote down the OG since I usually don't write it down right away and I'm sure I didn't check the temperature of the sample (cooled sample, ATC refractometer).  Then again this is the same I saw before.  I really do want to do some better controlled experiments some time.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: bluesman on March 30, 2011, 11:30:45 am

FG readings with my hydrometer (I double checked calibration) 1.025 and 1.024 after adjusted for temperature.  None of them come that close, off by about 5 points across the board.  This is similar to what I saw before.

It's possible there is some user error when I wrote down the OG since I usually don't write it down right away and I'm sure I didn't check the temperature of the sample (cooled sample, ATC refractometer).  Then again this is the same I saw before.  I really do want to do some better controlled experiments some time.

Interesting data Tom. I may also revisit this someday. I also found it difficult to get consistent readings after error correction between my refractometer and hydrometer post fermentation. I have been using my hydrometer mostly because I can trust it but also because I can sample the final product which is important to me. The jury is still out on this one.  :-\
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: ccarlson on March 30, 2011, 12:55:18 pm
I love my refractometer and it's always within a point or 2 of my hydrometer. If the wort is very hot, be sure and let the sample sit for about 20 seconds, before taking a reading. I find this to be much more accurate. .
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: bluesman on March 30, 2011, 01:41:07 pm
I love my refractometer and it's always within a point or 2 of my hydrometer. If the wort is very hot, be sure and let the sample sit for about 20 seconds, before taking a reading. I find this to be much more accurate. .

Me too. I usually allow the hot wort to sit on the prism with the plastic cover closed for about 15 seconds to cool before taking a reading.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: glastctbrew on March 30, 2011, 02:23:37 pm
I tried yours for a batch or two but it gave me similar numbers as the morebeer spreadsheet.  I'll test it again on my latest batch, I haven't bothered to get a refractometer reading from it post fermentation but I have the rest of the numbers already so it will be easy.  I'll report back.

Based on glastctbrew's post maybe I'm doing something wrong, I'll check that too.

It's possible there is some user error when I wrote down the OG since I usually don't write it down right away and I'm sure I didn't check the temperature of the sample (cooled sample, ATC refractometer).  Then again this is the same I saw before.  I really do want to do some better controlled experiments some time.

Thanks for the data Tom, your results have me wondering if my adjustment factor for my hydrometer has changed.  I haven't recalibrate it in about 8 months.  I've got an alt finishing up and the brown I brewed last weekend fermented like crazy and should be done by the weekend.  I'll recalibrate and run FG both ways this weekend and post my results.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: a10t2 on March 30, 2011, 03:21:20 pm
FG readings with my hydrometer (I double checked calibration) 1.025 and 1.024 after adjusted for temperature.  None of them come that close, off by about 5 points across the board.  This is similar to what I saw before.

Thanks for posting this, Tom. The problem you're seeing is due to the fact that the OG range used in the initial data set was 8.8-24.3°P, and outside that range the correlation falls off pretty quickly. I'm seeing this with all the very high- and low-gravity data people have sent in. The other major issue I want to address is that I didn't test any worts with (real) attenuations less than 59%, which I thought was a reasonable floor for typical beers - apparently I was wrong about that, since I've gotten several submissions with RDFs in the 40s. There's going to be a 3.0 release in the next week or two that will hopefully address both issues.

FWIW, the new correlation I'm playing around with (as of now) puts the FGs at:
A: 1.022
B: 1.021

Which still isn't "good enough" IMO, but it's getting there. How confident are you in the 25.5°Bx value? If you'd like I could incorporate it into the new dataset.

