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8 Tips on Preparing Your Wine Lab for Testing

Wine glass on a picnic table

We all know that getting accurate measurements is crucial in wine production. The last thing you need while working in your wine lab is to realize halfway through that you're missing something from your supply or that a piece of equipment isn't working properly. 

The Hanna team has put together this guide to help you set up your wine lab for testing and keep up with regular maintenance along the way. By following these eight steps, you can be sure that your wine lab is always ready to handle all of your testing needs including pH, SO2, ORP, TA, and refractometry.

See All of Our Products for Winemaking 

  1. Restock Calibration Buffers
  2. Stock the Right Cleaning Solution
  3. Use Electrode Storage Solution
  4. Check the Electrode Fill Levels
  5. Check That Your Electrodes are Functioning Correctly
  6. Stock Back-up Electrodes
  7. Consider a Mini Titrator
  8. Upgrade to a Digital Refractometer

1. Restock Calibration Buffers

pH electrodes should be calibrated before use. Ideally, daily calibrations should be performed to keep your measurements accurate. Over time an opened bottle of buffer will degrade, and the pH value on the bottle will not be the actual pH value of the solution. For this reason, you should replace any buffers that have been open for more than 4-8 weeks, regardless of the expiration date on the package.

Print out our pH Best Practices Guide to hang in your lab as a reminder of this and other important tips!

The calibration buffers that are most used in wine production are the pH 7.01 buffer (500 ml) - HI7007L, the pH 4.01 buffer (500 ml) - HI7004L, and the pH 3.00 buffer (500 ml) - HI5003.

2. Stock the Right Cleaning Solution

Electrodes need to be clean in order to function properly. With pH probes, stains or coatings on the sensitive glass surface will cause a change in the voltage generated by the pH electrode in a solution. You also need to watch for clogging of the junction. Coatings on the glass or clogging of the junction will result in slow, erratic readings. Hanna recommends using the HI1048 electrode designed specifically for wine for best performance.

Hanna Tip: Use specially formulated cleaning solutions rather than general ones. For wine applications we recommend using Cleaning Solution for Wine Deposits (500mL) - HI70635L or Cleaning Solution for Wine Stains (500 mL) - HI70636L.

3. Use Electrode Storage Solution

Wine lab set up for edge pH meterStorage solutions (like Hanna's Electrode Storage Solution (500 mL) - HI70300L) are designed to keep the pH bulb hydrated and maintain a flowing junction. After cleaning an electrode it should be hydrated in storage solution for at least 3-4 hours, and an electrode should be stored in a storage solution at all times when not in use.

A dry junction slows down the flow of the electrolyte solution inside the probe. This impacts the junction potential as well as the stability and response of the electrode. Properly stored electrodes will exhibit higher accuracy and have a longer lifespan than ones that aren't stored correctly.

Hanna Tip: Do you have a properly stored electrode that still isn't performing like it should? Download our pH Electrode Troubleshooting Guide for more tips.

4. Check the Electrode Fill Levels

Refillable pH or ORP electrodes need to be topped off with electrolyte at a certain point. The fill solution should always be full in order to provide an adequate amount of pressure. This pressure allows for the flow of electrolyte through the junction and into the sample. The ions in the electrolyte complete the electrical measuring circuit between the meter, electrode, and the wine sample being tested.

Hanna Tip: Remove the fill cap while testing to ensure electrolyte flow. Replace and tighten the fill cap to preserve electrolyte during storage. 

Single-junction and double-junction electrodes have different fill solutions

Don't know what kind of junction your electrode has? The diagram below will help you identify it.  Use our HI7082 solution if you have a double-junction electrode or the HI7071 solution for a single-junction.

Diagram: Single junction compared with double junction pH electrode

5. Check That Your Electrodes are Functioning Correctly

pH Electrodes

Electrodes have a limited lifespan. A reading that takes too long to stabilize (more than 30 seconds) may be a sign that your electrode is failing.

To check the the overall condition of a pH electrode you need to check two values: the offset (mV value in pH 7.01) and the slope (mV difference between pH 7.01 and pH 4.01). The offset and slope of a pH electrode should always be checked with fresh buffers. If your meter has a Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) option then it will provide the data for you after calibration. 

