Best brix, digital & portable Refractometers

To get the best refractometer for your purpose, it’s important that you first figure out what they do. We’ll go over how you need to use it and many other questions. In this article, we’ll walk you through the different things you need to know to make the right decision.


What is it?

Refractometers are used to give the concentration of a liquid solution by measuring its index of refraction. The refraction measures how light bends when it comes from one medium to another. The medium could be solid to a liquid, in a prism to the concentrated solution. Or it could be a liquid to another liquid.

Refractometers measure the concentration of a substance in a solution by passing light through the liquid sample. They have a scale where you can read the extent of refraction. Highly concentrated solutions have higher numbers.

A refractometer is preferred over other hydrometers because it consumes very little sample for tests. A few drops are usually enough. The devices use refraction as the principle of operation to get their results.

Refractometers have so many uses and thus get utilized in many industries, such as the food and beverage industry. They are also found in agricultural and chemical uses. They’re used where the properties of the liquids are analyzed to give the characteristics needed.

Different types

Even though refractometers work on the same principle, there are different types. The types include:

refractormeter with orange liquid


This type gives readings without using any external power source but natural light. A test subject is first put on the glass prism of the machine. It’s then held by directing it towards a light source while viewing through the eyepiece. By viewing through the eyepiece, one can see two regions. There’s a dark one and a light one. Reading the value at the border of the regions gives the current value.


Digital options produce their light from an inbuilt LED source. It’s instead of sunlight or an external light source that illuminates through the sample. An inbuilt computer calculates the refraction index and displays the value on a screen.


These are designed for use in laboratories and are more accurate than the other two. They are placed on benches just like microscopes in the labs.


  • Brix– The Brix scale is used by refractometers that mostly test sucrose concentration in a solution. It is mainly used in the food and beverage industry.
  • Salinity- This scale is used to test the levels of sodium chloride concentration in a sample. It is mostly used to check their salinity levels when testing seas and oceans.
  • Coolant- The coolant scale is mainly used in the automotive industry. It checks the effectiveness of ethylene glycol as a coolant and whether the freezing and boiling points have reached the levels desired.
  • Clinical – It’s a lab scale used to determine the specific gravity of urine and serum albumen.
  • Specific gravity– It determines liquid density in relation to the density of water.

Where is it used?

Where are they used? We often get this question so many times from curious readers and fans. The truth is, it is utilized in more industries than you can imagine. For instance, you can exploit it for your domestic purposes or see it being used in industrial or medical setups. They can be used in several fields, just like extension cords.

In Agriculture

two people on a tractor

Like many other industries, the agricultural sector is evolving. So are the methods of ensuring that farm animals get top-quality care right from birth. Refractometer use has been employed in so many areas of agriculture. We’ll highlight some here to ensure that your animals get the services they deserve from you.

Where it is used
Beer and wine breweryFood and beverage
Colostrum wellnessCrop growing

1. Colostrum wellness

Getting to know the colostrum quality is every farmer’s wish. It possibly determines the probability of the calves getting immunity passed on from their mothers. Calves that get the high-quality colostrum have a higher resistance to diseases than others. Thus, they need to check early in their lives for a remedy to be taken as soon as possible if need be.

2. Crop growing

When your crops grow to determine their health and nutrient level, you can use one.  High levels of Brix readings are an indication of healthy crops. When they have a higher reading level, some crops serve as an indication of possible high crop yields. You’ll also find out about bumper harvest or a crop with high disease and pest resistance.

On the other hand, lower readings could indicate plants in trouble. It’s commonly due to stunted growth. The low readings could be caused by mineral imbalance that leads to the growth of weeds or low calcium content in the soil.

The use of this piece of equipment has proven to be the easiest way of monitoring plant growth. It’s due to the ease of conducting the tests. Its small size and ease of operation make it the preferred way for many farmers to conduct the test at home. It helps them get to know the status of the plants.

working tractor

3. Food and beverage

They are used in the food industry to determine moisture and sugar content in the tested food. While being used in honey, the moisture content is usually tested to determine the quality of the honey. It’s used for industrial honey is used to determine the quality of the produced honey used in food. It’s done to ensure that the quality of the food is not compromised.

