I've never used a refractometer but am interested after reading other posts saying you can't depend on capped honey having the right moisture content. Could someone explain how they are actually used, how much you need to spend for a "decent" one that won't give problems (for example is the one in dadant for $100 reliable) and what kind of maintainance or calibration, if any, they need. thanks a bunch Tony
I would like to here from some one who has used or purchased both a "low cost" (~$70) and a "high cost" (~$200+) refractometer.
What were the differences you really noticed between them?
I only have a Maple Syrup refractometer, but they all work the same. Mine has two scales, so you can test sap, or syrup. Place a drop of the liquid on the glass, close cover, aim at light source, and read where shadow falls on printed scale. Since mine only goes up to 70...I think it's the Brix scale...I only use it for mixing bee feed. Easy to get it right at 66-70%
The refractometer should have been calibrated at the factory. Water will read 0, at 68 degrees. Usually there is a little screw driver included, and an adjustment screw. You can re-calibrate it if water doesn't read 0, at room temps.
As far as cheap vs expensive...I imagine the cheap is all plastic, while the expensive is glass and metal. Also, the cheap one may not have the calibration screw. Should work just fine for what you want.
I purchased the $70 version from Dadant. Granted, I had never even seen a refractometer before, but I didn't think this one was working correctly.
I had 11 medium supers that had been in a climate-controlled room at 25% humidity at 98 degrees for a week and the refractometer was still reading at 25% moisture.
When I would calibrate it, it would change drasticly every time I did it.
The line between the blue and clear faded slowly between two different % of moisture so that it was clear until about 24% moisture and the faded blue to 26% moisture. And, yes, I adjusted the eyepiece. Everything including the scale was sharply in focus.
Then the hinge to the plastic cover broke and I KNOW I handled the meter with "kid gloves".
I called Dadant and the manager agreed to look at the meter and also to meter a honey sample that I sent him.
He informed me that the honey was at 18.5% moisture and should be fine. He sent me a new meter and I am now extremely happy with it.
The new one must be a different brand (no identification anywhere!) because the inside is much brighter. The scale is much broader so that the percentage markings are not so close together and it is easier to tell where the line is. And the LINE is sharper.
The instructions are much clearer. The new instructions talk about not letting the calibration fluid touch the plastic cover but to spread the fluid out with the "stone" that they sent. The old instructions never mentioned about not touching the fluid to the plastic cover and didn't mention the "stone". I thought it was included as a spacer to hold the screw-driver in place. Didn't make sense to me!
All in all, I am much happier with the new meter. My thanks to Ray at the Paris, Texas Dadant branch office for being so helpful!!!
In response to the comment by Michael Palmer, both of the $70 meters I have handled are suprisingly heavy for their size. I think they are both made of metal. I don't think I have the $300 one. At least I didn't pay any extra for my new one.