Hydrometer 101: Why Now Is the Perfect Time To Be a Homebrewer
COVID-19 has brought a lot of change to daily life worldwide. Here’s how hydrometer kits, alcohol testing and more can help you learn the great new skill of homebrewing.
The abrupt and unexpected arrival of COVID-19 has forced most bars, breweries and pubs to close their doors. Everyone was asked to stay home to help “flatten the curve”. We were advised to avoid leaving our houses except for essentials. While this was, and is, a necessary action, it has left a lot of people high and dry (pun intended). Homebrewing has suddenly skyrocketed in trends, and people are scrambling for hydrometer test kits to make perfect brews (not to mention hand sanitizers, too… but that’s a story for another day).
Why? Well, many people are still not working. Before this global pandemic, people were constantly complaining about not having enough time to do the things they really wanted to do if there were more hours in the day. Now, people are constantly complaining about having too much time on their hands and everyone is, not-so-quite simply, bored.
If only there was a solution that could solve their problem of lethargy and/or boredom and their problem of not being able to consume the alcohol drinks they typically would...
Is investing the time and money into homebrewing right now the right choice?
Why? Numerous reasons. Learn a new skill. Help pass the time. Have a cellar full of trade goods in case we are in this pandemic longer than expected.
In all seriousness, there are many reasons why you should invest in all the right gear to create quality, great-tasting homebrew:
- Fun: this should be the primary reason; genuinely enjoy every step of the process and be satisfied at the end with pouring a pint of your very own homemade beer.
- Ego Boost: the pride and satisfaction of being able to offer guests a well-made beer; not to mention bragging rights of serving your guests with a 100% home-made meal including the drink!
- Personal Preference: tailor your recipes to your own personal taste; if nobody brews the perfect beer, you can at home!
- Value: gear & ingredients seem to increase in cost yearly, but even if you spend $50 on ingredients, it’s still less than the 10 dollars per 6-pack.
Homebrewing has gotten more expensive as the quality and demand for ingredients has grown and more and more people are understanding the fulfilment of creating beer, wine, moonshine, cider, etc. at home!
What’s In Your Homebrewing Gear Toolbox?
Brewers are like chefs (fermentation artists) and need to be well equipped and organized. An ordered approach improves the odds of a successful and delicious brew; understanding the chemistry, knowing the importance of good sanitation practices, and knowing the effects of temperature is critical to homebrewing success.
Invest in a Top Alcohol Hydrometer
One of the best investments you can make and one of the most important tools you need is a high-quality beer and wine hydrometer.
Most of the process makes sense while calculating the alcohol can be a bit fickle. The two numbers (in any recipe) that are your guidepost are Original Gravity and Final Gravity.
Hydrometers are used to measure the amount of dissolved sugars in wort or beer. By taking the measurement before fermentation begins (Original Gravity) and after it’s completed (Final Gravity), you can determine how much sugar was converted into alcohol.
Almost every hydrometer is marked with three scales: specific gravity, degrees Plato or Brix, and potential alcohol. Homebrewers are steered toward specific gravity as the obvious choice.
The specific gravity scale that is mostly used as the homebrewing tradition is based on comparing the density of your brew against that of pure water. Measuring the specific gravity of wort and its subsequent fermentation is the only reliable way to know when wort has fully transformed.
Spending money on a high-quality specific gravity alcohol meter is a must! Having the right equipment makes all the difference when it comes to taking hydrometer readings.
Types of Hydrometers
There are two types of hydrometers most commonly used for homebrewing, each slightly different with its own respective list of pros and cons. Most homebrewers own both: a triple scale and a precision hydrometer.
Triple Scale - this is the most common type of hydrometer used by homebrewers. It provides readings for specific gravity, brix, and potential alcohol. Owning an accurate triple scale alcohol percentage tester is a MUST to brew a quality product.
- Precision – the pro is a precision hydrometer that is exactly as it is named. It can measure specific gravity with more precision than a triple scale. The con is that they typically measure over a much narrower range.
There is a third type of hydrometer called a thermo-hydrometer. This is where a thermometer is built right into the hydrometer, which can be used to calculate an offset in the reading caused by temperature. Since temperature causes expansion and contraction, this handy extra feature makes sure your numbers are accurate.
Hydrometer Test Jars
The most popular method to measure is by using a hydrometer test tube jar. These are cylinders, made of borosilicate glass and scratch resistant with a stable, wide base. You simply draw a sample of wort or beer, fill the jar and then place the hydrometer inside.
The size and quality of the test tube for brewing alcohol is VERY important… especially considering the homebrew scale. Seeing as typical batch sizes are 5-10 gallons, each hydrometer sample you take is final product that will not make its way into your pint glass!
With that visualization in the forefront of your mind, you want a test jar that holds as little wort as possible while still permitting the hydrometer to float freely.
Our trusted test tube for brewing alcohol reduces as much waste as possible. The hydrometer sits perfectly straight, free-floating with no rubbing on the sides. The borosilicate glass ensures that NO staining will occur over time and use.
Tip For Reading Your Hydrometer
Regardless of how you take a reading (there are other methods than using a test jar), be sure to give the hydrometer a gentle spin as you let go of it in the liquid. Bubbles that cling to the side could throw off the reading. A quick flick of the wrist is all that’s needed to shake them off.
Use The Sharpest Tools In The Shed
Since the gadgets are relatively very simple…they all must be pretty much the same, right?
Any given hydrometer beer or wine hydrometer or test jar can’t make a significant difference, can they?
Maybe in theory, but definitely NOT in practice.
Misinformation can be potentially dangerous. This includes the homebrewer and the people whom the homebrewer is serving! Consider the person who will drink your homebrew; the person who cannot see the effects of a particularly inebriating brew if YOU don’t know the exact calculated alcohol! Ensure correct information is conveyed on your homebrew labels and enjoy knowing your numbers.
Establish safe practices in your home. Purchase only top-quality ingredients and use the best beer and wine hydrometer.
We at Brewing America understand the need for quality products. If you want the most accurate 0-200 proof alcohol meter for spirits, we have it. The best alcohol proof meter for moonshine? Again, we have it. Alcohol tester for making wine at home? I think you know the answer….!
We aim to manufacture and source almost all of our products right here in the USA. We even offer free shipping within the USA.
We only mentioned a few items above to up your brewing game. Our brand offers real solutions for better quality of homebrewing. Shop the full store for safe and quality products at https://brewingamerica.com/collections/all.