# Why not to calculate specific gravity through weight?

I have read that you can calculate specific gravity by dividing the weight of a known volume of liquid in the weight of a known volume of water. After reading that I thought about filing my fermenter with 20L(5 gallons) of water and putting them on a scale, then putting my next batch on the same scale, that way I could measure SG as much as I wanted without wasting liquid or risk in contaminating my beer. My next thought was "if It's that simple, Why doesn't everyone do it?" Why isn't this a common practice? What's the down side?

• To everyone: is there a question here somewhere, in the style of "How hard do I have to work to contaminate my beer?". Reading different fora, the impression I get when there is contamination, that bottling is the most sensitive step, and I suppose most because of not correctly cleaning bottles. – chthon Jul 13 '18 at 10:53

Yes the math is possible with accurate readings.

Basically for every molecule of cO2 produced 1 molecule of ethanol is produced.

By calculating the reduction of weight and factoring cO2 absorption in solution you can calculate ABV.

Here's the problem. You need a scale that will be accurate within 1 gram. This may be viable for a 1 gallon batch using a postage scale or something similar. But for a 5 gallon and greater volumes these scales are very expensive. For example using a digital bathroom scale can easily be +/- 1lb when weighing 50lb, and swing 2-4 lb around 200lb just from temperature changes in the sensor.

A calibrated hydrometer is £5, a refractometer is £30, and my set of calibrated 100Kg scales are ~£150. I can use the same hydrometer on my on anything from 5 litres to 500,000 litres whereas a set of scales would be very size specific to have the degree of accuracy required, and freaking expensive.

I have a sample tap on my vessels and draw about 300ml a time for gravity, pH, colour and clarity checks. Also, 300ml gives me enough to be able to run all my tests and still have enough left for us all to have a swig or 2 and taste/smell for any discrepancies. A set of scales does not allow me to check clarity, pH taste and smell, I would still have to draw a sample for these.

Even if I had scales for calculating the mass of the vessel and sugar I could work out the OG with this, but changes in SG over time and FG would be difficult as the mass would not change much but the density proportionally changes more than the mass. Allowing for a more accurate reading off very simple equipment.

Even though I have a hygienic stainless sample tap I still disinfect it with PAA before and after every sample is taken. If in doubt, sanitize, sanitize then sanitize some more.

• You said that changes in sg will be difficult to massure, but dansity and weight have a liner connection between them, do you mean that the change in weight will be too subtle to notice? – WildLAppers Jul 14 '18 at 8:50
• Yes, you are going to have CO2 given off, reducing weight and alcohol produced changing the density. You would have to measure weight and volume very accurately where as producing a very accurate hydrometer is much easier. Not the change in mass or volume would be too subtle to measure, you could measure it but to do so would require great accuracy and therefore horrific expense. – Mr_road Jul 14 '18 at 11:40

Because it is not practical.

What is easier? Manipulating a fermenter of 20 kg, or 100 ml of wort?

With a scale, you probably mean a balance. If you have one, good for you. But how much do you pay for a balance which must be able to carry 20 kg or more? Trying to find one only gave me spring balances.

And scaling up is not really an option. Big balances are expensive. For a measuring glass and a hydrometer you will pay approximately 15 EUR/\$. For that price you will not have a scale that can weigh 20 kg.