Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Any hardware used for mashing, fermenting or aging.

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azeotroll
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Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:40 am

Hey all,

I'm only on my third batch (all three a very basic sugar wash) and am finding it difficult to measure the final gravity of the wash which is likely in the range of say .985-.995.

My hydrometer tops out at .990 and it feels pretty dodgy given we're literally at one extent of its calibrated range. I have a proof and tralle meter as well, but for that I'm at the very bottom of its range, 0-10%, so it also seems a bit dodgy.

I've dug around quite a bit this weekend to try to find something in the middle and haven't had much luck. I'd like to find something that is centered at a specific gravity of 1.0 and a range of say .900-1.1.

Any suggestions?

Thanks!

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by OtisT » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:03 am

I’ve not seen hydrometer other than the standard one with the standard range that everyone else uses. If some of the dodginess in getting a good reading is coming from solids, possibly try straining the ferment first. I have tried strained and un-strained, and in most cases for me there is no difference in readings.

The proof and tralle meter is definitely the wrong tool for the job. That is useful for distilled spirits only.

I know some folks who don’t use a meter for fermenting. Just taste the ferment to see how much sweetness remains.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by still_stirrin » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:09 am

Gonna’ cost ya’. Get ready.

Here, you can get a VERY specific range of SG. Cha....ching!!!

https://www.labdepotinc.com/p-61273-hyd ... gJ6I_D_BwE


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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:56 am

Perfect! Found it on walmart.com (lol edit:looks like it's sold through zoro.com) for $27, shipped for $5. A little spendy but will allow my OCD to rest haha.

This is way better than the three hydrometer set i found on Fisher Scientific for $650 :crazy:

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by dieselduo » Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:25 am

Brewing America has quality hydrometers not that cheap Chinese junk . :lol:

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by StillerBoy » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:12 pm

azeotroll wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:40 am
My hydrometer tops out at .990 and it feels pretty dodgy given we're literally at one extent of its calibrated range.
I have a question on the statement above..

Why don't you accept that reading of .990, would in all probabilities, indicate that the wash is finished fermenting..

Mars
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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by zapata » Mon Jun 01, 2020 4:55 pm

Also, I don't think the extreme of the range has any effect. Something like a scale or digital thermometer may commonly be more accurate mid range, but does this apply to hydrometers? Isn't it for all intents and purposes a ruler measuring how high or low the bulb floats? And aren't all rulers just as accurate anywhere along their length?

Btw, I can see wanting a way to measure what may truly be off scale. You can't calculate strength without an accurate OG and FG.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:00 pm

StillerBoy wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:12 pm
azeotroll wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:40 am
My hydrometer tops out at .990 and it feels pretty dodgy given we're literally at one extent of its calibrated range.
I have a question on the statement above..

Why don't you accept that reading of .990, would in all probabilities, indicate that the wash is finished fermenting..

Mars
Problem is that .990 right now is dunked, I'm probably at .985 or so. It doesn't really matter that much right now b/c I'm just tinkering, but I am trying to take a fairly quantitative approach overall here and this just seemed like a weird little gap in the measurement tools.

I just ordered a .950-1.000 which should cover the range nicely. I don't expect to get below .990 much but if i do I'll have a way to measure it.

Thanks all!

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by NZChris » Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:46 pm

What are you making that bottoms out at 0.985? Fuel?

I picked up a set of two on for a great price on Ebay last year.

1.000-1.100 & 0.900-1.000, quite long. 11.5", very accurate, needing a 250ml measuring cylinder or can be read in the fermenter. I haven't seen them for sale since Covid, but they might come up again in the future.

All of the cheap wine/beer hydrometers I have accumulated from home brew shops and garage sales over the years, (and not broken yet :D), could be used to read to measure to 0.985.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by jward » Tue Jun 02, 2020 7:16 am

Could you mix your sample with know sugar water sample to bring the SG higher into the range of your hydrometer?

