Monday, March 12, 2012

Mah Nà Mah Nà! Do dooo do do do...

I guess I owe you all an apology for my unannounced absence and lack of post last week. If you know me well enough, you may have put the pieces together. The 5th was my birthday, and on the 3rd, I partied. Maybe a little too hard. Hard enough to make sure I remained horizontal for the better part of Sunday. Drinking Sunday afternoon... even writing about drinking Sunday afternoon was completely out of the question. But I'm back on my feet again, a year older, and ready to continue brewing some home made beer.

Today I decided to put together a how to sort of post. The hydrometer. Who, what, where, when, why, and how?

The  hydrometer . The  hydrometer  is a weighted glass tube with a calibrated scale inside. You might say the  hydrometer looks like you standard glass thermometer with a severe case of bus driver ass. Or maybe, the glass Kardashian.

The  hydrometer is used to measure specific gravity.  Clear water measures as a 1.000 on the scale. The rating goes up when the liquid is more dense, and down when the liquid is less dense.

Your wort, dummy. What else would you measure? Technically you could measure anything you want. Chances are your mother's gumbo surprise weighs in off the charts though. And finding out how dense turpentine is compared to water is somewhat pointless.

Whenever you want, but there are a few key points. Most importantly it's at the end of the wort boil, and at the end of the fermentation. Also known as your OG (original gravity), and FG (final gravity). All grain brewers also can measure the pre-boil gravity to insure they have extracted enough sugar from your grains during mashing.

Measuring your gravity can tell you a few things. Using your OG and your FG, you can come up with the calculation of how much alcohol is in your beer. This is important if you plan to go on a bender, you don't want to bring along some week 3% beer. It's also important if your giving beer to an alcohol-virgin. While funny, it wouldn't be wise to hook them up with a 15% beer right off the bat. Measuring your FG will also tell you when your fermentation is complete. Measuring periodically, when the FG stops going through a significant change, fermentation is complete. Also, measuring your pre-boil OG, to find out whether or not you've extracted enough yeast-food from your mash. It would be a shame to throw out all that grain if you planned to make something strong like an imperial, and you only come up with enough sugar to make a blonde.

Easy. Take a sample of your wort, preferably in a tall graduated cylinder or a wine thief. Take your  hydrometer  and drop it in the liquid you've taken with a good spin as you drop it. Just like you were dropping a spinning top, or unleashing your spin fighters to battle evil. The spin allows the  hydrometer to shake off any bubbles that might throw off the reading. Also, see the picture to the right? You have to take the reading at the right level of liquid. Can you see the difference? You have to take the reading at the lower part of the liquid, or the "meniscus."

Easy peezy. Now you can look like a mad scientist while brewing, what with all your test tubes and glass devices. Any more tips? Let me know! Or check out are new glossary at the top of the page!

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