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November 5, 2021
Last updated

How to Know when Fermentation Has Finished - Advanced

Owner of Clawhammer Supply

This is part 2 of our article series on how to tell when fermentation is complete. Click here to check out How to Know When Fermentation Has Finished - Part 1

Monitoring Fermentation - The Scientific Way

Hydrometer Final Gravity

This article is for homebrewers and home distillers. In order to follow along, you will need a brewing hydrometer and a hydrometer test jar. This simple guide will go through each step of the process of using a hydrometer. We will discuss how to determine "potential alcohol," how to calculate actual "alcohol by volume" (ABV) and how to be absolutely certain that a fermentation has finished.

The specific gravity of water is 1.000. When a specific gravity reading of beer wort is taken, it will have a higher density (before fermentation) compared to water because of the sugars present. During fermentation these sugars will be consumed by yeast causing the density and therefore specific gravity to decrease. So, to re-cap, pre-fermentation liquid will have a high specific gravity relative to fermented liquid which will have a lower gravity. The difference between these two numbers will tell you the ABV of a fermented solution.

Equipment Needed to Use a Hydrometer

The Basic Process

  • After mashing, boiling, etc, but before pitching yeast, take a hydrometer reading to determine specific gravity.
  • Ferment, as normal.
  • When you think fermentation has finished, i.e. when the airlock stops bubbling for a day or two, taken another reading.

  • Wait 24 hours and take one more reading. If the number is the same, fermentation is likely complete. Additionally:

    • If the post-fermentation gravity reading is at 1.000 or less, it is definitely done.
    • If the post-fermentation gravity reading is 1.020 or higher, wait a few days then take another reading
      • Keep taking readings (if needed) until the gravity stops dropping (which means that fermentation is complete).

To determine ABV, plug the original gravity (pre-fermentation) and the final gravity (post-fermentation) into an ABV calculator. This will determine the alcohol by volume of the solution. For more information on this, check out our article on "Alcohol Content."

Kyle Brown is the owner of Clawhammer Supply, a small scale distillation and brewing equipment company which he founded in 2009. His passion is teaching people about the many uses of distillation equipment as well as how to make beer at home. When he isn't brewing beer or writing about it, you can find him at his local gym or on the running trail.

  • I’m trying to find out how much nutrients booster per 5 gallon?

    Posted by Milton on July 09, 2024
  • Great discussion on sg I think more people would be better off using that and stop worrying about bubbles hell I just put a lid on my mash and I get a reading between 8and 10 days I’m gone

    Posted by Marvin Ray on September 14, 2022

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