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Tue Jun 02, 2020 8:31 am

NZChris wrote:
Mon Jun 01, 2020 10:46 pm
What are you making that bottoms out at 0.985? Fuel?
I started this to get some practice runs in and test some of the doodads I'm using to help with automation/monitoring. I have no idea why i'm at .985 beyond being a n00b, for the most part I don't plan to drink the output of this batch. Probably hand sanitizer.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by OtisT » Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:17 am

I’m curious. What does your meter read when it is sitting in distilled water at room temperature?

I’m no expert, but I’ve also never gotten a ferment down to 9 85

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by jonnys_spirit » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:06 pm

Does that hydrometer read 1.000 in water at the calibration temp?

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by Hügelwilli » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:32 pm

I have a very large hydrometer for the small range from 0.980 to 1.000 kg/lt. About 40cm length. Every 0.001 is 5mm on the scale, so I can read differences at something like 0.0002 kg/lt.
Of course such an expensive instrument is not needed for our hobby.
Dry washes with 10%abv can reach about 0.990, washes with 15%abv about 0.985. But only with the help of added nutrients.

Off-topic: In some countries also small distilleries must own a calibrated set of alcoholmeters for proofing, each with a range of only 5vol%. One from 35 to 40vol%, one from 40 to 45vol% and so on.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by OtisT » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:57 pm

Hügelwilli wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:32 pm
.
Dry washes with 10%abv can reach about 0.990, washes with 15%abv about 0.985. But only with the help of added nutrients.
Interesting! I never knew there was a relation between the OG and how dry a ferment will get. Added nutrients makes sense. I learned something new today. :D

No wonder I rarely finish below 10 00. Otis
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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by still_stirrin » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:15 am

Also, remember that the density of ethanol is less than water, such that as the ethanol in your ferment increases, the density will fall even as the sugars are consumed. To visualize this, look at this chart:
CAF143F8-64E5-4563-8FB2-FB02A8CD1DB7.jpeg
So, if your hydrometer won’t measure “low enough”, you’re pushing the O.G. too high to start. There is a reason, after all, why homebrewer’s hydrometers don’t measure much below 1.000....because you get into the higher alcohol ferments beyond those that taste good...for “fuel” perhaps.

If you consistently produce ferments that drive below 0.990, you’re gonna make “crappy” spirits, at least if you intend to drink them.

And don’t plan to SELL them without a license! We don’t condone that.
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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by Hügelwilli » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:36 am

Yes, for a FG below 1.000 you need something like more alcohol than suspended unfermented solids. All grain washes contain more suspended unfermented solids than sugar washes. This is why an AG ends normally at a higher SG than a sugar wash.

In theory a sugar wash with OG 1.070 could end at FG 0.984 and 12.5%abv, if the yeast would convert everything and would not consume any sugar for itself and if there wouldn't be other causes for loss like evaporation of alcohol during fermentation.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:56 pm

TL;DR - Looks like I just wasn't respecting the temperature curve for specific gravity. Measurements were at ~82F originally. Now that I'm at 68F I'm reading right at .990. Given that only moves it a few points I was probably just exaggerating how much it was 'dunked' or it was an optical illusion or something. Anyway...i still think i'll like having the meter for the .950-1.000 range.
still_stirrin wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:15 am
If you consistently produce ferments that drive below 0.990, you’re gonna make “crappy” spirits, at least if you intend to drink them.

And don’t plan to SELL them without a license! We don’t condone that.
Yep this is just pure experimentation. No drinking, definitely no selling ever. I made a largish batch so I could do 3-4 runs with the same wash to just get some reps in on my rig. I'm going to do a couple with reflux and one or so in potstill config. Some of the product will be used for sanitizer base the rest will probably be dumped out in a field.

I've got some experience with all grain brewing and my first 'real' run is going to be part of Jesse's 'Co-Lab' on the Still It channel. Got my base malts (Maris Otter and Golden Promise) and packs of US05 in yesterday and will probably mash that in this weekend.
Hügelwilli wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:36 am
In theory a sugar wash with OG 1.070 could end at FG 0.984 and 12.5%abv, if the yeast would convert everything and would not consume any sugar for itself and if there wouldn't be other causes for loss like evaporation of alcohol during fermentation.
FWIW my OG was 1.066 using water, sugar (~1.7lb/gal), RedStar DADY and Fermax. Wash was between 82-86F for the entire ferment.

