So you’ve decided to turn your kitchen into a home brewery. Well done. There are few summer projects that pay off better than learning to brew your own beer or make your own wine. After all, how many other summer projects allow you, your friends, and your family to drink for free for months afterwards? Far too few, that’s for sure. It’s something that every connoisseur of adult beverages should try at least once in their lives.
The only catch is that this is a complicated process. After all, it’s not as if your want to end up with moonshine that could remove paint in addition to killing brain cells. Nope, you’re going to want to make some carefully calibrated, delicious, and healthy alcohol to pour down your gullet. That’s not easy. That’s going to require some professional equipment to do properly and one of the most important items that you’ll need to pick up to make your home brew dreams a reality is a hydrometer.
So what is a hydrometer? It’s a device that allows users to measure the density of liquid. How does that come into play in a home brewery? Well, you’ll use your hydrometer to determine the difference in density before and after the fermentation process, which will determine the percentage of alcohol in your tasty beverage. In other words, it’s a pretty vital tool that will ensure that you are making the best booze possible for family gatherings and private nights at home.
The only question is which hydrometer is the right one for your home brew set up. How will you possibly determine that? Simple, by reading this article. Below you’ll find a list of what we consider to be the best hydrometers on the market. Below that, you’ll find a definitive guide to everything that you could possibly want to know about a hydrometer. In other words, by the end of this article you’ll be something of a hydrometer expert and can feel fully prepared to bring home the perfect hydrometer to complete your home brewery. So what are you waiting for?! Read on and all will be revealed.
Best Overall Hydrometer — Brewer’s Elite Hydrometer And Test Jar
If you’re venturing out into the wild and wonderful world of home brewing for the first time, then this nifty little package from Brewer’s Elite is probably the best option for you. Designed specifically for the home brewing market, this has everything that a first time hydrometer user will need in one place. Not only does this set include a high quality triple scale hydrometer, but a small kit that will help get your started on your home brew journey. These extras include a vital protective case for the fragile glass hydrometer, a soft microfiber cloth to keep it clean, a jar for testing, and a detailed instruction manual to make using the Hydrometer a little less intimidating. For anyone hunting down their first hydrometer, this is the perfect package.
- Well designed a perfectly calibrated glass hydrometer
- Protective case, testing jar, and microfiber cleaning cloth included.
- Ideal for first time home brewers.
- Test jar isn’t fully transparent, making it difficult to read the hydrometer at times.
Best Digital Hydrometer — Anpro Brix Refractometer For Homebrew
Now, if you’re a more experienced home brew veteran looking to improve and amplify your hydrometer experience, then this fully digital hydrometer is the perfect way to take your drinks to the next level. The Anpro Brix Refractometer can provide incredible accurate readings (including temperature, specific gravity, sugar content, and more) from a few drops of your brew. If you’re looking to up the quality of your beverages with professional grade equipment and results, this is the machine for you. While certainly more expensive than a glass hydrometer, this is still a surprisingly affordable piece of equipment given everything that it does.
- Attractive design.
- Far more accurate than traditional glass hydrometers.
- Offers more information than a traditional hydrometer.
- Protective case, eyedropper, mini-screwdriver, and microfiber cloth also included.
- Mildly more expensive than non-digital options.
Best Budget Hydrometer — Monster Brew Triple Scale Hydrometer
Having bad experiences breaking hydrometers? Looking for a quick replacement that won’t break the bank and that you don’t have to worry about breaking down the road? Then the Monster Brew Triple Scale Hydrometer might be the best option for you. Coming in at half the price of the alternatives, this is an incredibly affordable and perfectly acceptable tool that will get the job done while you hunt down a more permanent and powerful solution.
- Does the job
- Not as accurate or attractive as the alternatives.
- Not built to last.
Best Hydrometer For Spirits And Liquor — CNS Proof And Talle Hydrometer For Distilling Alcohol
Finally, this is hydrometer from CNS is perfect for anyone ambitious enough in their home-brewing to attempt to make their own liquors and spirits. While the process is somewhat similar to making beer and wine, liquors and spirits have a different distillation process that requires specially calibrated equipment. You traditional hydrometer simply won’t work if you’re planning to brew either of those forms of powerful alcohol. You’ll need a different style of hydrometer and this Proof And Talle option will certainly fill that bill. Unfortunately, it won’t work on beer and wine. So, you’ll still need to hang on to your old hydrometer for those brews. However, this little beauty will open up entirely new avenues of home brewing for you that previously seemed impossible.
- Works for home brewing spirits and liquor
- Accurate readings and measurements that wouldn’t be possible on a traditional hydrometer.
- Won’t work for anyone brewing beer or wine.