Also, how did you cool the sample? I've noticed that if I don't chill it in a sealed container evaporation can increase the gravity significantly. It might not explain the discrepancy in the spreadsheet, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: weithman5 on March 30, 2011, 04:09:08 pm
Tom

i ran your numbers through an app i have on my i phone and came up with similar numbers you ended up with on your calcs (1020, and 1019) respectively.  very simple to do.  i have not gone to a refractometer yet but now that i am down sized to small batches i may.  (though thinking of stepping back up to 2-2.5g).  the app i think was free, maybe 99cents. don't know but i am kind of cheap.

if as sean says the higher gravity the correlation is off by just a bit as you experiment (or i do if i am not lazy) we could probably just a secondary correction factor for gravity over 1090 or so.. 
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: maxieboy on March 30, 2011, 06:28:16 pm
Worth every penny, IMO. I'll always have one to brew with.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 30, 2011, 06:49:59 pm
Also, how did you cool the sample? I've noticed that if I don't chill it in a sealed container evaporation can increase the gravity significantly. It might not explain the discrepancy in the spreadsheet, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
This is a concern of mine, it was definitely cooled in an open container holding a couple of ounces.  I don't know if evaporation would be enough to throw it off by more than 1 brix, which is what I calculated last night it would need to be off by in order for the other numbers to come in line.  I think it would have to lose 10% of its volume and I doubt it loses that much, but maybe it is a combination of evaporation and the initial data range you used to correct the calculation.

I'd say I'm not confident enough in my numbers for you to include them in your data set, but it's up to you.  Like I said, I really need to do some more controlled experiments.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: jrlooney on March 31, 2011, 01:27:55 pm
I loved my refractometer when it worked.  For some reason, it started deviating from my hydrometer so I stopped using it.

i've had the same issue. I now keep a gallon of distilled around so that on brew day i can calibrate it. In fact I had a thermometer fail and didn't know it until several days after a brew session. So now, I calibrate my thermometer, refractometer and hydrometer every time i use them - annoying, but not as annoying as ruining an entire batch.   :)
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 02:39:02 pm
I could calibrate mine for the rest of my life and I still don't think it would read accurately.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: blatz on March 31, 2011, 02:46:18 pm
I could calibrate mine for the rest of my life and I still don't think it would read accurately.

they don't work in Oregon.  only Florida.  duh. ;D
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 02:46:48 pm
I could calibrate mine for the rest of my life and I still don't think it would read accurately.

they don't work in Oregon.  only Florida.  duh. ;D

Ah, _that_ would explain it!  :)
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: ccarlson on March 31, 2011, 03:38:52 pm
Maybe it was dropped.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 03:45:32 pm
Maybe it was dropped.

Well, it started out working fine for a couple years and I haven't dropped it.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tschmidlin on March 31, 2011, 04:06:01 pm
Maybe it was dropped.

Well, it started out working fine for a couple years and I haven't dropped it.
Maybe it was Studach who dropped it  ;D
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Pinski on March 31, 2011, 04:09:40 pm
I could calibrate mine for the rest of my life and I still don't think it would read accurately.

they don't work in Oregon.  only Florida.  duh. ;D
Something told me I should hold off on that purchase. Must be the vortex throws them off.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: blatz on March 31, 2011, 04:30:29 pm
I could calibrate mine for the rest of my life and I still don't think it would read accurately.

they don't work in Oregon.  only Florida.  duh. ;D
Something told me I should hold off on that purchase. Must be the vortex throws them off.

guess I will throw my 2 pennies in - since I initially calibrated my refractometer to my hydro about 2 years ago and through data found my correct adjustment factor in the refracto tool in Beersmith, I have never had a problem with it - its always dead on, even for post fermentation readings (which I always take a hydro of since I like to taste).

Its most helpful to me for determining the gravity along the boil so I can know where I stand as far as extraction from the mash.

YMMV.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: ccarlson on March 31, 2011, 04:45:43 pm
I wouldn't give up on them. It one of the best brewing investments I ever made and I paid a lot more for mine than they are going for now.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 05:07:56 pm
Maybe it was Studach who dropped it  ;D

Hey, I'm always up for blaming the Bald Guy!
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 05:10:12 pm
guess I will throw my 2 pennies in - since I initially calibrated my refractometer to my hydro about 2 years ago and through data found my correct adjustment factor in the refracto tool in Beersmith, I have never had a problem with it - its always dead on, even for post fermentation readings (which I always take a hydro of since I like to taste).

Its most helpful to me for determining the gravity along the boil so I can know where I stand as far as extraction from the mash.

