Hydrometer vs Refractometer

Discussion in 'General Brewing Discussions' started by Frankenbrewer, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. Frankenbrewer

    Frankenbrewer Well-Known Member

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    Hey Brew dogs,

    Do most folks use the hydrometer or refractometer? I have used both. The hydrometer increases the risk of contamination and oxygen in my mind but I'm not sure the refrac is accurate even though I calibrated it with distilled water. What's your choice and why?
     
  2. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    Refractometer. With the calculator on this site or a conversion spreadsheet, it's more accurate than my hydrometer because I can read it to three decimal places (x.xxx). Can't do that with the hydrometer. I've checked the converted values across the range and they're accurate to 0.001 +/- . Added goodness: Sample size measured in ml.
     
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  3. BOB357

    BOB357 Well-Known Member

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    Every thing you need to know about the proper use of a refractometer can be accessed from this page:
    https://www.brewersfriend.com/refractometer-calculator/
    Scroll down and read everything that the various links take you to. It's not as simple as calibrating with distilled water. There are other steps that must be taken before you can rely on the readings.
    The greatest things about using a refractometer are that it only requires a few drops of wort or beer and that those few drops will cool to testing temperature in a very short time when compared to hydrometer samples.
     
  4. philjohnwilliams

    philjohnwilliams Well-Known Member

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    I use both. On brew day I like my refractometer to take quick pre/post boil gravity readings, after fermentation is complete I prefer a hydrometer, but these days I usually only take a reading on bottling day.
     
  5. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    ^^^That...^^^
     
  6. Craigerrr

    Craigerrr Well-Known Member

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    I am a brew day refractometer, and a packaging day hydrometer kinda guy too. I like to chill the sample on packaging day to perform quality control (taste bud analysis). I put it in the fridge after taking the reading, and let it chill while racking to the keg.
     
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  7. J A

    J A Well-Known Member

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    When I think about it, I mostly use refractometer to track the rise in gravity and gauge conversion progress during mash. It allows me to know when to raise temp for step mashes. I do usually end up pulling a pre-boil sample and chilling for an actual hydro reading to compare to refractometer data.
     
  8. Nosybear

    Nosybear Well-Known Member

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    I've been using the hydrometer to get my final gravity the last few batches simply because it gives me a chance to sample the beer. Otherwise, refractometer, corrected, gives the same readings, isn't temperature sensitive and is easier to read.
     
  9. Bubba Wade

    Bubba Wade Well-Known Member

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    These days I have been relying on the Tilt hydrometer. It gets sanitized and dropped in the fermenter after wort cooling and just before yeast pitching. I have calibrated it against water and it stays within about +/- 0.001 SGU. I like being able to monitor the fermentation progress without the need to sample or disturb the beer.
     
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