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Sugar Measuring Equipment
You cannot make Alcohol without Sugar. Simple as that. Sugar is the basis of fermentation, and without Sugar we cannot have Ethanol (Protein based Fermentations obviously excluded).
It is therefore extremely important for us to know HOW MUCH sugar we have in order to calculate or predict potential yields. This will tell us whether or not the fermentation or process or even the Raw Material we are considering is financially feasible or viable.
Sugar Measurements also allow us to track Fermentation progress, and shows us when a Fermentation is completed.
How do I measure Sugar?
There are different ways in which Sugar Content may be measured - some better than others, depending on the circumstances - and also many different scales of Sugar Measurement. The most common scale in the Beer industry is the SG or Specific Gravity Scale. The international standard in other industries is now the Bx or Brix Scale, and the Western Cape Wine Industry still uses the older Balling Scale (which is very similar to Brix).
1. Standard SG Hydrometer - With the same look and design as an Alcohol Hydrometer, the Standard SG Hydrometers are normally Triple Scaled, meaning it indicates the SG Reading, the Brix Reading and the Approximate Alcohol Potential Reading (not Alcohol, but the amount of Alcohol that may be obtained for that amount of sugar). As with Alcohol Hydrometers, the Alcoholmeter relies on Liquid or Fluid Density in order to get a reading.
2. Accurate SG Hydrometer - As with the Accurate Alcohol Hydrometers, Accurate SG Hydrometers are (normally) larger than the Standard SG Hydrometer - making it easier to get accurate readings on them, and (for the same reason) they normally have a more limited scale, measuring only increments of the SG scale for greater accuracy. This does however mean that you will need multiple Accurate SG Hydrometers in your Distillery - especially if you are making a range of products.
3. Brix Refractometer - Based on the same principles as an Alcohol Refractometer which measures the percentage of ethanol in a liquid, the Brix Refractometer uses Optical Density to measure the Brix percentage of a liquid, and only requires a milliliter of liquid to do so. It also gives the corresponding SG Reading. An Alcohol Refractometer is not as accurate as a Standard Alcoholmeter or Accurate Alcoholmeter, however it is quick, easy and convenient. Brix Refractometers are however very accurate, due to their smaller scale. This does however mean that you will need a separate High Brix Refractometer in order to work with Syrups, Molasses and Honey.
4. Digital Hydrometer - Most Digital Alcoholmeters can measure SG and Brix as well. It is the fastest and most accurate way to measure Sugar Content, but extremely expensive.
What are the Limitations of a Hydrometer and Refractometer?
- Hydrometers (of any type) and Brix Refractometers cannot differentiate between Sugar and other Non-Fermentable Brix Compounds, like dissolved minerals, ash, etc. When working with Raw Materials which contains these Compounds, it is therefore extremely important to obtain the necessary Material Data Sheet or Lab Analysis in order to be able to work with the Raw Material.
- With the exception of Digital Meters, all types of Hydrometers are affected by Temperature, and are calibrated for a fixed Liquid Temperature - normally 20 degrees Celsius, sometimes 15 degrees Celsius. To be fair - Digital Meters are also affected by Temperature, but they self calibrate to compensate for the Temperature Fluctuation. With SG Hydrometers we need to use Calibration Tables to ensure that we can Calibrate our measurement for temperature. Brix Refractometers contains a built in ATC (Automatic Temperature Compensation) which negates this issue for the most part.