YMMV.

Promash has a correction factor also that I've tried to use.  It recommends a generic correction of about 1.04 IIRC and doesn't let you go below 1.  The problem is that when I do the math, mine always ends up under 1.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: denny on March 31, 2011, 05:10:53 pm
I wouldn't give up on them. It one of the best brewing investments I ever made and I paid a lot more for mine than they are going for now.

I'll definitely break it out again next brew session and see how it does.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: akr71 on March 31, 2011, 05:39:51 pm
I use my refractometer pre-fermentation and stick to the hydrometer for post fermentation.

+1

This is my practice as well.

I just bought mine and have yet to use it, other than calibrating it, but this is my intention - besides, licking the couple of drops off of the prism isn't really much of a taste is it...  ;D
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: narcout on April 02, 2011, 03:31:12 pm
I could never get an accurate FG reading out of my refractometer. When it broke, I didn't bother to replace it.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: Malticulous on April 03, 2011, 02:23:32 am
I've yet to use one.  ???
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: glastctbrew on April 03, 2011, 06:05:12 pm

Thanks for the data Tom, your results have me wondering if my adjustment factor for my hydrometer has changed.  I haven't recalibrate it in about 8 months.  I've got an alt finishing up and the brown I brewed last weekend fermented like crazy and should be done by the weekend.  I'll recalibrate and run FG both ways this weekend and post my results.

Ok,   I just finished up doing my FG testing.   I recalibrated everything before I took my readings.  Since I always have a lab wash bottle of Distilled water handy I check my refractometer every time I use it.  It is sensitive to ambient temperatures.  Also, while it is an ATC model, I always cool my sample down to at least 90F before taking a reading.

Batch 1 Dusseldorf Alt
OG  1.048/11.9 Brix (by refractometer only)
FG 1.011 by Hydrometer (1.01 at 69.4F corrected to 1.011)
FG 5.8 Brix calulating to 1.011FG using Sean's algortihms

Batch 2 Northern English Brown Ale
OG  1.046/11.4Brix (by refractometer only)
FG 1.012 by Hydrometer (1.011 at 69.5F corrected to 1.012)
FG 6 Brix calulating to 1.012 FG using Sean's algortihms

Most of the beers I brew are 1.045 to 1.065 OG and Sean's correction factors give me great results. At this point I am content with storing my hydrometer for use on high OG brews.

Thanks again Sean.  I appreciate all the time and effort you put into your refractometer analysis!
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: phillamb168 on April 04, 2011, 07:46:25 am
I went looking for one the other day, I heard that patisserie/confectioners shops carry them. But JEEZ, 250 big ones before tax, no thanks. I'll stick with my hydrometer, thanks.

For what it's worth, I think a good quick-reading pH meter would be a better buy.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: tygo on April 04, 2011, 11:12:24 am
I went looking for one the other day, I heard that patisserie/confectioners shops carry them. But JEEZ, 250 big ones before tax, no thanks. I'll stick with my hydrometer, thanks.

For what it's worth, I think a good quick-reading pH meter would be a better buy.

Here's an ATC one with free shipping worldwide for $30:  http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-0-32-ATC-Brix-Refractometer-Wine-Beer-CNC-Sugar-/390202796300?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5ad9e6290c

Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: phillamb168 on April 04, 2011, 11:16:59 am
I went looking for one the other day, I heard that patisserie/confectioners shops carry them. But JEEZ, 250 big ones before tax, no thanks. I'll stick with my hydrometer, thanks.

For what it's worth, I think a good quick-reading pH meter would be a better buy.

Here's an ATC one with free shipping worldwide for $30:  http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-0-32-ATC-Brix-Refractometer-Wine-Beer-CNC-Sugar-/390202796300?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5ad9e6290c



Oh hellooooo.. Don't mind if I do. Thanks! 30 euros WITH SHIPPING, ftw.
Title: Re: Is a refractometer worth the $$?
Post by: maxieboy on April 05, 2011, 02:17:17 pm
I've got an ATC 0-32 Brix unit made by Alla in Chemille, France!