Posts Tagged ‘OG’

using a portable refractometer

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

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

all-grain brown ale brew day at CB’s

Monday, September 14th, 2009

3-tiered setup

early saturday afternoon I rolled over to CB’s to hang out and see his new all-grain setup in action.

  • he had saved the yeast cake from a biere de noel he had made about a week ago, and had made a starter with it the day before.  the starter was over 1000 mL and was showing heavy activity by the time I got there.
  • CB was brewing a brown ale, and despite the fact that I had a camera in hand pretty much the entire time I was over there, I didnt manage to get the recipe recorded.  I know it called for a few ounces of EKG hops…

the brew sheet

  • I got there about halfway through the sparge.  CB uses fly sparging, which appeared to work very well.

fly sparge

  • once CB reached a pre-boil volume of 6.5 gallons, he stopped the sparge and fired up the burner on his turkey fryer.  it took less than 20 minutes to get to a rolling boil (way faster than my stovetop method!).

boil kettle

  • after boiling down to 5 gallons, CB used an immersion chiller to get to pitching temps and pitched the starter.  the brew was on its way.

cooling the wort with an immersion chiller

pitching the starter

  • CB uses a custom 3-tier cooler system put together by the people over at morebeer! I’ll save my rant about them for another day, but CB has always received great service from those guys.
  • CB has his system pretty fine-tuned – he chalked up over 85% efficiency with this batch!  his OG was 1.067.
  • the best part about heading over to CB’s?  not only did TB and I indulge in some great beers, but we also had house-made salami, cheddar, and ricotta as well as some great veggies picked minutes previous from his garden.  what a spread!

kettle POV

the boil