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Digital Refractometer

My buddy owns a fish store and I came across a digital refractometer he had sitting around. You just place a drop of liquid you want to test on its tray and it gives you a digital readout. My question is, has anyone had any experience with one of these? It’s a pretty cool gadget and is suppose to be pretty accurate. Not worth the price, but still pretty cool.

My friend has one, he owns a vineyard and uses it to check his grapes. Its a little snazzier than the one you look through, I think it probably as accurate as those.

I have gone through a few of the $35-50 “Scope” type of refractometer over 7 years and last fall the last one was calibrated before mashing and was off once at mash, corrected. Then off again when checking post boil wort SG. So I finally had it and decided spring 2012 I was buying either the Milwaukee MA871 or Hanna 96811 But was going to take the time to shop around.

They work great, I just picked up the Milwaukee MA871 2 weeks ago which was listing across the net for $120-$160+ I found this one for $99 and it will last a lifetime. A couple drops of distilled to zero and then a few drops of the sample wort, bingo instant reading, no fuss.

The one your buddy has is similar but reads the salinity in specific gravity instead of sugar/ Brix which you need for brewing, .
"HANNA‘s HI 96822 Digital Refractometer is a rugged portable, water resistant device that utilizes the measurement of the refractive index to determine the salinity of natural and artificial seawater, ocean water or brackish intermediates. Within seconds, the refractive index and temperature are measured and converted into one of 3 popular measurement units: Practical Salinity Units (PSU), Salinity in parts per thousand (ppt), or Specific Gravity (S.G. "
“MA877 Digital Refractometer SG for Saltwater by Milwaukee Instruments”

I had also put up with a temperamental Milwaukee PH51 and upgraded to a PH56, but found it for $62 from the same company I ordered the digital refractometer from so that was a plus.
I searched high and low and the best price I found If interested was at:

http://www.katssafety.com

[quote=“ITsPossible”]I have gone through a few of the $35-50 “Scope” type of refractometer over 7 years and last fall the last one was calibrated before mashing and was off once at mash, corrected. Then off again when checking post boil wort SG. So I finally had it and decided spring 2012 I was buying either the Milwaukee MA871 or Hanna 96811 But was going to take the time to shop around.

They work great, I just picked up the Milwaukee MA871 2 weeks ago which was listing across the net for $120-$160+ I found this one for $99 and it will last a lifetime. …[/quote]

I haven’t had any trouble with mine falling out of calibration for months, and given that the digital one needs calibration prior to each sample, it seems much less fussy… I wonder why your scope-type refractometers had issues, and why you’d think that they, too, wouldn’t also last a lifetime?

Use it till the wheels fall off my man, Other than that my post here is a PSA of sorts to appeal to a wider audience that doesn’t mind having a good option on the table. I also have dodgy eyesite so it makes my life easier now past the calibration thang which seemed to occur every few years therefore the tool exhibited to me that it was subpar compared to its digi version. YRMV

[quote=“Silentknyght”]I wonder why your scope-type refractometers had issues, and why you’d think that they, too, wouldn’t also last a lifetime?[/quote]I’ve found that some refractometers are built like 60s American cars and others not so much - I have a friend whose refracto will not hold calibration and the blue field is fading with less than a year’s use, brewing maybe once a month. Hers looks just like mine, but it’s obviously a cheaply made POJ while mine is bullet-proof even after years of use.

Hey ITsPossible - Since you’ve had it for about a year, I wonder if you are still digging your MA871.

Amazon has them now for about $100 which is very tempting.

KC,

Absolutely love it. I made a dozen batches with it last year and it was bulletproof. I expect it to last a long, long time.
One thing I do to increase the livelihood of electronics like this or a ph meter that uses batteries is to remove batteries from the device during long periods of storage, so they don’t corrode inside the device. IE: I only brew from April to November so I store the devices for 4 months or so without use.

EDIT: BTW I use Sean Terrill’s spreadsheet to find FG also with the Digi and it is money.
I had to adjust a certain parameter ( cant remember offhand without firing up the brew computer- it is a preset parameter that is flexible just for your personal calibration needs.)within the spreadsheet to agree with my early hydro/digi refract readings. Now I just record my OG and the FG will always be accurate when using a digi refract.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]KC,

EDIT: BTW I use Sean Terrill’s spreadsheet to find FG also with the Digi and it is money.
I had to adjust a certain parameter ( cant remember offhand without firing up the brew computer- it is a preset parameter that is flexible just for your personal calibration needs.)within the spreadsheet to agree with my early hydro/digi refract readings. Now I just record my OG and the FG will always be accurate when using a digi refract.[/quote]
Hard to believe it has been nearly a year since I asked about this. I pulled the trigger today and should get it in time for my next brew day this weekend. I assume the parameter you are referring to is the Wort Correction Factor. Do you remember how you knew an adjustment was needed and what the correct value was in your case?

http://seanterrill.com/2012/01/06/refra ... alculator/

Nice, Your going to really enjoy using it.
The default wort correction factor is set at 1.040
I found I had to set it at 0.96 to agree with early hydro/ refrac readings.

You basically use the spreadsheet as-is and then per your first SG reading/s pre ferment use the wort correction factor to agree with the Refract/ hydro. From then on out the original and final SG should always calculate correctly. But check the first couple post ferment readings with both to confirm you have it set right.

So enter the beer name, the original SG in brix, then change the correction factor until the spreadsheet OG agrees with your readings.

I find this chart is pretty good at estimating brix to SG.
[attachment=0]Brix to SG chart.JPG[/attachment]

Cool. Thanks. I look forward to getting it calibrated.

Looks like the Beersmith app includes a fermenting/finished refractometer tool too. I’ll have to use that in parallel with Sean’s to see how they compare.

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