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The Roots of Karaoke and your Hydrometer.

2017 November 7
by Gene Fiorot

Well some of us had to sit on the living room floor while Grandma and Grandpa watched in Black and White Television the “Sing a Long with Mitch Miller Show”.   It was torture. I hated Leslie Uggams, but Grandma loved to sing along to the graphics of the lyrics at the bottom of the screen.   The Chyron wasn’t even invented but there are those who swear there was a bouncing ball over the words to keep time with the music.  There was not.

Like many false beliefs, believing in your hydrometer may lead you down the wrong road.   But before we can get to the reason for me to write about the “Bouncing Ball Syndrome” we need to first talk about your hydrometer.   If you purchased your Hydrometer for 8 dollars then you have an instrument that may be as accurate as Poll Counting Mitt Romney Votes in the City of Philadelphia.   Furthermore if you believe the forums which tell you to put your Cheap Ass Hydrometer in distilled water and see if it reads Zero and you are good to go.   You, like many, have believed this and have been had.  But it serves you right for reading But we are far from done.

You have to ask, what is the most important function you need your Cheap Ass Hydrometer to perform?  Stumped?  Well let me help you out.  You have One, ONE , that’s right ONE chance of measuring Brix at the beginning of the fermentation.  So the accuracy readings at the top of scale between 22 to 28 brix are the most important function that hydrometer can perform.   From experience the Prospero units are about as accurate as Ouija Boards.

So what is the fastidious Winemaker like you supposed to do?  Well you need a 25 Brix Solution so you can see if your hydrometer agrees with the solution standard.  If you need to add sugar or water to your Must you need to know that at the outset.  It’s too late once fermentation begins.   Or you can always ask a genius on for advice.  I am sure someone there will help you out.  Yes you need a Real Laboratory Standard Solution of 25 brix to use to test.   Now I know Geeks will read this and figure out a formula to make a 25 brix solution.   Congratulations in advance to the GEEKS of the world.  Me? I bought mine from a Lab.  After having to go to Summer School for 11th grade math I still avoid it. And you don’t, for sure , be a Math Major to be a great Winemaker for that matter a Chemist either.

OK so you have solved the problem and now know your Hydrometer reads 2 points higher or lower than 25 Brix.   What did you expect for seven bucks?  Hey you might get a good one that is on the money. Take care of that one or spend about 40 dollars and get a 0 to 30 Laboratory Standard Certified one. If you are a cheap bastard you still can use your messed up one by adding or subtracting the factor of the error when measuring Must.

But as a winemaker you are not off the hook just yet.  What about when you get to the end of your fermentation and you get close to Zero or below.   Would you actually make the argument that you can accurately read the very last markings at the Zero level of a Zero to Thirty Brix Scale Hydrometer?   No freekin way Dudes or should I say cismales?, and not to ignore  Women Winemakers this applies to you too.  That’s right when it comes down to reading the last graduations of a 30 to 0 Scale hydrometer you can’t tell eaten Baloney by a Male Cow any better.

So how do we solve this problem?   We all want to know when we go to Zero and even better we want to know when we go below Zero.  I like to press below Zero.  Oh and if you are one of those Specific Gravity Morons with all the decimals points, You probably passed 11th year math with a better grade than me.   Who cares? If you get a thrill up your leg with your Specific Gravity Hydrometer you can’t tell anyway for sure.  Admit it.  00000000 how many zeros?

What you should have, Geeks included, is a Short Range Hydrometer that reads positive 5 Brix —Zero—Minus 5 Brix.   This is where the scale is in inches not 1/8 of an inch on a Zero to 30 Brix model.    WHAT! They have them?  I did not know that!   Oh wake the fuck up.  Yes and sells them and even better they come with a lab standard certification.  In spite of the fact Corrados has no idea these even exist.   Sadly however, Moldy grapes they specialize in they know and understand, that is for sure.

But if you have you gotten this far reading then here are a few assumptions I might make. Is your curiosity peaked?  I know you love the slams to the suppliers of crap sold to wine makers, or you are seriously wondering where this entire piece is going?  Of course if you have been a regular reader here you already know there should be reason and rhyme for it.

This year I noticed a phenomenon which was not familiar to me.  When getting to 5 brix  I always switch to the 5 brix scale hydrometer.  Then as the Brix drops I can monitor the drop very easily getting to zero and below.  Nothing strange getting to minus 0.5 actually while still having a cap and watching the level go minus even more in the days to follow.   Except that is not what happened. Within 24 hours the Brix rose again to a plus o.5 and this Bouncing Ball went on for days.  From Positive to Negative with stops at zero as well.  After 5 days all vats came to a rest at  minus 0.25.   We pressed.

While we were pressing I noticed some very small whole berries in the must.  My destemmer is not a crusher so small berries make it intact going through the Must Pump.  Finding these berries I thought these berries may have some sugar contained inside.  I grabbed the Hydrometer and found 8 Brix in a berry the size smaller of a Pea.  So is this the source of the sugar being released at the end causing the “Bouncing Ball”?  I cannot be sure.  But your thoughts are always welcome. With Winemaking there is always a surprise.    




4 Responses leave one →
  1. Proud Puppy permalink
    November 14, 2017

    For sure, and I see this routinely. As you may know I am in the habit of doing all whole berry ferments. I see a rise from the 2-3 range to 5 and above after a few punch downs near the final stages of fermentation. After pressing as well there is the last .5 to 1 brix worth of remaining sequestered sugar residual bubbling up collecting under the plastic wrap laid on top of the settling wine in the bucket.

    How did you use a hydrometer to measure brix in a berry? (I assume you meant refractometer)
    I usually taste the berries that look not completely fermented and they still taste sweet, but you are totally on point in that assessment (as usual).

  2. November 14, 2017

    Yes Ron I will have to edit that to read Refractometer. Good lookin out! These Washington Berries were so small they could go through a sieve. LOL!

  3. crazy run ranch permalink
    December 13, 2017

    What are you measuring fermented wine with a refractometer for Gene? Depending on your starting Brix, 8 on a refractometer is pretty damn dry. Not to heap it on but I also disagree that the beginning of fermentation is when a hydrometer being accurate is important. Use a refractometer for that or have a lab measure Glucose/Fructose is you have a need for real accuracy. I use a crappy full range POS hydrometer for early on, all I really want to know is if its moving from one day to next. And you will never drop and break a crappy hydrometer, its a law of nature. I like your idea of an accurate one for finishing though. I also experience a sugar bump from whole berry ferments after pressing. In fact whole berry ferments also make accuracy of hydrometer readings at dryness pretty worthless too since they can read dry (from the liquid) yet still have sugar (in the berries). But a least a dry reading shows your are getting close. Cheers all, been awhile.

  4. December 13, 2017

    Hey Dude! Long time. I meant to correct that and made the mistake twice I even used italics LOL. Yes the 8 dollar ones are made of space craft material. As for using a Lab there is never time for that here. But as you say readings at the beginning are a bit of a crap shoot. But you have to start somewhere. Stick around Steve.

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