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I brew hedgerow wines, but am unable to get reliable measurements from a hydrometer. Given that measuring ABV requires me to take one of the hydrometer measurements right at the point of pitching the yeast, there is often a lot of fruit/berry debris floating in the mixture at this time. The density of all this tends to 'push' the hydrometer up or down in the glass; hence my readings aren't particularly reliable. In fact, I can often manually push the hydrometer within a range of about 0.15 and it will just stay put wherever it is left.

Clearly, a simple solution is to just strain out the fruit when pouring it into the hydrometer glass. But (a) is this likely to affect the true reading, and (b) this is an extra step in a process that I am already dubious about the need to perform, given the inaccuracies involved. Is there perhaps a much simpler method used by others to get accurate ABV measurements that I'm just not aware of?

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Hydrometer will be effected by anything that will suspend in and displace a solution.

Your best bet with not changing your process (straining) would be to take your OG readings with a refractometer. You would only need a single drop of clear solution then.

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If it were possible (size, etc) then one could take the reading directly in the fermentation vessel rather than in a test jar. Then the floating fruit would not make such a difference to the SG reading.

Otherwise straining the fruit from the juice is a viable option to get an initial SG reading with a test jar and hydrometer.

Using a refractometer is a very neat idea as long as one has a correctly calibrated refractomer for the type of sugar (or specific sugar mixes) that would be found in the proposed brew.

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