Beer measurement

Beer measurement
A floating hydrometer in use to test the specific gravity of beer

Beer measurement is the means of assessing beer by bitterness, by strength and by colour.


By colour

"Degrees Lovibond" or "°L" scale is a measure of the colour of a substance, usually beer, whiskey, or sugar solutions. The Standard Reference Method (SRM) and EBC method have largely replaced it, with the SRM giving results approximately equal to the °L. The determination of the degrees lovibond takes place by comparing the color of the substance to a series of amber to brown glass slides, usually by a colorimeter. The scale was devised by Joseph Williams Lovibond.[1]

The Standard Reference Method or SRM [2] is a system modern brewers use to measure colour intensity, roughly darkness (but see Tristimulus Color below), of a beer or wort. The method involves the use of a spectrophotometer or photometer to measure the attenuation of light of a particular wavelength, 430 nanometers, as it passes through a sample contained in a cuvette located in the light path of the instrument.

Colour based on Standard Reference Method (SRM)
SRM/Lovibond Example Beer color EBC
2 Pale lager 4
3 German Pilsener 6
4 Pilsner Urquell 8
6 12
8 Weissbier 16
10 Bass pale ale 20
13 26
17 Dark lager 33
20 39
24 47
29 Porter 57
35 Stout 69
40 79
70 Imperial stout 138

By strength

The "Plato scale" is an empirically derived hydrometer scale to measure density of beer wort in terms of percentage of extract by weight. The scale expresses the density as the percentage of sucrose by weight, so a wort measured at 12° Plato has the same density as a water−sucrose solution containing 12% sucrose by weight, denoted as 12% Brix. It was developed in 1843 by Bohemian scientist Karl Balling as well as Simon Ack, and improved by German Fritz Plato. For the brewer, it has an advantage over specific gravity in that it expresses the measurement in terms of the amount of fermentable materials. Degrees Plato are more popular in central European brewing, and occasionally feature in beer names—some Slovak or Czech breweries feature 10° and 12° versions of their beers, for instance.

The relationship between degrees Plato and specific gravity (SG) is not linear, but a good approximation is that 1° Plato equals four “brewer’s points” (4 x .001); thus 12° Plato corresponds to an SG of 1.048 (12 x 4 x. 001). Gravity refers to the specific gravity of the wort or must at various stages in the fermentation. This article focuses primarily on the brewing industry. The concepts and equations are basically the same in the wine making industry.

At various stages in alcohol fermentation, the density of the wort varies. Depending upon the depth that the hydrometer falls into the wort, the percentage of alcohol can be determined. Initially (before alcohol production by the yeast commences) the specific gravity of a wort is dependent mostly on the amount of sugar present and, therefore, specific gravity readings can be used to determine sugar content by the use of formulae or tables. This sugar content is expressed in units of grams of sugar per 100 grams of wort equivalent to % w/w and called, in the brewing industry, "degrees Plato" (abbreviated °P) and in the wine industry "degrees Brix". Even when specified in terms of °P it is not uncommon to refer to the pre-fermentation reading as the "Original Gravity", (abbreviated OG) though it is more correct to term it the "Original Extract" (abbreviated OE). It is, of course, correct to refer to the original specific gravity reading as the OG. By considering the original sugar content the brewer or vintner obtains an indication as to the probable ultimate alcoholic content of his product. The OE is often referred to as the "size" of the beer and is, in Europe, often printed on the label as Stammwürze or sometimes just as a percent. In the Czech Republic, for example, they speak of "10 degree beers", "12 degree beers" and so on.

As fermentation progresses the yeast convert sugars to carbon dioxide, ethanol, more yeast and flavor producing compounds. The decline in the sugar content and the presence of ethanol (which is appreciably less dense than water) both contribute to a lowering in the specific gravity of the wort so that the formulae relating sugar content and specific gravity no longer apply. Nevertheless, by monitoring the decline in SG over time the brewer obtains information about the health and progress of the fermentation and determines that it is complete when gravity stops declining. A gravity measurement taken at this time compared to the original gravity reading can be used to estimate the amount of sugar consumed and thus the amount of ethanol produced. Specific gravity is measured by a hydrometer, pycnometer or oscillating U-tube electronic meter.

Gravity measurements are used to determine the "size" of the beer, its alcoholic strength and how much of the available sugar the yeast were able to consume (a given strain can be expected, under proper conditions, to ferment a wort of a particular composition to within a range of attenuation, that is, they should be able to consume a known percentage of the extract).

Alcohol by volume (abbreviated as abv or ABV) is a standard measure of how much alcohol (ethanol) is contained in an alcoholic beverage (expressed as a percentage of total volume).[3][4][5] The abv standard is used worldwide.[6]

In some countries, alcohol by volume is referred to as degrees Gay-Lussac (after the French chemist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac).[7]

The letter "X" is used on some beers, and is thought to mark beer strength, with the more Xs the greater the strength.[8][9]

By bitterness

European Bitterness Units scale, often abbreviated as EBU, is a scale for measuring the perceived bitterness of beer[10], with lower values being generally "less bitter" and higher values "more bitter". The scale and method are defined by the European Brewery Convention, and the numerical value should be the same as of the International Bitterness Units scale (IBU), defined in co-operation with the American Society of Brewing Chemists.[11] However, the exact process of determining EBU and IBU values differs slightly, which may in theory result with slightly smaller values for EBU than IBU.[12]

The European Brewery Convention also defines units for the colour of beer, for which the abbreviation EBC is used. This should not be confused with the bitterness units.

