Best refractometers for beer, salinity & honey

by | Cozy lifestyle

Ah, refractometers. An extremely useful tool that has dethroned hydrometers among home brewing enthusiasts and fish keepers alike.

It makes sense. Refractometers need less liquid for proper calibration, and adjust to temperature differences for better accuracy.

It’s just way easier to work with and in case you’re keeping fish, safer for them too.

Important note: a refractometer for beer like this one works in a different manner compared to a salinity refractometer from the same brand.

Same company, same tools… but different uses. By the way, I mention Ade Advanced Options because together with Milwaukee’s digital refractometers, they manufacture the best refractometers right now.

Anyways. I’ll kick things off with a few refractometer reviews for your specific needs. After that, I’ll expand on why refractometers are way better than hydrometers most of the time. 

Alcohol
BeerRefrSmall
  • Ade Advanced Optics
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation:
    Yes. 50°F-86°F
  • Specific Gravity:
    1.000 to 1.120

    ★★★★★
  • Custom Measures:
    0-32% Brix
Salinity
SalinityRefrSmall
  • Ade Advanced Optics Dual
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation:
    Yes. 50°F-86°F
  • Specific Gravity:
    1.000 to 1.070

    ★★★★
  • Custom Measures:
    Salinity 0-100 ppt
Honey
HoneyRefrSMall
  • Aqueous Lab Honey
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation:
    Yes. 32°F-86°F
  • Specific Gravity:
    -
  • Custom Measures:
    Moisture 10-33% / Glucose Brix 58-90% / Glucose Baume 38 to 43 Be
Digital
MilwaukeeSmallDigi
  • Milwaukee MA887
  • Automatic Temperature Compensation:
    Yes. 32°F-175°F
  • Specific Gravity:
    1.000 to 1.114

    ★★★★★
  • Custom Measures:
    Salinity 0-150 ppt / Practical Salinity Units 0-50 PSU

The 4 best refractometers right now

1. Best refractometer for beer & wine:
Ade Advanced Optics BCBI9177

Home brewing is fun, but you need the right refractometer to make it accurate too. AAO’s product ensures this in several ways.

First, it comes with Automatic Temperature Compensation. Its range is some 50°F to around 86°F, which is a more than acceptable. In fact, it’s great!

Skipping on the headache of adjusting temperatures to get your numbers right is a huge improvement over hydrometers.

Additionally, as with most good brewing refractometers, you only need just a little bit of wort. Just pick the dropper, get a tiny amount, and put it on the refractometer’s prism.

That tiny amount will reveal the brew’s secrets. To add to this, you don’t really need to do bothersome conversions. This beer refractometer has a built-in dual scale (Brix and Specific Gravity), so it takes care of this task too.

For accuracy’s sake, the Brix is 0-32%, while the Specific Gravity measure range is at 1.000 to 1.120.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd9uJ9JitJw

A sturdy, lightweight body made of aluminium wraps it up – elegant and durable at the same time. You get a full kit too, with all of this included:

  • The refractometer for beer itself

  • Plastic pipette

  • Mini screwdriver

  • Cleaning cloth

  • Carry case

  • User manual

No doubt, an incredible deal considering the affordable price.

2. Best refractometer for saltwater aquarium:
Ade Advanced Optics Dual Scale

This one actually has the exact same design the like the company’s beer refractometer.

As you can guess, the devil lies in the details.

You don’t need Brix here, as this is a saltwater refractometer. Instead, the value you can measure is the salinity of your aquarium.

Once again, you have the single most important feature built-in: the Automatic temperature compensation. This is even more important for fish keepers, probably.

So, with the ATC at hand, this neat buddy can cope with salinity range of 0-100 ppt. The temp range is the same as the brand’s brewing refractometer: 50°F to 86°F, or 10°C to 30°C.

As far as the Specific Gravity values go, you’re looking at numbers of 1.000 to 1.070.

A very nice touch here is the manual focus feature. The eyepiece can be adjusted in line with what you find comfortable for your sight.

Just remember to calibrate using the appropriate calibration solution before using it. Otherwise you risk your readings being inaccurate, as they do depend on your initial tests.

