How To Choose The Right Hydrometer for Homebrewing

Beer is one of our earliest recipes, and arguably one of the earliest elements of “civilization” itself. Needless to say, we’ve been brewing beer for quite some time and aren’t about to stop now!

That said, you may have noticed your local brewery or the big-time brew crews starting to get a bit stale and predictable with their beers, and you’re more creative and adventurous, for that. Instead, you want to unleash your own creativity and adventure and brew something that’s beer-tasting.

For that, you will need some brewing equipment, and one of the most important tools is a hydrometer. This is used (in a beer-making sense, anyway) to measure the amount of wort and sugar in a beer while likewise assessing the gravity situation, making sure everything isn’t floating to the bottom or sinking to the top.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what you should consider when choosing the best hydrometer for your beer-making needs.

Hydrometer Construction

On the one hand, glass is a pretty nice substance to show off in the beer-making, beer-tasting world. It’s why you probably have several beers, wine, and whiskey glasses, after all, on the other hand, there is no denying that glass breaks, and broken glass is the last thing you need when mixing a beverage.

As such, you’ll want to make sure that you are either ordering hydrometers that are made from strong, dependable glass or from a thin plastic akin to Solo cups.

See What Comes with Them

Some hydrometers come with a testing jar. Others do not. Some models are thicker and sturdier than others or have numbers that are easier to read. Make sure that you know what you are getting.

Hydrometers are pretty inexpensive – usually between $10 and $50 – so they aren’t too huge of an investment. That also means that you can afford to spend extra on making sure you have all the accouterments necessary for quality testing.

If your unit does not come with a beaker, graduated cylinder, testing jar, or something similar, you will need one. You might also want to invest in bumpers to help keep everything under control. A storage case is also a good idea to keep everything safe and together.

Finally, if you aren’t just brewing beer but something “a bit stronger” (such as a spirit or liqueur) you may want to invest in a different type of unit, a proof and tralle hydrometer, which is specifically designed for this purpose. This and “traditional” hydrometers are not cross-compatible, so you can’t use the proof and tralle with beer, but given that hydrometers aren’t that expensive anyway, ordering a second one shouldn’t be too much of a burden.

Test Beforehand

Before you test your beer in the hydrometer, make sure it is working with water. Miner water is best, but you should be able to make do with regular water. This can help you make sure that your hydrometer’s readings are accurate.

Additional Types of Considerations

In addition to the aforementioned difference between a traditional hydrometer and one used for liqueurs, there are multiple subsets of hydrometers to take into consideration, of which three are crucial for homebrewing:

  • Triple Scale: This is the type of hydrometer that is most commonly used by homebrewers. It offers a three-tiered scale in terms of readouts and is very good for giving you accurate readings regarding Brix, gravity, and potential alcohol. Keep in mind that if you are measuring for brix, you will then likely have to convert this back into special gravity (SG) when doing your calculations.
  • Precision Scale: Just as the name would indicate, this model is a tad more precise than your traditional hydrometer. It is able to measure specific gravity and is more sensitive than a triple scale. That said, these models tend to be narrower.
  • Thermo-Hydrometer: This is a model with a thermometer built into the unit. This can help you get a more accurate reading of the temperature of your brew.

Accessibility and Versatility

Above all, when choosing among these models, you want to pick something that is both accessible and versatile.

On the one hand, it is important that you be able to use your hydrometer with ease. You should not have to struggle. If you are, either you’re doing something wrong or you’ve bought a faulty unit. Hydrometers are typically very easy to use, and regardless of the type, yours should be as well.

It should also be versatile. You want something that can allow you to take measurements accurately from all manner of different kinds of brews without incident. What’s more, you want something that is easy to clean and use in any number of brewing jobs.

By taking these factors into consideration, you can make sure that you get the hydrometer you need to brew the beer you’ve always wanted.