I recently rediscovered my like of refractometers and finally broke down and purchased one online.
It’s a nifty little thing. It measures how light bends through different liquids in degrees of Brix. You can use that measurement to calculate specific gravity and if you’re in to home brewing like we are, estimate ABV of your lower gravity beers or wine.
I had been reading about the correlation between degrees of Brix and the nutrient content of produce. It seems there’s a trend between high nutritional value and higher Brix readings.I was curious to see if there was any merit in this correlation and I wanted to test the difference between store bought produce, store bought organic produce, and my own home grown organic produce.
I don’t currently have any home grown produce to juice, being it’s the end of January, so it’ll be a while before I can complete that experiment.
I did calibrate the refractometer though, and though it will be a while before I can test my own produce, I’m sure I’ll find some way to utilize it before then. Perhaps in brewing another batch of our home made mead (honey wine), which I expect to improve in quality once we’re able to make it from honey made by our own bees.
It’s worth noting that I got a “cheap” refractometer. Mine was just over $16 online, and you’ll notice that the left and right hand sides both measure Brix %. In some more expensive models of refractometers, one side will have a scale to measure specific gravity (SG) like this one:
It isn’t a huge deal, it just means I have to complete a mathematical equation to convert from Brix to SG.
SG = (Brix / (258.6-((Brix / 258.2)*227.1))) + 1
(Source: Brew Your Own Magazine)
There are tons of calculators online as well if that equation seems a little daunting to you. Overall, if you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to test for nutrient density, this may be an option for you. There are guides and charts that delineate between poor quality produce and high quality produce, based on their Brix readings. You can download the Brix charts from this website here. Just bear in mind that the refractometer wasn’t specifically designed for this purpose so results may vary and aren’t intended to act the same as, let’s say, sending samples of produce to a university’s department of agriculture which can test the quality and quantity of specific nutrients of your produce. In any case, it’s something fun I can do with my son this spring and summer.