Homebrewing is one of the greatest hobbies of all time, and anybody who takes it seriously knows that having the right equipment is imperative. You need all of the ingredients to make your brew, but you also need the tools to put it all together. Of these tools is a refractometer, which is a device that measures the index of infraction in a liquid sample. In the context of homebrewing, a refractometer is essential to taking a measurement that determines the starting Brix and or Specific Gravity of your beer.
Using a refractometer is simple and allows you to take a key measurement. One of the most important measurements you can start with is the starting gravity of your brew. The gravity refers to the amount of sugar present in the liquid you’re testing. This tells you what fraction of the brew will ultimately be converted to alcohol when undergoing fermentation.
To use your refractometer to take this measurement, take your pre-fermentation solution—also called the wort—and put several drops of it on the viewing glass of the refractometer. The light that passes through those drops will create a prism, and the prism will illuminate the looking glass’ chart indicating what the specific gravity of the solution is (See images below for examples). It is important to frequently calibrate your refractometer. Be sure to use distilled water when calibrating your refractometer. To do this, place several drops on the looking glass and close the cap. You can then look inside the glass and adjust the calibration screw until you see a reading of 0 Brix scale and or 1.000 Specific Gravity Scale for the sample depending on your model.
As with any piece of equipment, there are pros and cons to using a refractometer. One of the biggest benefits it offers is the ability to test concentrations on a small sample size—only a few drops. Refractometers are also typically quite sturdy and reading measurements is simple. Still, some people prefer other tools and methods of measurement because separate samples must be taken to measure pre- and post-fermentation concentrations. A refractometer also has to be recalibrated eventually.
For these reasons, some people prefer to opt for a hydrometer rather than a refractometer, but there are drawbacks to a hydrometer, too—mainly that the sample size needed is much bigger. If you invest in a high quality refractometer, it is a highly durable tool that will simplify your brewing process and give you the information you need to create consistently great batches.
MoreBeer! has everything you need to create the ultimate homebrewing setup. Whether you’re embarking on brewing as a new hobby or investing in a professional endeavor, refractometers from MoreBeer! have the accuracy and durability you need for years of measurement and brewing. Find the right one for your homebrew and take your beer to the next level.
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