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I am getting ready to dry hop and transfer a Double IPA to a secondary Better Bottle. If I want to take a hydrometer reading at this time is it better to use a thief or just put the hydrometer in the bucket. If I use the thief should I return the beer in the thief to the fermenter or discard it?

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Dude, accept some answers! –  Ray Aug 30 '11 at 22:31
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Dude, how do you accept answers –  Husker Steve Aug 31 '11 at 1:08
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Click the checkbox under the vote count, to the left of the answer (Dude) –  Ray Aug 31 '11 at 2:50
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Thanks DUDE !!! –  Husker Steve Aug 31 '11 at 2:51
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slow down. don't feel pressured to accept anything before you're ready to accept it. meta.homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/152/… –  baka Aug 31 '11 at 23:34
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As brewchez says, don't return the sample wort to the fermentor - it's not worth the risk - nor the hassle. But if you really feel you want to return it, warm it to 160F first to reduce the risk of infection and wild yeast. You'll drive of a little alcohol, and maybe some aroma, but in such a small sample, it won't make much difference.

I've only ever done this once, when I accidentally pulled too large a sample before I got a wine thief. So, even though I mention it, I don't recommend it.

It's a lot easier to just brew say 10% more to allow for the samples and other losses. For a 10 gallon batch, I brew 11 gallons rather than 10, to allow for the wort samples and losses to trub in the fermentor.

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Never return beer to the fermentor. Its not worth the risk of contaminating the whole batch. That is your sample to read, check for color and clarity and more importantly taste.

I think its sort of tough to read the hydrometer in the bucket, especially if you have to compete with floaties in the bucket too.

I'd use some siphon tubing and pull a sample that way. If you have a thief, then use that. I have never had one, but I imagine its convenient.

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I keep a dedicated turkey baster around for pulling samples. Works great and it's really cheap. –  Denny Conn Aug 30 '11 at 21:33
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I'm not sure what this "thief" is... I use a metal ladel that I soak in boiling water before using it to take a sample. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Aug 30 '11 at 21:50
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I use the tube piece from my auto siphon to draw samples. Since it's long and skinny, it can fit down the opening of every carboy I've ever had, including a really old 5 gallon glass one that seems to have a smaller mouth than the new ones you get today. –  Graham Aug 31 '11 at 12:10
    
@FrustratedWithFormsDesigner, it's essentially a tube that you stick into your beer/wine and it will pull off the right amount for your hydrometer. The images on the internet are fairly poor though. Denny's turkey baster is pretty much exactly like an actual wine thief, mine doesn't have a bulb on the end though, so I need to wait for it to fill up (it's pretty slow) –  Nathan Koop Sep 1 '11 at 17:32
    
@Nathan Koop: Oh it sounds a bit like using a very large syringe (calibrated to hold as much as the hydrometer) to draw up the beer/wine/whatever. I guess I could use an actual syringe too (if I could find one large enough), it would be a lot less messy than the ladle. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 1 '11 at 17:35
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