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Thieving experience


Grandmaster Brewer
Dec 11, 2014
Reaction score
Fujian, China
This is more a question than a review. I was recently in the market for a sample thief when I came across this. It differs from a traditional thief in that it has a widget on the tip that allows wort in, then when pressed against the side of the fermentor drains it back in. It also allows you to put your hydrometer directly in the thief to take a reading. Sounded great to me, so I bought one. I've used it for all of one batch now, taking daily readings during primary, and being quite persnickety about sanitizing both thief and hydrometer

I know that good practice dictates tossing thieved samples. But I'm so far liking the device and would like to continue using it ... hopefully without incident. My question is, does anyone have experience with this particular thief? Or more broadly, does anyone routinely return samples to the fermentor without infection? If so, what's your sanitizing regimen?

Or am I flirting with disaster and counting the days until I buy a refractometer?
I don't take fermenter gravity readings, but am curious to the benefits of taking so many readings?
I'll usually take a reading after the krausen falls, then every other day until I see no change, then bottle/keg or whatever. I have a 30L Speidel fermenter with a spigot on the bottom so taking samples is a lot easier than with a bucket (which I'm assuming you're using).

I'm also assuming you're using Starsan or a similar proven sanitizer- if you are strict in sanitizing the thief and hydrometer before use, you shouldn't have a problem. I just wouldn't take any more readings than were absolutely necessary; every time you open the fermenter and put something in it, you risk infection. A bit of a disclaimer here- I usually drink the hydrometer sample so it never makes it back to the fermenter.
grathan said:
I don't take fermenter gravity readings, but am curious to the benefits of taking so many readings?

In short, I'm learning. And it was my first time working with a particular yeast strain. By taking regular daily gravity readings during primary I can calculate the apparent attenuation of the yeast (OG-FG)/(OG-1)x100, and compare that percentage against the yeast's predicted attenuation range to see if it's done. I could more simply get an OG reading and test again when the bubbling slows, but then I'd miss out on the science lesson. And knowing how far along a fermentation is has practical value. If I were trying to get a "big beer" over 10% ABV, say, I might want to pitch a champagne or similar alcohol-tolerant yeast strain when the fermentation is 60% done. You can't judge that by listening to the airlock.