How to Measure ABV Without Hydrometer

How to Measure ABV Without Hydrometer? Let’s Find Out!

Imagine stirring up a quick homebrew only to find your hydrometer to be broken. In that case, first, you’d want to pull out your hair and secondly you need to find an alternative to your broken hydrometer. 

As hydrometers are quite sensitive they tend to get broken often. To put an end to your suffering finding an alternative way of calculating ABV is essential. 

So, exactly how to measure ABV without hydrometer?

You can measure ABV without a hydrometer by using a refractometer. For that, you first need to calibrate your refractometer. After that, you need to find the initial and final specific gravity of the homebrew. Finally, using a formula you can calculate the alcohol content. 

Still not sure about the whole process? Keep on reading to know in-depth about the art of calculating ABV!

Can You Measure ABV Without a Hydrometer?

Hydrometer has been an integral part of homebrewing for a long time now. Measuring ABV may even seem impossible to most people without a hydrometer. But you can in fact measure ABV without a hydrometer. 

While hydrometers give the most accurate result, there is another contender in the market for calculating ABV. This coveted contender is the refractometer. You can use a refractometer for calculating the ABV of your homebrewed alcoholic beverages. 


So, exactly what is a refractometer? A refractometer is a device that measures how a light blends through a liquid to determine the density of the alcohol. You need to take accurate measurements of the sample before and after fermentation to get the most accurate result. 

Now, measuring ABV using a refractometer may not give as accurate of a result as using a hydrometer would. However, this is the closest you can get to measuring the alcohol content without a hydrometer. 

Measuring ABV With a Refractometer

To evaluate the strength of your beverages, testing for alcohol content is an important element of homebrewing. A refractor can help you with that. 

At first, the whole method of measuring ABV using a refractometer may seem confusing to you. But rest assured as this process is nowhere near as complicated as troubleshooting nostalgia kegerator.

Now, you might be asking how to measure ABV? Well to help you with that we’ve explained the whole process in four easy steps. 

Step 1 of 4: Getting the Right Refractometer 

The first step to measuring ABV without a hydrometer is to get a good quality refractometer. Without a good refractometer, you cannot get an accurate measurement of alcohol content. 

You can find copious amounts of refractometers on the market ranging from affordable to expensive ones. 

Primarily, there are two types of refractometers. One is analogue and the other one is digital. If you want a refractometer with built-in light then opt for the digital one. Now, if you don’t require built-in lights then you can get the analogue one for much cheaper. 


Here are our recommendations for good quality refractometers:

Step 2 of 4: Calibrating the Refractometer

Start by putting 2-3 drops of distilled water using a pipette on the refractometer’s glass. After that, close the lid. 

Now if you have an analogue refractometer, hold it up to your eye and point it at a light source. As a digital refractometer has built-in lights, you don’t need an external light source for it. 

Look through the lens and you will see a scale of numbers. There’s a horizontal line that splits the white and blue parts. This denotes refractometer reading.

Adjust the calibration screw with a screwdriver to have zero reading on the scale. Here are our top picks for screwdrivers:

Once you’re done calibrating the refractometer, open the lid and clean the water residue with a microfiber cloth

Step 3 of 4: Measuring the Specific Gravity

Put 2-3 drops of your unfermented homebrew sample using a pipette on the refractometer. Then close the lid. 

Now, hold the refractometer up to a light source and check for the Brix reading. If you can’t find it easily then rotate the lens thereby adjusting the focus. Write down the reading as you will be needing it in the future. 

Again, after 2-3 weeks take another Brix reading using your refractometer. Following the same principle, put 2-3 drops of your fermented homebrew on the refractometer. This time the Brix reading should be lower than the initial reading. 


In case your cider isn’t fermenting, wait for a few more weeks before calculating the ABV. 

To avoid inaccuracies divide both the readings by 1.04. This is the standard correction value. 

Step 4 of 4: Calculating the ABV

To calculate the ABV you need to first use a correction formula for the final specific gravity. The formula is:

1.0000 – (0.0044993 * IB) + (0.011774 * FB) + (0.00027581 * IB²) – (0.0012717 * FB²) – (0.0000072800 * IB³) + (0.000063293 * FB³)

Here IB stands for initial corrected Brix measurement and FB stands for final corrected measurement. 

Now, you need to convert the initial Brix reading using the formula: 

(IB / [258.6 – (IB / 258.2) * 227.1]) + 1

Input the initial corrected Brix value and you’ll get the initial specific gravity. 

Now that you have both the initial and final specific gravity of the homebrew, you can now calculate the ABV. To calculate the alcohol content you need to use this formula: 

(76.08 * [IG – FG] / [1.775 – IG]) * (FG / 0.794)

Here IG stands for initial specific gravity and FG stands for final specific gravity. 

After putting all the values in the formula and calculating it, you can finally get the ABV of your homebrew. 

Things to Remember

By now we have a clear idea regarding the process of calculating ABV using a refractometer. So,  let’s look into some things that we should keep in mind while calculating the alcohol content: 

  • For avoiding errors, use a good quality scientific calculator to calculate the data. 
  • Stir your homebrew before taking any sample for the refractometer.
  • Take the reading as soon as you put the sample on the refractometer. Prolonged exposure to alcohol will disturb the reading. 

That’s all on how you can measure ABV without a hydrometer. 


What can be used instead of a hydrometer? 

Instead of a hydrometer, you can use a refractometer to calculate the alcohol content. It works by determining the sugar content of a liquid based on the refraction of light through it. 

Can ABV be measured without the value of initial specific gravity?

Yes, ABV can be measured without the initial specific gravity. However, by using only a hydrometer you can calculate the ABV of the homebrew. 

Can I make a hydrometer at home? 

Yes, you can make a hydrometer at home. However, making a hydrometer is a complicated process and it may not always give accurate readings. 

Final Words 

With that, we’ve reached the end of this segment. We hope could guide you through how to measure abv without hydrometer? 

Make sure to calibrate your refractometer properly. Otherwise, nothing would work and you’ll end up with an inaccurate reading. 

Until then, happy brewing!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top