Author Topic: What's a good refractometer?  (Read 1792 times)

Offline Philbrew

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What's a good refractometer?
« on: April 22, 2015, 08:48:32 PM »
OK, I've searched through enough back forum topics and the consensus is that a refractometer would be a good investment.  What is a good one?  What to look for?  Value?  Is "this one" better for OG and "that one" better for FG?  Other thoughts, etc.?
Many of us would be on a strict liquid diet if it weren't for pretzels.

Offline riceral

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2015, 11:53:27 PM »
I have a refractometer I got off of Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006GG0TDK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I use it to check the gravity of the first runnings from the mash tun, the starting gravity of the boil, and the gravity going into the fermenter. I always double check the og with my hydrometer. I don't use my refractometer for fg; only use my hydrometer.

For the price I paid ($16 on sale) and for what I use it for, I'm happy.

Ralph R.

Offline brulosopher

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2015, 12:53:36 AM »
There are some who hate refractometers, then there are those who swear by them. I'm solidly in the camp of the latter. I did a review and discussion of the refractometer I use, check it out here:

http://brulosophy.com/2014/09/08/refractometers-are-they-really-worth-it/

Offline tommymorris

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2015, 01:31:52 AM »
I have the "Magnum Media PRB-32ATC (TM) SUPER HEAVY DUTY Brix Refractometer"

Crazy name, but, I love it. It really is heavy duty. I like the very sharp contrast when reading. Much better than the cheapo I had before. Also, it seems to stay calibrated. Every time I go to use it I check it with water first. It always reads 0. My old one had to be calibrated every time.

One caveat. It only reads Brix. I like Brix though. So it works for me.

Offline troybinso

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2015, 02:12:41 PM »
I don't know what a good refractometer is, but I can tell you that the cheap $34 from most homebrew stores is not an example of what I would call a good piece of equipment. I much prefer refractometer for measuring the gravity at every part of the brewing process because of the small volume of liquid, but the refractometer I have is always getting out of calibration.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2015, 02:58:00 PM »
It really is heavy duty. I like the very sharp contrast when reading. Much better than the cheapo I had before. Also, it seems to stay calibrated. Every time I go to use it I check it with water first. It always reads 0. My old one had to be calibrated every time.

Mine is the same. I don't remember the name but I paid ~ $50ish. It has good contrast, always reads 0 with water, and best of all, reads consistently. Unlike the the cheap one I had before that would read all over the place, even on the same sample.
Jon H.

Offline tommymorris

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2015, 09:04:16 PM »
I would like to add, I only use my refractometer pre-fermentation. After fermentation I use a hydrometer. It's more accurate and the sample size is also a good size for having a taste.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2015, 09:53:38 PM »
I would like to add, I only use my refractometer pre-fermentation. After fermentation I use a hydrometer. It's more accurate and the sample size is also a good size for having a taste.

Yep. I also like not having to correct for alcohol present AND being able to taste the wort.
Jon H.

Offline mchrispen

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2015, 10:06:56 PM »
I gave up on my prism refractometers and splurged on a Milwaukee Digital MA871. I get much more accurate readings (I think). With unfermented wort - it appears to be accurate to my hydrometer, but with dark beers not so much.

I use it during sparge and during fermentation, but not looking for FG, rather stable readings over several days. I still use a calibrated hydrometer for actual OG and FG. It is usually very close for OG, but I tend to use the hydrometer sample for a fast ferment test anyways.

Offline philip23

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2015, 03:38:19 PM »
I also gave up on prism based units but bought a Milwaukee Digital MA884. Crazy but it was only $90 on Amazon and the only difference is that you can toggle to % potential alcohol (really only useful for wine making since the FG is assumed too low for beer).  I just never use that mode and I have the same everything that the 871 has but got it much cheaper since no one really knows this model. MA has an entire family of Digital Refractometers and I'd suggest getting whichever you can find cheapest as they are great meters and a HUGE step up from any prism unit.  Just don't buy the saltwater model, not good for brewing!

Offline Stevie

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2015, 05:24:42 PM »

I also gave up on prism based units but bought a Milwaukee Digital MA884. Crazy but it was only $90 on Amazon and the only difference is that you can toggle to % potential alcohol (really only useful for wine making since the FG is assumed too low for beer).  I just never use that mode and I have the same everything that the 871 has but got it much cheaper since no one really knows this model. MA has an entire family of Digital Refractometers and I'd suggest getting whichever you can find cheapest as they are great meters and a HUGE step up from any prism unit.  Just don't buy the saltwater model, not good for brewing!
Good find. The company doesn't even list it on the site. Only the 871 (brix) and 871 (salinity) are listed. Is the range identical to the 871? No weaknesses comparatively.

Offline philip23

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2015, 09:41:56 PM »
Yeah, you have to Google it and then they have it as part of their 881/2/3/4 family.  The range is where they differ, the 871 is 0-85% Brix whereas the 884 is 0-50% Brix.  Resolution and Accuracy are identical.  Keep in mind that 50% Brix is 25% alcohol v/v so the added range of the 871 really buys nothing for beer brewing.

Just checked Amazon and it's currently $79.99 with free Prime shipping.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2015, 09:50:12 PM »
Yeah, you have to Google it and then they have it as part of their 881/2/3/4 family.  The range is where they differ, the 871 is 0-85% Brix whereas the 884 is 0-50% Brix.  Resolution and Accuracy are identical.  Keep in mind that 50% Brix is 25% alcohol v/v so the added range of the 871 really buys nothing for beer brewing.

Just checked Amazon and it's currently $79.99 with free Prime shipping.

Thanks for the info.  Been thinking about one of these for a while. May pull the trigger this summer.
Jon H.

Offline bengelbrau

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2015, 02:10:32 AM »
I am really ignorant in this area. Since the digitals work on refraction, what makes them better than the handheld (relatively) cheapos?

Offline pete b

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Re: What's a good refractometer?
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2015, 12:22:47 PM »
I think I will always just cool my wort in a cocktail shaker and ice bath. Even people who swear by refractometers seem to have doubts each time they use them.
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