When trying to brew beer from scratch, you may find that you will be using a lot of different tools. If you are aiming to try and be as accurate as possible with the things you are doing, there is no tool more important than the scale. Whether it is for weighing out your grains and hops, or for trying to create measured amounts of your ingredients for packaging, it is an indispensable tool for helping you make your brewing process more efficient.
One area that I’ve found the scale to be of critical importance, is when it comes to doing yeast starters accurately. There are a couple resources you can use for creating your yeast starter. One great place to start it the Mr. Malty’s Pitching Rate Calculator, where you will get information as to what you need to pitch into your beer, but when it comes to creating the recommended starter for one pack of yeast, it helps to know how much dry malt extract (DME) you need to make that starter beer with.
I found a great homebrew starter wort calculator that allows you to calculate the amount of DME you need at a certain liquid volume to achieve your desired starter gravity. The amount of DME required is measured in weight instead of volume like many yeast starter tutorials tend to do. In my case, 1.5L of wort with a gravity of 1.040 required 5.51 oz of DME. Since my scale is only accurate to 0.05 oz, I had no problems with being potentially a few hundredths of an ounce off of my target. Other factors like how much water will be boiled off would become a bigger factor.
The scale has also become a crucial tool for me when packaging hops. In order to save on money, I had purchased my hops in bulk, so I ended up with 1 pound bags of leaf and pellet hops to work with. I ended up weighing them into 1 and 2 oz packages to keep individually, since most beer recipes only call for a few ounces in a batch. By keeping the measurements accurate, I reduce the potential hop spoilage, and I’m working with individual volumes of hops, which can then be further weighed for my beer to get accurate bitterness levels in my beers.
Of course, one of the most critical thing a home brewer will be using their scale for is for weighing their malts for making the wort. In my case, I used it to also create an accurate inventory of mine before doing any brews. This is another area where setting up your recipes, the ingredients are measured in pounds instead of some measure of volume, therefore, being able to get an accurate calculation of the grain weight required will be critical, as alterations, especially with smaller amounts of darker specialty malts, can make a major impact on the overall color and flavor of your beer.
Make sure that whatever scale you get, it has the ability to zero the weight of whatever container is on it. This way, you can get the scale to read zero, even if you have a measuring cup on it. This way, you are getting the measurement of just your ingredient weight only. Most scales will have a feature like this. Mine will automatically give you a zero weight if you turn it on with something on it.
Bottom line, that scale is a piece of equipment you should not put off. You will find it to be very helpful in your brewing life. If you happen to like to cook and bake as well, many ingredient ratios are best measured by weight instead of volume as well.