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Accurately measuring wash alc %

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  • Nathan Stanley
    Hi all, Today I did a brew and before I started I put my alcometer into the wash tub to see how much alcohol it had in it. The alcometer read lower than 0%,
    Message 1 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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      Hi all,

      Today I did a brew and before I started I put my alcometer into the wash
      tub to see how much alcohol it had in it.

      The alcometer read lower than 0%, that is to say that it was floating so
      high that didn't even show a reading. The alcometer is one of those
      glass ones with a weight in the bottom and it floats in the liquid to
      give a reading.

      Why does it not show a reading when I do this? The best reason I can
      come up with is the temperature of the wash, but I've never tested that
      theory. And I would figure if the wash is cooler than normal it should
      give a higher reading shouldn't it? Not lower? Only other reason I can
      think of is there may be excess sugar put into the wash and that affects
      the buoyancy of the meter?
    • Rasputin Paracelsus
      Hi Nathan, As I understand it, and alcoholmeter can only be used in a water/alcohol mixture. Water has a specific gravity of 1.0, and alcohol is less than
      Message 2 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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        Hi Nathan,

        As I understand it, and alcoholmeter can only be used in a water/alcohol
        mixture. Water has a specific gravity of 1.0, and alcohol is less than
        that, at 0.785.

        With pure water, it will read 0. The more alcohol in the mix, the lower
        the specific gravity, causing the alcoholmeter to sink, yielding a reading.

        Now in your case, you have a wash with something else in it, whose
        specific gravity will be above 1.0. Therefore, the alcoholmeter will
        float higher and you can read nothing.

        What you need is a hydrometer--those are used to measure liquids with
        sugar concentrations.

        Best

        R

        Nathan Stanley wrote:
        > Hi all,
        >
        > Today I did a brew and before I started I put my alcometer into the wash
        > tub to see how much alcohol it had in it.
        >
        > The alcometer read lower than 0%, that is to say that it was floating so
        > high that didn't even show a reading. The alcometer is one of those
        > glass ones with a weight in the bottom and it floats in the liquid to
        > give a reading.
        >
        > Why does it not show a reading when I do this? The best reason I can
        > come up with is the temperature of the wash, but I've never tested that
        > theory. And I would figure if the wash is cooler than normal it should
        > give a higher reading shouldn't it? Not lower? Only other reason I can
        > think of is there may be excess sugar put into the wash and that affects
        > the buoyancy of the meter?
      • Trid
        ... OK, off the bat (and please correct me if I m reading you wrong), but by today I did a brew do you mean you put together the ingredients (water, sugar,
        Message 3 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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          --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, Nathan Stanley <catfish@...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi all,
          >
          > Today I did a brew and before I started I put my alcometer into the wash tub to see how much alcohol it had in it.
          >

          OK, off the bat (and please correct me if I'm reading you wrong), but by "today I did a brew" do you mean you put together the ingredients (water, sugar, nutrients, yeast, etc.) and began the fermentation process?

          > The alcometer read lower than 0%, that is to say that it was floating so
          > high that didn't even show a reading. The alcometer is one of those
          > glass ones with a weight in the bottom and it floats in the liquid to give a reading.

          OK, here's the part where it gets more important that your terminology is dead accurate:
          If you're using an alcometer (which is designed to measure an alcohol water mixture; i.e. less dense than pure water) *and* my understanding of the first part is correct, then you're getting a reading exactly as you should expect.
          When you start off the fermentation phase of the process, you've added sugar and other ingredients to water. This mixture is more dense than water. The proper tool for measuring this is a "brewing hydrometer" which is designed to measure wort/must/wash (i.e. more dense than pure water).
          The term "specific gravity" which is used a lot in brewing, is the ratio of the density of a liquid to that of pure water. As such, pure water's specific gravity (or, as you see frequently abbreviated as "sg" or "s.g.") is 1.000. Denser liquids will have a specific gravity value of >1.0 and liquids less dense than water will have a s.g. value of <1.0
          Alcometers are calibrated in units of %abv to show how a mixture of water and alcohol (less dense than water) compares to pure water. The less dense, the more alcohol, and vice versa. Obviously pure water would read 0% Now, a wash that's just starting will be denser than water due to the sugars and other ingredients. If you put your alcometer in this mixture, it will read as if there is actually "negative" alcohol due to it not being able to sink down to the 0 mark.
          Brewing hydrometers are calibrated for denser liquids and account for any kind of mixture as they're just comparing density. Even so, the denser the liquid, the shallower it floats. To use one of these to get alcohol, you can't take a direct reading and have it tell you. You have to read the wash as you start the brew; called "original gravity" or "og" for short. Then, when you're done with the brew (this is where having to have patience comes in) you take another density reading to get your "final gravity" or "fg." The *difference* between the og and fg is what translates into your alcohol content of the brew.
          Once you run this brew through your still, then you have a pure(ish) mixture of alcohol and water, and that's when it's appropriate to use the alcometer for a measurement.

          >
          > Why does it not show a reading when I do this? The best reason I can
          > come up with is the temperature of the wash, but I've never tested that theory.

          It's been tested and documented for decades, nay, centuries...temperature does indeed affect your readings. It might not be a bad idea to read and reread http://homedistiller.org a few more times so you can catch up to a lot of the proven theories.