Anyway this was super helpful folks and I really appreciate all the input and help!!!

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Tue Jun 09, 2020 11:55 am

New hydrometer arrived. Packed *extremely* well. The bulb is a little bit of a tight fit for my test cylinder and tends to lean. However I'm able to get reproducible results regardless if I have it settle from above or below.

Capture.JPG

Also picked up one of these to keep an eye on the ferment as it goes. Haven't calibrated it yet.

Capture2.jpg


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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by NZChris » Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:36 pm

azeotroll wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 11:55 am
Also picked up one of these to keep an eye on the ferment as it goes. Haven't calibrated it yet.
What is it?

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Wed Jun 10, 2020 7:39 am

NZChris wrote:
Tue Jun 09, 2020 1:36 pm
What is it?
Oops, excessive crop. Tilt Hydrometer. It's pretty spendy but does something that's hard to do another way. Basically floats around in the wash and the angle of the dangle tells the chip inside what the specific gravity is. It continuously records this (and temp) to an internal datalogger and can upload to an app and 'cloud' account if you desire.

Seems like it could be a fun DIY microcontroller project. Could add a few more sensors to monitor clarity, color, fermentation activity, etc. Would love to monitor pH and dissolved co2/o2 but you're getting into industrial/analytical sensors and $$$.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by NZChris » Wed Jun 10, 2020 10:01 pm

I like that. I have other methods for keeping an eye on how a ferment is going, but that is very cool and much easier.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by Saltbush Bill » Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:09 pm

Think I will stick to my finger and a taste test, finger will still be working when the gadget is broken.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by NZChris » Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:28 pm

Yeah, but you have to open the fermenter to stick your finger in it. I have to open the door of the old fridge to put my stethoscope on the fermenter, or take the lid/towel off to put a hydrometer or my finger in it/whatever to be sure it's dead, or I can log the energy used to keep the ferment up to temperature.

It's another tool in the box and I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't work.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by Saltbush Bill » Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:43 pm

NZChris wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:28 pm
put my stethoscope on the fermenter,
Only ever used my ear above the surface , but thinking it must be a nice sound through a Sethoscope.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by malt_gt_milton » Thu Jun 11, 2020 12:08 am

azeotroll wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 7:39 am
Tilt Hydrometer. It's pretty spendy but does something that's hard to do another way. Basically floats around in the wash and the angle of the dangle tells the chip inside what the specific gravity is. It continuously records this (and temp) to an internal datalogger and can upload to an app and 'cloud' account if you desire.
FWIW, there is an open source tild hydrometer project called iSpindle. There is also a fake-mustachioed feller with a YouTube channel called Open Source Distilling that shows how to build one, install the software, calibrate, ... Basically I don't do enough fermenting to need such a thingie (I use my finger/float hydrometer) but if I had a *bunch* of fermenters and kept loosing track of what is what - this might be the right doohickie.

That'll be $0.02. Cash money.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by NZChris » Thu Jun 11, 2020 12:11 am

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:43 pm
NZChris wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:28 pm
put my stethoscope on the fermenter,
Only ever used my ear above the surface , but thinking it must be a nice sound through a Sethoscope.
It's an especially nice sound if you were worried that a ferment wasn't going to go off like you had hoped :D

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Thu Jun 11, 2020 12:53 am

Saltbush Bill wrote:
Wed Jun 10, 2020 11:09 pm
Think I will stick to my finger and a taste test, finger will still be working when the gadget is broken.
Recall from above I'm a n00b, what's the finger/taste test?
malt_gt_milton wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 12:08 am
FWIW, there is an open source tild hydrometer project called iSpindle.
Nice! $.02 well earned, thank you.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by Corsaire » Thu Jun 11, 2020 6:01 am

Stick a finger in it and taste if it's still sweet.

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Re: Looking for something between hydrometer and alcoholmeter to measure final gravity of wash.

Post by azeotroll » Thu Jun 11, 2020 8:01 am

Corsaire wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 6:01 am
Stick a finger in it and taste if it's still sweet.
Ah! Makes sense.

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