Using a hydrometer is often overlooked by newcomers to the world of homebrewing. However, this step is painless to build in, easy once you know how and can save a batch from getting ruined. It also helps you know how much fermentation has taken place and can be used to help you determine the alcohol content of your beer by taking readings before and after fermentation. But what exactly is a hydrometer and how do you use one?
In this post, we will outline the answers to these questions, look into what considerations you need to make when buying a hydrometer by looking at the benefits or otherwise of the different types, and introduce you to some of our favorite hydrometers for different brewing processes and budgets. By the end, we hope we will have convinced you that using a hydrometer is an essential part of the brewing process for any homebrewer.
What is a hydrometer?
A hydrometer is a tool that can be used to measure how much fermentation has taken place in liquids such as beer and wine. When brewing beer this involves measuring how much sugars have dissolved in the wort by measuring the density of the wort against the density of pure water. Hydrometers will usually come with a graduated cylinder where a test liquid is poured to take a measurement for liquid density.
Hydrometers are usually shaped with a narrow stem to measure density underneath which sits a hollowed air-tight glass tube for buoyancy and a weight for stabilization. You then essentially float this in your beer that you have poured into a test jar and wherever the hydrometer settles you will be able to take a measurement from the long thin stem part which will have a scale printed on it. You can use readings taken before and after fermentation to calculate the alcohol content.
How do you use a hydrometer?
The good news is that using a hydrometer is actually a simple task once you’ve learned how. This means building this step into your brewing process is easy so long as you follow the golden rule of brewing beer – always sanitize your equipment! Once your hydrometer is sanitized all you need is a tube half full of the liquid you wish to measure. If this liquid is wort, then this can be extracted from your fermenter using a sanitized tool or, ideally, through your fermenter’s in-built spigot.
Now you are ready to take your measurement. Gently place your hydrometer into your tube of wort (which should be cooled) and allow it to float on its own. Once it has settled in place take a reading of where the liquid in your tube covers the scale on the stem of your hydrometer. Given you want to measure changes over time it is handy to have a diary or a pad of paper wherever you tend to take your measurements so you don’t have to keep these numbers in your head.
It is also a good idea to take only the readings you need to at set times to reduce the amount of waste drawn-out form your brew, ultimately you want to taste your beer not measure it. The key times to take readings are:
#Step 1 Before fermentation begins
#Step 2 When you think your beer may have finished the fermentation stage (or be nearing it)
#Step 3 2-3 days later take a further reading
#Step 4. If the reading had changed at step 3 take a further reading daily until you notice no change
How to calibrate a hydrometer
As with any measuring device, it is important to calibrate it regularly. Fortunately, it is easy to test whether your hydrometer’s accuracy is on the wane by placing it in purified water at room temperature. If you get a reading of 1.000, then you are fine to take the readings of your hydrometer at face value. Otherwise, for every point difference you will need to adjust your readings accordingly (eg. if it reads 1.001 you will need to add 0.001 to other readings). If you cannot wait for your wort to cool to room temperature, you will need to adjust your readings for this either by using a hydrometer temperature correction calculator or following the instructions that came with your hydrometer.
How to choose a hydrometer for brewing beer: understanding the different types of hydrometers
There are different types of hydrometers available that range in sophisticated and price range. In this section, we go through the three different types of hydrometers that you will come across.
A thermohydrometer contains a thermometer and measures temperature as well as specific gravity. With an inbuilt thermometer, this makes it easy to correct the temperature of the sample when you read the specific gravity and ensure that a consistent temperature is maintained. You can expect to pay between $10 and $15 for this type of hydrometer.
#2 Triple Scale Hydrometer
Triple scale hydrometers are the most commonly used hydrometers in the world of homebrewing and they are also the most affordable (starting from around $5). It has multiple functions and can measure Brix/Balling scale, specific gravity, and alcohol content. With a triple scale hydrometer, you will be able to measures a large range of specific gravity so you will be able to use it for most batches you brew.
#3 Precision Hydrometer
As the name suggests a precision hydrometer gives a more precise reading when measuring specific gravity. It can do this because the numbers are spaced out on a smaller scale on the hydrometer so a more accurate reading can be taken. For this reason, precision hydrometers measure a smaller range of gravity levels so you may need to purchase two hydrometers for certain batches of beer. Precision hydrometers are the most expensive type of hydrometer, costing around $30 apiece. They are a good investment if you want to ensure the readings taking are as accurate as possible.
Top 5 Best Hydrometers for Homebrewing 2022
As you can see, a hydrometer is an incredibly useful tool to have when making your own beer. It can help you to test the rate of fermentation as well as enabling you to measure the alcohol content of your beer. Check out our reviews below to find the perfect hydrometer for you.
