Jump to content
Mr.Beer Community
Squirley Mic

New (essential?) Equipment

Recommended Posts

I decided I needed a better way to estimate the abv of my experimental batches so I purchased a refractometer.  And, thanks to Northern Brewer I also have a calculator to use when I use it.  I feel like a nerd using this thing but it's fun and easy to use.  I also think I've found the perfect place to store my bottled beers - for conditioning.  I'm gonna talk to a realtor soon...as soon as I can learn the language...Norwegian.

Cold? check,   Quiet? check,   Out of the way and likely not to be disturbed? check.

Abandoned home Norway.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Using a refractometer for measuring OG is fine.  Once alcohol starts being produced, the readings are not accurate.  While there are calculators to try and approximate what the reading should be, you'll find that at the most sophisticated brewing operations they simply use a hydrometer.  They may take OG readings with a refractometer.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MB has a very inexpensive single scale hydrometer that tells you all you need to know for OG and FG. I sanitize the hydrometer in the sampling tube to take the OG so I can return it to the LBK before I pitch. FG I take before bottling and take a taste sip of the sample as well as record the reading and save the rest in a glass to sip on at lunch after bottling and clean up is done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, RickBeer said:

Using a refractometer for measuring OG is fine.  Once alcohol starts being produced, the readings are not accurate.  While there are calculators to try and approximate what the reading should be, you'll find that at the most sophisticated brewing operations they simply use a hydrometer.  They may take OG readings with a refractometer.  

While I wouldn’t call us “sophisticated” I will say we use a hydrometer and my refractometer sits in its box collecting dust and has for a couple years or so. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unlike most, I do use a refractometer and rarely use a hydrometer.  I did however spend quite a bit of time and beer using both side by side to get a good value for correction.  There is a spreadsheet out there somewhere that you put in both numbers and it calculates a correction number.  It takes like 20 readings to get a reliable correction factor.  I do sometimes check my calculated FG with a hydrometer and they are within a point so I am satisfied that for me it is close enough.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, RickBeer said:

Using a refractometer for measuring OG is fine.  Once alcohol starts being produced, the readings are not accurate.  While there are calculators to try and approximate what the reading should be, you'll find that at the most sophisticated brewing operations they simply use a hydrometer.  They may take OG readings with a refractometer.  

 

I do have a hydrometer but found it impossible to use with the LBK.  That was before I found out one needs also buy a graduated cylinder to fill with beer to float the hydrometer in, which takes a pretty good amount of beer from the small LBK.  (The instructions with the hydrometer did not inform me of needing the graduated cylinder and, of course, I do not have one).  Meanwhile, the' Northern Brewer' website contains a calculator (as you mentioned) that attempts to more accurately estimate the abv based on original brix, current brix and  current gravity (which itself is based on original brix and current brix).  Whew -  all just for what I would consider an estimate of actual abv.  All I can say is it's a darn good thing I'm not printing labels with abv figures on 'em and trying to sell them to the public.  LOL

 

I appreciate your input and knowledge, btw.  😄

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Cato said:

MB has a very inexpensive single scale hydrometer that tells you all you need to know for OG and FG. I sanitize the hydrometer in the sampling tube to take the OG so I can return it to the LBK before I pitch. FG I take before bottling and take a taste sip of the sample as well as record the reading and save the rest in a glass to sip on at lunch after bottling and clean up is done.

 

Oh, great -- now that I have already bought both a hydrometer and a refractometer!  lol  Say, did you say that it came with a sampling tube?  Mine did not, tho it was in a plastic tube.  I was not able to use the tube it came in because it is a semi-tight fit, no way the hydrometer floats freely in that tube.  How much beer does it take to use MB's hydrometer? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, kedogn said:

While I wouldn’t call us “sophisticated” I will say we use a hydrometer and my refractometer sits in its box collecting dust and has for a couple years or so. 

