Getting Started With Your BeerBug Digital Hydrometer – A Practical Guide For New Users

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What Is The BeerBug?
The BeerBug is a WiFi enabled digital hydrometer, which allows homebrewers to track their brews gravity, Alcohol % and temperature in real time.

Why You Should Care
While it might not be the most essential tool in a homebrewers kit, it is definitely one that I feel I get the most enjoyment out of. Let me explain… Brewing beer is a hobby that I deeply enjoy, but the reality is, the way most people experience this hobby is just “sitting around and waiting for stuff to happen.” While I may be distilling the experience down to a very basic level…the truth is that the art of brewing your own beer is largely defined by patience. Aside from brew day, bottling and of course actually drinking the beer, your beer is usually relegated to some dark corner of the house where you will usually forget it even exists for the next few weeks. But with the BeerBug you are always connected, always tuned in and always aware of how your beer is developing. There is this intangible connection to your beer through-out the entire fermentation process, something we as brewers have never really had before.

More importantly though, the BeerBug is easily one of the simplest ways to capture your beers temperature, ABV and specific gravity readings.No more wasted beer taking multiple hydrometer readings, no more wondering if fermentation is complete, no more risking contamination for the sake of another reading and no more guess work.

 

Getting To Know Your BeerBug


To make the rest of this post easier to follow, let’s get you familiar with the BeerBug & it’s accessories.

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And a quick breakdown of the BeerBug itself….

The BeerBug

The-BeerBug-Parts

Snout Screw:
Used to unscrew your BeerBug’s ‘Snout’ for cleaning & Sanitization.

Button:
The button on the underside of your BeerBug serves 2 purposes. During initial setup and calibration it will place your BeerBug into ‘High-Activity’ mode, allowing you to communicate with your BeerBug for the next 3 minutes. Outside of the setup & calibration windows, pressing the button will force an immediate reading of your beers temperature, alcohol % and specific gravity. (default = every 20 mins)


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BeerBug - Charging LED

Indicates that your unit is charging (red) or is fully charged (green).

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BeerBug - WiFi Connection LED

By pushing the button on the underside of your BeerBug, it will enter interactive mode for the next 3 minutes. Interactive mode is used during initial setup & calibration of your BeerBug.

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BeerBug - WiFi Activity

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First Time Setup


This section will walk you through setting up your BeerBug profile. Before you begin, you will want to make sure that your BeerBug is fully charged.

1.) Download the BeerBug application to your phone.

2.) Once you’ve installed the BeerBug app, you will need to create a BeerBug.com Account.

Note: You will need to verify your e-mail address after signing up.

 

3.) Once you’ve created your account, go ahead and login to your BeerBug App. Open the BeerBug Menu(top left) and select blink up. You should then be prompted to enter the credentials for your WiFi Network.

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4.) Once you click the Next button, you will be taken to the Blinkup screen. From here, You will want to press the button on the bottom side of your BeerBug to enable interactive mode and then click on “Send Blinkup” on your phone. Position the face of your phone over the top of your BeerBug until the phone is done blinking. (about 10 seconds)

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**If the WiFi LED starts blinking green, you have successfully connected your BeerBug to your Wireless network.

 

5.) Once you’ve successfully completed the blink-up process, you will need to associate your BeerBug with your profile.

From the home screen of your BeerBug app, click on add a Bug, and then enter the 16 digit identification code that is printed on the quick start guide.

BeerBug-Add-A-Bug

Note: If you have problems connecting your beerbug, try restarting your phone.

 

6.) Once you’ve associated your BeerBug with your Account, you should now be able to see data being uploaded to your account from your BeerBug. At this point, you can proceed to customize your BeerBug’s name and other profile information from your mobile phone or a desktop computer.

Here is a quick video showing you how to quickly setup your online profile from your PC.

 

 

Creating Your First Beer With The BeerBug


Now that you’re familiar with the BeerBug, Let’s take a quick look at the BeerBug in action.

Just like all of your brewing gear, it’s important that we clean and sanitize the parts of our BeerBug that will be coming in contact with your beer. This means removing the BeerBug’s snout, air-lock adapter and torpedo and placing them in a solution of water and star-san. Then, using either a Q-tip or paper towel, take your sanitizer solution and carefully clean the bottom area around the Blade and the inside of the BeerBug’s Snout.

Cleaning-The-BeerBug

After you’ve transferred your beer to your fermenting vessel, It’s time to re-assemble your BeerBug and create our first brew! In order to get the most accurate results possible, It is advised that you wait about 1 hour after setting up your BeerBug before creating a New Brew.

