A hydrometer is an important piece of homebrewing equipment, and it would be pretty hard to brew at home without one. If you are new to homebrewing and don’t know what we are talking about, we’ll get you up to speed
A hydrometer is a tool that measures the ratio of a liquid’s (in this case, beer) density to the density of water. It shows you how the yeast is converting sugar into ethanol, in the homebrewing process. This is a critical piece of information that gives insight into the success of the fermentation process.
You might be wondering if a hydrometer is even necessary. Well, fermentation might be the most important part of the homebrewing process. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy beer! If the fermentation isn’t going correctly or something goes wrong, a hydrometer will be able to alert you so you can make the correct adjustments to get the beer-to-be back on track. So yes, a hydrometer is pretty important if your end goal is to homebrew a delicious beer.
Hydrometers, including electric hydrometers, look a little bit like a thermometer, although the two homebrewing tools are different. While it this small tool might look complicated, rest assured that it isn’t as tricky as it looks. In fact, hydrometers are fairly simple! Today we’re going to give you the rundown on how to use a homebrewing hydrometer. Keep on reading so you can get to brewing.
Step 1: Get A Sample and Insert Hydrometer Into It
A hydrometer will tell you what the original gravity is. Right before you pitch the yeast and after the cool down, you’ll take the first hydrometer measurement. Simply retrieve a sample of the wort, enough to suspend the hydrometer completely, and put it into a jar or cylinder. Place the hydrometer into the sample wort and let it buoy. Wait a few seconds for all the air to escape, and make sure the hydrometer is centered vertically.
Step 2: Record The Original Gravity Reading
The different increments on the hydrometer show gravity points, and that is exactly what you’re going to be measuring. The gravity reading should happen at the level in which the liquid rises. Record this number, which is the original gravity number. Generally, the original gravity of the wort is somewhere between 1.035 and 1.060, but if you purchased a homebrewing kit, then there should be instructions included that will tell you what the original gravity should be at.
Step 3: Using The Temperature, Calculate!
Make sure you know the temperature of the wort. This is a critical step in getting an accurate hydrometer reading. The next step is calculating the specific gravity. A hydrometer temperature chart should be included with the purchase of a hydrometer. If not, you can find one online. You will use this chart to find the specific gravity. On the chart you’ll see a △ G. Add this to the original reading to find the correct gravity measurement.
Step 4: Measure Again After The Fermentation Is Complete
After the fermentation is done, measure the beer again with your hydrometer. The reading you get this time will be the final gravity. Generally, a final gravity is around 1.015 and 1.005, but make sure to double check the instructions included in the homebrewing kit.
As you can see, using a hydrometer is pretty simple. One thing that you will want to make sure of is that you’re not measuring the wort too much. If you do, then you’re putting the wort at risk for getting contaminated from the air.