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Has to be a better way... SG readings

There has to be a better way to get sg readings from a fermenter. I’m using the 7gal plastic bucket for fermenting. If I want to check sg, I have to peel back the lid and float the hydrometer, hopefully sterilized and hopefully without letting in anything bad like bacteria or oxygen. What does everyone else do?

Thanks!

I use a sanitized turkey baster to draw a sample and put it in a hydrometer flask.

Sanitize a stainless skewer, pull the airlock, stick the skewer into the beer, and then let a drop or two fall on the refractometer window - very little chance of introducing something nasty into the fermenter (the positive CO2 pressure keeps anything from falling in) and a basically instantaneous reading. Only downside is not having the hydro sample to drink.

Thanks for the replys. I have not heard of using a refractometer, are they as accurate? I have broken a couple of hydrometers already. Any suggestions on which one to get for this purpose? Thanks again.

Accuracy with refractometers is about the same as with a hydrometer and user error is the largest contributor (are you reading the meniscus with the hydro and is the sample cooled, for instance). For readings post-pitch, you just read right off the instrument, but once yeast is in and there is alcohol in the beer, you have to use a calculation to find the gravity (it’ll read a higher gravity than reality), but it’s as simple as using a spreadsheet or an on-line site and punching in the numbers. Even if you don’t want to mess with the calculation, you can still detect fermentation with the refracto simply by the drop in gravity from one reading to another.

Our host sells a good refractometer:

And you can get them off Amazon and EBay, too.

I usually just wait until I rack to take any readings. If I’m really curious, I sanitize a hise, and siphon out enough for a hydrometer reading.

My fermentation buckets used to have a small hole with a grommet only big enough for the air lock. That hole is now expanded larger and I put in a rubber stopper with a hole in the middle for the air lock (like you do with a glass carboy). Then, to take a sample for SG reading I use the wine thief found on this site and pull the rubber stopper. Also do the same for racking to the keg. This way the lid stays on the whole time and there is only a small hole for possible contamination (or for me to drop something in the beer accidentally).

I just don’t check it. I figure if I use a good starter, ferment at the right temp, see (visually) that fermentation is occurring… there is no reason to think it is going to stop before completion. Especially with normal 1.040-1.060 type beers. A bigger beer, or beer with special ingredients like fruit, might be a different story.
I just leave it in primary for about 21 days, then I bottle/keg. I usually take hydrometer reading at this time just to confirm that it is not still sitting at 1.020 or something like that. Never had a beer that was not “done”.

[quote=“FarEast1”]There has to be a better way to get sg readings from a fermenter. I’m using the 7gal plastic bucket for fermenting. If I want to check sg, I have to peel back the lid and float the hydrometer, hopefully sterilized and hopefully without letting in anything bad like bacteria or oxygen. What does everyone else do?

Thanks![/quote]

You can also easily put a spigot on a bucket type fermenter. I use the “better bottle” spigot valves on both my 7 gallon bucket and my better bottles. They are a bit pricey but of much higher quality than the standard bottling bucket spigots. This not only makes taking a sample a breeze, but you can say goodbye to starting a syphon on bottling day!!

PS- just make sure you take off the airlock before opening the valve or you’ll suck in the liquid from it. Yes, I did learn this the hard way!!!

[quote=“Demus”]This not only makes taking a sample a breeze, but you can say goodbye to starting a syphon on bottling day.[/quote]Be sure to flip the BB nozzle up and fill and flush a couple times with StarSan after drawing the sample.

Funny, I have tried and am currently using Braufessor’s method. Brew buddies refer to it as wingandaprayer method.
I have also used the spigot, -check on sucking the water out of the airlock. Got the tee shirt.

I like the refractometer idea. Solves my problem, Adds a new toy, shuts my buddies up!

Thanks for all the help!

Fe1

I’m with the Braufessor method. It is very hard to get a decent gravity reading so I don’t do it. It only causes headaches and stress. And maybe a possible entry point for infection.

If the gravity is off there isn’t much that I would be able to do at that instant in time to correct it. For me the gravity is what it is. Only reason would be for documentation purposes I guess.

I use a bucket but I don’t use an airlock and I don’t seal the lid, it just sits loosely in place the whole time. When I want to take a reading I use a small sanitized ladle, draw off just enough to fill a test cylinder, and once I take the reading the rest is used for a taste test.
P.S. Never had an infection or a critter problem.

This is the same issue that I have with this method. Just another place to harbor nasties.

similar to above, I don’t check until racking or bottling. No need.

If by chance the SG is too high, I could deal with it after racking. Never had that problem in 14 years of brewing.

I use a wine thief, usually check when I’m curious or try to wait until it’s just about time to keg.

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