UPDATE – This review was done on a prototype BeerBug! I will have a new review out for the release hardware that is now available for pre-order in a few weeks. That link will be posted here when I get the review done.
Here are a couple of the differences between the bug reviewed here and the release hardware:
|Battery||1 AA, replaceable||Internal rechargable via micro-USB|
|SG Sensor||Old “beam” sensor||New “blade” sensor|
Some of you may have seen the BeerBug Kickstarter last year. The concept was a digital hydrometer that would connect to your computer or phone and deliver real time specific gravity and temperature readings. Their software would make nice graphs for you and calculate your ABV on the fly.
Being the tech geek that I am and never having entirely approved of wasting beer on hydrometer readings this concept appealed to me greatly and I backed it. A couple months ago I received my BeerBug and dropped it into a beer I had sitting in the fermenter. That beer was almost done fermenting so I waited until after my vacation to use it with a full brew before I put any sort of impressions online.
For this review brew I will be using my hydrometer and BeerBug in parallel so that the two methods can be compared side by side. One thing to keep in mind with the BeerBug is that this is the Bluetooth version. The retail product will use WiFi connectivity.
I don’t want my BeerBug dying a couple days into fermentation so before getting started I put a freshly charged battery in there.
The BeerBug site suggests letting your BeerBug sit in water (or StarSan) for a while and then taring it before using it for any acual readings. So the first thing I did on brew day was to clean my fermenter and fill it with StarSan, then I stuck my BeerBug in it and put an empty bucket next to it to hold the StarSan for other uses when I was ready to rack into my fermenter.
After that it was brew day as usual, lots of waiting for water to heat, then waiting again for grains to soak, then waiting again for wort to boil, then waiting for the boil to finish, then waiting for the wort to cool. Finally, racking time!
After moving the StarSan from my fermenter to my spare bucket and filling the fermenter with my wort I topped up to the appropriate volume, shook the thing, took a sample for my hydrometer and stuck the lid (with the BeerBug in it) on the bucket. Done! I carried the whole assembly into the room where my fermentation freezer lives and realized I had forgotten to calibrate the BeerBug. So I grabbed my bucket of StarSan, moved the BeerBug back to that bucket, fired up the BeerBug software, waited a minute for the readings to steady, calibrated it and moved it back to my fermenter.
I clicked “New Brew” in the BeerBug software, named it “Chocolate Milk Stout” and watched the readings tick along for a minute before moving the whole thing into the freezer.
So in terms of work done on brew day for BeerBug vs Hydrometer here’s what it seems like to me:
|Sanitize something to take a sample with.||Sanitize the BeerBug’s relevant parts.|
|Take a sample, get the hydrometer to sit right so that you can get a good reading. Record that reading somewhere for later use.||Calibrate the BeerBug in sanitizer, move it to your wort, start a new brew in the software.|
Honestly that’s a pretty similar amount of work, so it’s really about which one gives better results. We will get the full view of that in Part 2 of the review when we go over determining when fermentation has finished and calculating your ABV, but here’s what each one gave me on brew day:
Hydrometer: That looks like about 1.056, or so.
BeerBug: This has a margin of error of +/- .002. It bounced around between 1.056 and 1.061, giving us an OG of around 1.058.
edit: Taylor at ParasitX (the BeerBug company) reminded me that when you click the “All Data” button instead of just watching live data it takes the average for you and corrects your readings.
Look for part two in a couple weeks. I will talk about using the software, interfacing the BeerBug with my computer, ease of use for determining FG and ABV and overall impressions.