For your homemade jam or marmalade production, you can use one to determine the right quantity of sugar. It’s great at achieving good taste. Unlike commercially produced jams, we often strive to have the right quantities of fruit and sugar while producing ours at home. We can only achieve this if we check whether we have the required ratio.

4. Beer and wine brewery

For lovers of homemade alcohol, they’re the perfect tool for getting the right percentages by volume of your drink. For effective beer or winemaking, you first need to have the volume of sugars in your solution that you intend to ferment to produce the alcohol.

With the initial sugar volume, you can monitor alcohol production. You’ll get the volumes later to determine how much sugar has been used in the alcohol production process. By getting the difference, you can easily determine the alcohol content of your drink.

Handheld options are preferred for these measurements. They are less bulky and easier to use with minimal waste than other methods. ALternatives include hydrometers that require a large sample to test similar characteristics

In the automotive industry

In the automotive industry, they can help lengthen the life cycle of our engines. It’s done by ensuring that the ratios of the chemicals used to make the engine coolant neither freeze nor boil easily.

We can easily determine the percentages for either water or glycol when using one. It’s done to get optimal freezing points depending on our geographical locations. By getting simple ratios such as 50% each, we lower the freezing point of distilled water from 32℉ (0℉) to 35℉ (-37℃).

They can also be used to check the charge levels in our battery acids by checking the concentration of the ions in the solutions. Lower hydrogen ions would indicate a lower charge in batteries. It indicates the need for the addition of either battery water or acid.

How does it work?

Refractometers work based on refraction. It is simply how light bends from one medium to another. For example, it works from the solid glass of the refractometer to the liquid being tested.

Once tested, it determines the refractive index of the liquid solution from which the concentration can be gotten. It is important to note that it is based on facts such as light bends more in highly concentrated solutions. The index mainly depends on the composition of the solution and the temperature of the solution too.

Refractometer vs. hydrometer?

Hydrometers measure the density of liquids based on Archimedes’ principle through fluid displacement. At the same time, refractometers indicate the index of materials from the principle of refraction. The sugar concentration can be determined. Both are used to test sugar concentration.

When using the hydrometer, you get your results in specific gravity. It is the density of your test sample compared to that of water. Refractometers indicate their results in Brix. Some calculators can convert the units from Brix to specific gravity, which many people are more conversant with.

Refractometers test samples are usually small—just a drop or two taken from the solution using a pipette to give accurate results. In contrast, the samples required are usually large for hydrometers. They need to be taken in another container for the hydrometer to be immersed and give the density.

There is a higher risk of batch contamination when using a hydrometer than a refractometer. It is due to the large volumes of samples needed for results in hydrometers. Some people do not discard their test samples but pour them back into the solution risking the whole batch. In contrast, others immerse the hydrometer in the solution.

The tests taken by both devices are usually affected by temperature. Refractometers are less affected due to their sample size. If using a hydrometer, you need to adjust the readings based on the temperature of the solution you are working on.

When looking at the cost of both to determine which one you will purchase, the hydrometer is usually the cheaper option. Maybe you are budget constrained. It is better to acquire the hydrometer since you will use it for fermentation from the beginning till the end. In contrast, refractometers are rarely used after fermentation since it loses their precision.

How to use and read one

Before using one, you first need to ensure that it is well-calibrated and gives you the accurate values as required. Their readings are usually affected by changes in temperature. There is the need to recalibrate it to the temperature you will be using for the reading.


  1. We check whether it will give the correct readings first using distilled water.
  2. Pour two drops of distilled water on the glass surface of the refractometer and close the lid.
  3. Look through the eyepiece pointing the device towards the light, and read the value at the border of the blue region and white region.
  4. If the value is not equal to one, you need to adjust it to give accurate readings.
  5. To adjust, use a screwdriver to turn a knob just behind the prism till the reading gets back to 1.
  6. You can now use it for other readings.

How to use a refractometer

  1. After calibration, pour the water and leave the prism to dry. It’s done to reduce the chances of contaminating the solution you intend to test.