If your meter does not have a GLP option, then any meter with a mV mode can be used to check the pH electrode.

Here are the instructions for checking slope and offset without GLP mode: 


For a pH electrode placed in pH 7.01 buffer, the theoretical mV should be 0. However, due to variations in the glass, aging, and conditioning, the offset voltage will usually stray, so an acceptable offset voltage is +/- 30 mV. Most meters will allow calibration at values as high as +/- 60 mV for pH 7.01 buffer, but at this point the accuracy of your measurements will decrease.


The ideal slope for a pH electrode is 100% or 59.16 mV change per pH unit @ 25 ºC. For pH 4, this represents a 177.48 mV difference, since pH 4 buffer is three units away from pH 7 (59.16 mV x 3). The absolute minimum slope for an operable electrode is 85% or 150 mV (177.48 x 0.85).

If the offset and slope values are outside the acceptable ranges, try cleaning and hydrating the probe, then retesting. For refillable probes, you can take the additional step of changing the reference fill solution. If the values are still outside the range, your probe likely needs to be replaced.

ORP Electrodes

SO2 potentiometric Ripper titrations use an ORP electrode for determining the endpoint. It is important to periodically check the ORP electrode using an ORP test solution. 

To check an ORP electrode, the probe is placed in an ORP test solution of a known value. Let's use the HI7021L 240 mV @ 25°C ORP Test Solution (500 mL) as an example. A properly functioning electrode will read 240 mV +/- 20 mV. Readings outside this range indicate that the platinum tip and/or band need to be polished, or the electrolyte fill solution needs to be changed. If the ORP electrode cannot be brought within range, then it should be replaced.

Hanna Tip: Very fine sand paper, like 2000 grit, can be used to polish a tarnished ORP tip or band. The ORP sensing portion of the electrode should be shiny.

6. Stock Back-up Electrodes

Due to the limited lifespan of electrodes, we recommend that you have a back-up electrode in case yours fails.

We highly recommend using electrodes specifically designed for wine making. Factors like body type, junction material, type of junction, fill solution, and the type of glass are all part of the design process. The right mix of materials and technologies significantly improves accuracy, ease-of-use, and the working life of the electrode. 

Types and Benefits of Wine-Specific Electrodes

The HI1048 electrode series is designed with special features specifically for use by winemakers.

Close-up of wine specific electrodeCPS Sleeve Junction

Hanna's Clogging Prevention System (CPS) is an innovation in electrode technology. Conventional pH electrodes use ceramic junctions which clog quickly when used in wine must. When the junction gets clogged, the electrode won't function. CPS technology uses porous ground glass coupled with a PTFE (a material similar to Teflon™sleeve to prevent clogging; the ground glass allows proper flow of the electrolyte, while the PTFE repels dirt. As a result, pH electrodes with CPS will require less maintenance and function longer than a conventional electrode would in wine production.

Wine lab eletrode tip

Double Junction Reference

A double junction electrode, such as the ones in the HI1048 wine series, has an internal compartment surrounding the reference wire. Silver ions are present in the electrolyte of the internal compartment, which houses the reference wire; the electrolyte outside this compartment is silver free. The double junction design means that virtually no silver from the electrode enters the sample. This design allows measurement in applications where silver ions in the sample are undesirable or silver precipitates on the junction are likely to form.

Electrode Connectors

The HI1048 electrode series comes available with a variety of connectors so they can be used with a wide range of meters and instruments. The two most popular connections are the BNC and 3.5mm connectors.

BNC connector for wine lab electrode

BNC – such as the pH Electrode with CPS and BNC Connector - HI1048B – are universal and can be used with any meter that has a BNC connector, like the Mini-Titrator for Measuring Titratable Acidity in Wine - HI84502.

35mm connector for wine lab electrode

A 3.5mm pin connection, such as the one on the Digital Glass Body pH Electrode with CPS - HI10480 for edge, is a digital pH electrode which contains a built-in microchip that stores information such as your sensor type, the serial number, and calibration information including the date, time, offset, slope, probe condition, and buffers used. The HI10480 has a built-in sensor for temperature compensated measurements.

