Not only bears love it – most people love it too: we’re talking about honey. The “sweet gold” is used in numerous products, either raw or processed, and should therefore be subject to tight quality control. There is one essential criterion that particularly influences honey quality: the moisture content.
The honey’s ability to remain stable and resist spoilage depends remarkably on its moisture content, which is therefore an important quality criterion. But first things first: what is so special about honey? Honey, as extracted from the honeycomb, is an aqueous dispersion consisting of particles, inorganic ions, and organic materials such as yeast, enzymes or grains of pollen, and, above all, sugars. Sugars are part of the carbohydrate group and are the main ingredient of this golden treat.
Why honey quality depends on its moisture
So what is the deal with the honey’s moisture content and its quality? Well, sugar has a natural low-moisture state. That is an advantage as bacteria and yeast cannot survive in dry environments and therefore spoilage caused by yeast fermentation and bacterial growth is less likely to occur in low-moisture honey. In short, the higher the honey’s moisture content, the higher the probability that the honey will spoil during storage. This makes this parameter an essential quality criterion in honey and of great importance to producers, packers and merchants alike as they all want to provide appropriate storage and packing conditions for their honey products.
Honey producers, packers and merchants all have the same priority: Guaranteeing high-quality honey for consumers. But not only this: The more accurate the moisture content can be determined, the more precisely the value of the honey may be calculated when trading with it. Good to know here: the honey quality standards for moisture content are specified in the European Honey Directive 2001/110/EC, in the Codex Alimentarius Standard 12-1981 as well as in DIN 107752 and AOAC 969.38B standards. The most important question now: how can the moisture content be determined?
Determination of moisture content in honey
The moisture content in honey can be determined by measuring the refractive index. This approach is based on the fact that the refractive index of a solution increases with its dissolved total solid content and decreases with an increasing moisture content. The International Honey Commission (IHC) defines the regulations for the determination of the moisture content in honey and specifies the requirements for the applicable refractometers. The refractometers of the Abbemat series from Anton Paar comply with these international standards and provide precise results.
In order to ensure high-quality honey, a very precise honey analysis is required. The refractometers of the Abbemat series from Anton Paar determine the refractive index with an accuracy of up to ±0.00002 nD. The moisture content in honey can be determined refractometrically with a precision of up to ±0.008 g per 100 g within a range of 0.0 g to 46.0 g per 100 g. Because the refractive index is temperature-dependent, all refractometers of the Abbemat series are equipped with a Peltier temperature control providing an accuracy of up to 0.03 °C.