Utilizing a Refractometer

Refractometer Fundamentals

I’ve an in depth article on refractometers and how they operate here. The brief model is refractometer can be utilized to switch your hydrometer and take correct gravity readings of each unfermented and fermented wort. They work by shining mild via a prism and measuring the refractive index of a small pattern of wort or beer, which you’ll then use to find out the precise gravity.

In sensible use, a refractometer may be very easy. First you callibrate (see beneath). Subsequent, you usually clear the glass slide off after which put a couple of drops of wort on the slide after which shut the duvet. Subsequent you maintain it as much as a lightweight supply and skim the measurement from the dimensions. Most trendy brewing refractometers have a twin scale displaying each particular gravity and brix. Since brix is equal to plato to over three decimal locations, you possibly can safely assume the brix scale is identical as levels plato. I favor to work in brix/plato with my refractometer, remembering to multiply by 4 factors and add 1.000 to get the quantity in particular gravity. For instance 12 plato is four×12=48 factors or 1.048 SG.

Nonetheless, since virtually all refractometers are calibrated to measure sugar in water and never maltose (the sugar beer is constructed from), a small adjustment of usually four% have to be made to unfermented wort gravity readings. There’s a calibration course of (beneath) that offers you a really correct quantity to make use of right here.

Fermented wort has a excessive share of alcohol which adjustments the equation used to find out the gravity considerably, so a unique calculation have to be used for fermented wort, and I strongly suggest utilizing a software like BeerSmith in your fermented readings because the uncooked SG or plato quantity you get from the refractometer won’t be correct.


Earlier than you calibrate your refractometer you wish to set visible focus. Most refractometers have an eyepiece that rotates and also you merely flip it till the dimensions of the refractometer is in focus as you maintain it as much as a lightweight.

Precise calibration of a refractometer is a two step course of. In step one you utilize distilled or deionized water to set the “zero” level for the machine. Distilled water ought to learn zero brix/plato or 1.000 SG. Most trendy refractometers have a knob or screw on prime of the machine to regulate the zero. In the event you don’t have a knob, you possibly can go to the refractometer software in BeerSmith and click on on the calibration button and enter your zero studying and BeerSmith will apply that offset to future readings to compensate in your slight offset.

The second step is to combine a small quantity of wort – say 2 ouncesof dry malt extract in eight ouncesof water after which take measurements of this pattern with each a superb hydrometer and in addition your refractometer. These may be entered into the BeerSmith refractometer calibration dialog (click on calibrate from inside Instruments->Refractometer) to find out your “brix correction issue”. Usually this quantity is round 1.04, which implies that the uncooked studying from the refractometer is adjusted down about four% to compensate for the truth that you might be measuring maltose and never desk sugar in your unfermented measurements. After you have the zero set and in addition the brix correction issue set you might be able to take readings.

Measuring Unfermented Wort Gravity

Measuring unfermented wort gravity is the simplest. You merely put a couple of drops on the clear slide, shut the slide cowl and maintain it as much as a lightweight. The uncooked authentic gravity studying you get might be near the precise worth (usually round four% too excessive) and also you want solely enter that uncooked worth into the Instruments->Refractometer view utilizing Unferemented Wort Gravity because the calculation setting and you’re going to get the corrected gravity with the correct brix adjustment issue from our calibration.

Fermenting or Fermented Wort Gravity

Due to the presence of alcohol which alters the refractive index of the beer, each fermenting and fermented uncooked readings out of your refractometer can’t be used instantly. That you must enter the uncooked values into the Instruments->Refractometer view utilizing the Fermenting Wort Gravity calculation setting to get an correct studying. Notice that this software requires each a present refractometer studying and in addition an authentic gravity studying – taken earlier than you fermented your wort. So should you use a refractometer its essential that you simply document your OG earlier than pitching yeast.

Enter the present refractometer studying and in addition your recorded authentic gravity studying into the software, and you’re going to get the corrected gravity studying and in addition ABV and ABW. You should utilize this software on each “in progress” fermentation and in addition for measuring Closing Gravity.

Authentic Gravity of Completed Beer

BeerSmith additionally has a further calculation labeled Authentic Gravity of Completed Beer. This software, although extra not often used, can be utilized to backtrack the unique gravtiy of a beer based mostly on a last refractometer and last hydrometer studying. Mainly this system calculates the quantity of alcohol based mostly on the distinction between the refractometer and hydrometer studying and makes use of that to estimate the OG of the beer. To make use of this setting simply take a refractometer and hydrometer studying of your fermented beer, and enter them within the refractometer software.


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