This type of connection can only be used with our line of edge meters, which includes the edge Wine pH Meter Kit - 2020W, the edge Dedicated pH/ORP - HI2002, the edge Multiparameter pH - HI2020, the edge Multiparameter EC/TDS/Salinity - HI2030, and the edge Multiparameter DO - HI2040.  

The wine-specific pH Electrode with CPS - HI10480 comes standard with the HI2020W Wine pH Meter Kit.

HALO Wireless Electrode

The HALO Bluetooth pH Electrode for Wine - HI10482 offers all the wine-specific features of the HI1048 wired electrode but saves you the cost of a meter. Once the free Hanna Lab app is downloaded onto your smart phone or tablet, your device becomes your meter!

HALO pH electrode being calibrated in the lab

Features of the Hanna Lab App include easy calibration, pH measurement, data logging, graphing, and data sharing. The HALO offers a great addition to your pH testing analysis tool kit both as a back-up and as an additional meter for high volume analysis periods.

Learn More About HALO

You can try the Hanna Lab App before purchasing a HALO probe by using it in demo mode. Watch the video below to see how it works, then download the app and give it a try!

Video: Hanna Lab app in demo mode (30 seconds)

Button to download Hanna Lab App (Apple Store) Button to download Hanna Lab App (Google Play)

ORP Electrodes for Winemakers

Much like a pH electrode, Oxidation-Reduction Potential (ORP) electrodes also have their own design criteria. Since the ORP electrode is used with the same type of samples in wine testing as a pH electrode, you want it to have similar features.

The ORP Electrode with CPS and BNC Connector - HI3148B is a double junction, refillable ORP electrode with a platinum ring sensing tip, as well as CPS technology and the same unique junction as the HI1048 pH electrode. It has a BNC connector and can be used with any titrator that has a BNC input. The HI3148B is supplied with the Mini Titrator for Measuring Sulfur Dioxide in Wine - HI84500.

Speaking of titrators...

7. Consider Getting a Mini Titrator

Hanna's mini titrators for the winemaker are popular for their accuracy, ease-of-use, and – with a purchase price below $1,000 affordability. No technical expertise is needed to operate one of our mini titrators; they let you ditch the manual burette and receive accurate results at the push of a button.

Mini titrators are used as the main automated titration system for many wineries, as well as back up titrators for high volume periods. They can also cover for outages with larger systems.

HI84500: Free and Total SO2 Mini Titrator for a Wine Lab

Check out all our wine-specific mini titrators, and see what they can do for you.

8. Upgrade to a Digital Refractometer

A well-designed refractometer needs very little maintenance. If you are using a mechanical refractometer then you may want to consider upgrading to a digital version for improved accuracy and ease-of-use.

Hanna makes two digital refractometers specifically for wine: the HI96811 and the HI96813.

HI96811 digital refractometer for a Wine Lab

The Digital Refractometer for Sugar (% Brix) Analysis in Wine, Must and Juice - HI96811 measures from 0 to 50% Brix with an accuracy of +/- 0.2%.

The Digital Refractometer for % Brix and Potential Alcohol (% V/V) Analysis in Wine, Must and Juice - HI96813 has the same functions as the HI96811, but also features an additional algorithm that predicts the potential alcohol from the refractive index of the sample. The potential alcohol range is 0 to 25% V/V.

Both meters convert the refractive index of a wine, juice, or must sample to % Brix. This conversion is based on the tables found in the ICUMSA Methods Book (International Commission for Uniform Methods of Sugar Analysis) which documents the changes in refractive index with temperature for a percent by weight sucrose solution. Since the majority of sugars in grape juice and must are fructose and glucose,  rather than sucrose, the reading is sometimes referred to as “apparent Brix.”

The common features in both meters include:

  • Reporting sugar content as % Brix.
  • Simple operation with only two buttons – one to calibrate and one to take a measurement.
  • Sample sizes as small as two metric drops (about 100 μL).
  • Automatic compensation for temperature variations with a 1.5 second response time.
  • An easy-to-clean sealed flint glass prism and stainless steel well.

Prepare Your Wine Lab Now


Dave Masulli

Written by Dave Masulli

Dave graduated from Rhode Island College with a degree in chemistry and biology. He’s passionate about food science, process analysis, and good coffee.

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