The Tilt hydrometer is a digital brewing tool that allows you to take instant specific gravity, temperature, and alcohol % readings with your compatible smartphone or Tilt Pi. The Tilt hydrometer is especially valuable for homebrewers looking for more control and insight over their fermentation process.
I instantly found value in my Tilt just after using it a few times. While it definitely comes with some drawbacks and caveats, it’s a much better way to monitor fermentation temp and get real-time specific gravity readings without pulling a manual hydrometer sample. Below is an honest hands-on review of the Tilt brewing hydrometer.
Designed for home brewing, the Tilt hydrometer lets you instantly read your beer’s specific gravity and temperature on your compatible Apple iPhone/iPad or Android smartphone/tablet or Tilt Pi. You must download and install the free Tilt app on the Apple/Google store or get the free Tilt Pi download for the Tilt to function with your smartphone/tablet or other compatible devices.
The Tilt is a small tubular hydrometer measuring about 3.5 inches in height and 1 inch in diameter. The Tilt can be dropped into the fermenter after pitching your yeast and it will instantly start working. The Tilt by default will push specific gravity, temperature, and current alcohol % data to the cloud every 15 minutes (this setting can be adjusted). The readings along with the date and time are added to an automatically generated Google Sheets document in separate rows.
Tilt hydrometers come in 8 FUN colors so you can easily manage several different Tilts/fermentations at once in a color-coded system.
Tilt claims the specific gravity is accurate +/- 0.002 within a range of 0.990 to 1.120. The thermometer is accurate +/- 1 degree F (+/- 0.5 degrees C). Readings can be toggled between Plato/standard gravity and temperature in Fahrenheit/Celsius. Other than a few odd fluctuations throughout fermentation, I found the Tilt to be very accurate in comparison to my hydrometer. Tilt claims krausen won’t impact readings but I’m sure some stages of active fermentation may temporarily give you an inaccurate reading. Tilt successfully hit my original and final gravity in comparison with my hydrometer.
Tilt Hydrometer Set Up and Calibration
The Tilt comes packaged in a clear plastic case (like above) that almost resembles the physical product itself. Don’t forget to remove the Tilt from the package! The Tilt turns on/off automatically as it floats in liquid. Call it magic but there isn’t actually an on/off switch. Throw your Tilt in a pint glass of water and you should be able to pair it with the Tilt app. Just ensure Bluetooth is turned on on your device.
Once the Tilt is paired with your smartphone/tablet, you can calibrate it using Tilt’s recommended process. You can also calibrate with a traditional hydrometer or known SG of wort. I ended up calibrating my Tilt in tap water along with my test batch’s OG using a reading from my standard hydrometer or refractometer. It’s recommended to add a few calibration points for accuracy. These can easily be changed or adjusted within the app on the fly if needed. I used a trusted thermometer to calibrate the temperature.
Once your Tilt is in liquid, you can name your batch of beer, email yourself a link to the cloud logging via Google Sheets, and start a new logging process. Note: You must enter a Gmail address in the Tilt app every time you start a new log in order for Tilt to email you a convenient link to your log. A log will be created regardless of entering an email address, it’s just harder to find. My historic logs appear under the “Shared with me” tab in my Google Sheets account.
As soon as you start logging a fermentation, all information from the Tilt will be synced to the same spreadsheet under the batch name you choose. You can end the logging process or start a fresh one as well. All of this is easily managed in the Tilt app. You can learn more about the technical stuff here.
I love the Tilt because I can instantly get a gravity reading whenever I want. This is especially beneficial for knowing when fermentation has completed. Generally speaking, if your final gravity holds steady for 24 hours and you’re at or near terminal gravity, fermentation is likely done. It’s certainly been interesting to watch the progression of my last two fermentations.
So this is all great but why do I need to monitor fermentation like a complete psycho?
And why do I actually bring my fermenter up to bed with me at night so I can monitor readings at 3 AM? It’s invaluable for monitoring fermentation for dry-hopping schedules for NEIPAs for instance. A lot of NEIPA recipes call for dry hopping at very specific gravity points throughout fermentation OR either terminal gravity or just before.
Being able to monitor gravity continuously will ensure you don’t miss your target or window of opportunity. Doing this manually with a traditional hydrometer requires continuous wort samples, risking oxidation, and wasting beer. Not to mention it’s a pain in the ass. The automatically generated Google spreadsheet features a cool line graph that plots temp and gravity so you can visualize fluctuations and the overall timeline.
It would be ideal if you could access this extra data from within the app itself but I guess it’s safer in the cloud anyway. You will also see additional stats in the spreadsheet, one of the most valuable being the current ABV. This eliminates the need for hydrometer temperature correction or calculations.