#1 Best Triple Scale Hydrometer for Homebrewing: Brewer’s Elite Hydrometer & Test Jar Combo
With this excellent hydrometer in your repertoire, you are one step closer to brewing the perfect beer. Made by Brewer’s Elite this triple scale hydrometer will measure specific gravity levels between 0.99 and 1.16, alcohol between 0% and 20% as well as Brix Balling. The design of this hydrometer includes helpful color bands which assist you in identifying when your beer has completed the fermentation process which is particularly helpful.
With this set you will get more than a hydrometer, you will also receive a 250ml Test Jar to test your beer in, a durable hard case to keep your hydrometer in, as well as a bag and a brush for cleaning. From helping you know when the fermentation process is over, to measuring the alcohol content of your finished beer this hydrometer is an essential piece of kit that is also great value for money.
#Triple_scale #Hydrometer #Alcohol_content #Fermentation #Test #Beer #Hydrometer_reading #Gravity
#2 Best Thermohydrometer for Homebrewing: Brewing America Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester
If you like the idea of having a thermometer built into your hydrometer then take a look at this thermohydrometer from Brewing America. Constructed by experienced glassblowers in America out of lab-grade borosilicate glass this hydrometer is expertly designed as well as durable. In addition to being able to take accurate gravity readings, it can also tell you the temperature of your beer at the same time, allowing you to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the fermentation period.
Included in this set is also a glass test jar which is designed to take the minimal amount of liquid out of your wort as possible so that you don’t waste your beer. You will also receive a bottle brush to clean the test jar, a sturdy box to store your hydrometer in safely, and a microfiber cloth. There is also a helpful instruction booklet included on how to use your hydrometer properly. All of the equipment is made out of recycled materials and are non-toxic which is another great feature of this hydrometer set.
#Thermohydrometer #Brewing_America #ABV #Tester #Specific_gravity #Hydrometer_scale
#3 Best Hydrometer Kit for Beer Making: Chefast Hydrometer and Test Jar Combo Kit
This triple scale hydrometer comes in a kit which comes with a 250ml market test jar, cleaning brush, cloth for cleaning your hydrometer carefully and a canvas bag to keep it all in. The hydrometer itself measures specific gravity between 0.99 and 1.17, alcohol volume levels between 0% and 20%, and Brix/Balling between 0-35. Containing everything you need to measure if fermentation is complete and check the ABV rating of your finished beer this kit has everything you need for this aspect of homebrewing.
This hydrometer kit is great value for money and also comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee lasting 90 days so you can simply return it if you are not happy with the product. Accurate readings from the hydrometer are also warranted for one year. Ensure you achieve the best flavor possible for your homebrewed beer with this hydrometer kit.
#Hydrometer #Kit #Chefast #Alcohol #Fermentation #Scale #Gravity #Homebrew
#4 Best Value Hydrometer for Homebrewing: SOLIGT Triple Scale Hydrometer and Glass Jar
Beer making doesn’t need to be expensive and this hydrometer is proof of this fact. For just $15 you will receive a triple scale hydrometer which gives accurate and easy to read measurements of both the fermentation phase of your beer and its alcohol content. With a range of specific gravity between 0.99-1.17, Brix/Balling from 0-35 and the ability to measure alcohol content between 0%-20% this hydrometer should suit the needs of most homebrewers.
The glass test tube that comes as part of this set is smaller than normal measuring 125ml which is a big enough sample to test your beer, yet doesn’t waste too much of your precious homebrew. Plus, you will also receive a stainless steel bottle brush and a strong case to keep your hydrometer in so this kit really does offer great value for money. With 100% satisfaction money-back guarantee you really can’t go wrong with this hydrometer kit from SOLIGT.
#SOLIGT #Hydrometer #Alcohol_content #Hydrometer_scale #Test #Fermentation #Craft_beer #Homemade
#5 Best Hydrometer for Versatility: Goodmannns’ Hydrometer & Glass Test Jar Triplescale
If you feel a little strong-armed into buying a hydrometer but have ultimately come around to the idea, then you might like this versatile piece that comes with 3 scales and is suitable for beer and wine brewing. It also comes with a glass test tube perfectly shaped to ensure your hydrometer gives you a perfect reading for longer. With a lifetime guarantee, you’ll also be glad with your investment when it saves a batch of your beer from going off time and again.
Other pluses about this hydrometer are that: unlike most hydrometers, this hydrometer contains no lead or mercury making it suitable for the environmentally conscious brewer; it gives high-quality readings with no need to calibrate as free replacements are available if the readings deteriorate, and; it comes with a useful step-by-step guide and the temperature correction chart. The downside of this hydrometer is that it is more expensive than most.
#Hydrometer #Precision #Precision_Hydrometers #Homebrewing #Craft_Beer
If you are new to brewing beer, then it is easy to think you can get away with saving the pennies on a hydrometer but any brewer worth their salt will know this is not the bit of kit you want to be without. Indeed, a hydrometer can help you rescue a batch on the brink of going off and notice if something is up with your fermentation. In this list, you’ll find a hydrometer suitable for your brewing needs no matter what your budget or brewing intentions.