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What is everyone using for proofing?

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I'm curious to see what everyone is using for final proofing before bottling. I realize it would be ideal to use an Anton Paar 5000 meter but i cant imagine everyone has the budget for that. Just wanted to see what other distilleries were using.

-hydrometer (if so what brand have you found that you like?)

-weight

-Anton Paar hadheld etc.

-any others?

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We now have the DMA 5000 M and it's great. But when we used hydrometers, we used HB instrument and Kessler USA and had them calibrated with certification. The Anton Paar handheld isn't as accurate as you might hope, according to several people I know that have/had one.

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The HB Instrument hydrometers are good. But of even greater importance is temperature correction, as this can lead to much larger errors. Get a good thermometer and have it calibrated. AlcoDens also helps for calculating proof with greater precision than the TTB tables.

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Jedd is absolutely correct. In talking with other distillers over the years, I think it's more likely to have an inaccurate temperature reading than an inaccurate hydrometer reading.

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Ok great, exactly what I was looking for. I do use temperature corrections, i'm just looking for a better hydrometer. the H-B 6160 is backordered for a month. Any other good trustworthy brands? Kessler?

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How exactly do you go about calibrating a hydrometer? You cant just add or take away weight in order to make it float at the right level its a sealed glass tube. Not that im going to try to do it just wondering.

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They test it against a standard and give you a sheet that shows the adjustments/corrections you need to take on your hydrometer interpolation sheet.

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They test it against a standard and give you a sheet that shows the adjustments/corrections you need to take on your hydrometer interpolation sheet.

I figured it was something like this, So basically some guy or gal looks takes it, puts it in a known proof and says "ok this one is .3 off" ? What happens if they get it wrong and its really .5 off and then you proof all your stuff off? seems like there is a lot of room for human error. That in the end if your spirit is off your at fault.

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Whether electronic or manual, all hydrometers/densitometers have to be calibrated. Calibration is always with some final human intervention, and therefore could be in error. That is why you calibrated with a certified lab.

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Yeah i get using someone certified, its just if they are off then you are off, and when the TTb comes knocking at your door because you are off what good does a certificate that says its accurate do for you? You are still off in the end.

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What is the other option whiskeytango?

And bluestar is correct. The best thing to do is to purchase the most accurate equipment you can afford, learn to use it well, and then send your results to a lab to confirm those results. At least you have proof that you have done everything within your power to meet the requirements. There are TTB certified labs, including VA Tech, which we use.

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I dont have an answer thats why i am asking. So you will send off a sample of every batch you bottle to verify what your readings are telling you?

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So you will send off a sample of every batch you bottle to verify what your readings are telling you?

I'd say that's on the extreme end of things. At first, you may verify your calibrations with an independent lab more often. When the results begin to always come back spot-on, and your confidence in your equipment, procedures, and personnel grows, you'll consequently end up decreasing the frequency of these independent verifications.

when the TTb comes knocking at your door because you are off what good does a certificate that says its accurate do for you?

As you suspect, it does you no good at all. It doesn't matter if you use a hydrometer, densitometer, or a divining rod. All that matters to the TTB is how your sample measures up on their machine (hmm... I wonder how THEY calibrate it). This is why getting an independent lab is nice. It's the closest way to simulate the TTB sampling your stuff.

Nick

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BTW, if anyone wants to send in samples for me to test on the Anton Paar, I'm happy to do that for no fee. How accurate is the reading? It "should" be spot on, but just like we mentioned above, all instruments "could" be off. I won't do anything with obscuration, but I'm happy to test vodka, gin, white dog, etc.

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All that matters to the TTB is how your sample measures up on their machine (hmm... I wonder how THEY calibrate it).

Nick

Not sure how they calibrate their system, but it's my understanding that they use both the top-end Anton-Paar DMA machine, plus lab distillation. The lab distillation is done according to a proprietary measurement standard. Per the TTB Lab:

"AOAC International method 942.06 and SSD:TM:102 which is the same as 942.06. The AOAC method is copyrighted, therefore it is not available to the public. You will have to contact AOAC directly to get the method."

AOAC is a standards body. You have to join (for a fee) to obtain the procedure the TTB uses.

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I guess if you got audited you could have the TTB agent who comes use your calibrated hydrometer and do a reading and then send it in for a test and hopefully their reading would be off the same as yours are.

Your tool would still be off but at least it might prove your not intentionally doing it.

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The lab we us works with the AOAC 984.14 or 983.12.

But they have assured me they are TTB certified and that this method is approved.

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Any indication of what these certified TTB labs charge for a test? I'm waiting for TTB approval and starting to look into this topic

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Along with John at SA, we have recently added a DMA 5000. Now that I am over the learning curve, it may just be the best $25K we have ever spent.

We used certified/calibrated hydrometers to the highest accuracy available. Ditto with thermometers. Note that if you do this, just like any other instrument, they need to be re-calibrated/certified annually.

Shooting at a .15 proof variance, and really only on the downside of the proof equation (below your stated bottle proof - above and you incur additional taxation, even at .01 proof over stated bottle proof) is extremely difficult to do with even the best analog instruments. And the TTB could care less what you are using, how you do it, etc.. If they send a sample out and you are out of compliance, you are written up and must go to great lengths to reestablish you ability to proof accurately. Fall below 79.85 proof on a bottle of 80 proof vodka in two successive compliance tests, and they will pull your cola. They are hardcore about this. They expect everyone to pull the variance line, regardless of method. And there is no sympathy for being a small guy who can't afford pricy instrumentation. Their answer to that is for you to farm out all proofing testing.

Thus the statement that having and understanding the DMA 5000 makes me sleep way better at night. I now have certified, calibrated results, printed out, etc., without having to send samples to an outside lab and waiting for those results.

DGP

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Don, I thought it was .15 ABV, or .3 proof. So you should be able to go to 79.7 proof without being out of compliance. Isn't that right?

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