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Is a Refractometer worth having?

To those of you that have a refractometer are you glad you upgraded? I was thinking about getting a lab grade hydrometer but its not much cheaper.

I really like my refractometer, it’s really easy to use and accurate to use during mashing and sparging, no need to cool the wort down, the amount of wort you put on the refract. is small enough to cool really quickly. Pretty easy to use to check the progress of fermentation, you do need to do some math or use one of the online or app calculators to get an accurate value after fermentation has started, but it still uses a small sample, and all you need to sanitize is the little pipette. I used my hydrometer as well for awhile, but the results were always within .001-.002 gravity points, so I don’t bother with the hydrometer much anymore.

I worked at Kodak for over 30 yrs. We made emulsions for the old X-ray films. Part of the process required Gel heated with water and chemicals. The test when the gel was done was by a BRIX. It was a highly regarded tool of the trade (so to speak) because of it’s accuracy. I’ve been retired now a decade, and I see my old tool now being used in brewing. WOW! If accuracy is what you want, I would take the refractometer over a highly regarded hydro in a heartbeat. That being said I will still use my cheap hydro because that kind of accuracy ,to me, isn’t that important. You have to make that choice for yourself. Whatever choice you make won’t be wrong, OK. Just know IMHO the Brix is tops.

O Guy,

Without a doubt, I used scope styles for many years and they just never gave me gravy readings or were off too much and or my eyes hated me for it and so I had it with the handhelds. Then I bought a digital a few years ago for $100 and the word is PRIMO!!! Sure its 50-70 bucks more than you can find a scope style on our host/s or the bay of E, but the digi will indeed be in my brewery for a lifetime.

Here is a thread I spoke to recently showcasing how you can find accuracy of 1.001 -/+ when using a refractometer and Sean Terrill’s calculator along with a great Cross reference sheet for OSG that puts me on the money each and every batch. That is speaking to both OSG and FSG with my digital.
Dont get me wrong you can still attain this accuracy with a handheld, I am just very bias now towards a digi.

See this thread for the full scoop:

viewtopic.php?f=1&t=119181

I use my refractometer during mash and sparge for the reasons listed above. Basically, it’s easier than using a hydrometer when measuring hot liquids. If there is alcohol present so I’d need to use a correction calculation, I just go with the hydrometer. Again, it’s just easier.

If you are making wine, and you want to check the Brix on your grapes, or your must when there are all kinds of things floating in there, a refractomerter is MUCH better than a hydrometer.

[quote=“rebuiltcellars”]I use my refractometer during mash and sparge for the reasons listed above. Basically, it’s easier than using a hydrometer when measuring hot liquids. If there is alcohol present so I’d need to use a correction calculation, I just go with the hydrometer. Again, it’s just easier.
[/quote]
Same here, plus I use the refractometer to identify when to stop boiling. For my “official” OG and FG readings, I use precision hydrometers just because they’re easier to read IMO and as noted above you don’t have to worry about estimating FG using calculations.

Same here, plus I use the refractometer to identify when to stop boiling. For my “official” OG and FG readings, I use precision hydrometers just because they’re easier to read IMO and as noted above you don’t have to worry about estimating FG using calculations.[/quote]

I was sold until this^ My main reason for wanting to upgrade the cheap triple scale hydrometer I have is accuracy of pre and post fermentation readings. Have you compared the adjusted refractomer readings to the precision hydrometer? How close were they?

Just my two cents. I really like my refractometer for all the reasons listed above. The one I bought was over $90.00 but IMHO it is worth every penny. It is a temperature compensating model and reads up to 20 Brix. 98% of the beers I brew are less than 1.080 OG beer. If I would brew a big beer then I use the hydrometer. I bought the 20 Brix scale model because it is easier for me to see. I have terrible peepers. I have to remove my glasses to look through the refractometer, but the focus ring will give you a sharp view when you focus it.
Even though it is a T.C. Refractometer, I still cool boiling wort before checking it. It only takes a few drops so it cools fast.
Brad

[quote=“beerme11”]Same here, plus I use the refractometer to identify when to stop boiling. For my “official” OG and FG readings, I use precision hydrometers just because they’re easier to read IMO and as noted above you don’t have to worry about estimating FG using calculations.

I was sold until this^ My main reason for wanting to upgrade the cheap triple scale hydrometer I have is accuracy of pre and post fermentation readings. Have you compared the adjusted refractomer readings to the precision hydrometer? How close were they?[/quote]

You must have missed my post. If not look to the link I provided above that spells out how to use a refractometer accurately.
I had to use a “calibrated” hydrometer to figure out if I could use Sean Terril’s spreadsheet in order to accurately find FSG and/or OSG for that matter with a refractometer. I can assure any of you I find either spot on each and every sample and/or within 1.001 -/+ 95% of the time its spot on IF you adjust your breweries ratio correctly. Every once in a while I have wondered is that right? And pul out the hydrometer and it matches my conversion to a “T”

Any of you posting about using a hydrometer on a refractometer thread are seriously lost, I and others are glad you decide to use that device still, but the fact is new technology has evolved and using Sean’s calculator with a “calibrated” refractometer is just as accurate as a hydrometer, some of you are just afraid it seems, you have to actually try before you debunk it!
YOU can use a refractometer to find accurate readings pre/post ferment.

