Beer hydrometer readings

Beer hydrometer readings are necessary for every brewer who stores his tipple under pressure.

This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 6th April, 2020.

This is of vital importance to the home-brewer. You absolutely must have a hydrometer. Fortunately they are not expensive.

Should you bottle your beer before fermentation is complete, the pressure will build up to dangerous levels. A potentially lethal explosion is imminent with flying glass shrapnel.

Credit for the hydrometer is given to a Greek man, Hypatia, living in Egypt in that centre of wisdom, Alexandria. But it was Archimedes who worked out the principles of density and specific gravity.

It is a wonderful invention; in this instance, it really should be called a saccharometer as it measures how much of the sugars in the honey in your beer or mead is left unfermented.

Hydrometer mead making device

In this instance the saccharometer is buoyed up by the sugars left in the wort. As they are converted to alcohol, the it sinks lower until it approaches a reading of 1.000, the same as water.

Hydrometer readings are vital when making beer, wine or mead.

An alcohol concentration of around 5 percent gives a reading of about 1.040, or simply 40 in the jargon. That is from 1kg of sugar in 25 litres of wort.

A light beer might start with only 400g of sugar, and will of course be lower in alcohol, and the initial hydrometer reading around 20.

Beer hydrometer readings

Beer hydrometer readings are vital if you do not want dangerous bursting bottles and flying glass shards.

Braggot, a beer made using honey instead of sugar, is usually stronger with an initial reading of 60 and sometimes much higher.

As the honey is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide, the hydrometer sinks lower in the container.

As you can see here, the reading is about 1.004, very close to that of water. It is time to bottle mya beer.

Bottling when the SG is 1.008 is safe and the resulting beer will be slightly sweeter.

Meads and braggot oddly are not sweet at all. All the sugars in the honey has been converted to alcohol. It is the fragrances of ten thousand flowers that will make them taste quite different to ordinary wine and beer.

Hydrometer in mead or braggot.

Making honey mead

Making honey mead and a braggot is fun, but in truth it is only really for the beekeeper. It is quite a lot of work, and so there is no point using second-grade ingredients; hydrometer readings are vital to produce a good brew.

Fermenting honey to make a beverage is older than the taste of ice-cold water; better too, though of course the ancients never had any hydrometers; they never bottled in glass. Not until the fifth century anyway, thanks to our friend Hypatia though I am sure it was not in common use really until the last century.

They brewed and immediately drank their beers and wines mostly, though leather sacs could be used to keep strange yeasts out. Making honey mead is one of my passions; it is one way to utilise the gleanings and put them to good use. If you are going to bottle it, you must have the ability to take hydrometer readings.

Choice foods

Choice foods are not that easy to obtain; you have to work quite hard to find those vittles that you know are to your liking. I will not suggest that beer is one of the necessities of life. It is more of a hobby than anything else for me.

But if you are going to enjoy alcohol with your food, and bottle it yourself, then beer hydrometer readings are a must.

Can beer, claret and mead be numbered amongst the choice foods? Yes, and no.

Yes, because homemade they are full of healthy vitamins, minerals,  and phytonutrients; and lower cholesterol in the case of red wine at least. They can in moderation be recommended as a choice food.

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 But, no, because alcohol makes a good servant but a very bad master; and it is continually trying to upgrade its status from nave to prince.

And, no, because the alcohol processing industry in many countries adds all kinds of preservatives and enzymes that move them to junk status. I find it interesting that commercial beers often give me severe heartburn, but my homemade braggot does not.

It is all in the chemicals added to the tipple purchased at the bottle store.

And I find Tulbagh red wine from the Western Cape of South Africa gives me no collywobbles, but many of the commercial varieties give me extreme discomfort several hours later.

The only alternative is to brew your own if you have a sensitive belly, and for that you certainly need a hydrometer. They are not expensive; $3 - 10 on Amazon.

Beer glucometer readings

If you are prediabetic, as I am, then you may also want to know which foods give you a surge in blood glucose; that is what damages the linings of your arteries. And that means taking not beer hydrometer but glucometer readings.

Invite a friend who is diabetic to dinner, and to bring his glucometer. Here are my readings; with a sigh of relief, beer is not one of the offending foods.

Time (mins) Glucose (mmol/L) (mg/dl) Food

0                                4.3           78      Water + 2 glasses beer

30                              5.2           94      1 gl beer

60                              6.5           116     Dinner

120                            5.6           101

Beer: 1 quart or 730ml has 26 g carbohydrate

Dinner: Fresh lima and broad beans, broccoli, one egg, 1 slice 100 percent wholemeal bread and butter. 15g + 5g + 0g + 15g = 35g

Total carbohydrate for the meal amounts to 61g

That is far too much starch for a person who is obese, insulin resistant, or frankly diabetic, but fair for an averagely robust individual. Owing to the nutritious  mix, except the beer perhaps, there was no abnormal blood glucose surge. I cannot vouch for canned beans and supermarket bread.

I declined the pasta, ice-cream and hot chocolate sauce. I know what they would have done.

Anything over 7.8 (140) is definitely verging on diabetes, which is what some carbs will do to my blood glucose.

Actually there is a fairly simple solution; in my case anyway, but you may be different, a short ten minute walk after starchy food keeps my blood glucose down to safe levels. I should really do it after every meal.

This brown honey beer is where I am enjoying spending time during the covid-19 lockdown.

  1. Bernard Preston
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