Things To Look Out For
Here are some things to consider when choosing which hydrometer is right for you.
The Common Uses For Hydrometers
It’s obviously worth considering what you’ll actually use your hydrometer for before committing to by this specific tool. While the most obvious use is for home brewing or wine making, it’s actually not the only specialty for a hydrometer. Other common uses are as follows. In addition to measuring the alcohol content of your home brew, you can also measure its sugar content. It can also be used to measure soil density for any green thumbs out there and can even measure the fat content of milk should that ever be a concern. While this tool may be designed for a very specific task, the applications are many.
Types Of Hydrometers
Like almost any kitchen tool or appliance, there are several different styles and types of hydrometers, each with their own specialties, strengths and weaknesses. It’s obviously important to ensure that you end up with the right hydrometer for the tasks that you have in mind.
The most common (and least expensive) type of hydrometer is the Triple Scale Hydrometer. This is the most basic style of hydrometer, but still has three different ways of measuring specific gravity and has a wide range. This makes it the ideal choice for someone doing basic home brewing; however, it is somewhat less precise than other options for those who need very specific results. As the name suggests, Precision Hydrometers offer more precise readings, however they also have a much smaller range and as a result, won’t work for all batches. Proof & Tralle hydrometers are designed for high ABV solutions and are designed to help brew spirits and liquors. They will not have the range for beer and wine, but are vital for anyone planning on brewing specialty liquors.
Thermohydrometers have a thermometer built in, making it a multi-use tool. This would be worth getting if you don’t have a separate thermometer already as precise temperatures are necessary for any hydrometer to work at peak performance. Finally, Digital Hydrometers are the most technologically advanced version of this tool and a fairly recent development. Obviously, you will get a digital read out with these devices and they also tend to be the most precise (if also the most expensive) option. They will double as thermometers and can also calculate alcohol content for you. So, if you can afford the heftier price tag, this is likely the best option for new and experienced home brew hobbyists.
As you have probably gathered by now, hydrometers are very fragile and delicate tools with precise calibration. These are tools that need to be properly cared for and cleaned to function properly. So only consider getting one if you have the care and facilities at your disposal to treat your hydrometer right.
Paper Or Plastic Scale
Most hydrometers use a plastic scale inside their glass hydrometers. However, some (inevitably cheaper) hydrometers use a paper scale instead. These tend to be rather problematic as the paper scale can often slide around within the hydrometer, leading to inaccurate readings. If you plan on getting a traditional glass hydrometer, it’s important to ensure that the scale is made of plastic.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What exactly is a hydrometer?
Hydrometers are tools used to measure the density and specific gravity of any liquid (specific gravity refers to how dense a liquid is relative to water). They are typically constructed out of glass and comprise of a long glass cylinder with a weighted bulb at the end. They almost look like a large glass thermometer, even though they function quite differently. The large bulb is used to help the hydrometer float within the liquid that it is measuring. Newer versions have a digital readout, but a classic hydrometer is a glass instrument.
Why is it important to use a hydrometer?
If you are new to the world of home brewing, you may have come across many beer and wine recipes that appear to be all encompassing and do not require the use of a hydrometer. Indeed, may home brewers choose to judge the fermentation process and alcohol content of their booze through time and taste. While it’s possible to get a decent final product this way, the only way to accurately determine the alcohol content of your home brew during fermentation is with a hydrometer. So, if you want to ensure that you get the best batch of home brew that you possibly can, it’s vital to have a decent hydrometer on hand.
Why is liquid temperature so important for a hydrometer?
Hydrometers all tend to require the liquid that they are measuring to be at a standard temperature. This is due to how hydrometers function. In simplest terms, hydrometers use displacement to measure the density of a liquid. When a hydrometer is dropped into a liquid sample, it displaces some of the liquid, which is then used to measure the density. The temperature must be at a certain level to achieve accurate results through this process. If you are unable to maintain your liquid at the assigned temperature, then you’ll have to adjust the gravity reading on the hydrometer accordingly.
Is my hydrometer ready to use out of the box?
While your hydrometer should be properly calibrated and will require no assembly, it is always a wise idea to test your hydrometer before use. The best way to do this is to fill up a jar of distilled water that it as the suggested temperature for your unit. In this instance, your hydrometer should have a reading of 1.000. If it doesn’t, something is off with the calibration of your hydrometer and you’ll have to compensate accordingly in your calculations.
Is it important to clean my hydrometer?
Absolutely. This is a delicately calibrated tool. So if there is any excess dirt, grime, or other material on you hydrometer it will through of the balance and calibration of the unit, which will have an adverse effect on the accuracy of your readings. So keep it clean to avoid any issues.