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Hydrometer readings waaaay off

I am a new extract brewer and have only 3 batches under my belt. I am having problems with my hydrometer readings. My hydrometer OG readings are usually way off. Like reading 1.090 when it should be around 1.050 at 70 deg F. I am using a wine thief that is large enough to float the hydrometer in to take the readings.

Do you happen to be pulling a sample before topping off to get a full 5 gallons (assuming you’re doing 5 gallon batches)?

Warning RANT: It seems as though this is a recurring trend lately among new members, and I understand the search function is less than desirable on this forum, But this topic amongst many has been rehashed at the very least 100 times in the last 12 years of this forums existence. I will be the first to welcome you to the board and encourage questions as there is no stupid question only the one you do not ask. But far too many newer members are skipping basic forum etiquette of simply looking to past posts for an answer to these easy questions or answers that are located in the FAQ section. Again new guy dont take this personal it is a rant to the other newer members that are doing this stuff on a regular and you hit a nerve is all. RANT off.

Now I will answer the question asked. The only way to ensure your hydrometer is “on” or “off” is to float the tool in distilled water and it should read 1.000 or close enough by 1.002 that you can manually make the adjustment of 1-2 when checking as this is calibrating your hydrometer.

Typically an off reading in extract brewing is a tendency for the wort to be stratified and you are pulling a diluted or concentrated sample from the top of the fermentor and in most cases it will be diluted. Again calibrate your hydrometer and you will truly know whats up.

ITsPossible, it reads 1.000 in distilled. The carboy is shaken to mix the wort thoroughly before the reading is taken. Could the narrow diameter of the Fermtech wine thief be a problem?

As long as there is liquid around the hydrometer you should be fine.

I’m guessing you don’t have a normal hydrometer cylinder to double check?

All test jars are “sorta” narrow, so I dont think its your issue. I have taken a hydrometer draw and the hydrometer was showing correct, but I drew a bit off with a plastic “pipette” for a refractometer reading and the top 1/3 was already stratified. Once I moved the hydro around to remix the sample the mixture was homogeneous again and both tools then agreed on the readings.

So this is just showing that the wort can stratify within a few moments even in a test draw.
Post your recipe, top up water, etc…so we can analyze your whole scene. As described in the past many extract brewers have this issue and if you are adding the right amounts of DME/LME to certain portions of water their is no way you can be off more than 1.005 depending on amounts of water used/extract lost in packaging etc…

If the unit is reading 1.000 with distilled it his highly unlikely its having issue taking correct readings and it has to lie with process alone. I cant remember how long its been since somebody posted the answer to this question but if somebody could chime in with a calculation to setup a standard table sugar solution reading 1.050 and 1.100 then you can rule out the hydrometer as being defective. I would imagine you will need to have a scale to weigh the amount of sugar to water to arrive at the calibration solutions I just dont know the amounts offhand.

http://hbd.org/discus/messages/40327/43 ... 1195692215

I’ve read on a couple of sites over the years that a NaCl (pickling salt) is the best solution to make. Fewest impurities.

At the risk of seeming obvious. Are you taking the reading before, or after you pitch your yeast? It should be before as the addition of yeast will change the solution and therefore the reading.

Also, as someone else said earlier, if it’s before you top off with water then the reading will be alot higher than expected. The extract kits are designed to have the right gravity as long as your process is smooth. Meaning that you account for boil-off and all that other fun stuff.

We all welcome you graciously and would love to help. But we need some more info to do so.

Cheers

[quote=“ITsPossible”]Warning RANT: It seems as though this is a recurring trend lately among new members, and I understand the search function is less than desirable on this forum, But this topic amongst many has been rehashed at the very least 100 times in the last 12 years of this forums existence. I will be the first to welcome you to the board and encourage questions as there is no stupid question only the one you do not ask. But far too many newer members are skipping basic forum etiquette of simply looking to past posts for an answer to these easy questions or answers that are located in the FAQ section. Again new guy dont take this personal it is a rant to the other newer members that are doing this stuff on a regular and you hit a nerve is all. RANT off.

Now I will answer the question asked. The only way to ensure your hydrometer is “on” or “off” is to float the tool in distilled water and it should read 1.000 or close enough by 1.002 that you can manually make the adjustment of 1-2 when checking as this is calibrating your hydrometer.

Typically an off reading in extract brewing is a tendency for the wort to be stratified and you are pulling a diluted or concentrated sample from the top of the fermentor and in most cases it will be diluted. Again calibrate your hydrometer and you will truly know whats up.[/quote]
just to comment on your rant, I am a newbie and have found searching this forum can be a bit intimidating, with one search it gave me over 300 pages of results, also stuff that should be sticky’d isn’t. Just saying and thanks for your wealth of knowledge.