 

Hmmm.  Do you still brew just 2 gallons at a time in a LBK?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, BDawg62 said:

 I do sometimes check my calculated FG with a hydrometer and they are within a point so I am satisfied that for me it is close enough.

 

By "a point" do you mean, like 6% instead of 7%?  Or 6.1% vs 6.2%?  For my purposes that would be more than accurate enough.  I just want to know if my recipes are yielding, say 6.5%, (or whatever) give or take  0.5%.  That would be close enough, as they say, for horse shoes and hand grenades....and my satisfaction.  😎

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
54 minutes ago, Mic Todd said:

Hmmm.  Do you still brew just 2 gallons at a time in a LBK?

Haven’t for over 8.5 years. We do 35 or 60 gallon batches.   I get your point though, smaller amount used, yeah?  Sanitize your tube, toss it back in.  Personally, I trust a hydrometer more than refractometer. Of the places I’ve got to help brew at or been able to pick their brewer’s brains, I can’t tell you who last told me they use the later of the 2. It’s been that long honestly.  However,  I could tell you the Ducks suck (ouch!) but much like what tool to use, it’s something you have to decide on for yourself. I can only tell you from my experience and btw,  it was Oklahoma’s football! #WorstCallEver!  :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Mic Todd said:

 

Oh, great -- now that I have already bought both a hydrometer and a refractometer!  lol  Say, did you say that it came with a sampling tube?  Mine did not, tho it was in a plastic tube.  I was not able to use the tube it came in because it is a semi-tight fit, no way the hydrometer floats freely in that tube.  How much beer does it take to use MB's hydrometer? 

If it is the MB hydrometer, yes that would be the sampling tube and stand. Takes about 2/3 fill in that tube to get her floating.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, kedogn said:

 btw,  it was Oklahoma’s football! #WorstCallEver!  :) 

 

Thanks for your reply and I'm kinda getting the idea from others like yourself that the refractor vs hydrometer controversy is leaning towards the hydrometer.  Fortunately, I still have my hydrometer, or I did have if I can get it back from the wife. 

 

As far as #WorstCallEver! goes, well, that was a looooong time ago and a lot of football has been played since then.  And I might argue that the "worst call ever" might get votes from Duck fans regarding that touchdown against Stanford a coupled weeks ago that was called a TD by the referees (both of them) on the field but reversed during the TV Time Out by someone in the booth.  That was worthy of "worst call ever too".  Probably dozens of them every season across the CFB world...lol  GO DUCKS

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Creeps McLane said:

When i first started brewing i was quite anal about gravity readings. Now i never take an OG or an FG. Call me crazy... 

Interesting take. Curious though, you’re not concerned about consistency?  Not concerned about conversion rates, efficiency and possibly being able to save $ per batch?  Without those #s you aren’t able to calculate any of that.  Heck, one wouldn’t even accurately know what boil rate they needed or if their IBU calcultions were accurate without knowing their SG.  As an AG home brewer you can certainly get away with that if these things don’t concern you.   You can assume “This is what I hit before, this is what I will always hit” and if it’s wrong, it won’t matter but, for me personally, when I was starting out I knew that for me to get better, to brew the same beer consistently (which is vital to being able to take that step past home brewer),  I needed as much data as I could supply myself and SG/FG is a huge part of that data for more than just abv. Now, having stepped beyond being a home brewer, those numbers are not just random data, they are vital (and legally needed) just like so many other things.   I’ve never met a brewer, at any level, who honestly didn’t care about that data.  Interesting take for sure.  Thanks for sharing that. Got me thinking about so many things, including the “good ole days”.  Certainly got my “wanting to brew” juices flowing.  Good stuff! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Creeps McLane said:

When i first started brewing i was quite anal about gravity readings. Now i never take an OG or an FG. Call me crazy... 

I was in production management for too long to do that as everything was logged from machinery maintenance, goods produced, waste, inventory, etc. 

Then when I ran an R&D facility raising shrimp indoors from larvae, where we grew our own algae for feed, well that was a huge amount of data recording.

