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Extracted honey is watery

I think that we pulled the honey too soon. Perhaps it wasn’t ready and not capped?

In any event, is there anything I can do with the honey to make it the right consistency?

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As a newbie, I probably shouldn’t jump in, but last week I thought my first honey was watery also, so worried for a few days while waiting for a honey moisture content refractometer to arrive ($30 on amazon). It was easy to use and proved that the honey was at 17%, which is fine. It turns out that different nectars make honey of different viscosities.

If it had been too wet, then my next plan was going to be pouring it into a cookie sheet and then put it in a sealed box with some silica gel. This would be too slow and impractical for a commercial bee keeper, but for my couple of pounds of honey, I think it would have done the trick.

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It is always best to check the cappings before you extract, but if you didn’t, one of the most helpful things to have on hand is a honey refractometer. Make sure you don’t get one for wine or other fluids. Then just test your honey. If it is below 18% water, you are fine. Above that, you can freeze it and use it yourself, or feed it back to the bees. However, it will ferment over time. Speaking of which, you could also make mead with it.

The refractometer I have is not available right now, but you should be able to find something very similar for under $40 in the US:

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Hello Mary, the consistency (viscosity) of honey can vary depending on the nectar the bees are foraging on at the time. That is not something you can control.
Before you extract a frame remove it to check that both sides of the frame are at least 80% capped. Don’t rely on what you see in the window even for the outer frame. I had one frame that looked completely capped looking thru the window but when I removed the frame the inside face had only a few cells capped, most had some nectar in them but if I extracted that frame I’m sure the honey would have fermented.
If you don’t have a refractometer that is ok, but inspect each frame before you decide to extract or not. If the frame is capped it will be below 18% water content.

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Eat it all quickly :yum::wink:

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Hi @brenzelmf,

Reducing water content is not an easy task unless you have vacuum dryer handy.
Possible options if water content is really >20%:

  1. Pasteurise and keep it in sealed jars afterwards.
  2. Keep it in fridge.
  3. Ferment it :slightly_smiling_face:
  4. If water content is marginally higher than 20% - mix it with honey with low water content.
  5. Make a sack of honey lollies :slightly_smiling_face:

Thank you all for your suggestions. I didn’t know that there was a way to measure the water content of honey. I ordered a refractometer and it was delivered yesterday. I have to calibrate it but how critical is it to use distilled water for that? I’m hoping to get it calibrated today and will then check the honey. I like the idea of mixing it with other honey we have but we don’t have much left from previous draws.

Here ya go.


I calibrated mine using pure virgin olive oil on the advice of the manufacturer of the refractometer. I have periods of ‘watery’ honey but it seems not to be that it will ferment any faster than the thicker honey extracted at a different time. If you have some thicker honey then blend it in as some people think because it is thin it has been watered down.
As you get better assessing your honey the refractometer becomes used less to only confirm what you already know.
Keep an open mind about bee keeping and you will never stop learning.

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I didn’t do it with water, but as @skeggley and @Peter48 suggest, I calibrated it with Costco Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) to 27%. Later I got a calibration block, and found that the value for EVOO was just as accurate as the official block, so you should be good with the oil. If you have any Mineral Oil (pharmacy grade), you can check that too - it should be 24.5%

Please let us know what you find - I am very curious! :blush:

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Be careful that you have the correct refractometer. There are two kinds, but outwardly they look identical.

One is for alcohol, fruit juice, home brew etc and this one is calibrated with distilled water.
The other is for honey and can be calibrated as mentioned above with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

The scales are different so if you have 20% or 75 Brix on your scale its a honey refractometer.


That is very interesting. What I ordered from Amazon was advertised as a Honey Refractometer but the calibration instructions say to use distilled water. It has both water and Brix scales.

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The only difference in a refractometer specifically made for honey is the way the scale is laid out, ie it is reversed and measures water content of honey rather than the sugar content of a liquid if that makes sense.

E.g. If you used a brewers one for honey it would read 83% sugar not 17% water etc.

It’s simply to make it easier on us beekeepers.

You still calibrate both types with distilled or deionised water.


I am so glad I read this… I have been studying on making mead ordering my equipment and I saw refractometer and was trying to use instead of hydrometer. Now I will make sure to look for the honey one when I purchase. But, I do gravity drain and I harvest one box at a time so I think it is OK. Plus my top hasn’t popped :slight_smile: :wine_glass:

I was told we do not use refractometer for alcohol mead because the alcohol changes the refraction it can be used with calculations but I should use a hydrometer. So I ordered that. So when I review for purchase of refractometer for my honey it needs to say calibrate with olive oil?

The refractometer that I bought from Amazon has instructions to use distilled water to calibrate it. I haven’t done the calibration yet. I tried to post the link to the item I bought but it kept displaying an antifreeze refractometer!


It may depend on the manufacturer. I have both honey and juice refractometers. If I use water on my honey refractometer, the reading is off the scale and can’t be brought to scale by adjustment, and the opposite when using honey in the juice model. This limitation might be to make the scales clearer for viewing, but there is no technical reason why a refractomer couldn’t measure the entire range.

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Good pick up Jim, i just checked my el cheapo refractometer and it’s water content scale is between 12% and 27% so distilled water wouldn’t read.

The refractometer that I got from Amazon for about $25 also has a water content scale from 12% to 27%. The instructions say to calibrate with distilled water but you say that won’t work?

Hi @brenzelmf,

12% to 27% water content refractometer you ordered most likely has 58-90% Brix scale.

Distilled water Brix = 0%. This means distilled water Brix reading is outside (below) of you your refractometer scale. That is why calibration with distilled water will not work. You will need a medium with higher density to calibrate it.

@skeggley gave a link to Cushman’s page which lists some household oils and their water content reading. Do not worry about 0.2% difference between brands. It is close enough for your purpose.

Just some additional information:
There are similarly looking beverage refractometers on the market. They have 0-32% scale and can be calibrated with distilled water as it fits into scale. But they are no use for honey, as 80+% Brix of honey we are looking for is outside of such refractometers scale. This time above.

Some instructions coming with equipment from China leave a lot to be desired to put it mildly.

Don’t leave oil on refractometer for long. Actually clean it up as soon as you have calibrated it. The plastic cover on sample table is not necessarily oil resistant.