If you’re a beekeeper, you have honey. If you have honey, you want to preserve it so you can sell it. If the honey has too much moisture, it will ferment and develop a sour taste, rendering it unusable. How do you know the moisture level in your honey? You need a honey refractometer to test it.

Before you decide which refractometer is best for you, take a minute to read our reviews of the features and drawbacks of the top refractometers available—it will save you time, money, and frustration.

Product FAQ

1. What Is a Honey Refractometer?

A honey refractometer is a machine that measures the degree that light is bent when passing through a solution. The degree of bending will indicate the amount of water in the honey.

2. What Features Should I Look for in a Honey Refractometer?

Honey refractometers should be able to compensate for ambient temperature and humidity levels, be easy to calibrate and should provide results within a few seconds.

3. Where Can I Purchase a Honey Refractometer?

Honey refractometers can be purchased at beekeeping supply stores, some hardware and garden stores, and online. We have provided links to the units reviewed in this article.

How We Reviewed

We reviewed the honey refractometers in this article based on their ability to compensate for ambient temperature and humidity levels, the ease of calibration, and the accuracy of the results.

We selected our choice for the best honey refractometer based on its ability to deliver immediate, accurate results, its external light indicator alert, and having metal well walls that quickly conform to the sample temperature.

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Overall Price Range

Prices for the honey refractometers reviewed in this article range from just over $20 to around $400. Less expensive refractometers are made largely from plastic, have lower quality lenses, and are more difficult to calibrate.

More expensive units feature higher quality prisms and lenses, require less calibration, and test a wider range of temperatures and refractive indexes.

1. Milwaukee MA887 Digital Salinity Refractometer

The Milwaukee Digital Salinity Refractometer with Automatic Temperature Compensation features a yellow LED display and +/-2 PSU accuracy. This unit has multiple industrial applications. The unit is calibrated with distilled or deionized water prior to measuring a sample.

This refractometer will measure the temperature and refractive index and convert them into Practical Salinity Units (PSU), Salinity Parts Per Thousand (PPT) or Specific Gravity (SG).

Pros

  • Yellow LED display
  • Calibrate with distilled or deionized water
  • Converts temperature and refractive index to PSU, PPT, or SG

Cons

  • Not very portable
  • Must be manually calibrated
  • Doesn’t always deliver consistent results in every application

Warranty

This product carries a two-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

2. V-Resourcing 0-90% Brix Meter Refractometer

The V-Resourcing 0-90% Brix Meter Refractometer is used to measure the density of sugar in a solution from 0 to 90%. It is used to measure the sugar content of fruit, honey, and food. This hand-held refractometer features automatic temperature compensation.

It is easy to use; it has a compact, lightweight design and comes with a convenient storage case, a pipette, a screwdriver, and a cloth. This refractometer is ideal to determine product quality and sweetness classification.

Pros

  • Measures sugar density from 0 to 90%
  • Hand-held device
  • Includes storage case

Cons

  • Case does not close completely
  • Measurement scale is blurry

Warranty

This product carries a two-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

3. Atago 4518 4418 Digital Hand-Held Pocket Urea Refractometer

The Atago Digital Hand-Held Pocket Refractometer fits in your pocket. It features an ergonomic design that allows for one-handed operation. The digital LCD will display results in three seconds.

The automatic temperature compensation provides accurate calibration immediately, regardless of temperature, and it calibrates with water. The samples can be measured up to 99.9 degrees Celcius.

The unit features an external light interference alert that will display a warning message when it detects direct light. The unit can be washed under running water.

Pros

  • Designed for one-handed operation
  • Automatic temperature compensation
  • Includes storage case

Cons

  • Instructions are in Chinese
  • Lens must be spotless for accurate reading

Warranty

This product carries a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

Atago 4518 PAL-UREA Digital Hand-Held Pocket Urea Refractometer
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4. MISCO BKPR-1 Palm Abbe Digital Handheld Refractometer

The Misco Digital Honey Refractometer was designed for professional beekeepers, honey producers, government honey inspectors, or anyone else who requires accurate, repeatable readings of moisture content in honey. It will measure honey moisture content from 13% to 30%.

This unit exceeds the requirements for honey refractometers used to inspect and grade honey by the USFDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The readings on this refractometer are automatically temperature compensated specifically for honey, which is different from typical refractometers that use “sucrose” temperature compensation, which causes errors at higher temperatures.

Pros

  • Exceeds regulatory requirements
  • Automatically temperature compensated for honey
  • Professional quality

Cons

  • Span calibration fluid is expensive
  • Span calibration mode is not password protected
  • Measurements “drift” when taking multiple readings on a sample

Warranty

This product carries a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

5. Vee Gee Scientific BX-1 Handheld Refractometer

The Vee Gee BX-1 Handheld Refractometer is a water-resistant sugar refractometer that measures from 0.0 to 32.0% on the Brix scale. The unit is powered by ambient light and has manual temperature compensation, a durable metal body, and an optical glass prism. The unit measures the refractive index of a sample and converts it to sugar concentration of percent by weight.

