The 4 Best Hydrometers For Brewing and Distilling (In 2022)

Hydrometers are an essential tool in the brewer or distillers tool kit. They measure the difference in sugar content of a liquid before and after fermentation to tell us how much alcohol by volume the product contains – so we can keep safe, as well as make sure fermentation has performed as expected.

The best hydrometers: Ok, so this is a hard question to answer with so many options available, so we’ve put together this list of our favorite hydrometers for the beginner to the advanced brewer or distiller – to hopefully help you pick the right one for your needs:

For The Beginner
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
For The Intermediate
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
For The Profession
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Best Digital Hydrometer
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
For The Beginner
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
For The Intermediate
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
For The Profession
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Best Digital Hydrometer
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)

What is a hydrometer?

A hydrometer is a useful instrument that is used to measure the specific gravity of soluble substances in water. Therefore, a hydrometer is a tool that calculates specific readings of sugar content and alcohol produced from brewed products. 

Hydrometers commonly consist of graduated tubes weighted to float upright in the liquid to measure the specific gravity of the product. A hydrometer is made with a calibrated glass tube. A measurement of 250ml cylinder or equivalent: preferably a simple tube, 320mm(36mm) or according to hydrometer dimensions, requires a 5-mm gap.  Therefore, hydrometers can be calibrated for specific uses as well. For example, a lactometer is used for measuring the density of milk, an alcoholometer for measuring the density of alcohol, and a saccharometer is used to measure the sugar in a liquid. 

Stone (2021) underlines that a hydrometer is usually designed with a narrow stem used to measure the density of the beverage. Below the hydrometer, sits a hollowed air-tight tube for buoyancy and weight to stabilize the device. Therefore, the stem is used to measure the amount of water that has settled. This can be determined by the scale.

Using a Hydrometer | www.fermentarium.com | Daniel Spiess | Flickr

Measuring sugar content using a hydrometer

An alcohol hydrometer is used to allot the volume of sugar that is in liquid. The reading will be higher when the liquid has more sugar in it. If the reading is lower, it means there is more alcohol contained in the liquid. For instance, the reading on a hydrometer will be 1.000 if it is put in 20 degrees Celsius water. This is a useful tip because it allows you to put your hydrometer to the test. Essentially, when water is thicker with more sugar it will create a higher pressure reading.

What to consider before purchasing a hydrometer

It is noteworthy to consider that hydrometers are generally made out of glass. This means that hydrometers are very fragile. Therefore, when one is planning on using a hydrometer, serious precautions and safety measures are to be taken to avoid mistakes or serious damage such as breakage. For those wondering if a plastic alcohol hydrometer exists, then this is an option for one that is concerned about durability.

Before finalizing on purchasing a hydrometer, make sure that a testing jar is included with the hydrometer. Picking a hydrometer that includes a testing jar acts as a substitute for a case to keep your hydrometer safe. Therefore, this can limit the cases of accidents.

To ensure that a test jar is included in a hydrometer kit, it is necessary to read the production descriptions to understand fully what everything is included inside the kit. Remember to always test your hydrometer after purchasing to determine if the hydrometer is effective and accurate.

What different types of hydrometer are there?

Triple Scale Hydrometer

The most common and cheapest hydrometer is the Triple scale hydrometer, with a price tag of $5-15. It is considered a multifunctional hydrometer with a specific measure of gravity, Brix/Balling, and potential alcohol. A triple scale hydrometer can measure a greater range of specific gravity (0.00-1.770). Therefore, this hydrometer is suitable for most batches. 

The most common and cheapest hydrometer is the Triple scale hydrometer, with a price tag of $5-15. It is considered a multifunctional hydrometer with a specific measure of gravity, Brix/Balling, and potential alcohol. A triple scale hydrometer can measure a greater range of specific gravity (0.00-1.770). Therefore, this hydrometer is suitable for most batches. 

The most common and cheapest hydrometer is the Triple scale hydrometer, with a price tag of $5-15. It is considered a multifunctional hydrometer with a specific measure of gravity, Brix/Balling, and potential alcohol. A triple scale hydrometer can measure a greater range of specific gravity (0.00-1.770). Therefore, this hydrometer is suitable for most batches. 

Thermohydrometer

A thermohydrometer is used to measure temperature and specific gravity. The thermometer is built-in into the hydrometer to ensure that the temperature remains consistent. However, if one uses a different thermometer each time during brewing or distilling liquids, then one is likely to run the risk of getting different readings, which can lead to confusion.

Precision Hydrometer 

If one is looking for a precise measuring reading. Then precision hydrometer is the best option as precision hydrometer measures specific gravity. This is achieved by placing numbers on a small scale for accurate figures. The Precision hydrometer comes in a variety of sizes: 1000-1.70 in size while others are 1.060-1.130 in size. A precision hydrometer can be purchased for $30. Therefore, if accuracy is important to your business, it is worth investing in this product. 

What is an alcoholmeter?

