Also known as ‘alcohol hydrometers’, ‘spirit hydrometers’, ‘proofing hydrometers, or simply as an ‘alcoholmeter’, these devices are essential in the distilling process to test the alcohol by volume (ABV) produced. But which are the best? Do you need one that goes from 0-100 or should you get a set with finer resolution?? Is there a digital option?
In this guide, we’re going to go throw what to look for when buying an alcohol meter, and what we’d recommend buying depending on what stage our your distilling journey you are on!
What is an alcohol meter?
An alcohol meter is used to measure the alcohol content in a product such as a spirit. Therefore, an alcohol meter measures the ratio of ethanol to water in a mixture of liquids produced. It is noteworthy to know that an alcoholmeter is very similar to a hydrometer. Both tools are made from elongated tubes with a scale next to them and float in an alcohol or water mixture. An alcohol meter is noted to be a different type of hydrometer. Because an alcohol meter serves the same function as a hydrometer and can be used in the same manner.
The difference is identified on the scale, as an alcohol meter’s scale contains a line on the side of the scale for every percentage of alcohol found in the mixture. Whereas a hydrometer does not contain any alcohol scale on it.
Alcoholmeters are extremely sensitive tools, just like hydrometers, as both instruments can be affected by extreme temperature conditions. Most alcoholmeters are calibrated at 20 degrees Celsius. This means if a product is hot, it determines a high alcohol percentage, compared to when the product is cool, a low alcohol percentage will result.
How to use an alcoholmeter?
Alcohol meters are easy to use but do take notes of the measures, to ensure accurate readings. It is advised to consider that a couple of elements can or will interfere with the measurement readings. Because distilled liquor with traces of sugar will not give an accurate percentage. This means that beverages such as liqueurs and spirits are a result of a mixture of essence flavorings and sweeteners. Therefore, it is necessary to test the alcohol percentage when the spirit is still authentic and in its raw form, before any additives are included. The temperature of the spirit is best checked at 68F. If the temperature is too low or too high, the alcohol meter will not confirm an accurate measurement reading.
Steps to using an alcohol meter:
- Step 1: When you first unpack your alcohol meter from the plastic encasing, ensure that you sanitize your equipment and the area you plan to achieve your brewing experience.
- Step 2: When your equipment is thoroughly sanitized. Tip the test jar to an angle position and pour the sample inside. This process is done to prevent the carbon dioxide or oxygen gas bubbles from surfacing during transfer. When pouring the sample into the test jar, make sure to fill the jar about 3/4 full. As the alcohol meter will result in a rise in levels of the fluid.
- Step 3: Insert the alcohol meter into the test jar. Make sure to grab the top of the alcohol meter and gently stir the sample to remove any excess bubbles from the sample. Make sure the alcohol is contact-free from the walls of the test jar and does not stick to the sides or bottom of the test jar.
- Step 4: When reading for accuracy, simply match the reading scale with the highest level of fluid in the jar. You will notice when taking the measurement readings, one is a proofing hydrometer scale and the other is a Tralle scale. The Tralle scale reading will always be half of your proofing hydrometer reading. Therefore, the Tralle scale calculates alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage.
What are the different types of alcoholmeters?
Standard Alcohol Hydrometer
Standard alcohol hydrometers with a scale of 0-100% are considered a golden tool for home-distillers. Because they are easy to use and small in size to fit most distilling parrots. Standard alcohol hydrometers rely on liquid or fluid density to get measurement readings. However, standard alcohol hydrometers do not produce accurate readings.
Accurate Alcohol Hydrometer
Accurate alcohol hydrometers are similar to standard alcohol hydrometers because both rely on fluid or liquid density to measure readings. However, the difference is that accurate alcohol hydrometers are larger in size- making it possible for accurate readings to be conducted. Accurate alcohol hydrometers have a more limited scale, either measuring up to 30% increments.
The standard principle for an alcohol refractometer measures the dissolved substance in the liquid. The alcohol refractometer uses optical density to measure the ABV percentage of the liquid and only a milliliter of liquid is required for testing. The alcohol refractometer does not produce accurate readings like the standard alcohol hydrometer or an accurate alcohol hydrometer. But it is quick and convenient to use.
Best choice to use for accurate, quick, and efficient results. However, it is expensive.
The Best Alcohol Hydrometer in 2022
1. Alcometer (Best for the beginner)
Alcometers 0-100% with a proof scale should be used to test spirits before any additives such as flavoring or liquid glucose are mixed in the product. Therefore, alcohol is lighter and thinner than water. The alcometer will float in the spirit to measure the density of alcohol content. Hence, the higher the alcohol content contained in the product, the deeper the alcohol hydrometer will float. The reading should be taken where the surface of the spirit cuts the scale of the alcohol hydrometer. Alcometers are available for $39. Alcometers are easy instruments to use as clear, simple instructions are included to guide the user. Reviewers underline that the company accompanies great service delivery as they are quick and efficient.
- HIGH QUALITY PROOF & TRALLE TEST KIT: American made, NIST Traceable 0-200 Proof & Tralles Hydrometer for alcohol (Made in the USA) meeting or exceeding the standards set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 0-200 PROOF scale for alcohol proofer testing spirits, high alcohol liquor, moonshine, corn whiskey, barrel aging dissipation, infusion batch and tincture recipes or other high alcohol content home distilling beverages for alcohol content measuring.
Alcohol Refractometer (Runner up!)
An alcohol refractometer is used to measure the alcohol content in alcohol liquor production, distilled beverages, and home-brewed production. The alcohol refractometer is in a 0-80% volume percentage range and is portable and needs no batteries. The alcohol refractometer is used to measure alcohol content in distilled products like vodka, brandy, whiskey, gin, tequila, and slivovitz. The automatic temperature minimizes the effect of temperature when testing for measurement readings. The alcohol refractometer is packaged in a firm plastic case, accompanied by a cleaning cloth, screwdriver, instructions, and some pipettes. Currently available at $21.99.
- It is portable and needs no battery, it is easy to learn and use even for new user.
3 Pcs 0-100% Alcohol Hydrometer + Thermometer (Best For Blending)
Seeking precise and professional alcohol meters, then this set is a perfect choice, as it includes a 0-40% alcohol meter, a 40 -70% alcohol meter, a 70-100 alcohol meter plus a thermometer. All the tools are enclosed in a wooden box to keep them safe. The alcohol meters plus thermometers are suitable for brewing wine, spirit, and beer. Hence, the products can be used in laboratories, homes, or even beer or chemical factories.
- A professional and precise alcohol measurement set, it includes a 0-40% alcohol meter, a 40-70% alcohol meter, a 70-100% alcohol meter and a thermometer
Density Meter Easy D40 (Best Digital Alcoholmeter)
The Density Meter Easy D40 is used to measure specific gravity, density, Brix, and alcohol content by maintaining temperature control. This is achieved by installing a Peltier temperature that balances the measurement cells to sample the desired temperature. Measurements are produced quicker and more accurately with the Density Meter Easy D40. The Density Meter Easy D40 weighs 4.8 kg and is suitable for labs or production areas, as the instrument can withhold extreme environmental conditions. And thanks to its compatible size, the product can fit anywhere.