Checking if the water in honey is at the right level is important for quality assurance in beekeeping.
To bee or not to bee – that´s a question of water in honey
Our bees are a busy bunch. They carry nectar or honeydew, which they collect in nature, into the hive and then process these raw materials into honey. To do this, they add enzymes and then dry the nectar by vigorously flapping their wings, thus generating heat.
This drying process is a particularly important process, because if the water content is too high, microorganisms can multiply. The bees thus protect their supplies by drying them.
This risk also exists if the beekeeper produces honey with too high moisture content.
Honey usually has a moisture content between 14 – 20 %, rarely less, sometimes more, depending on the type of honey.
The water content in the honey determines whether the honey stays fresh. If the water content in honey is too low, the creamy mixture will crystallize. On the other hand, if the water content is too high, the honey may still taste fruity and fresh at first, but will likely start to ferment, which makes the finished product anything but delicious.
In order to avoid such unpleasant surprises, it is extremely important to control the water content in honey, particularly if you intend to sell your honey or store it.
So, before beekeepers extract honey from the hive, they have to be certain that the honey has the proper moisture content. It's important to consider the moisture level before harvesting honey.
How to measure the moisture content in honey?
Using a refractometer is the easiest way to measure the water content in the honey. The measuring principle is quite easy: light passes through a liquid and changes its direction, which is called “refraction”.
The light will pass faster through honey with fewer dissolved solids than through honey with more dissolved solids. As a result, the refractive index changes relative to the amount of sugar and other dissolved compounds in the honey.
The nutrient grade of honey is measured in Brix. The higher the Brix value, the higher the quality of honey and the lower the water content.
Smart – Smarter – SmartRef
The SmartRef Digital Refractometer takes moisture content measurements in honey at the touch of a button and displays the measured values digitally via mobile app in the desired measurement unit.
The advantages of SmartRef compared to a conventional analog refractometer are obvious: no more adjustment of the eyepiece, relying on a light source, having a "look" at the scale first, and no need for manual writing or calculation.
The digital refractometer SmartRef works in combination with a mobile app which carries a variety of benefits. The integrated SmartGuide+ offers intelligent guidance throughout the measurement process with high ambient light detection, continuous check of prism condition and sample volume, and more. Measurement results can easily be stored, managed, and visualized for later reference.
Homogenize your honey
Before you measure your honey, it's important that you homogenize your sample, as it's possible that individual components of the honey have settled to the bottom. In this case, you would get different readings if you took your honey from the bottom of the jar and from the top.
SmartRef advice: To homogenize, stir your honey extensively (at least 3 minutes) so that all the separated ingredients mix well. If your honey has crystallized, you can liquefy it in a water bath at around 40 - 50 °C before homogenizing.
After homogenizing, filter your honey through a 0.5 mm sieve.
Measure your honey with SmartRef
Make sure your prism is well-cleaned.
Apply your honey sample to the prism and start your measurement.
As measurement unit, you can choose both, Brix and water content (% water) in honey. All calculations are done fully automatically. Since the measurement of refractive index is temperature dependent, SmartRef also automatically performs a temperature compensation.
Save your measurements in the logs and if you want you can also record a history of your samples.
Measurements of the honey moisture level have never been so quick and easy!