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pH Cheap vs Expensive Ph Meters

Hopefully somebody can help me answer this.
 
I've been researching PH meters for sauce making (and to be used for my hydro plants). Throughout the site, I've found people getting the cheapo $13 ph meters from Amazon, and some others getting $40-$50 units. It was also mentioned that the probes have a shelf life, and that they have to be replaced eventually.
 
Some of the more expensive $100 units have replaceable probes (like this one - https://www.hannainst.com/hi98128-phep-ph-tester.html) but the replacement probe itself is $60, and somewhere I read that the warranty on the probes is 6 months.
 
So, now, the question - what exactly do you get for the extra money here? Is it accuracy? Is it durability? One difference in features I've noticed is temperature-compensated readings. 
 
How often can I expect to have to replace the mid-range ($40-$60) units? I think it might be a stretch to expect they will last 3 - 4 times as long as the $13 ones when the replacement probes are only guaranteed for 6 months/1 year on the more expensive units.
 
Thoughts?
Thanks!
 

CaneDog

Extreme Member
I've had the Hanna HI 98128 from your link and it worked well for about 3 years before it started getting iffy on me.  It finally became unusable at about 4 years.  Just a month ago the cost of the Hanna was $120 and a new probe was $99.  I figured I could get a new quality unit for less than the cost of the Hanna probe.
 
I replaced it last month with this - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ENFOHN8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 
I've been happy with decision to get the new one versus the probe.  It comes in a nice snap-locking case and with small bottles of 4.0 and 7.0 calibration solutions. The Hanna came in a thin cardboard box with just itself and instructions.  Also, the new one has a flat bottom cap, versus the rounded bottom of the Hanna, so the cap can be partial filled with storage solution or tap water (but never distilled/purified/RO) and the unit is easier to stand upright versus tipping over, which would cause the probe to lose contact with the storage solution.
 
Both these units have temperature compensation, which probably isn't necessary if used only for nutrient solutions.  pH meters without temp compensation are commonly calibrated for 68F and within 10-15F the effect of a higher/lower temperature isn't all that much.  But for home brewing or hot sauces it sure comes in handy.  I note that the new unit is slower to read temperature, and therefore compensate the reading, than was the Hanna.
 
When I got the new unit I called their tech support and asked a bunch of questions I had, including ones similar to yours.  The tech person seemed to be someone who'd worked for the company for some time and with at least some scientific background, rather than some call center rep.  You may want to call and ask them questions. I expect you'd reach the same woman I did and she was totally willing to take time and talk with me.   Their number is here - https://aperainst.com/contact-us.  Accuracy definitely drives price, but both units I've owned hold calibration quite well and we're generally not looking for high scientific accuracy.  I can't speak to the very inexpensive units, but I definitely don't want to be calibrating all the time and I haven't had to with this one.  I like being able to just check against 7.0 periodically to confirm it's on and not spend a bunch of time to get to taking readings.
 
Hope this helps some.
 

Bou

Extreme Member
Don't know about the other brand (which seems like a good one btw and not over pricey) but a thing that I do like about the Hanna HI98128 is that it is 100% waterfproof and it floats (yes, I tested it!).
 
Another thing, I would not use the same unit for cooking and hydro solution reading...
 

CaneDog

Extreme Member
Bou said:
Another thing, I would not use the same unit for cooking and hydro solution reading...
 
Good point, Bou.  I do use the same unit for both, but I pull food/beverage samples into Dixie cups or similar to avoid potential contamination.  It's also helpful in that a smaller sample cools into readable temperature range fairly quickly.
 
CaneDog said:
I've had the Hanna HI 98128 from your link and it worked well for about 3 years before it started getting iffy on me.  It finally became unusable at about 4 years.  Just a month ago the cost of the Hanna was $120 and a new probe was $99.  I figured I could get a new quality unit for less than the cost of the Hanna probe.
 
I replaced it last month with this - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ENFOHN8/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
 
Thanks CD! that was the same dilemma I had - what is the benefit of getting a unit with a replaceable probe when the probe is more expensive than a mid-range unit? I figure if it works for 3-4 years it is definitely worth the $40 - $50
 
Bou said:
Don't know about the other brand (which seems like a good one btw and not over pricey) but a thing that I do like about the Hanna HI98128 is that it is 100% waterfproof and it floats (yes, I tested it!).
 
Another thing, I would not use the same unit for cooking and hydro solution reading...
 
Thanks for the tip Bou, makes sense!
 
CaneDog said:
 
Good point, Bou.  I do use the same unit for both, but I pull food/beverage samples into Dixie cups or similar to avoid potential contamination.  It's also helpful in that a smaller sample cools into readable temperature range fairly quickly.
 
Heh, to be honest this is what I was planning to do if the concern is contamination of the food, rather messing up the unit somehow. Take a sample of the food, measure Ph, discard. 
 
Bou, what is your reasoning to use different probes?
 

Bou

Extreme Member
HeatMiser said:
 
Heh, to be honest this is what I was planning to do if the concern is contamination of the food, rather messing up the unit somehow. Take a sample of the food, measure Ph, discard. 
 
Bou, what is your reasoning to use different probes?
 
I usually don't wan't to use kitchen related gears to other purposes than cooking/food prep. Maybe it's overkill but that's the way I do!
 

salsalady

Business Member
Put a ceramic or ss condiment dish...like what tarter sauce is served in...in the fridge or freezer. Put a tablespoon of heated sauce in the cold dish, cools it down quick for pH reading.
 

The Hot Pepper

Founder
Admin
Neither of the ones posted are good for simmering or boiling sauce.
The Hanna:
Temperature Range -5.0 to 60.0°C / 23.0 to 140.0°F
and the Amazon one:
122F
You'll need a food grade meter for that like this: https://www.hannainst.com/hi99161-haccp-ph-meter-for-food-and-dairy.html
Temperature Range -5.0 to 105.0 °C/23.0 to 221.0 °F
(And not all food meters go that high, it just means it is made for food. Food-safe plastics, etc.)
 
If it says it's for ponds and aquariums, that's usually what it's for. But you can let a sample cool off and measure it but check if the probe is food-safe.
 
Semi-related question for you folks... When is the appropriate time to do the pH reading? I thought I read somewhere that it had to be between a certain range, something far lower than the cooking temperature. But if you have one of those fancy Hanna meters that goes up to 221 F then would you test it while boiling? I just want to be sure that pH doesn't change based on temperature.
 

salsalady

Business Member
If the meter is not rated for HOT temps, the readings wont be accurate. Most reasonably priced units work at room temp.

You can use the frozen ramekin trick to test during processing. But then there is as also the finished equilibrium pH test. That reading is done 24 hours after processing is finished. At room temp.
 

The Hot Pepper

Founder
Admin
robanero7 said:
Semi-related question for you folks... When is the appropriate time to do the pH reading? I thought I read somewhere that it had to be between a certain range, something far lower than the cooking temperature. But if you have one of those fancy Hanna meters that goes up to 221 F then would you test it while boiling? I just want to be sure that pH doesn't change based on temperature.
 
The meter needs something called Automatic Temperature Compensation. This means it will read correct pH not matter the temperature (in the range it specifies). If it does not have this, then, you are supposed to read it at an optimal temp.
 
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