When your right your right rhino, although we are both right so it helps that I can be right sometimes too. Right? LOL
But the search function is the only thing that needs help but its free so whatever cant ask for blood out a free stone either. In a topic unrelated to the OP/rant in general “GM/ Glug Master” posted this search tool and I used it once so I cant vouch for its effectiveness but it might be a better aid for you newer folks to start finding the thread/s that contains your answers. With the original search it helps to combine search keywords. I was able to find the following link in the third post that resulted in a regular forum search using “search + function” to help narrow the results whereas “search” keyword would find 300 pages or other.

http://www.google.com/cse/home?cx=00204 ... k36a&hl=en

Now irregardless sorry to rant and other hijacking on your first topic new guy. This in of itself is bad forum etiquette also and I was meaning to just start a thread to the effect of the rant and did not and let someone else’s post touch it off. I do apologize and as partially expressed in my original rant I welcome your contributions to come and decision to join us on NB.

Cheers,
Its

if you used all the extract. and hit your desired volume (i’m assuming 5 gallons). then you hit your anticipated original gravity.

its really hard to mix completely. it might look mixed, and you might have shaken the hell out of it. but you will still get a concentrated or diluted sample. it happens to all extract brewers who top off with water. it doesn’t matter if you pitched the yeast before or after, but it is recommended to pitch the yeast after, to avoid removing yeast from the fermenter.

dont sweat it. I’m sure you hit your numbers

welcome to the obsession! and happy brewin :cheers:

My 2 cents. Wine thiefs (or would it be thieves?) are a little to narrow for a sample so a cheap plastic hydrometer flask is a good investment. There is a small difference in your reading at 70 but you should have a conversion chart with the hydrometer to get the 60 degree number. No way would it be off by . 040 though.

If you are using a known recipe or a kit and the expected OG is given then you should come close to it. The only ways I see it can be that far off are not mixing the top up water in enough or not having enough volume.

What are the final gravities? If you expected 1.050, read 1.090 and it finishes at 1.010 you will have one powerhouse brew. Down a few of them and you will know if it was a 90. Not only will it produce a big buzz but you may taste the higher alcohol. If it comes out as expected, don’t worry about it and brew another batch. Then see if the reading is more in line.

I take a sample with the theif and then put the sample in the jar that the hydrometer came in, and then stick it in the corner of my counter (VERY easy to knock it over). It takes some time to stabilize, then I take my reading.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]When your right your right rhino, although we are both right so it helps that I can be right sometimes too. Right? LOL
But the search function is the only thing that needs help but its free so whatever cant ask for blood out a free stone either. In a topic unrelated to the OP/rant in general “GM/ Glug Master” posted this search tool and I used it once so I cant vouch for its effectiveness but it might be a better aid for you newer folks to start finding the thread/s that contains your answers. With the original search it helps to combine search keywords. I was able to find the following link in the third post that resulted in a regular forum search using “search + function” to help narrow the results whereas “search” keyword would find 300 pages or other.

http://www.google.com/cse/home?cx=00204 ... k36a&hl=en

Now irregardless sorry to rant and other hijacking on your first topic new guy. This in of itself is bad forum etiquette also and I was meaning to just start a thread to the effect of the rant and did not and let someone else’s post touch it off. I do apologize and as partially expressed in my original rant I welcome your contributions to come and decision to join us on NB.

Cheers,
Its[/quote]
agreed 100%, now on topic at hand, what i have done is aeorate with a drill operated paint stirrer and take my sample as soon as it settles. I too use a hydrometer tube from my first one, just have to make sure it doesn’t stick. I’ve had two different ones from NB and both have been spot on. Keep in mind I’m also new.(2 batches)

This is what I try to do, but I have found the tube my hydrometer came in leaks. Next time I visit NB, I am getting a sample tube.

This has also been helpful to me. So far in my 2 brews my OGs have been close enough to figure newbie errors. However my FGs have seemed a little higher than I would like, but that may be due to me not degassing it before reading.

Does conditioning add a tiny ABV kick at the end? Or is it mostly just CO2?

[quote=“S.Scoggin”]if you used all the extract. and hit your desired volume (i’m assuming 5 gallons). then you hit your anticipated original gravity.

its really hard to mix completely. it might look mixed, and you might have shaken the hell out of it. but you will still get a concentrated or diluted sample. it happens to all extract brewers who top off with water. it doesn’t matter if you pitched the yeast before or after, but it is recommended to pitch the yeast after, to avoid removing yeast from the fermenter.

dont sweat it. I’m sure you hit your numbers

welcome to the obsession! and happy brewin :cheers: [/quote]

Man, I coulda written this! 99% of the time, this is the answer.

It can swing 40 points on the basis of not mixing it well enough? If so, that’s crazy, and really good to know!

Yep, it sure can.

[quote=“Denny”]

Man, I coulda written this! 99% of the time, this is the answer.[/quote]

hahah, I’m sure it was inspired by a few posts you’ve written

:cheers:

I do partial volume boils. The beer is within a point or two of my FG which is in the 1.014 - 1.012 range. Thought 2 minutes of shaking was enough, seems that it may not be the case. Looks like I am in need of a degasser to get a good mix before taking a reading. Thanks to all for the help and rants alike.

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