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What is your opinion on using this computerized equipment (other than price)?  I just came back from an intensive distilling course where we learned the basics by using hydrometers.  They are obviously the tried and true method.  Has anyone had any issues with the machines?  We are determining if we need to budget one or just stick to the basic hydrometer.  Thoughts? Horror stories?

Thanks

Travis

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Definitely know your way around the hydrometers and keep a set on hand.  That said, I love using the A-P machines, especially when dealing with obscuration materials, such as with liqueurs.  I tested the A-P units against my hydrometers and while the small hand-held gizmo will get you in the ballpark, the bench-top unit was always spot-on.

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If you have the money, These are a must. I've used the DMA 3500 with the alcoholizer for years, And just bought the DMA 4500MEC with the alcoholizer as well as the Snap 50 for my new facility. The Snap 40 is not temperature adjusted, So it will only get you close. The Snap 50 is temperature adjusted so it's pretty spot on, Although neither one of the handheld units are listed as acceptable means of proofing by the TTB, they just save a lot of time on the floor for post run gauging, Barrel proofing, And initial barrel dump gauging. The 3500 and the 4500 benchtop models are TTb approved units. 

But get ready to drop $45,000

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When setting up distilleries in especially the USA I have worked with their product a lot. I love them. Very accurate. The issue is ... they are also pretty expensive. When I asked the distillers that invested (heavily) in their measuring devices, quite often the answer I got was that it helped them show to the taxation offices that they were taking their responsibilities seriously. It sends out a message, so to speak.

I just came across this relatively new unit from Anton Paar. It is less expensive, very high tech, and looks easy enough to work with. I know that if I start my distillery up again, that's what I would purchase. It may be more expensive than hydrometers ... but if I count the number of these that I broke over the years ...

http://www.anton-paar.com/corp-en/products/details/density-and-concentration-meter-easydens/

Regards, Odin.

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Thanks for the link Odin, very interesting.  I couldn't find this unit on TTB's list of approved devices, does anyone know if it has been approved?

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Doubtful that it is accurate enough to be approved.  The much more expensive SNAP 40/50 and DMA 35 are not approved, I don't see how the $500 unit would be acceptable.  They state it is not recognized as being able to calibrate as well.

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Accuracy  
Extract: 0.3 %w/w
Sugar: 0.3 °Brix
Alcohol: 0.5 %v/v
Temperature: 0.2 °C / 0.4 °F


Not accurate enough for official use.

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No, this unit is not TTB certified!

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I assume this is the hand held unit.  It is not TTB certified.  We have decided to go with the full version unit.  There is a craft model that is TTB certified.  I have the model number somewhere.  The customer service was great working with them

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22 hours ago, HWY 101 said:

Looks like A-P has a new version of the DMA-35. I have a call in to my rep to see if more than just the form factor has been updated. Wouldn't it be nice if our handhelds became accurate enough to satisfy our TTB needs?!!

https://www.anton-paar.com/us-en/products/details/portable-density-meter-dmatm-35/ 

Nice, and cheaper, than the old DMA-35, but no better at meeting the requirements for the TTB.

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A-P is running a craft special at the moment. DMA4500M-EC + Snap 50 for $18,500. Steep but as many have stated, very much worth the cost and reduced hassle.

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On 10/26/2017 at 5:06 PM, Silk City Distillers said:

Most important wrist strap ever.

LOL. Yah. That is one of my biggest bugaboos about the design/construction: any drop or shock to the quartz tube will break it. The tube can not be replaced, so the whole instrument is toast. And they could do a repair, just swap out the tube and recalibrate, which in theory could be done, but they won't. The best they will do is give you a credit toward a new purchase.

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On 5/18/2016 at 11:18 AM, Distiller76 said:

If you have the money, These are a must. I've used the DMA 3500 with the alcoholizer for years, And just bought the DMA 4500MEC with the alcoholizer as well as the Snap 50 for my new facility. The Snap 40 is not temperature adjusted, So it will only get you close. The Snap 50 is temperature adjusted so it's pretty spot on, Although neither one of the handheld units are listed as acceptable means of proofing by the TTB, they just save a lot of time on the floor for post run gauging, Barrel proofing, And initial barrel dump gauging. The 3500 and the 4500 benchtop models are TTb approved units. 

