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Calibrating a refractometer


I bought a refractometer and followed the instructions to calibrate it and all of my honey reads zero water content. I used water in the calibration adjustment. Am I missing something?

Is there a refractometer that is just for use with honey??


Hi Peter
I have an refractometer model RHF-30/ATC its range is between 10% -30% water content in honey. Calibration is done using a calibrating oil but I believe virgin oil oil can be used and should read somewhere in the 21% range, I will check up and confirm with you.

Edit: virgin olive oil
Edit Edit: 27% for VOO


Check this site by Dave Cushman


Just checked my refractometer with VOO and it came in at 26.5%. Dave’s site states 27%, so its around the mark.


Thanks for that info Anthony, I have just done a recalibration and all seems good now with a reading of 17%.


My refractometer instructions state that calibration is with distilled water. I cannot get it to zero (or even get any reading) with the deionised water that I bought from the supermarket. So I’m at a loss as to how to do so.

I rang a local company that calibrates equipment here in Melbourne, but have not yet got around sending it in to be looked at. I suspect that it’s cheaper just to buy another refeactometer and hope that it works.


Have just done the cushman calibration with olive oil as above, and it works!

My yellow box honey harvested a month ago is 17% water, so that’s probably about right.


My refractometer is marked as RHB-92C
As well as ATC


Mine also said to use distilled water for calibration but it always read zero with honey, I have calibrated using virgin olive oil and adjusted to read 27% then tested it with honey that now reads 17% which sound right for capped honey. I had put my refractometer in the ‘too hard basket’ before it made me a basket case.:grin:


Thanks Peter
We have achieved the same outcome, so we are probably correct I guess



I have a very similar model:

I believe if you calibrate it with water, you are meant to use the little refraction block. Mine came without the block, and I had to contact the sender to get one. I need not have bothered, the olive oil works just as well. :wink:


There are at least two versions of refractometers on sale, which have different ranges. Externally they are identical apart from the scales but one is suitable for honey and is calibrated with VOO, others are for juices and alcohols and are calibrated with water. These ones will not measure honey.
On Ebay, I have seen the latter incorrectly advertised as honey refractometers.