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Particularly during lautering and during a boil, I have a hard time keeping track of water/wort volume. What method(s) and equipment do you all recommend for accurately calculating liquid volume during a boil/water heating?

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Why do you mainly have trouble during lautering/boiling? What method do you use at other times? –  Simon Nov 15 '10 at 4:27
    
My trouble isn't necessarily specific to these steps - they're just good examples of times when I've got a large volume of hot liquid I need to measure. Across the entire brewing process, I'm curious to hear creative solutions to measuring volume in a quick, accurate, sanitary way. –  RyanTheDev Nov 15 '10 at 4:34
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

For most things I just use my trusty stick, otherwise known as a thin dowel from the hardware store. Pour one gallon into your pot, stand stick in pot, note water line, and mark with a sharpie or other implement. The curvature of a pot can affect the height of each tick mark, so I usually experimentally measure a few more gallons until I'm at the straight sides of the pot, then extrapolate the distance between each tick mark to mark off the remaining gallons up to 15.

This doesn't work so well at full boil, with the bubbling and rolling and general chaos going on at the surface. In that situation, the best method I've seen is a pre-calibrated sight gauge attached to the kettle. The liquid on the sight gauge tends not to boil, thus allowing you to get a decent reading. The downside of measuring during boil is hot liquid expansion, so always note that your wort will compress a bit after cooling.

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Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't water expand to nearly 110% of its cold volume as it approaches boiling? This is more than a little off. Whether you use a sight glass or a wooden dowel, you should know how much water you are adding at each stage and pre-calculate for water loss (to grain, pump, floor, etc.). Part of this is well know (grain loss). The rest are usually empirical. Each time you transfer liquid from one vessel to another (using a pump and hoses), you will lose some. –  thebeav Dec 7 '10 at 13:56
    
@thebeav - no, you're not wrong. I don't think the expansion is quite 10%, Experimentally I see about 4-5% contraction. I also know how much loss I experience from my kettle to my fermenter in hoses, chillers etc. For my setup, I know if at the end of my boil I'm at 5.75 gallons on my 'stick', I end up with about 5 gallons finished wort in the fermenter. There is a good discussion of this at the aha forums:homebrewersassociation.org/forum/… –  Morgan Dec 30 '10 at 1:12
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For my kettle I made a measuring rod using a length of copper pipe (Home Depot sells 3' lengths of pre-cut pipe for about $2). I used a file to mark it at 1 quart increments.

When boiling, I just leave the rod in the kettle. Since it's copper, it's contributing valuable nutrients to the wort. And by staying in the boil, it's also sanitary.

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I wouldn't quite say its contributing nutrients. Its contributing some copper ions to the wort. How much is up for debate. –  brewchez Dec 7 '10 at 20:13
    
My understanding is that copper is used by yeast in their metabolism, which in what I meant by 'nutrient'. Not so much for drinker, but for the yeast. This has come up on this site before, I think: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/2666/pennies-in-the-boil –  Hopwise Dec 7 '10 at 21:34
    
Nice, I like the idea of a copper pipe over the wooden dowel I use, which I have to replace periodically due to warping and other wear and tear. –  Morgan Dec 30 '10 at 0:32
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