Since the hydrometer sits inside my fermentation vessel, I can get a really accurate reading of the beer’s temp. This is especially great for keg fermenting since I don’t have a thermowell installed. I will say however that my Inkbird probe taped to the side of my corny fermenter is within 2-3 degrees of my Tilt’s temp reading.
Tilt and Brewfather
Tilt has native integration with the Brewfather app that allows you to generate a gravity/temp chart right within the Brewfather’s recipe/batch feature. This allows for easy access to fermentation data that is conveniently stored along with all of your other brew day statistics. You will still need a smartphone or tablet to push this information to the Brewfather app, but I’ve personally found that it’s an easy way to both organize and access Tilt information on the fly. You can learn more about my experience using Brewfather with Tilt here.
Tilt Pi and Raspberry Pi
I am not a Raspberry Pi user but there is a more technical implementation that allows you to have a continuous logging process by pairing Tilt Pi with Raspberry Pi. This would allow you to not have to use a smartphone/tablet to access or transmit data continuously to the cloud. I would say this would be more advanced in terms of a typical user’s setup so I’m not going to cover it for now. I’d be curious to explore this later. You can learn a little more about that here.
Don’t get too excited just yet, there’s always a catch. The biggest drawback (or maybe even misconception) with the Tilt is the range of the device and how it actually transmits information. The Tilt is powered via Bluetooth (or sometimes wifi depending on your setup), meaning you need to have your smartphone within physical range with the app open to receive a gravity/temp reading.
Depending on your fermentation vessel’s material and setup, your results may vary in terms of range. With my Tilt in a plastic bucket with the lid on, I was able to connect and get a reading on my phone from my kitchen, which is the floor directly above my basement brewery.
In my actual use case (I ferment in corny kegs in a fridge) if I am not standing within 1 foot of my fridge, I cannot get a reading. UNLESS you leave your phone/tablet plugged in within range of your fermenter with the app open in the foreground of your phone, you will not be able to connect to your Tilt and transmit data. Yes, your Tilt app cannot be running in the background, your smartphone or tablet must always be unlocked and open to get true continuous monitoring shared via the cloud.
This is certainly annoying if you don’t have a dedicated smartphone/tablet to devote to your Tilt. The Tilt cannot transmit data directly to the cloud/Google Sheets without using a phone or tablet as an intermediary device. While I wish it could work more in the background, I’m not sure I ACTUALLY need a gravity reading every 15 minutes. Walking into my basement brewery 1-2 times a day (especially with working from home) is probably good enough for me in terms of logging information. It also only takes 20 seconds to complete the trip. I do have an old phone that I plan on rigging up for next time.
As a side note, it’s safe to say the Tilt will work inside even the most elaborate conical vessels assuming your smartphone/tablet is close by.
Increase Range With the Tilt Repeater
It’s worth mentioning that Tilt sells a repeater device for $65 that will boost your Tilts range by 25 feet. In theory, I could place my repeater on top of my fermenting fridge and transmit a reading from my kitchen on the floor above. I have not tested this, but it’s an option for those of you who would like more range. To reiterate, you would still need to open the Tilt app to take a specific gravity reading.
Overall, the Tilt hydrometer is an awesome device that enables you to have better control over your beer. It’s not a cheap hydrometer, clocking in at $135, but I would say it’s absolutely worth the investment. I wish the Tilt had a more automated means of transmitting data to the cloud without the need for a dedicated phone/tablet or constant trips to the fermenter. The overall range is also a bit disappointing if you ferment in a steel vessel or within a fridge or keezer.
I also wish the Tilt’s temperature reading could functionally power my fermenter’s cooling source. A simple solution for this does not yet exist but it would seem there must be a way to solve for this at some point given the open-source build and wireless technology.
These things aside (which I’ll admit are a bit nitpicky), I still think the benefit of accurate temp readings along with easy continuous gravity readings makes the Tilt a valuable tool, especially if you’re interested in more deliberate or repeatable fermentation schedules. My philosophy on luxury-type brewing equipment is that the investment is usually valued by what you’re willing to shell out for overall convenience. Yes, a standard hydrometer will allow you to closely monitor much fermentation cheaper, but you’ll also need to take hourly readings to get the same level of data points.
I would say you could let your old hydrometer collect dust and just use the Tilt for both original and final gravity but I think it’s always worth double-checking from time to time.
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In addition to the tilt app and tiltpi, there is another option similar to the tilt pi in that it will continuously record for your without the phone and its hiccups, but is easier to setup. Tiltbridge http://www.tiltbridge.com