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May 3, 2009
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I've decided to get a refractometer. The reasons are;
1- I want to put as few items into the must as possible to limit chances of contamination.
2- I find reading a hydrometer imprecise.
3- I’m lazy and don’t want to have to clean and sanitize so many things every time I want to take an SG reading.

Can anyone recommend one and what scale do I want on it?
You want a ATC 0-35brix.
The only thing its good for is a starting gravity or when you need to know the brix of grapes on the vine. Once fermenting on the lower end you will not be able to get the gravity. Reading the hrdrometer is more precise. Why do you not like the hydrometer? Do you know how to read it?
If you are to lazy to clean & sanitize then this hobby is NOT for you.
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I don't know anything about refractometers Tom.. do they take the temperature into account as well?

Keep a test jar fuul of sanitizer and just keep the hydrometer in there. It is a precise tool! As far as santizing goes, keep a spray bottle full and it makes easy work of sanitizing just about anything.
I don't know anything about refractometers Tom.. do they take the temperature into account as well?

Yes ATC = auto temp compensation
I use it in my homebrewing .. testing the hot wort for a gravity reading
I didn’t get into this hobby because I enjoy cleaning and sanitizing. My point is I am always looking for ways to keep it to a minimum. I know how to read a hydrometer I have used one for years making maple syrup. With the syrup it was easier I always knew what the temperature of the syrup was because I always had a thermometer in it and sanitation wasn’t an issue because the syrup was always at a boil. But with the wine in order to get a good reading, I have been drawing a sample so correct viewing is possible. I’ve tried just dropping the hydrometer into the carboy but I just can’t see it well enough. So I sanitize a thermometer, hydrometer, test cylinder and wine thief. Then make sure the hydrometer itself is at a comparable temp as not to affect the sample too much, then leave the hydrometer in the sample long enough for both to stabilize, take a temp reading then the hydrometer reading. Right? I have also had issues with the hydrometer kind of sticking to the walls of the test cylinder and not floating freely. To bad the refractometer doesn’t read below the SG of plain water. Thanks for the responces.
I use a thermo hydrometer which is a termometer and a hydrometer all in one!
FWIW, all the beer brewing guys that compared hydro readings to refractometer the same value for OG.

I've never messed with all the hassle that you're talking about though with hydro readings. I ferment in I sanitize the hydro, drop it in, and I'm good to read.

If I need to hydro from secondary (carboy), I only sanitize the thief. why? because I'm drinking that sample. I find a large part of learning and enjoyment is tasting the product at all stages. So I don't worry about sanitizing the cylinder or hydro, just the thief.

and with star-san, that takes all of 30 seconds wet-contact time and I'm in business.

Nothing wrong with what you're doing...just wanted to offer some valid alternative methods.
I use a refractometer for beer but rarely for wine. I do use my hydrometer more for beer now though as my new system has a gravity tap that allows easy wort samples to be obtained. I tested my hydrometer against my refractometer and the hydrometer reads 3 gravity points higher than the refractometer. Also remember that Auto Temp Control Refractometers ain't all that. You really need to let the sample cool or it will not read correct. With wine that isn't much of an issue unless you are pouring boiling water over a bag of fruit for quick extraction. I let all of my refractometer samples get below 90F for more accurate readings.
Last year I bought a refractometer at Brouwland and I really wished I had bought it years earlier.

I have an ATC (automatic temperature correction) model and it works like a charm. With a decent camera you can even take pictures through the ocular for storing with your winelog or on a website:

You will only need a drop of must to do the reading. No hassle, no cleaning.

Surprise yourself with a ATC type with an SG reading for wine or a brix reading (if you are in the US) for wine. Mine has an SG reading as you can see in the pics it reads from 0 to 1170.

A refractometer can (in contrary as stated in previous posts) be used throughout the whole fermentation process. You need a correcting spreadsheet and that can be found here:

Hope this helps.