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Another refractometer bites the dust-Time for a change

Well, after only two short years it is time to trash another “cheap” refractometer. I have now gone through 3 in 8 years and I say no more of these units for me.
I took good care of the little buggers. That is at no time were they bashed against stuff or dropped. They were all used as any expensive item should be and always calibrated with DI when necessary and rinsed to keep any wort from drying on the prism and never suffered nye a scratch whatsoever. They were all always used in common operating temps and wort was always room temp before sampled, They were never exposed to hot wort.

The first year and a half the last one could be trusted to be accurate for a few brew sessions and now a shift has been seen. The last 4 brews I checked the calibration before use and it stayed on for the first two of four but the last two it was off in the middle of the brew day. Batch #3 I checked before use, Good to go-check 1st running, fine. Check last running’s- fine. Check preboil-WHAT something is not right, sure enough the meter was 2B off already. Fine reset it and check preboil-Fine makes sense now. Post boil,fine right on. Last batch set initially and check first running-OFF already. OK reset and the number makes sense again. Last running’s, OK looks right. Preboil,WHAT OFF again. OK reset and the numbers-OK look right again. Post boil, WHAT OFF again. THAT’S it that suckers toast no more funny business straight to the trash heap and time to invest in a digital unit that should last at least 8 years, well worth the investment in my eyes plus less squinting through a lens now too. Included is a pic of my spring addition to the brewery.

Now to put a positive spin on this tale, there are pieces of equipment I can report that seem to last for the long haul and that is first of all my two thermometers have always stayed accurate for over 8 years of AG brewing. #1 is my trusted ADN/ NSF proaccurate digital thermo, reads fast and has been used for roasts and poultry also. #2 is the Blichmann weldless brumometer. I have found that my temps are right on with both and when checked around 6 mo intervals they both agree with my NIST traceable thermo. The couple other pieces of the puzzle: My march pump is still holding strong with flawless performance. And my scale is always accurate as well.
A. ADN/ NSF proaccurate digital thermo:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/proa ... meter.html

B. Blichmann weldless brumometer:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/brew ... dless.html

C. March pump 809 without plug:

http://www.northernbrewer.com/shop/marc ... -plug.html

D. Accurate inexpensive scale gram/oz:
Made by Escali model PR500 500g/18Oz, seems to be disco’ed though. But scales are cheap and plentiful anyways.

I use a refractometer that isn’t digital, its the kind you look through to see the line on a fine scale. Fancier just seems to mean more components that can fail.

Buy one like this and you shouldn’t have any problems with calibration slipping (I dip mine in boiling wort and never have to adjust):
http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-0-32-ATC-Brix-Refractometer-Wine-Beer-CNC-Sugar-/390202796300?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5ad9e6290c

Shade, yeah that’s the type I have always had as shown in the pic of my recent to be smashed into pieces unit. Thanks for the link though that’s a much better price for others looking to jump into using one, $25 bucks is a great price actually if I didn’t already burn through 3 in 8 years I would scoop one of these up. I have paid about $50 for each of the 3 I have used over 8 years time and I can find one of these digi’s now for $115-150 and my feeling is it will function easier and last longer than the regular units.

You could buy five of the cheaper models for the same price, though! :wink:

I thought you had the digital model. What is there to break down on a prism?

And Shade I’m mad because I paid $55 for my refrac too. Ignorance is bliss.

Not really much of a difference with that $15 ebay shipping. You can break 7 or so hydrometers for that price. :smiley:

Price is relative. If you do not use a refractometer and all grain brew at one point or another you will understand its effectiveness. In my process it simplifies something as drawn out as pulling a large sample, letting that mass cool and then ditchin’ er. That’s like 250ml or a full cup for every sample you pull of wort my man. Heresy I say.

Now I will admit once you learn your system and what extract you can expect from every grain out there then you can fly by the seat of your pants with no tools whatsoever, At this point I am like 30% of the way there and I think by the time I hit 80 I will be 95% and will have records to also go by if the memory starts failing but heck I might be half blind then and the records on the hardrive, CDs and paper copies were lost in a fire so then I will drag out the good ole digi refractometer that is run off plutonium by that time and viola beer making perfection no matter what!( you can see I’m pretty sold on one huh? I can come up with more excuses if you wish, heck maybe even help me with a few. )

Or if you ALWAYS RDWHAHB and gravities are too petty for you to worry about then your good with a rock in one hand and a stick in the other and you can make up for the 5% beer that ends up at 3% by pulling out the natty ice (LOL, yuck just typing it made me ill.)

I on the other hand have learned RDWHAHB comes after your last utensil is cleaned and drying on the rack, then with no work left to do and no injuries or mishaps sustained you have like 12 of the cool frosties!!! Alright I am getting carried away as it is usually only 10!.. :cheers:

I bought one of the spendy, though non-digital refractometers and rarely use it because it just isn’t accurate enough. I have tried various means of calibrating it. I know I can trust a hydrometer, and it remains my instrument of choice. However, having somewhat dialed in my brewing processes, I generally only use the hydrometer to determine the OG after chilling the wort, and of course later the FG.

Are you using correction formulas? For OG readings, the refractometer should be more accurate than the typical broad-range hydrometer. For FG readings, I compare the refractometer to a low-scale (0.980-1.020) hydrometer and typically get within +/- 0.002.

Are you using it in extreme temperatures? Even the ATC refractometers are only accurate within a certain temperature range. http://www.midwestsupplies.com/refracto … QgodiwFQnw

Are you using correction formulas? For OG readings, the refractometer should be more accurate than the typical broad-range hydrometer. For FG readings, I compare the refractometer to a low-scale (0.980-1.020) hydrometer and typically get within +/- 0.002.[/quote]

For the OG I just plug the Brix reading into ProMash to see the corresponding SG. I never get a reading close enough to my hydrometer reading to even bother with a FG refractometer reading, but do have a copy of the correction spreadsheet to adjust for alcohol in the beer. I have tried calibrating with the 0 reading for water, which didn’t work well. I also followed a suggestion from Denny to set it to match a hydrometer reading of wort. That worked better but the darn thing is spotty. I paid well over $100 for it. It would be nice to get a good reading right from the kettle if making a high gravity beer, to see if I should add sugar or DME sometimes, otherwise it’s no big deal - I’m pretty dialed into my expected efficiency (batch sparger) depending on how high gravity I’m shooting for. I guess I should tinker with it some more, and keep comparing it to my hydrometer.

No, I gather a drop or two and read somewhere from 45F to 70F ambient room temp (inside when it’s cold outside).

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