An alcoholmeter is considered a different type of hydrometer. This is because a hydrometer and alcoholmeter perform the same role when brewing or distilling mixtures. Though, an alcoholmeter is used specifically to measure the ratio of ethanol (alcohol) to water in mixtures. The alcoholmeter’s structure and shape are the same as a hydrometer, a newbie brewer will need guidance to distinguish the two. The alcoholmeter contains a long tube that floats in an alcohol or water mixture with a scale by the side. The difference is identified on the scale, as the alcoholmeter has a line on the side of the scale for every percentage of alcohol identified in the mixture.  Alcoholmeters are extremely sensitive instruments, just like hydrometers. Thus, these two tools are respondents to temperatures. Most alcoholmeters are calibrated at 20 degrees Celsius. This means if a product is hot, the reading of the alcohol percentage will be high. Compared to when brewing a cold product, a low alcohol percentage will result.

Digital Hydrometer

A digital hydrometer is, by far, the most expensive modern hydrometer. Having a digital hydrometer eliminates the possibility of human error when measuring the specific gravity, density, and temperature. A digital hydrometer is considered a great investment because it adjusts for temperature differences automatically when measuring gravity. 

Refractometer

A refractometer is a tool that can determine the concentration of a specific substance dissolved in a liquid solution. The measuring principle of refraction underlines how light bends as it crosses boundaries between one medium and another. The common types of refractometers are; Salinity refractometers, Brix refractometers, Coolant refractometers, and Clinical refractometers. The common refractometers are handheld, analog instruments. 

How To Use A Hydrometer:

Step 1: sanitize your equipment. It is necessary to sanitize your hydrometer equipment before using it. Ensure that you are in a safe and clean space when using a hydrometer when brewing or distilling a beverage. This is to avoid cross-contamination.

Step 2: Use the plastic tube provided with the hydrometer to fill up the testing sample to determine the accurate measurement of the reading.

Step 3: Place the hydrometer in the tube and let it settle in. After the sample is in the tube, one must add the hydrometer. Spin the hydrometer, but be very careful not to let the hydrometer touch the walls of the tube. This will produce accurate reading measurements.

Step 4: Hearing from physics, liquids are likely to curve up from where they touch the wall. It is important to note to never take the reading measurements from the top of the edge. Instead, it is wise to take the reading from the lowest level of the liquid surface.

Step 5:Testing the sample is necessary to get an idea of what the final product is likely to be. Hence, practice makes perfect. Therefore, a test drive of the functionality of a hydrometer and the results produced will determine if it is rated the ‘best hydrometer’. Do not forget to discard the sample when finished.

Expert Tip: Use a Trial Jar

Many home-distillers prefer using a jar constructed of clear plastic, about 8 inches long, and 1.3 inches wide. This is called a trial jar, and it permits the distiller to put liquid into it for testing with the hydrometer. Simply fill your trial jar until it is one inch from being completely filled; now dunk your hydrometer into the liquid. You will get two readings, the one on the lower level of the two will be the Specific Gravity (SG) reading. Ensure not to allow the hydrometer to get stuck to the trial jar’s side. Gently give it a spin to avert this from occurring. To prevent any overflow, always have the trial jar set on a surface that is flat. You will only get a guiding reading in the case of bubbling wine; with beer, lightly blow away any froth to get a better reading. If you want the reading to be more accurate, the temperature of the liquid should be 20 degrees Celsius.

How to calculate the ABV with a hydrometer

How can you use an alcohol hydrometer to calculate the ABV of your brew? This is done by taking the beginning gravity numbers and calculating them with the ending numbers, then dividing that amount by 7.362. For instance, if we make some wine, the beginning number is 1.080; it then ferments a while and decreases the number to 0.990. The decrease is 90 points. Divide this dropped number (90) by 7.362 and you have an ABV of 12.23%.

If you are making wine, your beginning gravity typically is 1.070 to 1.090. If you want a dry wine you finish gravity should be 0.990 and for a sweeter wine around 1.005.

For beer brewing, there are many different kinds, so it can be a little harder to do. The average beer has a starting point of 1.045–the typical label on a pub’s pump. It will have an ending number at 1.012–a drop of 32 points, when dividing this by 7.362 you end up with a beer that has ABV of 4.5%.

The Best Hydrometers For Brewing And Distilling In 2022

The best hydrometer is a little bit subjective, and a tradesperson never blames their tools, but we’ve put together this list of our favorite hydrometers (from the basic to the boujee) to hopefully help you pick the right one for your needs:

For The Beginner
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
For The Intermediate
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
For The Profession
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Best Digital Hydrometer
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
For The Beginner
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
For The Intermediate
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
For The Profession
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Set of 3 SafetyBlue Brewing ThermoHydrometers with The Following Specific Gravity Ranges 0.980/1.020, 1.00/1.070, 1.060/1/130. All with a 20/150°F Thermometer in Body. Supplied in a Sturdy Plastic ca
Best Digital Hydrometer
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Black)

1. Brewer’s Elite Hydrometer (Best For The Beginner!)

Currently available and classified as the number one bestseller on Amazon. Brewer’s Elite Hydrometer goes for $11.99. The package caters to the option to include a combo set. The combo set includes the hydrometer, plastic test jar, bottle, brush, and bag. Therefore, Brewer’s Elite Hydrometer creates the perfect brew, that can easily calculate alcohol percentage density and sugar content in the beverage created.

