using a portable refractometer

refractometer with wort on prism

for our anniversary this year, AP picked me up a portable refractometer.

  • I’m not gonna lie, up until now I have never taken a gravity reading for any of my brews.
  • the extra steps involved in taking a reading using my hydrometer weren’t worth knowing the exact ABV of my beer.
  • however, I had heard stories about the ease of use of a refractometer, so I put it on my brew wish list, and AP picked it up for me from william’s.
  • at first glance, the thing looks like a piece of lab equipment, which to me was a little intimidating.  as a result, I put off taking an OG reading on my fresh hop pale until I figured out how the thing worked.
  • however, CB’s ages-old hydrometer snapped while brewing his brown, and he sent some wort home in a ziploc bag for me to test.
  • I was kicking myself when I finally used the thing.  calibration took 30 seconds using a drop of the included solution and a screw on top of the unit.
  • after that, I just wiped the unit clean with the included cloth, put a single drop of wort on the prism, covered it with the cover plate, and pointed the sucker at a light source.  the reading is where the blue and white areas meet.
  • there are a few advantages to using a refractometer over a hydrometer: you just need a drop of wort, the wort can be 40°-160° F, and you don’t need to adjust your reading for temperature (although there is a temperature correction chart in the instructions, the instructions also state that the “refractometer [is] provided with an automatic temperature compensation function, so correction of the temperature according to the table is not needed.”  I guess that’s what ATC means).
  • note: the reading you get is in brix, so you have to convert it to specific gravity.  there are many converters online, and a lot of brew software does the conversion as well.
  • in short, I highly recommend this tool as an alternative to a hydrometer – it is fast and easy (and not prohibitively expensive).

the refractometer kit

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One Response to “using a portable refractometer”

  1. rajat Says:

    it has a very utilitarian shape.

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