With home brewing, fermentation is the most important step, with the second most important step being bottle conditioning. A hydrometer will let you accurately read the level of fermentation activity in your fermenter. While not absolutely necessary in the technical sense, it is much more accurate than checking the bubbles with a flashlight or popping the lid to see if the yeast has settled down or become inactive. For the advanced home brewer, getting a precise flavor, and getting the exact same results with multiple batches will depend on the use of a hydrometer to get the precise level of desired fermentation before bottling. Hydrometers are sold at home brewing supply stores and online. They are placed inside the fermenter, and the level that it sinks to will give you the precise level of fermentation, or density of sugars left to be converted into alcohol by the brewer’s yeast. Small amounts of change in the level of the hydrometer in the wort, or unfermented beer, will give the brewer a strong idea as to how much alcohol is in the wort.
Without the use of a hydrometer, home brewers have to simply monitor the activity of the yeast inside the fermentation tank, which is less precise and can lead to alterations or variations on the recipe from one batch to the next. In some cases, an entire batch of beer can potentially be ruined by a mistaken estimate of the progress of the fermentation process, leading to a flat, sweet, or low-alcohol beer. This wastes both time and ingredients, and will require a whole other batch to make it right. Any serious home brewing enthusiast should buy at least one hydrometer for his or her fermenting tank, and if you have more than one fermenting tank, you will probably want to buy more than one hydrometer for an accurate reading of all your batches brewing simultaneously. Beer making, while not an exact science, does require a certain level of precision in the readying of ingredients and the process of fermenting, bottling, and conditioning. A hydrometer can even be used in a keg after the beer has passed its initial fermentation process, and can be used during carbonation or secondary fermentation to gauge how much more time is required until the beer is mature enough to bottle or drink. A hydrometer usually is measured in centimeters and has a paper scale inside with markings for an accurate reading. Hydrometers are inexpensive to buy and can be reused as many times as you want to. The production of alcohol is the most important part of the entire home brewing process, so it’s important to get it right. A hydrometer lets you get it right the first time, saving you time, and saving your ingredients from going to waste. No matter how much or how little you’ve invested in your home brewing kit and equipment, the addition of a hydrometer or two will vastly improve your overall home brewing experience, giving you unparalleled control over the amount of fermentation and sugar content in each of your handcrafted homemade beers. Your friends and family will be impressed with your brewing skills, and will find that the beers you make taste better as well as have a better alcohol content than before. It’s easy to make mistakes when trying to judge the level of yeast activity in your beer wort without the aid of such a measuring instrument. While simple yet effective, a hydrometer will help you to know when it’s time to bottle and condition your beers for a better flavor and superior taste. This simple hobby can become much more pleasurable when you know how to adjust your recipes for sugar content, flavor, amount of yeast to be added, and the length of time needed to produce that perfect glass of beer. When you have full control over the brewing process, you know that your beer will turn out alright.