Pro tip: If you’re as clumsy as I am, buy two or three at a time. These things are FRAGILE and you don’t want to be halfway through a brew and be missing your key piece of test equipment.

Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - for Home Brew Beer, Wine, Mead and Kombucha - Deluxe Triple Scale Set, Hardcase and Cloth - Specific Gravity ABV Tester
  • Brewer's Elite Hydrometer - Premium Set - Handy Storage Case and FREE Microfiber cleaning cloth. Please note: NO TEST JAR INCLUDED. See our other Brewer's Elite combo if you require a full set.

2. PRO-SERIES Tripple Scale Thermo-Hydrometer (Best For The Intermediate Brewer!)

Ok, we LOVE this hydrometer!! If you’re anything like me and have been using one of those basic $15 hydrometers from the brew shop for years, you’ll wonder why anyone would spend 5x as much on a ‘nicer’ one? Well, let me tell you it’s worth it.

This hydrometer measures temperature and gravity at the same time. It’s American-made (Nice!) and precision calibrated. The borosilicate trial jar (yep, quality glass) is also specifically designed to minimize waste being only 125ml, while most hydrometers use a 250ml trial jar.

Thermo-Hydrometer ABV Tester Triple Scale for BEER/WINE - Pro Series American-made Specific Gravity Hydrometer with Thermometer Temperature Correction, N.I.S.T Traceable (KIT)
  • ✔️ BEST BEER & WINE MAKING TOOL (NOT FOR HAND SANITIZER) : American-made, N.I.S.T. Traceable Triple Scale Hydrometer with built-in Thermometer and conversion chart & Test Jar Combo – with Cylinder Brush - Specific Gravity Alcohol ABV Tester handblown by multi-generational American glass blowers in America, Glass Test Tube Beaker - for Wine, Beer, Cider, Mead - Homebrew Fermented Beverages Borosilicate 3.3 Cylinder and temperature compensated hydrometer. An elite brewer tool!

3. SafetyBlue – Precision Thermohydrometers (Best For The Professional!)

 These are what we call ‘lab grade’ hydrometers and is what real breweries and wineries use. That’s why they cost so much!

These come in a set of three, all with different calibrated gravity scales. This means you can get super accurate readings with greater precision.

Do you need these? We’ll, if you’re thinking of selling your beer/wine/product, then the answer is most certainly yes! If you’re just new to the hobby, then stick to the cheap and cheerful (they’re perfectly adequate for the amateur).

Pros:

  • Specific gravity range of 0.0980/ 1.120, 1.00/1,170, 1.160/1/130.
  • All contain a 20 degrees Celsius to 150 degrees Celsius thermometer in the body. 
  • Comes in a sturdy plastic case to keep the hydrometers safe.  
  • Lab grade

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Don’t drop them! (did we mention they are expensive)

4. Tilt Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Best Digital Hydrometer)

Now, these things are COOL! The tilt and tilt pro wireless hydrometers save you the hassle of opening your fermenter and drawing a sample. Just place the device inside your fermenter to bob about for the duration of your brew!

Now, this isn’t your most cost-effective option, but I’m sure when you consider the wasted product and time spent drawing samples every day you can probably work out a return on investment that satisfies your significant other 😉

The Tilt is their base model which is small and lightweight but they’ve now also released the Tilt Pro which is a larger more accurate version with better battery life.

[Update] We took one of these for a spin when writing this article, and all i keep thinking now is “why didn’t I get one sooner!”.. They are cool, easy, and just work! My only problem now is deciding which fermenter to use it in (maybe I’ll buy another one!).

Pros:

  • Log into an app to check gravity and temp.
  • They handle the temperature correction internally.
  • Connects to Apple or Android devices.
  • Can log data to a google sheet (they provide a template).
  • Battery lasts for longer than a year.
  • Medical grade plastic.

Cons:

  • Expensive! The base model is around ~120USD, and the PRO is ~$250
  • Need to be connected to your phone to work (Note: some people have set up a Raspberry Pi to be always connected).
Tilt
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer And Thermometer (Orange)
Tilt PRO
Tilt Pro Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Blue)
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer And Thermometer (Orange)
Tilt Pro Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Blue)
Wireless connection to apple or android, reads specific gravity and temperature, plots data to google sheet
Improved precision, longer battery life, improved range, more stable readings
Tilt
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer And Thermometer (Orange)
Tilt Wireless Hydrometer And Thermometer (Orange)
Wireless connection to apple or android, reads specific gravity and temperature, plots data to google sheet
Tilt PRO
Tilt Pro Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Blue)
Tilt Pro Wireless Hydrometer and Thermometer (Blue)
Improved precision, longer battery life, improved range, more stable readings

Conclusion

We hope you’ve enjoyed our summary of the best hydrometers from brewing and distilling, and hope you learned something too! The hydrometer itself is a cheap and simple instrument that is an essential tool in the brewer’s arsenal but needs to be used properly to get the right results. There’s also some epic digital solutions becoming available these days for those with bigger budgets.

You may also be interested in:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.