But get ready to drop $45,000

I don't think the 3500 listed as an approved unit with the TTB. The DMA 4500M is in the EC (European Commission) version.

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I got a demo of both the Anton Paar certified unit and the equivalent Rudolph unit. They are very similar; it turns out that the guy who started Rudolph used to work for Anton Paar. Contrary to some of the pricing posted above from a couple years ago, the pricing I got was around $15,000 for the base units. Of course you can add various options which will increase the cost quite a bit. Anton Paar offers a bunch of options; Rudolph not so much. Both units come with Ethernet and can print right to your laser printer.

Both units functioned similarly and were very nice to use.

With that said, there are a few drawbacks for these machines in general.

1. They are very, very slow. They take several minutes to stabilize and give a final reading. Depending on how fast your thermometer gets to a stable reading, you might find using hydrometers to be faster.

2. You have to be meticulous about cleaning out the machine between samples with RO water. Then you have to run its air blowing cycle (or whatever they call it) to get all the water out. Any trace of water or the previous sample can throw off your next reading. When you add in the cleaning time, it slows it down even more.

3. Neither company offers any calibration service. At least that's what the sales reps told me. They do offer a maintenance service, but they made it clear that it was not a calibration. Both sales reps suggested measuring distilled water on a regular basis; if the water measurement was correct, the machine was in spec.

In the course of the demonstrations, I tested some of my bottled product and found it was within spec. In some cases, I was within a few hundredths of a degree of proof to the machine results. So you can do just fine with hydrometers. With that said, for any larger scale operation, or even a medium-sized distillery, getting one of these units would be a good idea.

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On 8/27/2018 at 9:42 PM, Jedd Haas said:

1. They are very, very slow. They take several minutes to stabilize and give a final reading. Depending on how fast your thermometer gets to a stable reading, you might find using hydrometers to be faster.

But maybe not that much faster if you are using the hydrometer correctly to achieve the same precision. The time taken is for the machine to thermally equilibrate. If you use a hydrometer, you must also thermally equilibrate the WHOLE system (product, vessel, hydrometer, and thermometer being used to measure temperature), so that you have an accurate and precise enough measure of temperature to properly correct the hydrometer measurement to meet required precision and accuracy of proof. In fact, this is the major difference between cheaper and more expensive digital densitometers for measuring proof: accuracy of control and measurement of temperature.

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Anyone have the newer Snap 41?  For $1500 it seems like a bargain for quick measurements (non gauging).  Believe the 41 does compensate for temperature now as well.

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On the Novatech.com sight and finding certified hydrometers for around $70 but the certified thermometers are $250+.  Do I have that right?

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19 minutes ago, Patio29Dadio said:

On the Novatech.com sight and finding certified hydrometers for around $70 but the certified thermometers are $250+.  Do I have that right?

Correct.  You'll get a slip of paper with the hydrometer that states what the correction you need to apply is.  I've had some come back saying they are as much as 1/10 of a proof off.

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12 hours ago, Patio29Dadio said:

On the Novatech.com sight and finding certified hydrometers for around $70 but the certified thermometers are $250+.  Do I have that right?

Yup. Certified thermometers are very expensive beasts, compared to hydrometers. Many don't realize this, and will get the high accuracy corrected hydrometers, but use a thermometer without the needed accuracy and correction, so they end up not meeting the TTB accuracy requirements for the gauging. This is the corollary issue to needing to equilibrate everything for temperature.

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On 8/29/2018 at 1:47 PM, Silk City Distillers said:

Anyone have the newer Snap 41?  For $1500 it seems like a bargain for quick measurements (non gauging).  Believe the 41 does compensate for temperature now as well.

All of the portables compensate for temperature (through look-up tables), but they do not equilibrate or control temperature, like the expensive desktop units. That is, in part, why they do not have the needed accuracy, including the Snap 41, for final gauging required by the TTB, and are not an "approved" densitometer.

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