What Hydrometer do you use?

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Timx0r, Mar 8, 2019.

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  1. Timx0r

    Timx0r Devotee (360) Feb 2, 2019 Wisconsin

    Very new to home brewing and bought a kit for my first batch, but having a heck of a time reading the hydrometer that came with it.

    Been looking around and found this one instead. Seems a little easier to read with the colors.

    Chefast Hydrometer and Test Jar for Wine, Beer, Mead and Kombucha - Combo Kit of Triple-Scale Hydrometer, 250ml Plastic Cylinder, Cleaning Brush, Cloth and Storage Bag

    Any input from the experience people here?

    Thanks in advance.

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  2. minderbender

    minderbender Initiate (0) Jan 18, 2009 New York

    I think I use this one. It's always worked fine for me. Be careful, a lot of people report breaking them because they are fragile.

    That said, I switched to a refractometer a few years ago and I love it. It only requires a few drops, and I've found that its readings (when properly adjusted) are indistinguishable from my hydrometer readings.

    About that - a refractometer's raw readings are not directly translatable to gravity. To address that, you have to use a calculator to adjust the readings (here's the one I favor).

    Admittedly a refractometer is a bigger investment than a hydrometer, so it depends on your budget and your preferences. I'll just say that if I were starting all over today, knowing what I know, I would definitely get a refractometer. (Here's one for sale - it's not exactly the one I use, but it looks pretty similar.)
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  3. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Grand Pooh-Bah (5,303) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I think I probably paid around $10 for mine, which was a replacement for one that I dropped and broke, and it has been reliable. I don't know if the old saying 'you get what you pay for' is true, but a real cheapo is probably to be avoided. My only recommendation is to check the graduations on the scale to make sure the numbers exceed 1.100. My scale stops there and it prevents me from brewing a high gravity beer with any numerical accuracy, although I've never done that before. So maybe that shortcoming defines a cheapo device.

    Edit: Welcome to this great hobby and to the BA site.
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  4. riptorn

    riptorn Maven (1,422) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Looks like decent kit. I like the pour spout on the test jar. The hydrometer is similar to mine, which is 9" long but doesn't have the colored bands. The graduations on mine are very close together and at times are difficult to read, depending on light, bubbles and clarity of the wort.
    Any triple-scale hydrometer of about the same length will have similarly spaced graduations, and a similar level of difficulty to read.
    Is yours different from the one in the link, except for the colored bands?

    Welcome to the hobby.

    ETA after reading @PapaGoose03 post.
    Consider having a spare on hand for when you break one. Test each one in distilled water and note any +/- readings as they relate to 1.000 (SG of water). If the two hydrometers differ, use the same one throughout a batch. There are enough calculations to be done in brewing without having adjust for two different hydrometers in a single brew.
    #4 riptorn, Mar 8, 2019
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2019
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  5. Timx0r

    Timx0r Devotee (360) Feb 2, 2019 Wisconsin

    That's the advice I was looking for, thank you! I'd rather spend a few extra bucks now and not have to worry about it later.

    If I'm going to get a new hydrometer for half the cost of that I'm better off in the long run.

    Thank you again!
    minderbender likes this.
  6. Supergenious

    Supergenious Savant (1,249) May 9, 2011 Michigan

    Yeah, they can be a bit of a pain to read sometimes. Don’t get too hung up getting an exact number though. Ballpark is good enough.
    Also, a back up is a good idea. I’ve broken a shit load of those fragile bustards!
    Good luck and welcome to the obsession!
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  7. Timx0r

    Timx0r Devotee (360) Feb 2, 2019 Wisconsin

    The one that came in the kit is just clear all the way through. After looking at a few the different color readings seem pretty helpful, so was going along those lines.
    Like you said so far been hard to read with bubbles, etc.

    Thanks for the advice!
  8. Timx0r

    Timx0r Devotee (360) Feb 2, 2019 Wisconsin

    Thanks! Everyone has been so helpful on site (not just in here)

    I'll keep the one I currently have as a back up and find something easier to read or go with the refractometer.
  9. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Grand High Pooh-Bah (7,122) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    A refractometer cannot read finished beer though, am I correct in that?
  10. VikeMan

    VikeMan Grand Pooh-Bah (3,043) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    The reading needs to be adjusted with a refractometer calculator. Actually, (un-adjusted) refractometer readings are not accurate for OG either, but the adjustment is much smaller.
  11. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Grand High Pooh-Bah (7,122) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Still better than dealing with saccharometers in my opinion, and much harder to break.
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,351) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    For those looking for a more durable hydrometer there are models that are shatterproof (e.g., made of Polycarbonate Plastic).

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  13. VikeMan

    VikeMan Grand Pooh-Bah (3,043) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Yep. I use my refractometer more often than a hydrometer.
  14. epk

    epk Pundit (813) Jun 10, 2008 New Jersey

    Been using the same cheap one for years, but only ever pulled it out for final graviey, favoring the refractometer for brew day. I recently bought a final gravity hydrometer and I am liking the resolution that provides actually, but it's totally not a necessity.

    Don't mind pulling a half pint for it becasue I typically like to sample the beer at that point anyway. I also have a wierd habit of putting the sample in the fridge after to see yeast drop out and the color I can expect. Last couple I brewed I actually stuck some plastic wrap tight against the liquid to inhabit any oxidation. Who knows if that helped, but it didn't get any darker over the course of a couple days and I don't feel the flavor changed much.
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  15. barleyhead

    barleyhead Initiate (0) Jun 5, 2008 New Jersey

    ++ for backup hydrometers. They also break if you attempt to wash them in hot water. The metal weight expands followed by a 'tick' sound of breaking glass, then by audible words unsuitable for young audiences. :slight_smile: Wash with warm water only.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  16. mikehartigan

    mikehartigan Maven (1,409) Apr 9, 2007 Illinois

    My refractometer easily cost less than the 6+ hydrometers that came before it.
    minderbender likes this.
  17. ithacabaron

    ithacabaron Savant (1,135) Jul 16, 2003 California

    What's a hydrometer?

    Just kidding, of course -- although I rarely check the gravity of what I brew. For my friends who are obsessive on this point, they wholeheartedly endorse the refractometer investment. Buy it once and have peace of mind forever!
  18. riptorn

    riptorn Maven (1,422) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    It's a tool for measuring how quickly your foil gets on plane.
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