Nope, even though I'm getting a good feel about what my grain bill is gonna yield, I still want to know and log into my spreadsheet.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Mic Todd said:

 

By "a point" do you mean, like 6% instead of 7%?  Or 6.1% vs 6.2%?  For my purposes that would be more than accurate enough.  I just want to know if my recipes are yielding, say 6.5%, (or whatever) give or take  0.5%.  That would be close enough, as they say, for horse shoes and hand grenades....and my satisfaction.  😎

By a point I mean 1.011 vs 1.012

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Creeps McLane said:

When i first started brewing i was quite anal about gravity readings. Now i never take an OG or an FG. Call me crazy... 

with MRB recipes i never check OG/FG. I have to admit though now that I am doing some AG batches, I have been checking OG to get some idea of my mash efficiency. I've been coming in lower than the recipes suggest I should be, so I'm trying to figure out how to make that better. Hydrometer for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Two points.

 

1) While the Mr. Beer site isn't the be all and end all for products, or information, reading the blog on using a hydrometer would have shown the tube and more importantly how to read a hydrometer (many people do it wrong).  The password is "meniscus" (that's a joke, if you don't know what Password means go away...).  I don't want to harp on it, but reading in 10 different places will yield you 14 different answers, 6.3 which are flat out wrong.

 

2) There are lots of places to buy beer stuff.  LHBS (local home brewing store), online purveyors (my LHBS happens to be one of the online purveyors), Amazon (lack of content), etc.  I always remind people that Northern Brewer and Midwest are owned by ZX Ventures, which is Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Personally, I try to not have a penny of my money benefit "big beer", so they'll never get a dime from me at either company.  I do all my purchasing locally as I said, which happens to be one of the competitors to Northern / Midwest, Adventures in Homebrewing.  They are not always the lowest price, but I prefer measuring out and grinding my own grains, which I can do in their store near me (they only have 2 stores, both in SE Michigan).  You can order grains in quantities as low as fractions of a pound, provided you're ordering pounds (i.e. you can get 2.3 pounds of something), and they will grind for free, or not, as you specify.  I don't buy my hops or yeast there as they aren't competitively priced, I buy hops every 12-24 months elsewhere, and my yeast either with my hop purchase or via a small company that sells it very inexpensively, but you have to buy 4 packets or more (and they mix and match).  I won't post either name here, as Mr. Beer is a competitor, but wanted to point out that Northern Brewer is the dark side.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Jdub said:

with MRB recipes i never check OG/FG. I have to admit though now that I am doing some AG batches, I have been checking OG to get some idea of my mash efficiency. I've been coming in lower than the recipes suggest I should be, so I'm trying to figure out how to make that better. Hydrometer for me.

 

Same here.  I do have a refractometer, but I only use it on high octane brews to make sure fermentation is complete.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, kedogn said:

Interesting take. Curious though, you’re not concerned about consistency?  Not concerned about conversion rates, efficiency and possibly being able to save $ per batch?  Without those #s you aren’t able to calculate any of that.  Heck, one wouldn’t even accurately know what boil rate they needed or if their IBU calcultions were accurate without knowing their SG.  As an AG home brewer you can certainly get away with that if these things don’t concern you.   You can assume “This is what I hit before, this is what I will always hit” and if it’s wrong, it won’t matter but, for me personally, when I was starting out I knew that for me to get better, to brew the same beer consistently (which is vital to being able to take that step past home brewer),  I needed as much data as I could supply myself and SG/FG is a huge part of that data for more than just abv. Now, having stepped beyond being a home brewer, those numbers are not just random data, they are vital (and legally needed) just like so many other things.   I’ve never met a brewer, at any level, who honestly didn’t care about that data.  Interesting take for sure.  Thanks for sharing that. Got me thinking about so many things, including the “good ole days”.  Certainly got my “wanting to brew” juices flowing.  Good stuff! 

