Beer hydrometer readings are necessary for every brewer who stores his tipple under pressure.
It's a wonderful invention; in this instance, it really should be called a saccharometer as it measures how much glucose and fructose from the honey is left unfermented in your beer or mead.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 1 December, 2018.
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 highly 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.
In this instance the saccharometer is buoyed up by the amount of sugars left in the wort. As they are converted to alcohol, the hydrometer sinks lower and lower until it approaches a reading of 1.000, the same as water.
To obtain a alcohol concentration of around 5% which gives a reading of about 1.040, or simply 40 in the jargon. That's 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 are vital is you don't 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 and lower in the container.
As you can see here, the reading is about 1.004, very close to that of water. It's time to bottle your beer. Bottling when the SG is 1.008 is safe and the resulting beer will be slightly sweeter.
Mead oddly isn't sweet at all. All the sugars in the honey has been converted to alcohol. It's the fragrances of ten thousand flowers that will make a braggot taste quite different to a beer.
Making honey mead is fun, but in truth it's only really for the beekeeper. It's quite a lot of work, and so there's no point using second grade honey; beer 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. Not until the fifth century anyway, thanks to our friend Hypatia though I'm sure it was not in common use until the last century.
They brewed and immediately drank their beers and wines mostly, though wine sacs could be used to keep strange yeasts out. Making honey mead is one of my passions; it's a good way to use up the gleanings and putting them to good use. If you are going to bottle it, you must have the ability to make beer hydrometer readings.
Healthy 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 won't suggest that mead and beer hydrometer readings are necessarily part of them; it's more hobby than anything else for me.
Can beer, wine and mead be numbered amongst the healthy choice foods? Yes, and no. Yes, because homemade they are full of healthy vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients and lower cholesterol in the case of red wine at least.
But, no, because alcohol makes a good servant but a very bad master; and it continually is 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 give me severe heartburn, but my homemade braggot does not. It's 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 aren't expensive; $3-10 on Amazon.
If you are prediabetic, as I am, then you may also want to know which foods give you a surge in blood glucose; that's 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 gl beer
30 5.2 94 1 gl beer
60 6.5 116 Dinner
120 5.6 101
Beer: 1 quart or 730ml, 26 g carbohydrate
Dinner: Fresh lima and broad beans, broccoli, one egg, 1 slice 100% wholemeal bread and butter. 15g + 5g + 0g + 15g = 35g
Total carbohydrate for the meal: 61g
That's far too much starch for a person who is obese, insulin resistant, or frankly diabetic, but fair for an averagely healthy person. Owing to the healthy mix, except the beer perhaps, there was no abnormal blood glucose surge. I can't 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's a fairly simple solution; in my case anyway, you may be different, a short ten minute walk after a starchy meal keeps my blood glucose down to safe levels. I should really do it after every meal.
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