          > And I would figure if the wash is cooler than normal it should
          > give a higher reading shouldn't it? Not lower?

          Higher density...which means one of two things, greater potential alcohol in your wash (as measured by the brewing hydrometer) or less alcohol in your distilled spirit because higher density = less alcohol/more water. The trick is to remember when either device is applicable. They're not interchangeable.

          > Only other reason I can
          > think of is there may be excess sugar put into the wash and that affects the buoyancy of the meter?

          As noted above, yes, more sugar leads to a denser wash and therefore greater buoyancy. This is the fundamental principle that allows a hydrometer to work in the first place. Denser wash (due to more sugar) gives you a higher sg reading.

          Trid
          -hopefully this clears a few things up rather than further confusing things
        • Nathan Stanley
          Thanks for the explanation. I thought it would be something like that. Guess I have to count my silvers and see if I can buy a hydrometer. Or maybe my uncle
          Message 4 of 7 , Jun 3, 2009
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            Thanks for the explanation. I thought it would be something like that. Guess I have to count my silvers and see if I can buy a hydrometer. Or maybe my uncle has one from his home brew beer days...

            Rasputin Paracelsus wrote:

            Hi Nathan,


            What you need is a hydrometer-- those are used to measure liquids with
            sugar concentrations.

            Best

            R


          • Christopher Bedwell
            Sent from my iPhone On 04/06/2009, at 9:59 AM, Nathan Stanley wrote: Thanks for the explanation. I thought it would be something
            Message 5 of 7 , Jun 4, 2009
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              Sent from my iPhone


              On 04/06/2009, at 9:59 AM, Nathan Stanley <catfish@...> wrote:

              Thanks for the explanation. I thought it would be something like that. Guess I have to count my silvers and see if I can buy a hydrometer. Or maybe my uncle has one from his home brew beer days...

              Rasputin Paracelsus wrote:

              Hi Nathan,


              What you need is a hydrometer-- those are used to measure liquids with
              sugar concentrations.

              Best

              R


            • jamesonbeam1
              Hi Nathan, Its not just a hydrometer, its specifically a Wine Hydromerter you need versus a Proof Hydrometer or Alcoholometer . The wine hydrometer measures
              Message 6 of 7 , Jun 4, 2009
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                Hi Nathan,

                Its not just a hydrometer, its specifically a Wine Hydromerter you need versus a Proof Hydrometer or "Alcoholometer".

                The wine hydrometer measures solutions / mistures (with solids) that are heavier the pure water.  A Proof Hydrometer measures water/alcohol solutions with are lighter than water.  Since pure water registers a 1.000 SG, and  when sugars, fruit juices, grains, etc. are added this will increase the SG and make the soulution / misture heavier than water. 

                Since Alcohol / Water solutions are lighter than water, a Proof Hydrometer is calibrated for lighter than water solutions.  You CANNOT mix the 2 up.  They both sell for about the same price, but if you get the built in thermometers it starts getting more expensive.  You can read up on Hydrometers, Measuring SG, Alcoholometers in the Info base.

                Vino es Veritas,

                Jim aka Waldo.

                East is East and West is West - and nither the twain shall meet......

                 

                --- In new_distillers@yahoogroups.com, Nathan Stanley <catfish@...> wrote:

                Thanks for the explanation. I thought it would be something like that. Guess I have to count my silvers and see if I can buy a hydrometer. Or maybe my uncle has one from his home brew beer days...

                Rasputin Paracelsus wrote:

                Hi Nathan,


                What you need is a hydrometer-- those are used to measure liquids with
                sugar concentrations.

                Best

                R

              • Rasputin Paracelsus
                Jim, Thanks for adding the extra precision. In the beer and wine community, the distinction is never made (or at least, I ve never heard it in years...)--but
                Message 7 of 7 , Jun 4, 2009
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                  Jim,

                  Thanks for adding the extra precision. In the beer and wine community,
                  the distinction is never made (or at least, I've never heard it in
                  years...)--but given this venue, it makes sense to use more precise
                  language. Now I'll know for next time :)

                  (with a quip at the bottom)

                  R

                  jamesonbeam1 wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > Hi Nathan,
                  >
                  > Its not just a hydrometer, its specifically a Wine Hydromerter you
                  > need versus a Proof Hydrometer or "Alcoholometer".
                  >
                  > The wine hydrometer measures solutions / mistures (with solids) that
                  > are heavier the pure water. A Proof Hydrometer measures water/alcohol
                  > solutions with are lighter than water. Since pure water registers a
                  > 1.000 SG, and when sugars, fruit juices, grains, etc. are added this
                  > will increase the SG and make the soulution / misture heavier than
                  > water.
                  >
                  > Since Alcohol / Water solutions are lighter than water, a Proof
                  > Hydrometer is calibrated for lighter than water solutions. You CANNOT
                  > mix the 2 up. They both sell for about the same price, but if you get
                  > the built in thermometers it starts getting more expensive. You can
                  > read up on Hydrometers, Measuring SG, Alcoholometers in the Info base.
                  >
                  > Vino es Veritas,
                  >
                  > Jim aka Waldo.
                  >
                  > East is East and West is West - and nither the twain shall meet.....
                  >
                  Except if your name is John Lennon :)
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