It’s my opinion that most of the economy, non lab grade refractometers are probably manufactured by a handful of makers. Or at the very least, the manufacturers are producing units of similar quality. You could easily pay $60 at one retailer and $20 for the same unit via another retailer.
For under $30, do not expect a lab or commercial grade unit. However, I have purchased three different economy model refractometers and have been happy with each of them.
This is also a nice find for our international readers as it seems that many offerings include free or reasonable shipping to non-US addresses.
For me, getting a refractometer was one of those upgrades that made a lot of difference. With a refractometer you need a sample size of two drops. I figured that this would pay for itself in beer savings alone. I also had just broken my hydrometer and came to the realization that hydrometers are made of breakable glass that can break! 🙂
Refractometers can be used to measure gravity throughout the brewing process. You can also estimate the alcohol content of your beer if you forget to take an OG with the use of a refractometer and a hydrometer. Check out Sean Terrill’s excellent refractometer calculator.
eBay is, generally speaking, a good source for low cost refractometers.
Look for… Dual Scale (both brix and gravity), ATC (automatic temperature correction) and a good seller rating. Carrying cases are also nice, but not 100% necessary.
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