Do i care about consistency and conversion and everything else? Not really. Thats the honest truth. 

 

However... i must say that ive already done all the hard work so I feel ok not worrying about things anymore. Best decision ive ever made was downloading beersmith. When i did I took the time to go through step by step and build a personal brewing equipment profile for my gear. Time after time everything i saw in beersmith was exactly what i saw on brewday. I used to check preboil gravity, post boil gravity even occasionally mash gravity. Now im so confident that as long as my volumes on brew day are where they need to be, my gravities should be on as well. One less thing to worry about is what I strive for.

 

i will be dusting off my old hydrometer here soon to see where my brett aged pale ale is at. Its been in secondary for prob around 4 months now. If i bottle it I wanr to make sure its done. Otherwise we all know what happens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Creeps McLane said:

When i first started brewing i was quite anal about gravity readings. Now i never take an OG or an FG. Call me crazy... 

 

Not at all Creeps, I can see that.  I wanted to start checking because I am tweaking the recipes when I experiment.  But I can see it as not being a must.  Right now I'm just learning about brewing and I thought it fun and a way to tell (besides taste) how I was doing. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Mic Todd said:

 

Not at all Creeps, I can see that.  I wanted to start checking because I am tweaking the recipes when I experiment.  But I can see it as not being a must.  Right now I'm just learning about brewing and I thought it fun and a way to tell (besides taste) how I was doing. 

If i was brewing with extract i wouldnt worry about gravity readings. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Creeps McLane said:

If i was brewing with extract i wouldnt worry about gravity readings. 

 

Well, for example: my 1st experiment began with a can of CAL (no booster) and to that I added one lb of DME, one cup of agave and I substituted i/2 pack of Safale US-05 yeast for the MRB yeast.  I have no idea how it will look, smell (I'm also dry-hopping it when it goes into bottles) or taste, let alone what IBU or ABV it will come in at.  But IF it turns out good, and I hope it will, I know my friends are gonna want to know a few things about it.  Heck, I'll want to know myself!!  lol  - it's all good.  I am a very small homebrewer.  Most of you guys sound like you brew in gallons and gallons.  I probably never will brew more than 2 at a time.  🙂

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My perspective is a bit different.  I record EVERYTHING I can think of, and I'm sure I miss some things.  I also try to not change more than one thing each time, if possible.  Why should you do that?

 

- To be able to replicate results.  If you don't know what you did, how can you do it again?

- To be able to identify WHAT caused the difference from the last result.  If you change hops, and add a different steeping grain, and ferment at 71 instead of 65, and you get a different result, WHAT caused that result?

 

For a while, each batch I bottled a 16.9 PET bottle.  This served two purposes.  First, to give me a soft bottle to squeeze to check for firmness.  However, I found that with batch priming and the right amount of sugar, that's never been an issue.  Second, to give me a reserved bottle (I put all the 16.9 bottles in a separate box) to compare against the next batch and see if I could tell the difference.  I've now stopped doing that, because I was going so long between batches that the held out 16.9 bottle was too old.  And, I was making the exact same thing every time and therefore getting the same results, plus or minus a few points of gravity.  

 

I also measure ABV because SWMBO doesn't like high ABV beers.  To her, the sweet spot is mid 4s.  For me, I like beers up to 6.X, and will of course try anything.  I might even try to brew a higher gravity beer sometime.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, replicating it (if it turns out good) would be a biggee.  I remember the pumpkin beer my son-in-law and friend brewed once.  It was freakin awesome and everyone loved it.  But they had just winged it (even using champagne yeast because it was what they had) recording nothing.  When I asked them for a recipe they just laughed and said they could get me close but weren't exactly sure about quanities, times, temperatures or even all the ingredients.  I think they were drinking a lot of beer when they made it.

 

All I know is that it was a real pity they hadn't documented everything.  I have never tasted a pumpkin beer as good as theirs turned out and believe me, I have tried a LOT.  Pity -

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×