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I have a 23 litre brew (about 5/6 gallons).

The fermentation bucket has a tap at the bottom for bottling. The bucket is covered with a lid, and has an airlock.

What's the best way to get some beer out to calculate its gravity?

The options I can think of:

  • Open the lid, and dunk in a cup
  • Move the bucket to a table to be able to use the tap (but it's really heavy!)
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I'd pick up a wine thief, dips in and fills from the bottom. Some can even house the hydrometer. Otherwise a turkey baster does the trick.

Be sure to clean and sanitize anything that comes in contact with your wort though.

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    +1. I have a good wine thief, but I still use a turkey baster to pull samples instead. It's especially great for 1 gallon test batches, where the fat thief won't fit in the fermenter. I also find it's hard to steady the thief properly to get a good reading. – valverij May 6 '16 at 17:02
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I always use the tap. You really want to minimise the number of times you open up the fermenter as it can lose some of the protective CO2 layer on top and can let wild yeast or other nasties in. Dipping things into your beer is another thing you want to minimise to reduce disturbing the beer and the risk of infection.

But if you open the tap slowly and just allow a small flow of beer, you can check gravity with virtually no disturbance and no risk of infection. The only thing to watch is that your airlock isn't overfilled with water because when you open the tap, it will bubble in reverse and you don't want any of that airlock liquid splashing into the fermenter. Some people put vodka in the airlock which would probably be sterile.

If it's early in the fermentation it's okay to disturb it a little. Get a friend to help you gently move the fermenter onto a milk crate or something to raise it up and give you access to the tap. If it's late in fermentation I wouldn't move it.

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  • The fermenting bucket is sitting in my hot press. You're right, maybe I should give it a little platform to let me use the tap on it. I agree that opening the top of the bucket is a big disturbance. – edev May 11 '16 at 8:36
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Getting those bucket lids off is a bothersome task. I always use the spigot straight into the test jar. Then I spray the closed spigot with a spray bottle filled with starsan to clean it after I pull a sample.

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