Not only bears love it – most people love it too: honey. The natural sweetener is very popular and used in various products, either raw or processed, and should therefore be subject to close quality control. There is one essential criterion that particularly influences honey quality, and manufacturers should know about: the moisture content.
The honey’s ability to remain stable and resist spoilage depends remarkably on its moisture content and is therefore, an important quality criterion. But first things first: what is so special about honey? Honey, as extracted from the comb, 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 saccharide group and are the major 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 inhibits bacteria and yeast from reducing the honey’s quality as they cannot survive in dry environments. And therefore, the moisture influences the capability of the honey to remain stable and prevent spoilage caused by yeast fermentation and bacterial growth. So in short, the higher the honey’s moisture content, the higher the probability that the honey will spoil during storage. Therefore, the moisture content in honey is an essential quality criterion and of great importance not only to producers. It is crucial for packers and merchants alike as they certainly want to provide appropriate storage and packing conditions for their product.
Honey producers, packers, merchants, they all have the same priority: Guarantee high quality honey for consumers. But not only this: The moisture analysis of honey can also be interesting for importing and exporting industries in terms of tax purposes. In other words, the more accurate the moisture content can be determined, the more precisely the value of the honey may be calculated. Here, seemingly inconspicuous numbers can definitely make the difference in the end! That is why a honey analysis concerning its moisture should be considered in order to conform to quality standards. 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
One of the methods that is used to determine moisture in honey is the refractive index measurement. This approach is based on the fact that the refractive index of a solution increases with its dissolved total solid content and decreases with its moisture content. The International Honey Commission IHC provides the basis for moisture content calculations of the standards mentioned above as well as the scale provided by the Anton Paar Abbemat refractometer that are in compliance with the international standards. They provide the appropriate conditions for a honey analysis that ensures precise results for high quality products.
In order to ensure good honey quality, the honey analysis should be done accurately. The Abbemat refractometers provide an up to six-digit resolution. In addition, the refractive index can be determined with an accuracy of up to +/- 0.008g/100g within a range of up to 0.0-46.0g/100g. Because temperature is of great importance in order to ensure an accurate refractive index measurement, all Abbemat refractometers are equipped with a Peltier temperature control.
All of this contributes to an exact measurement during the moisture analysis in honey and therefore also enhances quality control for producers, packers and merchants as it is a feature criterion for the condition of honey. Moreover, it helps to define the value of this sweet product because a low moisture content will guarantee the long-lasting quality of the honey.