Need help with refractometer maintenance

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Need help with refractometer maintenance

Postby billvelek » Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:38 pm

I have an Atago refractometer that I somehow managed to screw up, but I don't know how I did it because I _thought_ I used it the same way as I have for the past couple of years. I take my readings, run a small amount of cool water from the faucet over the sample-window and then dry it with a paper towel and stand it on its end. No problem for years. My last brewing session I took readings from two different batches as I prepared to bottle them, and also readings from the two new batches before they went in the fermenter. The first three were just fine, but when I attempted the fourth reading, the scale was very blurred and it is fairly apparent that either water from my rinsing it, or else wort/beer if I forgot to rinse it, had somehow seeped under the lens ... or whatever. The entire scale is now blue (no contrasting white on the scale), which leads me to believe that it was probably wort that got into it; I probably took a reading and set it on its end and forgot about it. I've checked the Atago web site to see if I could find some info or maybe a discussion forum, but no luck. I haven't called yet to find out the cost of repair ... if they even do that ... but it would probably cost nearly as much to ship back and forth and pay for any repairs as a new one would cost. I hate to just toss this in the trash without trying something first. I have thought about unscrewing the eye-piece/lens and then repeatedly soaking and draining the inside with distilled water, and then slowly drying it out in my food dehydrator. I've also thought of using ethanol, or even steam -- holding it with tongs over the exhaust vent of my pressure cooker. I guess anything it worth a try before tossing it, but I thought I'd check here for some ideas.

Thanks.

Bill Velek
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refractometer

Postby slothrob » Wed Apr 14, 2010 2:55 pm

That's a shame. I found this pdf, and it says "If the field of view in an analog refractometer becomes cloudy, it most likely has been immersed in water and can only be fixed by a professional technician."

From that quote, I might try putting it in a bag with a desiccant and see if it gets better by drying out.

I guess the good news is that it sounds like it might be fixable, but it sounds like trying to clean it with water might not help. If there's dry wort in there, it doesn't seem like you would have much choice. In that case, I think I'd try distilled water, since steam seems risky.

You say that it is completely blue, is it possible that it just slipped way out of calibration? Can you put water on the prism and adjust the line into view at all?

Edit: I found this at Atago:
"Q: The scale of the Analog hand-Held Refractometer is blur, and I can not see clear boundary line. How can I do with this unit?

A: If the scale is blur, water or moisture might get inside of the Refractometer. Leave the unit at dry place for a few days, or use a hair dryer to take water / moisture out from the unit. (Do not use the hair dryer exceed by 50°C.) If there is dust inside, please send the unit to ATAGO (or ATAGO Distributor) for service."

That seems like drying it might be the first thing to try.
If that doesn't work, I'd try washing it with water then drying it again.
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Thanks, Slothrob

Postby billvelek » Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:44 pm

Thanks, Slothrob, for the very fast and informative reply. I guess I was in error about the field being normally all white with the blue representing the amount of sugar; just bad memory. So, the field should be all blue when only light passes through the prism, and the white portion should appear when a sample is added; mine is all blue (a much darker-blue oval appears over 2/3s of the scale like a stain), and a "lighter" blue section appears at the bottom of the scale when a drop of water is added. The scale is very blurred and grainy looking. I'll check on the costs and if it's very much with shipping, I'll probably just try to fix it myself with the idea of buying a replacement if my efforts fail. If I do buy another, I'll probably consider a digital.

As for any self fix, the steam is obviously out of the question. I'll post later with a report of whatever I do and the results. I am a bit mystified as to how any liquid got inside; the prism setting looks fine, and I know I've never dropped it into any liquid. Maybe I dropped it once and can't remember. Or maybe my wife or grandkids entered the picture somehow.

Cheers.

Bill Velek
Visit www.tinyurl.com/bvelek - portal to my brewing sites: 3,100+ members on 'Grow-Hops', and 1,350+ brewers on my 'BrewingEquip' group.
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Refractometer

Postby slothrob » Thu Apr 15, 2010 3:20 pm

billvelek wrote:Or maybe my wife or grandkids entered the picture somehow.

That was why I thought maybe it was just way out of adjustment, but the blur and oval stain sound more ominous.

Good luck, I hope you figure out to fix it! I hate to throw things like this away, and I certainly hate paying someone to fix them.
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