Honey refractometers – Buying guide & Comparison
If you’re short on time or just don’t feel like going through this whole and all you’re here for is a quick suggestion for a good honey refractometer, then the following paragraph should tell you everything you need to know. After going through scores of honey refractometer reviews, both from experts and satisfied customers alike, we found that the Vee Gee Scientific BX-3 to be the item that might best suit your needs. Its outstanding feature is the manual temperature control, which allows for a greater temperature range to be adjusted for with a higher degree of precision than in models that do this automatically. Otherwise, it takes accurate Brix measures slightly exceeding the usual ranges — which makes it especially useful for premium honey makers — and its high-quality construction will ensure that it will keep providing you with accurate measures for a long time. If the BX-3 is not available, then the GoerTek Refractometer would be our next best pick.
Our Top Choice
Since the casing is made of copper, the unit was specifically designed to provide increased heat conductivity between the sample and the prism. It also includes a rubber line that ensures no reading errors. It is very easy to handle this unit, as it comes with a non-roll stand, allowing you to place it on horizontal surfaces. Moreover, the measuring range goes from 60 to 92 percent.
Some users would like this unit to also include the Automatic Temperature Compensation feature, that other similar products have.
Obtain accurate readings with this reliable and easy-to-use honey refractometer.
This model is a very popular option because it comes at an affordable price and it also offers a high degree of versatility. In this sense, you can measure the sugar content of almost anything you want from your home, due to the Brix scale that goes from 0 to 90%, and a 0 base calibration. You can also make changes based on your needs thanks to the calibration screw.
The instructions are not extremely clear, and you might need to do a little more research online, as some comments have been made in this sense.
Measure the sugar content from honey or any other items in your home with this reliable unit.
Made particularly for beekeepers, this device can also measure the honey's moisture in the range of 10 and 33%, and also the glucose level on the Baume scale from 38 to 43. Of course, the unit does not lack the Brix scale. This product offers versatility, and it also saves you money and space as you do not have to buy and use three different devices for all these measurements.
For some customers, the measurements are a bit difficult to read. Also, the instructions are not very clear, so more research might be needed.
You can use this unit to measure the sugar content, as well as the glucose and moisture levels.
Whether you want to measure the sugar content in jams, jellies, marmalades, malt, honey or beer a refractometer is an invaluable tool for today’s homebrewer, especially since it can effectively replace a hydrometer for most sugary liquids. It can be however slightly off putting to shop for one since it’s not really an item we are all familiar with. That’s why we compiled the following short guide, which we hope will serve as an adequate introduction.
A refractometer works on the optical principle that light passing through a liquid refracts at a slightly different angle depending on the density of that liquid. Since sugar will always affect the density of fluid it is dissolved in, you can use the angle of refraction to discern the volume occupied by the sugar.
In short, the light passes through a sample, gets refracted at a certain angle dependent on its density (i.e., sugar content) and ends up a scale upon which Brix measurements are printed, Brix effectively being a measurement for sugar content. You look through the eyepiece and determine where the mark is at.
Potentially, a refractometer can measure the sugar content from 0 to 99%, but that’s only practical for lab equipment and will hardly be useful in a product for common use. Furthermore the higher the range, the harder will be for you to take accurate readings since the scale markings will be uncomfortably small.
The most common ranges for honey are around 58% to 90% Brix, with sensitive measurements towards the higher end of that spectrum being more important if you want to ensure that your honey has as little water as possible. That’s why the best refractometers for honey tend to exceed the 90% range, in order to provide more accurate and easy to read information near the area apiculturists care about.
Accuracy and temperature adjustment
Accuracy is as important as you need it to be. If you aim at winning international prizes with your honey, then we suggest you invest in the most accurate unit you can find. Otherwise, most good refractometers specify an accuracy of +/-2% and a resolution of 0,20%, which might as well tell us the thickness of the markings on the measuring scale.
Accuracy is also factored by how easy it is to read the measurement on the other side of the eyepiece. Most commercial refractometers use a contrast line between light blue and white, which is both transparent and comfortable to the eye in order to highlight the value.
Since you’re technically dealing with a difference in pressure, outside temperature and how well the product adjusts for it are the most important factors that can affect accuracy. Most models are advertised to compensate well for temperatures between 10 and 30 degrees C, and they do this both automatically or with user input.
