A wine refractometer is very useful in almost all stages of wine production. It can help to assess the ripeness of grapes before harvest, measure the amount of sugar in the grapes, and predict the alcohol content from the must. In this post, you will learn how to measure alcohol content in wine with a refractometer and how to use a brix refractometer for wine.
What is a wine refractometer
The working principle of refractometers is to measure the refractive indexes. Refractive index is the angle of light refraction on the liquid surface. It depends on the content of the measured substance. Since both alcohol and sugar may affect the refractive indexes, they can only be measured separately from each other. And there are different types of refractometers to measure different substances.
A refractometer for beer or wine is a good homebrew kit for home brewing lovers. To measure alcohol content, it requires a brix reading of unfermented wort or must and another after the home brewing day. A wine refractometer is a hand-held tool that measures the sugar content in grapes. Besides, it will determine the ideal time to harvest grapes. As a result, it can help the product reach an ideal condition. And a refractometer also works well in later processing steps, such as winemaking.
Degrees brix and specific gravity are both units for measuring the sugar concentration. Brix is a unit of the amount of dissolved solids in grapes for a wine refractometer. And brix value is the number of grams of sucrose present per 100 grams of liquid. A wine refractometer for home brewing measuring with the brix scale is the best way to determine the sugar concentration in red wines. As for refractometers to measure sugars, the most common brix range is brix 0-32%. Besides, winemakers may use this homebrew kit to measure alcohol levels. In addition, it can help check the fermentation process. And this tool can determine the alcohol by volume of the finished wine.
How to measure alcohol content in wine with a refractometer
The ability to measure the sugar level of grape juice allows winemakers to predict its alcohol content after fermentation is complete. And a refractometer to measure alcohol content is an important tool for winemaking. There are many ways like degrees brix and specific gravity to measure sugars.
Brix value is measured on a scale of 1 to 100 and used to get a potential alcohol content from multiplying it by 0.59. Both a hydrometer and a refractometer can measure brix value. Refractometers are the ideal choice for vineyard winemakers. Because they provide results from a very small sample size.
Learning how to measure alcohol content in wine with a refractometer is very useful to winemakers. They can use refractometers to measure sugars in red wines. Then they can determine if they need to add sugar to reach proper alcohol levels. Winemakers take sample readings before and after fermentation to monitor the fermentation progress. And they can also check if fermentation is complete.
Besides, refractometers provide a way to measure alcohol content without the original gravity. The first step for a refractometer to measure brix or alcohol levels is to calibrate the refractometer. After that, you will need to get the initial and final specific gravity from brix readings. These values will help you calculate the alcohol content by specific formulas.
How to use a brix refractometer for wine
To calculate the alcohol content in wine, you also need to know how to use a brix refractometer for wine. The basic steps of how to use a refractometer for wine are as follows.
Calibrating the refractometer
① Add 2 to 3 metric drops of distilled water to the refractometer and close the cover if it is an analog model. Distilled or deionized water is the best choice to avoid additives that may affect the refractometer readings.
② Hold the brix meter refractometer toward a light source. As you focus on the lens of the refractometer, you will notice a blue section at the top and a white section at the bottom. The horizontal line between them is the reading for the analog model. The digital refractometer has a built-in light in its body. In this case, an external light source is unnecessary.
③ If the horizontal line does not correspond with the brix 0 mark, adjust the calibration screw to make the reading scaled zero. And the digital refractometers will display the reading brix 0 on the screen.
④ Open the cover first if it is an analog refractometer. Then clean and dry the sealed flint glass prism and stainless steel ring with a cleaning cloth. It aims to ensure the accuracy of future reading results. Because the residue on the refractometer may cause some damage.
Measuring the brix value
① Open the plastic cover after calibrating the refractometer with distilled or deionized water. Place two or three metric drops of grape must on the refractometer. Gently press the cover to make sure the distilled water is evenly distributed on the glass. This step is unnecessary for digital refractometers with simple two button operation.
② Place the glass toward a light source before reading results. Focus on the eyepiece until you see a horizontal line marked “Brix %” and record the reading. For digital refractometers, you can easily take the reading from the displayed screen.
③ You’d better take multiple refractometer readings to ensure accurate results. Repeat steps 1 and 2, then record the brix readings. Most digital refractometers are easy to clean and come with a short response time. After the tool for brewing measuring the brix value, clean the refractometer with a cleaning cloth to prevent it from damage. And some models may have an automatic shut-off function after several minutes of non-use.
① Clean and dry the refractometer before and after each use to remove the residue.
② Calibrate the refractometer with distilled water before use to ensure more accurate results.
③ Choose a refractometer with automatic temperature compensated function. And wait for a short response time before taking the readings.
Analog and digital wine refractometers
Analog or digital wine refractometer measures the sugar content of grapes. They are both hand held refractometers measuring the sugar concentration based on the light refraction through the solution. And certain refractometer can measure both the density of unfermented wort and grape must. Analog wine refractometers are easy to use in vineyards and require little training. But they are only accurate at a narrow temperature range. Thus, this analog model need some corrections to test grapes at other temperatures. In most cases, an analog instrument without an automatic temperature compensated function provides only an estimate of sugar levels.
Digital wine refractometers rely on the same working principle as analog models. And they can also measure dissolved solids in grape juice. But they can provide more accurate readings for built-in automatic temperature compensation ATC. ATC digital handheld refractometers are also easy to use. Because they integrate calibrating and reading functions into simple two button operation. Some digital ATC refractometers come with a sealed flint glass prism and stainless steel ring. The brix refractometer with ATC requires only a small sample size of liquid to test for sugar levels. And some models may have an automatic shut-off function. If you need a built-in light, a digital wine refractometer is a better choice. Because an analog refractometer will require you to look at an external light source.
Best refractometer for wine
The FJD Refractometer is a pocket-sized digital wine refractometer. It can quickly and accurately measure the sugar concentration of grape must. Grape growers, winery staff, and wine buyers can use it to measure the amount of sugar in grape juice. And they can also determine the alcohol by volume of the finished wine.
FJD best refractometer for wine is fast, convenient, and easy to use. Simply place a few metric drops of liquid in the sample tank and press the button. The microprocessor provides almost instantaneous readings in the unit of brix scale. Its automatic temperature compensation ATC aims to ensure more accurate readings. The LCD display of this brix refractometer with ATC is easy to read even in dim light. Besides, the user interface comes with an integrated button for refractometer reading and calibration. And the calibration of this refractometer is automatic without special calibration tools. FJD digital refractometer has three models, covering a wide range of brix 0-32%, 0-55%, and 0-95%. Besides, it comes with a resolution of 0.05% and its accuracy is +/-0.1%. And it is easy to clean for the IP67 water resistance.
FJD digital wine refractometer is an ideal choice and it certainly does not disappoint. Thus, winemaking enthusiasts and professionals will love this device. It can work as multi-function tools like coffee refractometer, honey refractometer, and maple syrup refractometer. The FJD refractometer for beer or wine works well with its wide application range. As a result, FJD ATC digital handheld refractometer is the best refractometer for wine.