I'm really worry, I made a wort some hours ago, and right now I see that my hydrometer is broken in the bottom, the last time I used it was in the hot wort previous to boiling, and it seems like some little green balls are missing.

Until I know, the green balls could be lead or mercury, so if these balls are into my wort this could be really a danger to my health. Should I drop my beer in order to avoid be poisoned by unknown metals?

EDIT I just read that green balls are OK, http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f11/broken-hydrometer-blues-66368/index2.html Anyone can confirm this?

EDIT2 PictureBroken Hydrometer

  • 1
    They are certainly not mercury at least.
    – brewchez
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 13:55
  • I've had similar experiences in the past (both bobbing thermometers and hydrometers). I'm still alive and kicking.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 17:30
  • Something special to filter the beer before bottling?
    – Geo Perez
    Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 21:11
  • Wait.. I just caught this after I wrote my answer. The balls themselves are actually a green material? Or is there a green wax on top of them that sealed them into the bottom that may have melted down onto the shot from the hot liquid?
    – fire.eagle
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 16:11
  • Green wax, it melted and "release" some balls kinda gray-green I guess. I'll edit question with image.
    – Geo Perez
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


It looks like the alternative to lead weights in the bottom of a hydrometer is steel shot. You should be able to check the difference between the two with a magnet. Alternatively, if you have a blowtorch, lead has a far lower melting point than steel. Just be very careful of molten metal.

I'd also suggest in the future taking a sample of wort and cooling it before dropping your hydrometer in. Remember that hydrometers are calibrated around 60 degrees (60 or 68, typically), so you're reading's going to be off from hot wort anyways, in addition to possibly breaking your hydrometer.

  • I disposed the hydrometer yesterday, I can't test the magnet. But I want to assume it was steel shot, because the brand (BrewCraft LTD) seems to not use lead.
    – Geo Perez
    Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 17:06
  • If you still have shot in the fermenting wort and those are magnetic would tell you it is steel and provide a great way to keep them in the fermenter whilst you transfer to secondary. Commented Feb 4, 2013 at 18:59
  • +1 for don't use a hydrometer with hot wort. Use a refractometer instead.
    – August
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 14:33

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