Automatic temperature adjustment is a feature many users might find convenient. But like with any automatic function, it can work less well than advertised, while manual adjustments are always as good as your level of skill. There is a reason, after all, that professional photographers rarely buy auto-focused cameras.
The refractometer’s construction should provide both optimum heat transfer properties for higher accuracy and physical durability for a higher lifespan.
If you’re more interested in the former, know that a good model should employ materials with good heat conducting properties between the prism and the sample palette to ensure a perfect temperature equilibrium (most metals will do, you can find charts on which ones work better online) while insulation should be used on areas where your hand touches the item.
5 Best Honey Refractometers (Reviews) in 2020
Despite it being a niche instrument, there are enough brands and models of refractometers available for sale to make finding the right one quite hard. After looking through dozens and dozens of consumer reports and expert reviews, we’ve made a selection of a few good units we are willing to recommend.
1. Vee Gee Scientific BX-3 Handheld Refractometer
This Vee Gee Scientific model might require a little extra tinkering on your part but it’s clearly been made with great love and care, to provide the most accurate readings. Unlike most other refractometers its casing is made out of copper to ensure great heat conductivity between the sample and the prism. A soft rubber line protects the unit from the heat radiating out of your hand and a non-roll stand allows it to sit safely on plane surfaces.
Adjustments for outside temperature are made manually, through a highly sensitive calibration ring, with no extra tool required. This neutralizes one of the potential factors for error present in units that do these calibrations automatically and allows the user to take full advantage of the precision otherwise offered by the BX-3.
As a testament to its quality, the maximum range for sugar content goes up to 92%, and that extra 2 % makes all the difference when you’re trying to obtain the thickest honey or maple syrup.
With a casing made of copper, this Vee Gee unit is specially designed to ensure enhanced heat conductivity between the prism and the sample.
Thanks to the rubber line it includes, the heat radiating from the user’s hand won’t lead to reading errors, as it can happen in other cases.
It can be safely placed on horizontal surfaces, given that the design includes a non-roll stand that makes the whole matter of handling it much easier.
With a measuring range that goes from 60% to 92%, the refractometer can be used for a wide range of purposes, especially since the last 2% can make a big difference when you are trying to obtain thick maple syrup or honey.
The unit doesn’t feature the Automatic Temperature Compensation capability.
For those who don’t have that much experience with these devices, it might take a bit to get used to the Scientific BX-3.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($91.64)
2. Brix Refractometer Honey Refractometer with ATC for Beer Wort
One of the most popular refractometers out there, this GoerTek model offers a surprising degree of versatility at a very affordable price.
Its Brix scale goes from 0 to 90%, with the base calibration being at 0 which means it allows you to check for the sugar content of basically everything there is to brew at home.
A less obvious benefit to this is that you can easily tell if it skews up towards a higher Brix value and then adjust it accordingly using the calibration screw.
The fact that it has an automatic temperature compensation function also makes for great convenience, since this will allow you to use the item at anywhere between 10 and 30 Celsius without having to compensate for the differences in between through manual input. (While this is indeed a great time saver, it does add to the list of things to go wrong with a refractometer.)
Even though you can find this refractometer at a very affordable price, it offers a surprising degree of versatility which makes it a highly popular alternative.
Given that the Brix scale goes from 0 to 90% and that the base calibration is at 0, you can measure the sugar content of pretty much anything around your home.
Thanks to the calibration screw, you can easily make all the necessary adjustments in order to get accurate readings every time.
The unit also features the Automatic Temperature Compensation functionality, so you can safely use it anywhere and anytime you need to, without having to compensate for any temperature differences.
The instructions are not very clear, so you may need to look for information online, or ask the seller for details.
Users might need a bit of time to figure out exactly how the unit works, but after that, there is nothing to be worried about.
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3. Honey Refractometer for Honey Moisture Brix and Baume
This Aqueous Lab product was made with the specific needs of the beekeeper in mind. Besides using the Brix scale, it also shows measures as glucose Baume between the ranges of 38 to 43 and honey moisture from 10 to 33%.
This offers all the relevant information a honey producer might need from this type of tool and it can prove especially convenient for those that don’t want to bother with converting units or just don’t have the time to because of the quantity of honey they need to handle.