This refractometer has a durable metal body, and it uses manual temperature compensation with an ambient temperature of 10 to 30 degrees Celcius. The unit arrives factory calibrated and can be re-calibrated with distilled water. The Brix scale has a bright, high-contrast display that is clearly visible. The unit comes with a vinyl carrying case.

Pros

  • Powered by ambient light
  • Manual temperature compensation feature
  • Arrives factory calibrated

Cons

  • Difficult to turn adjustment spindle
  • Requires recalibration

Warranty

This product carries a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

6. Atago 4422 PAL-22S Digital Hand-Held Pocket Honey Refractometer

Features

The Atago 4422 Digital Hand-Held Pocket Honey Refractometer measures moisture in honey in the 12.0 to 30.0% range. It has automatic temperature compensation for accurate, immediate readings with a range of 10 to 40 degrees Celsius.

The unit is factory calibrated and can be field calibrated with tap water. The sides of the sample well are metal and will quickly conform to the sample temperature for accurate measurements.

The ergonomic outer shell is easy to grip. The unit features an external light interference (ELI) alert that indicates there is too much light penetrating the prism. The unit will display moisture and temperature measurements within three seconds. The unit comes with a plastic storage case.

Pros

  • Automatic temperature compensation
  • Factory calibrated
  • External light interface alert

Cons

  • May give inaccurate readings if not filled properly
  • Unit is expensive

Warranty

This product carries a two-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

7. Ade Advanced Optics Brix Refractometer for Honey

The Ade Advanced Optics Brix Refractometer operates on ambient light so it does not require a battery or a power source. Because honey has excellent water absorbing properties, its moisture content will change related to the surrounding atmosphere — it will absorb water in high humidity and it will secrete moisture in low humidity.

If the moisture content is too high, the honey will ferment due to yeast, which produces alcohol, which then breaks down to vinegar and gives the honey a sour taste. Testing honey for its moisture content allows you to dry it out if the moisture is too high.

This unit has a Brix scale range of 58% to 90% and a moisture scale of 10% to 33%.

Pros

  • Operates in ambient light
  • Brix scale range of 58% to 90%
  • Moisture scale of 10% to 33%

Cons

  • Does not include calibration fluid
  • Instructions are inaccurate
  • May not give accurate results

Warranty

This product carries a two-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

8. Magnum Media Salinity 10ATC Professional Automatic Refractometer

The Magnum Media Salinity Refractometer is a professional salinity measurement instrument. This unit is designed to measure seawater or low concentrated salt water solutions. It measures specific gravity and parts per thousand in a single test, eliminating the need for multiple instruments and tests.

The unit is portable, easy to use, and it does not require a battery. It has high-quality optics and smooth focusing. It has an internal optical lens with a high refractive index. The unit is lightweight, compact, and it comes in a sturdy storage box.

Pros

  • Measures both specific gravity and parts per thousand
  • Does not require a battery
  • High quality optics

Cons

  • Must be calibrated frequently
  • Lens may arrive smudged
  • Not made for measuring honey

Warranty

This product carries a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

9. TekcoPlus Optics Honey Sugar Moisture Brix Baume Refractometer

The Optics Honey Sugar Moisture Brix Baume Refractometer is designed specifically for making honey. It will test sugar content, Baume, and water concentration. This unit allows you to manage your beekeeping and know the ideal time for harvesting maple syrup.

The unit features automatic temperature compensation for increased accuracy. It is easy to use and calibrate. It has a rubberized grip that will insulate the test solution from body heat for accurate results. The scale features an adjustable focus and easy-to-read measurements. The unit conforms to safety standards.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for making honey
  • Tests for sugar content, Baume, and water concentration
  • Easy-to-read measurements

Cons

  • Does not include dioptic oil
  • Difficult to clean lens
  • Calibration oil smells bad

Warranty

This product carries a one-year limited warranty from the manufacturer.

Optics Honey Sugar Moisture Brix Baume Refractometer ATC, Tri-Scale...
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The Verdict

Based on our research we believe the best honey refractometer is the Atago 4422 Digital Hand-Held Pocket Honey Refractometer. It is contained within an ABS resin body and it uses automatic temperature compensation for accuracy. The unit can by calibrated with tap water and the metal sample well allows the sample temperature to conform with the prism temperature for accuracy. Whether you are a beekeeper who wants to produce the highest quality product or a farmer who wants to harvest their maple syrup at its peak, you won’t be disappointed with the Atago 4422.

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