From the Back of the Drawer: Sikes Hydrometer


Justin Avellar

Each week, we rummage through the dark corners of our kitchen drawers to bring you an enigmatic item. We ask you to guess what it is in our weekly From the Back of the Drawer puzzle. To enter this week’s puzzle, visit this page. To read more descriptions of past items, visit this page. And, don’t forget to donate your odd items to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

This week, we found a Sikes Hydrometer!

Determining the amount of alcohol is very important in finding the value of the product and making sure it meets industry and government standards. The Sikes Hydrometer is a 19th century tool developed for just this purpose. It was created in London in 1802 by Bartholomew Sikes. It relies on a thermometer, weights, and a ball on a stick to accurately measure the amount of alcohol in a container. It was used in Great Britain until 1980, when they switched over to the European Union standard of alcohol by volume.  The United States also uses alcohol by volume as a measure, but permits manufacturers to label the proof as well (in the US, proof is twice the ABV, whereas in Great Britain the proof was roughly seven-fourths the ABV).

Our Rating: A tool essential to anyone brewing or distilling any sort of alcohol.  It was developed over two centuries ago and can still be applied today.

Design: Sleek, shiny, sciencey expensive-looking.

Originality: It was a totally new way to measure the amount of alcohol.  It was more precise and easier than the previous devise.

Practicality: If you are looking to brew your own alcohol, then this is the tool to use to measure the proof.

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