The International Bittering Units scale, or simply IBU scale, provides a measure of the bitterness of beer, which is provided by the hops used during brewing. Bittering units are measured through the use of a spectrophotometer and solvent extraction. [13]

This technique was adopted at the same time as another method based on measuring the concentration (in milligrams per liter; parts per million w/v) of isomerized α acids in a beer, causing some confusion among small-scale brewers.[14] The American Society of Brewing Chemists, in the introduction to its methods on measuring bitterness, points out some differences between the results of the two methods:

While the results of the IAA [isomerized α acids] methods are practically identical to those obtained by the [I]BU method for beer brewed with fresh hops, the IAAs of beer brewed with old or poorly stored hops, and with certain special hop extracts, can be significantly lower than the [I]BU figure.[13]

The bittering effect is less noticeable in beers with a high quantity of malt, so a higher IBU is needed in heavier beers to balance the flavor. For example, an Imperial Stout may have an IBU of 50, but will taste less bitter than an English Bitter with an IBU of 30, because the latter beer uses much less malt than the former. The technical limit for IBU's is around 100; some have tried to surpass this number, but there is no real gauge after 100 IBUs when it comes to taste threshold. Light lagers without much bitterness will generally have 5 IBUs, while an India Pale Ale may have 100 IBUs or more.[15]


  1. ^ Article at
  2. ^ "Beer 10-A Spectrophotometric Color Method", ASBC Methods of Analysis
  3. ^ "Lafayette Brewing Co. Beer Terms". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  4. ^ "Glossary of whisky and distillation". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  5. ^ "English Ales Brewery Monterey British Brewing Glossary". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions - CAMRA". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  7. ^ "Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac (1778–1850)". Retrieved 2008-07-05. 
  8. ^ Beer: Health and Nutrition, Charles W. Bamforth, Blackwell Science Ltd 2004 ISBN 0-632-06446-3 p.34
  9. ^ The Art of Brewing (Published under the superintendance of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge), Baldwin & Craddock, London 1829 p.2
  10. ^ [|Lehigh Valley Homebrewers] (2007). "Beer and Brewing Glossary". Retrieved 2009-08-05. "IBUs (International Bittering Units) - The accepted worldwide standard for measuring bitterness in beer, also known as EBU, based on the estimated alpha acid percentage of the hops used and the length of time they are boiled." 
  11. ^ [|European Brewery Convention]. "The Analysis Committee". Retrieved 2009-08-05. "The EBC Analysis Committee also works closely together with the 'American Society of Brewing Chemists' (ASBC) to establish so-called 'International methods' with world-wide recognition of applicability. A partnership declaration between EBC and ASBC has been signed. The integration of the IOB methods of analysis and EBC methods is nearing completion." 
  12. ^ ajdelange (2009-06-11). "Difference between IBU and EBU". Retrieved 2009-08-05. "Because the absorption decreases pretty quickly with time at the completion of extraction the EBC reported value will, in general, be a little smaller than ASBC reported value unless the beer requires centrifugation. For all practical considerations the two systems should give the same results." 
  13. ^ a b "Beer Bitterness (Beer-23)". Methods of Analysis. American Society of Brewing Chemists. 1996. pp. Beer-23:1–4. 
  14. ^ "What Is an IBU…Really?". Basic Brewing Radio. 2008-03-20. No. 12, season 4.
  15. ^ "The Good Beer Guide to New England - Google Books". Retrieved 2010-07-10. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Beer — This article is about the alcoholic beverage. For other uses, see Beer (disambiguation). Schlenkerla Rauchbier straight from the cask …   Wikipedia

  • beer gallon —    see ale gallon …   Dictionary of units of measurement

  • beer and ale gallon —    see ale gallon …   Dictionary of units of measurement

  • Measurement — For bust/waist/hip measurement, see BWH. A typical tape measure with both metric and US units and two US pennies for comparison Measurement is the process or the result of determining the ratio of a physical quantity, such as a length, time,… …   Wikipedia

  • European units of measurement directives — European Union directive: Directive 71/354/EEC Units of Measure Directive Made by European Council Made under Art. 100 …   Wikipedia

  • Comparison of the imperial and US customary measurement systems — Both the imperial and United States customary systems of measurement derive from earlier English systems used in the Middle Ages, that were the result of a combination of the local Anglo Saxon units inherited from German tribes and roman units… …   Wikipedia

  • Ancient Egyptian units of measurement — The Ancient Egyptian unit of linear measurement was known as the Royal Cubit, was maintained as 523.5mm (20.61 inches) in length, and was subdivided into 7 palms of 4 digits each, giving 28 digits. This measurement standard was used from at least …   Wikipedia

  • Ancient Mesopotamian units of measurement — originated in the loosely organized city states of Early Dynastic Sumer. The units themselves grew out of the tradition of counting tokens used by the Neolithic (c 6000 BCE) cultural complex of the Near East. [Stecchini 1971, section 1.1]… …   Wikipedia

  • List of unusual units of measurement — For units of measure primarily used in countries where English is not the main language, see the article specific to that country, a list of which can be found in the systems of measurement article. An unusual unit of measurement is a unit of… …   Wikipedia

  • Systems of measurement — A system of measurement is a set of units which can be used to specify anything which can be measured and were historically important, regulated and defined because of trade and internal commerce. Scientifically, when later analyzed, some… …   Wikipedia