Refractometer for Beer, Wine, Brewing, Salt, Alcohol...

What is a refractometer?

A refractometer is a very popular measurement instrument during food and beverage production. Especially for the production of beer, wine, sugar, honey, salt...  A refractometer works by measuring the breaking index of light. It is an optical instrument that can measure the exact degree of the light passing through. When you place a glass of water on a table and look through it, you will see that it bends the light coming through it. When light passes through a liquid, it will change direction. A refractometer can measure the exact degree of this change. This is called the angle of refraction, so that is where the refractometer got its name.

A refractometer is designed for liquids. The advantage of using a refractometer is that it only needs a few drops to measure precisely.  It has a special prism and a locking plate. On this prism you can place a few drops of liquid that you want to analyze, and you close the locking plate. Make sure that the prism is completely covered with the liquid, usually 2 or 3 drops are enough. Now look to the eyepiece of the refractometer and hold it to the light. You will see the specific scale of your refractometer and a clear line that indicates the exact level of refraction. If the image is not sharp, you can sharpen it by turning the eyepiece left or right, just like you would with a binocular.

There are also digital refractometers available on the market. However, there are very expensive and can cost 10 to 100 times more than the analog version. For all common measurements, our analog refractometer will be the ideal tool.

When do you use a refractometer?

Our most popular refractometer is our dual scale Brix and Wort (Specific Gravity) refractometer, followed by our salt refractometer and alcohol refractometer. There are numerous applications for a refractometer, let’s give a few examples:

  • Refractometers are used the fermentation process during the brewing of beer. Since the recent increase in popularity of home brewers and microbreweries, the demand for Refractometers has increased significantly. When you are brewing beer, you need to measure Brix and Specific Gravity of your wort. With our special dual scale refractometer you can measure both values with a single device.
  • Winemakers use refractometers to measure the sugar or Brix level in the juice of their fresh grapes. When you produce wine, you need to know the sugar content because there is a direct relationship between the sugar and the ripeness of the grapes. By measuring the Brix level of different grapes, a winemaker can select the perfect grapes that are ready to be harvested.
  • Our refractometer for salt applications can detect the percentage of salt in a liquid. This can be the perfect refractometer for people with a saltwater or seawater aquarium. These fish require a specific and preferably constant salt level. Other applications can be the food industry, where a salt refractometer is used to pickle fish and meat.
  • Refractometers for distillers are specifically designed to measure the alcohol content of their distillate. The alcohol refractometer measure the amount of alcohol in the sample and display it on the scale. Easy to use and always accurate.

How to use a refractometer?

The most important step before using a refractometer is to make sure that the sample and the refractometer are both at room temperature. This is why you store your refractometer in a dry place, at room temperature. Using the refractometer itself is a very straightforward procedure:

  1. Take your refractometer at room temperature, open the locking plate and place 2 or 3 drops of the liquid you want to analyze on the prism.
  2. Put down the locking plate onto the prism and make sure that the liquid is evenly spread out over the prism of the refractometer. Make sure that there is no air or bubbles trapped under the prism.
  3. Wait 30 seconds to 1 minute for the sample to adjust to the temperature of the refractometer.
  4. Hold your refractometer to a natural light source and look through the monocle.
  5. You will now see the scale of your refractometer. Exactly where the blue and the white line meet, is your result.

How to calibrate a refractometer?

A refractometer needs to be calibrated to have the most accurate result. So make sure you calibrate your refractometer regularly and clean it after every use. Luckily, calibrating a refractometer is a very easy process. All you need is your refractometer, a mini-screwdriver and distilled water.

  1. Make sure your refractometer and distilled water are both at room temperature.
  2. Open up the locking plate and place a few drops of distilled water on the prism. Now close the locking plate and make sure that the distilled water is evenly spread across the prism. There can be no air or bubbles trapped between the locking plate and prism.
  3. Wait 30 seconds to 1 minute. The distilled water must adjust to the temperature of the refractometer.
  4. Now hold your refractometer up to a natural light source and look through the eyepiece. Focus the eyepiece if needed so that you have a clear visual of the scale.
  5. Use your mini-screwdriver and adjust the screw until the blue and the with line meet exactly at the zero (0).
  6. Your refractometer is now calibrated and ready to use.

How to maintain and clean a refractometer?

A refractometer is designed to be handled and to work in a variety of conditions. Nevertheless it remains a sensitive measuring instruments. Cleaning and maintaining your refractometer will give you the most accurate results and will prolong the lifespan of your refractometer for years.

The refractometer is mostly composed out of aluminum, rubber and glass. Aluminum is used because it does not rust. Since the refractometer comes into contact with substances from acidic grape juice to motor oil. Its design needs to be rugged and adapted to these uses.

Don’t expose the instrument to damp or humid working conditions, and never immerse the refractometer in water. Never measure abrasive or corrosive materials with a refractometer. They can damage the sensitive prism.

Always clean the prism of the refractometer after every use with a clean microfiber towel. There is a microfiber towel included in the box. Failing to clean the prism on a regular basis will result in inaccurate results and damage to the prism. You want to use a microfiber towel because you want to avoid making scratches on the prism. If you damage or scratch the prism your refractometer could become defunct.

A refractometer is a very sensitive optical instrument. It needs careful handling and storage. Always put your refractometer back in the specially designed box, store it dry and at room temperature. With care, this instrument will last for years of reliable service.