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We recieve many calls and emails here at Mr. Beer on how to use a hydrometer. Many of the hydrometer instructions can be confusing to newbies so I thought I would create this primer on the correct way to use a hydrometer and the explanation of specific gravity. Understanding Your Hydrometer: The hydrometer is a simple instrument that measures the weight (or gravity) of a liquid in relation to the weight of water. Because the relation of the gravity to water is specified (1.000), the resulting measure is called a specific gravity. A hydrometer will float higher in a heavy liquid, such as one with a quantity of sugar dissolved in it, and lower in a light liquid, such as water or alcohol. The average homebrewer has a very keen interest in the amount of sugar dissolved in their wort, for yeast converts sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. By knowing how much sugar one started with and ended with, one can easily calculate the resulting alcohol content. There are many variants of the hydrometer. Some have only one scale, some two and some three. The typical hydrometer measures three things: specific gravity (S.G.), potential alcohol (P.A.), and sugar. How To Use Your Hydrometer: It's really pretty easy to use the hydrometer; just follow these simple steps: 1. Sanitize the hydrometer, test jar, and any tools that may come into contact with your wort/beer. 2. Place test cylinder on flat surface. 3. Draw a sample of "clean" wort/beer (Avoid testing samples that contain solid particles, since this will affect the readings.) 4. Fill the test jar with enough liquid to just float the hydrometer - about 80% full. 5. Gently lower the hydrometer into the test jar; spin the hydrometer as you release it, so no bubbles stick to the bottom of the hydrometer (this can also affect readings). 6. Making sure the hydrometer isn't touching the sides of the test jar and is floating freely, take a reading across the bottom of the meniscus (see image below). Meniscus is a fancy word for the curved surface of the liquid. 7. Be sure to take good records of your readings! That's it! Pretty simple, huh? There are a couple of other things you need to know to get an accurate measurement. Most hydrometers are calibrated to give correct readings at 59-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Higher temperatures thin the liquid slightly and result in lower readings than you'd get at the correct temperature. At 70 degrees F., the reading will be 0.001 low. To correct it, add 0.001 to the reading. At 77 degrees F., add 0.002. At 84 degrees F., add 0.003. At 95 degrees F., add 0.005. At temperatures above 95 degrees F., you risk killing your yeast and losing your beer. If you can't remember all that just print out the chart below. Another thing you need to know is that most hydrometers come with three scales. Specific Gravity, Balling, and Brix are the ones that are usually on your hydrometer. Specific Gravity and Brix are the ones that are most used. Sugar can be measured as ounces per gallon, or as degrees Balling, or Brix. Ounces per gallon are measured on a numeric scale in which an S.G. of 1.046 equals 16 oz. (one pound) of sugar per U.S. gallon. Brix is measured as a percentage of sugar by which pure water has a Brix of 0 (or 0% sugar), an S.G. of 1.046 equals a Brix of 11.5 (11.5% sugar), and an S.G. of 1.095 equals a Brix of 22.5 (22.5% sugar). If you have a choice and want to simplify your life, buy a hydrometer that measures sugar by ounces per gallon. That should cover everything you need to know about your hydrometer and how to use it. Here are a few tools that may help: Handy Tools: Brix/SG Conversion Calculator Hydrometer Temperature Adjustment Calculator Cheers!
Thanks for your tutorial, as it differs slightly from what came with my hydrometer. I've had a few recipes start out with significant differences from what was listed on the website. I understand margin of error and getting cross-eyed at "is that 1.064 or 1.066?" It also makes sense that Final Gravity would have many more variables (temperature, how happy my yeast were, maybe even water quality) but what else goes into OG besides the water, malt, hops and any adjuncts? Especially if it is an extract recipe, there don't seem to many moving parts to go wrong, assuming I put in all the ingredients. If the end result tastes good, I'm not too concerned about ABV, but if my process is flawed, my end result may taste even better after correcting it. Thanks for helping all of us
I'm 12 days into fermenting my second batch, I'm not trying to rush it I'm still planning on going to about 19 days before cold crashing, then bottling. But wanted to learn how to use a hydrometer to check to see if fermentation is complete. I remember seeing the procedure in the forums but can't seem to find it now that I'm looking for it. From what I remember it is. - at around 2 weeks take a sample and record the SP - wait some period was it 24 hours or 48 hours and read the SP of the same sample again - Compare the 2 SP readings if there is no change the fermentation is done Can someone confirm did I remember this correctly?
Hi Guys/Gals, I am into my first batch and studied many of the posts here about adding honey and sugar to the mix. I read a lot of negative things about sugar fruit and the like during the forminting process. I am using american light with 1 booster with no sugars or fruit additives. Hopps were considered but like many have posted keep it simple. My concern was to add honey @ bottling time or during the forminting process, High Klausen is extended here (right). Anyway, I was going to add honey for a few bottles and stay with the bottling tabs for carbonation. to try a flavor diference. Is the hydrometer the same that is used in automotive applications or is there a food grade device used instead? Any thoughts, Thanks