Reread the OP’s question. He is trying to decide if he should get a refractometer or a high precision hydrometer. The rest of the posters are just giving their experience to so he can weigh the relative benefits of each.

Right, but many of you seem to misunderstand that a refractometer is just is accurate as “lab grade hydrometers” and are posting that you will not use a refractometer for post ferment as it seems your afraid to look at reality or plain haven’t found out the right angle to use it properly. you can continue to suggest that he buy $20+ a piece “lab” hydrometers but they are nowhere close to durability you find with a refractometer. Plus sample size is one drop/0.5 ml, not 80ml or better.

You mentioned using the digital refractomer that was pretty expensive. Do the think the cheaper ones NB sells would still be as accurate

Yes, I am just quite bias to a digi as its super easy to operate and I don’t need to find the right light to view the brix scale properly and/ or I have less than great eyesight and squinting through the dumb thing gave me fits so now don’t have to worry about that either and my last of three “scope styles” owned over 7 years was off so bad after under a year of ownership I threw it out and vowed to get a digi. You can find digital refractometers for $30-50 bucks more than the “scope” style that all regular LHBS sell. The best price I found was under $100 do some searching if you cant find the right price PM me and I will provide you with the link to the best price I found 2 years ago and it is still at the price(actually $3 less)

As said above and in the link I provided above to my other post in the early thread, You can use a scope style to find accuracy. #1 if its calibrated, #2 If you’re reading the right amount of brix within the scope. #3 If you use Sean Terrils spreadsheet correctly.
So digis eliminate the human error factor in #2 and for only $30-50 ish more it is well worth it.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]Yes, I am just quite bias to a digi as its super easy to operate and I don’t need to find the right light to view the brix scale properly and/ or I have less than great eyesight and squinting through the dumb thing gave me fits so now don’t have to worry about that either and my last of three “scope styles” owned over 7 years was off so bad after under a year of ownership I threw it out and vowed to get a digi. You can find digital refractometers for $30-50 bucks more than the “scope” style that all regular LHBS sell. The best price I found was under $100 do some searching if you cant find the right price PM me and I will provide you with the link to the best price I found 2 years ago and it is still at the price(actually $3 less)

As said above and in the link I provided above to my other post in the early thread, You can use a scope style to find accuracy. #1 if its calibrated, #2 If you’re reading the right amount of brix within the scope. #3 If you use Sean Terrils spreadsheet correctly.
So digis eliminate the human error factor in #2 and for only $30-50 ish more it is well worth it.[/quote]

something like this? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Milwaukee-Instr … 485501cf1f

Yup, that’s exactly what your looking for.
The Milwaukee MA871 is going to be cheaper in general than Hanna’s same comparable model.
I can get you to a vendor that is under a hundred bucks, I had quick easy shipping and was happy doing my business with this vendor. Again PM me if you cant find anything in that realm. When shopping for mine a couple of years ago I found most vendors will be around $110-$150 on the MA871 and the Hanna is always around $150

If you buy a refractometer, don’t forget to calibrate it periodically. That is actually one of the downsides to more complex instruments: they need periodic recalibration. For something simple like a hydrometer, you just check it once when you buy it (with distilled water and with a known sugar solution) and you can be pretty sure it will keep the same accurate as long as you don’t break it. With a refractometer, you want to check it periodically. And with a digital one, likely more frequently because there are more things that can shift. Read and follow the directions.

On the plus side, if the refractometer is off, you can adjust it. Can’t do that with a hydrometer.

[quote=“ITsPossible”]Yup, that’s exactly what your looking for.
The Milwaukee MA871 is going to be cheaper in general than Hanna’s same comparable model.
I can get you to a vendor that is under a hundred bucks, I had quick easy shipping and was happy doing my business with this vendor. Again PM me if you cant find anything in that realm. When shopping for mine a couple of years ago I found most vendors will be around $110-$150 on the MA871 and the Hanna is always around $150[/quote]
I’ve flirted with the idea of getting one of these. How easy are they to clean between samples? What’s the cleaning procedure?

Real simple,

You start the day by dropping a half pipette/few drops of distilled on the lens to calibrate. Its stays at this calibration throughout the day, even though it may turn off/you shut off many times throughout the day. Dab up the water with a cloth, Drop half pipette/few drops of SG sample, test, Dab up liquid, drop some water on to clean lens, dab with cloth etc…

For cleaning, I spay the prism with water that is on hand to knock down the hot break. Then dry with a cotton cloth. Usually my T-shirt. :shock:

Should look at calibrating it again.

[quote=“Nighthawk”]For cleaning, I spay the prism with water that is on hand to knock down the hot break. Then dry with a cotton cloth. Usually my T-shirt. :shock:

Should look at calibrating it again.[/quote]
I confess that I’ve only calibrated my refractometer a few times. I only had to adjust it the first time. It’s stayed spot on since then, but I should probably check again now that I’m thinking about it.

I enjoy using the refractometer. I only wish the scale (0-32 brix) were easier to read so I would have more confidence in my readings–hence the appeal of a digital one, but the cost makes it hard to justify at the moment.

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