No Excuses – Taking Hydrometer Samples

Do you know what this is?


A hydrometer and a funnel, you might say. And 6oz of beer in a hydrometer sample tube.

And you would be correct.

But this isn’t just any sample. This is 6oz of beer being fermented at near-peak krausen, 48 hours after pitch. I had to swing my ladle like a scimitar to clear away the foam. The sample was rife with suspended yeast…and delicious. I pitched on Sunday night and drew off this sample on Tuesday night. All I needed was the ladle, the funnel, and a sample tube thanks to my Speidel fermentor, which has a wide mouth opening.

This is not something I would’ve done when I first started brewing. I would’ve been hesitant for several reasons:

1. I don’t want to infect the beer!

This you shouldn’t worry about if your techniques are sound. Just make sure to sanitize the ladle, funnel, sample tube, and hydrometer, and you’ll be okay to return the sample to the batch afterward. Or you can drink it, which is what I usually do. Use a spray bottle full of StarSan or your sanitizing solution of choice and you’ll be unlikely to grow anything off your equipment. You should make sure everything is clean and free of organic matter before you sanitize or else it won’t be as effective.

2. I don’t want to waste the beer!

What are you crying about? It’s just 6oz. You’ve lost half a bottle. If you’re that precious about your beer, then you might have some dependency issues. And don’t forget Issue 1 above—you can always return the sample to the batch as long as you’ve sanitized well. Or you could brew a slightly larger batch to account for a few bottles worth of samples during the fermentation process. That way you can enjoy tasting the beer as it develops during the fermentation process.

3. I can’t get to my beer, it’s in a carboy!

Just siphon it out! Or pick up a cheap wine thief (also sanitized) that will reach into your carboy. There’s really no excuse for access, especially when wine thieves cost $10 or less.

And never forget the reason why you draw samples: Measuring gravity is the only reliable way to judge whether fermentation is complete.

My Robust Porter started at 1.059 beer, and after two days at 67F it had already dropped to 1.027, which is 4.2%ABV. Not bad. I’m hoping it will drop another 0.010 or so at least. I’ll be measuring it every few days to see where it ends up, and I’ll know when it’s done and ready for the bottle.