Brix, Balling, Plato, and Specific Gravity
In general the terms degrees Brix, degrees Plato and degrees Balling are all interchangeable. All three scales express the weight percentage of sugar solutions and relate this weight to specific gravity. Specific gravity relates the weight of a given volume of liquid to the same volume of water. Liquids heavier than water like must or wort have a specific gravity greater than 1.000. Liquids lighter than water like alcohol have a specific gravity less than 1.000.
The oldest scale, Balling, was established in 1843. A bit later Brix corrected some of the calculation errors in the Balling scale and introduced the Brix table. Then in the early 1900’s Plato and his collaborators made further improvements introducing the Plato scale. Essentially they are the same. The tables differ in their conversion from weight percentage to specific gravity in the fifth and sixth decimal places of the specific gravity scale.
A rough conversion between Brix, degrees Plato or degrees Balling and specific gravity can be made by dividing the number behind the decimal point which is often referred to as gravity points by 4. So a specific gravity of 1.048 has 48 gravity points. 48 divided by 4 is 12 degrees Plato, Balling or Brix. This conversion method is pretty accurate up to a specific gravity of 1.070 at this point the approximation begins to deviate from the actual conversion.
Winemakers as well as the sugar and juice industry typically use degrees Brix. British brewers generally use degrees Plato. American brewers use a mixture of degrees Balling, degrees Plato and specific gravity. Home wine, mead, cider, and beer makers typically use specific gravity.