Login to your BeerBug account and browse to: My Bugs > ‘Bug Name’ > New Brew

BeerBug-New-Brew
Once you’ve clicked the New Brew button, the BeerBug website will guide you through the entire setup process via their 6 step tutorial. While most of the screens are fairly self explanatory, There are a few sections of the setup process that I thought it would be helpful to elaborate on.

Step 1 – Creating A New Brew

Fairly straightforward here – Enter a name for your beer, select a style, expected ABV, batch volume size and add your brewers notes.

BeerBug-New-Brew-Step1

Expected ABV:
If you are using an extract or partial mash kit, the expected ABV can usually be found right on the box. If you are crafting your own recipe and are unsure what to enter for an expected ABV, feel free to make an educated guess. This value can always be updated once the beer is complete!
**Also See: ABV Calculator

 

Step 2 –  BeerBug & Torpedo Setup

  • Your BeerBug should be level with the ground.
  • The torpedo should be completely submerged but not touching the bottom of your fermenting vessel or the trub.
  • The torpedo should be unobstructed and there shouldn’t be any excess tension being placed on the line.

BeerBug-Calibration

 

Step 3 – Calibration

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to calibrate your BeerBug in a solution of water to make sure that your Beerbug is setup properly and you are getting accurate readings. **See: calibration

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For the most accurate data possible, calibrate your BeerBug using the Specific Gravity reading taken from your BeerBug 1 hour after initial setup.

A Quick Note About Calibration
When you calibrate your BeerBug you are assigning a reference point.  Therefore, whatever you calibrate your BeerBug to must be the actual gravity of the solution your BeerBug is in at the time of calibration.

For example: If you BeerBug is in your wort and the gravity is 1.061, you can calibrate your BeerBug to 1.061.  As the gravity decreases, your BeerBug will measure and report that accordingly. Or if you choose to calibrate your BeerBug to water (roughly 1.000) then place it in another fluid, Your BeerBug will scale from 1.000 to whatever the actual gravity of your solution/wort is.

Step 4 – Prepare To Capture Instant Data Point

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Step 5 – Instant Data

Before you can capture an instant data point, you need to press the button on the underside of your BeerBug to enable ‘High Activity Mode’.

 

 

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Once enabled, the Wifi Connection LED should remain solid green for 3 minutes before the BeerBug defaults back into standby mode.

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If you’ve successfully captured an instant data point, Step 5 of the tutorial should update with the Current SG values and temperature. If you followed my advice and waited an hour before setting up your New Brew, Update the OG value shown below with the BeerBug’s Current Gravity reading.

If it has not been at least an hour since you setup your BeerBug, simply click Next to finish the setup process.
(You can update these values manually later on)

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Step 6 – Finish Brew Setup & Beer Profile Page

Once you’ve completed your first New Brew, You will be taken to the beers profile page. From here you can customize the photo associated with your Beer, update brewers notes, share your brew on Social Media & more.

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Since this is my first experience using the BeerBug, I’ve decided to keep things simple by using an Kiwi Express IPA – Extract Kit from my local Northern Brewer store. You can follow along with my first ‘BeerBug Brew’ by checking out the beers profile page.

 

Step 7 – Cleaning & Sanitation

Once fermentation is complete, you will want to start cleaning your BeerBug and preparing it for storage. This is the exact same process that we used for sanitization. Remove the snout and clean the BeerBug’s blade, temperature probe, snout, air-lock adapter and torpedo.

 

Troubleshooting


If you are unable to find the answer you’re looking for below, please visit the BeerBug Support Page.

General Troubleshooting Advice

Don’t see your issue listed below? Try the following before contacting BeerBug Support!

  • Reboot Phone or PC
  • Make sure your router’s WiFi is set to 2.4ghz only
  • Reboot your Router
  • Try a different browser. (Opera, Chrome, IE, Firefox, etc)
  • Test your BeerBug’s readings in a solution of water first. Are they accurate?

How do I calibrate my BeerBug?

For the most accurate results, you should always plan on calibrating your BeerBug before using it. To get started, you will need to fill up a spare bucket/carboy with warm water and attach your BeerBug and any other accessories you plan on using as shown.