The automatic temperature adjustment provides a great range, from 0 to 30 Celsius, which doesn’t really add to its functionality (since honey tends to crystallize at those temperatures) but can make it easier to calibrate.
The Aqueous Lab COMIN is bought together with a large set of extra items, besides the firm plastic case, operating instructions and suction tube/pipette that nearly all models come packaged with, you will also get a special cleaning cloth and a screwdriver.
This unit was specially designed for beekeepers, so besides the Brix scale, it’s also able to measure the honey’s moisture between 10 and 33%, as well as glucose on the Baume scale with a range that goes between 38 and 43.
If you don’t want to use more than one unit to do all of these necessary measurements, then this device is the right choice.
You might also be happy to know that the refractometer also comes with an Automatic Temperature Compensation feature, so you don’t need to worry about differences in temperature that might affect the reading’s accuracy.
The package includes many extra items, including a special cleaning cloth, a pipette, a screwdriver, as well as instructions.
For some users the instructions didn’t seem to be very clear, so you may need to do some online research.
Some of those who have tried this unit out said that the scale was a bit difficult to read.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($23.99)
4. Ade Advanced Optics Brix Refractometer High Measuring Range
The Brix5890ATC is your basic beekeeper’s refractometer, which tells you everything you need to know in a timely fashion without needing to resort to conversion scales or specialized apps. It shows Brix (sugar levels) within the ranges of 58% to 90%, honey moisture from 10% to 33% water and Baume Specific Gravity Scale (sgs) taken at 20 Celsius within 38% and 43% margins.
It’s sturdy and easy to use on the go, with only a Phillips head screwdriver, which comes in the same package, required for adjustments and calibration. Like with most other product of its type, initial calibrations are made using readily available extra virgin olive oil of 70 – 71 Brix (only the Vee Gee BX-3 of the products featured is advertised to come with it own test substance, required because of the high accuracy it boasts).
For extra convenience, it has automatic temperature compensation capabilities, and it seems to be a well-appreciated product overall judging by the feedback it received.
Thanks to the sturdy design, compact size, and lightweight construction, this refractometer is convenient to carry around wherever you might need to use it.
Thanks to the Automatic Temperature Compensation, you don’t need to worry about temperature discrepancies and the compensation range goes from 10°C to 30°C.
Given that this refractometer features a high measurement range that goes from 58% to 90%, you will have the necessary versatility for a wide array of uses.
Made of aircraft-grade aluminum, you won’t have anything to worry about when it comes to its durability and reliability throughout time.
The instructions provided with the unit are not very clear, so before you calibrate it, you might want to contact the seller for specific details.
Also in terms of usability, in some cases, the unit was not calibrated straight out of the box, therefore you should check this before you start using it.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($28.99)
5. Refractometer Water Honey 58-90 Brix Sugar
Like the Vee Gee BX-3, this Hanstronik product has its metal parts made out of high heat conducting copper, to ensure a good temperature balance between the sample and prism, as well as a significantly extended life compared to an aluminum model. This quality, however, comes at a more affordable price than in the case of the product above.
Another nice feature of the Hanstronik is the full array of honey related measuring scales it displays — Brix between 58 to 90%; the Baume sgs between 38 to 43% and honey moisture between 12 and 27%.
Since the glass display can get a little crowded with so many chevrons, it’s accuracy is specified at 0,5%, which is a little less than you will get with a refractometer that only shows Brix, but well within the practical limits for honey testing and we believe that the extra convenience makes up for it.
Featuring a triple measuring scale that includes Brix, Baume, and moisture, there’s little that this refractometer won’t allow you to do when you are making your own honey.
Given that its construction includes high-quality aluminum, you don’t need to be concerned about its durability, while the rubber handle makes it easy to maneuver.
The unit also includes Automatic Temperature Compensation, so you can rely on accurate readings even if you are dealing with different temperatures.
While this device is perfect for beekeepers, its many functionalities allow you to make your own maple syrup as well.
The instructions provided with the device are not very accurate, so according to some reviews, you should take your time to research how to properly calibrate the refractometer.
Even though the instructions mention using distilled water, you should look for an online user’s manual or for videos that explain how to use this product.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($25)