  2. After it has dried, pour about two drops of your solution.

  3. Close the lid. The lid evenly spreads the liquid throughout the prism.

  4. Hold it towards a light source to get the readings.

Best Brix, digital and portable options

There are thousands of brands worldwide. We have developed a list of top-rated brands that we trust are of good quality from our interactions.


Anpro gives you good value for your money, and it is a recommended top brand for those who like brewing beer at home. Winemakers and cider makers can also test the quality of their alcohol before it is ready for consumption.

Anpro performs a sugar test giving readings for you to compare sugar content. It’s good to compare values from when you started brewing until you find it good enough for consumption. This refractometer requires calibration before use to get accurate results.

Milwaukee digital salinity refractometer

This is an electronic option with Automatic Temperature Compression capabilities. It gives it the ability to give readings similar to those of room temperature. That is, despite the temperature readings. It makes it highly reliable. ATC makes it possible for you to use the machine several times without the need for recalibrating.

While using the Milwaukee digital salinity product, you can easily record the readings. They are highly visible as illuminated by the machine. This digital salinity refractometer also gives the temperature at which the test was conducted.

We highly recommend this option for those with saltwater aquariums at home.

Vee Gee Scientific Handheld Option

A good quality portable option made with a rubber handle is påreferable. It should be sturdy with a firm grip while getting the readings. That’s exactly what the Vee Gee is. It is easy to calibrate and does not come with an Automatic Temperature Compression mechanism for any temperature you need.

However, it offers an acceptable accuracy range usable for our home readings.


How accurate is a refractometer?

A 0-30 Brix refractometer can have an accuracy of up to 0.2-0.3 Brix.
Of course, the accuracy of this device can be affected by the interference of many environmental factors.

If the refractometer is cleaned with water with impurities, its accuracy may be affected.
The experience in the field of the one who handles it will significantly influence accuracy.

Suppose the person has not been optimally trained to handle such a device.
In that case, he may reduce the accuracy offered by the device.

Are all Brix refractometers the same?

Although all Brix refractometers operate on the same principles, their mode of operation is slightly different.

There are two main types of Brix refractometers:
– the optical ones
– the digital ones
Optical ones can operate without being powered by an external power source.

In this measuring device, it is necessary to look at the scale inside it with the help of external light to read the values on it.
Brix digital refractometers need a power supply to function.

In this type of modern refractometer, a LED light passes through the sample frame so that the data reading process can be performed.
After that, it will display the values obtained on an LCD screen.

How do I choose a refractometer?

When you want to buy a Brix type refractometer, there are three essential criteria to keep in mind:
– automatic temperature compensation
– measurement range
– its accuracy

Automatic temperature compensation is an essential feature that you want to be included in your measuring device.
It allows your refractometer to deliver fast and accurate results.

Before buying a new one, you need to know what kind of projects you will use it for.
The type of future projects in which you will use the measuring device will significantly influence the measuring range that it will have to contain.

Accuracy is a characteristic that any refractometer must possess.
If you want your measuring device to give correct results, it must be highly accurate.

Which is the best refractometer?

One of the best refractometers on the market is Magnum Media Salinity.
It is a portable measuring device that has been specially designed for:
– conducting maritime studies
– fulfilling educational goals

The operating power of this portable refractometer is very high for a battery-powered device.

This device benefits from the advantages offered by the automatic temperature compensation feature.
Due to the presence of this feature, this measuring device can be easily used in areas with different temperatures without decalibrating it.

What is the principle of a refractometer?

A refractometer uses the principles of light to analyze some substances dissolved in water or oils.
Such a device works due to the principle of refraction of light in a liquid.

In principle, the speed of light decreases in contact with the surface of a liquid.
And the more dissolved substances inside the liquid, the lower the speed of light will become.

Refractometers use this principle to allow people to calculate the concentration of dissolved substances in a liquid.

How is a refractometer used in food processing?

In the field of food processing, a refractometer has the primary purpose of measuring the concentration of sugar in the following beverages:
– soft drinks
– juices
– nectars
– lactic acid beverages
This device is also often used to measure the concentration of sugar in the following foods:
– jams
– marmalade
– honey
– extracts

You can also use this device to measure the number of flavoring substances in canned foods.

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