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Just like when you are setting up your BrewBug for use in a real batch, you will want to make sure that the BeerBug and the Torpedo are set up properly. Your BeerBug should be kept level and your torpedo should always be completely submerged, but never touching the bottom.
BeerBug-Calibration

Once everything is setup, you will want to login to your BeerBug Profile and create a test brew. From here, simply hit the calibrate button and monitor the next several data points to make sure that your BeerBug is reading as close to accurate as possible. (Water should equal approximately 1.000 SG)

Calibrating-Your-BeerBug-button

Why isn't my BeerBug able to complete the Blink-up procedure?

The BeerBug Blink-up procedure uses a phototransistor inside of the BeerBug to interpret your phones blinking screen to complete syncing both devices. The angle, location and even (occasionally) strong ambient light can cause problems during the blink-up process. It may take a few tries to complete the blink-up process successfully.

Note: The phototransistor is located on the bottom right of the BeerBug.

My BeerBug is not accepting my 16 digit identification number...

Occasionally, you may need to reboot your phone after installing the BeerBug app or completing the Blink-Up procedure for the first time.

If you are still unable to add your BeerBug to your online profile after rebooting your phone, contact BeerBug Support.

What size hose do I need for the blow-off hose adapter?

The blow-off hose adapter requires 1/2″ hosing.

The data points my BeerBug is recording don't seem to be accurate, How can I fix this?

This is a difficult question to tackle since there can be so many reasons why your BeerBug could be reporting inaccurate data results, but here are a few things to look for before contacting their support team.

Is the Torpedo setup properly?
The torpedo should be completely submerged, but not touching the bottom of your fermenting vessel. The line should be completely free of any excess tension or obstacles. The BeerBug calculates gravity and Alcohol based on the buoyancy readings it receives from the torpedo, a heavy film of krausen or a poorly deployed torpedo can and will effect the tension on the torpedo’s line.

Did you try re-calibrating your BeerBug?
If you initially calibrated your BeerBug in a solution of water, and are having difficulty getting accurate readings, consider re-calibrating (taring) your BeerBug in your Beer. The BeerBug staff recommend waiting about an hour after you’ve added your BeerBug to your beer before taking an instant data point and using that gravity reading to re-calibrate your BeerBug.

Did you clean the BeerBug’s Snout & Blade properly?
If the first batch was a success, but you are having problems getting an accurate reading with consequent batches, you may simply need to dis-assemble your BeerBug and make sure it’s cleaned thoroughly. Any excess krausen or residue on the BeerBug’s Blade will effect the tension on the BeerBug’s blade, and thus your gravity and Alcohol readings.

Note: It’s not abnormal for your BeerBug to record an initial rise in gravity when you first deploy it. See: Gravity Readings Explained.

I am unable to upload photo's to my profile.

Please report this issue to the BeerBug support Team – there are no known instances where this should ever be a problem.

That said, if you are looking for a quick fix I would recommend trying a few different browsers (FireFox, Chrome, IE, Opera, etc) to help the support team narrow down the issue. If you are still unable to upload a photo to your profile, you may need to perform a hard reset on your BeerBug.

**see section below on how to perform a hard reset

My battery is dying too quickly - What's going on?

According to the BeerBug.com website, the BeerBug’s battery should last approximately 24 days. If your battery life is falling short, there are a few things you can try to help improve battery life.

Move Your Fermenting Vessel Or Router
While probably not an ideal long term solution, if your BeerBug is failing to produce consistent data points every 20 minutes, it could be an issue with connectivity. Consider moving your fermenting vessel closer to your router to improve it’s WiFi signal.

Configure Your Router Properly
The BeerBug functions in the 2.4ghz frequency range, if you happen to have a newer router it may be configured to send both a 2.4ghz and 5ghz signal. Login to your routers web interface and disable the 5ghz frequency range.
***See: BeerBug.com – Network Requirements

If all else fails, you can always simply keep it plugged in! Since the BeerBug is powered by a Micro USB charging cable, you can re-purpose many Android Cell phone charging adapters or simply purchase a USB charging adapter. If plugging your BeerBug in isn’t an option for you, don’t be afraid to contact the BeerBug Support Forums for additional help troubleshooting your issues.

How do I perform a hard reset of my BeerBug?

**If you’ve already added your BeerBug to your profile, you may need to delete your BeerBugs current profile information before proceeding.

BeerBug-Hard-Reset

In order to perform a hard reset, you will need to use a small screw driver to short the J4 connection pins located alongside of the Temperature Probe connection on the under side of your BeerBug. When done properly, a hard reset will be indicated by all the LEDs turning off for a few seconds and then the WiFi Activity LED should begin to start blinking green when complete.

Additional Resources

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