Similar to the previous refractometer, you get some bonus stuff. Namely, a calibration screwdriver, the needed plastic pipette, and a neat carrying case.

3. Best refractometer for honey:
Aqueous Lab Honey Tester

So, once again a similar design, but different measures type of refractometer.

What you care about here is the honey moisture and glucose Brix values. Oh, and the glucose baume levels too. Which effectively means that you have a triple scale refractometer, instead of the previous dual scale tools.

This little buddy tracks the following:

  • Honey moisture: 10 to 33%

  • Glucose Brix: 58 to 90%

  • Glucose Baume: 38 to 43 BE

Guess what? It once again comes with the industry standard – Automatic temperature compensation. The range here, however, starts at 32°F and extends to 86°F.

The manufacturer points out that the reference temperature is at 68°F. There’s also the option to adjust the focus a little bit for your convenience when measuring.

Rather than aluminium, the bee refractometer’s body is made of chromium. Don’t worry, it’s not fragile – on the contrary, it feels quite sturdy.

Last but not least, the kit is again quite diverse:

  • The refractometer

  • Suction tube

  • A screwdriver

  • Manual with instructions

  • Cleaning cloth

  • Plastic carry case

A killer deal if you want your honey production to be the way it should be!

4. Best digital salinity refractometer:
Milwaukee MA887

Well, this one is more expensive, but that’s to be expected. Digitalizing things and making them even easier comes at a cost.

So, is the shinier price tag worth it?

Definitely. As a digital refractometer for saltwater aquariums, the MA887 exceeds other salinity measuring tools. A lot.

For example, the salinity range here is 0 to 150 ppt, a 50% increase on manual salinity refractometers. The Specific Gravity values are richer too, at 1.000 to 1.114 SG.

Thrown into the mix are Practical Salinity Units, or PSU, a third measurement unit. The PSU support ranges from 0 to 50 PSU.

Of course, you have Automatic temperature compensation included with this tool. The temperature support is once again outstanding: from 32°F to 175°F. A tremendous improvement on any manual refractometer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lo8JQWj5vJg

Will you get your measurements quickly?

Yes. Milwaukee estimate your typical measurement to appear on the digital screen after 1.5 seconds. You just need to power the tool with a single 9V AA battery and you’re set.

To save battery life, the device turns off automatically if you haven’t used it over the last 3 minutes.

No metal construction here, but rather the famous ABS. This is a very tough plastic polymer so you needn’t worry about its durability.

If you’re serious about keeping your aquarium flawless, the Milwaukee is huge upgrade over any manual salinity refractometer.

Refractometers vs Hydrometers – which is better?

More and more home brewers and fish keepers are switching from hydrometers to refractometers.

But why?

Simply put, there are three reasons why a refractometers is an overall better calibrating tool.

Temperature adjusting

Notice how all of the refractometers I reviewed have ATC, or Automatic Temperature Compensation?

This is a huge perk of this type of tool over hydrometers.

No more worrying about temperature differences and this affecting your results. No more needing to always adjust your hydrometer so you get the sugar levels (beer) or salinity (saltwater aquariums) levels right.

As long as the temperatures are in the range supported by the refractometer (most often the case), you’ll get crystal clear, crystal accurate measurements.

Smaller sample needed

You only need a few drops with a refractometer. It takes less time and doesn’t require of you to collect an irritating amount of beer/saltwater just to get a measurement.

I mean, saltwater is somehow okay, but…Why waste a few sips of beer when you can only use two drops?

Blasphemy! Which reminds me, you might want to check my review on some beverage centers.There’s the perfect beer fridge among them!

More durable

Refractometers can be tough. As you saw in my examples, a lot of these tools are made of aluminium or chromium. Lightweight, but quite durable and resistant.

With digital refractometers, you have ABS or quite tough hard plastic too.

So, even if you slip or make a blunder, your refractometer will probably still stay intact.

Hydrometers, though? Quite the fickle mistress and way more delicate/fragile. Shelling out a few extra bucks isn’t that big of a deal, as they’re cheap, but…Why the need to actually do that anyways?

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