top of page

Ag Tech: The Many Uses Of A Brix Refractometer

Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ~ Jean Jacques Rousseau
DiFluid Digital Brix Refractometer

Dolce Far Niente

La Dolce far niente is the sweetness of doing nothing, something deeply engrained in the culture of an Italian farmer’s way of life. Much like fruits on the vine, they embrace the sun during hot summers and slowly become sweeter and more inert. Living Dolce far niente is symbolic of embracing life, sharing in watching the world go by for just one moment, and it only gets sweeter. Much like how fruits on the vine slowly ripen in the summer sun; they miraculously hang on - growing and changing, becoming sweeter over time. Life is sweet, and measuring that sweetness comes with evaluating what one might experience and enjoy in life - striking a balance.
All States Ag Parts

Harvesting The Fruit

Measuring that sweetness allows us to take inventory and determine the work needed to improve sweetness. Fruit is much like our ability to grow; sometimes, learning to change our course requires us to sit still and embrace life as it comes. Much like a farmer measures sweetness using a Brix Refractometer, a tool to help us determine that “it’s time.” A fruit’s sweetness is the embodiment of Dolce far niente; an approach to embracing the sweetness of life.

Watching over the fields, walking the rows, and testing the fruit to ensure peak ripeness. The farmer remains patient and calm, working with the fruit to push the boundaries of taste profiles and the percentage of sugar in each piece of fruit. How does one measure sweetness and patience? They may get impatient, harvest too soon, or push it deep into the first frost. Which captures the most rich sweetness and flavor profiles, but the fruit will not be fresh for market. Finding the balance in sweetness is captured through understanding fructose levels and knowing when to harvest.

The Brix Scale

As the end of summer approaches, the farmer focuses on sweetness levels and uses the Brix Refractometer to evaluate just the right time to pull fruit from the vine. A refractometer is based on using a medium, such as a drop of fruit fiber, and how that light bends across the boundary between one end of the fruit juice smattering to the other. It measures fructose density or sugar content; the farmer points the tool toward the light source until the scale is visible. Brix is calculated as one-degree brix (°Bx) is equal to 1% sugar by mass. Once the farmer sees a number reflected on the scale, for example, 20 - they know their harvest contains 20% sugar or is commercially ripened.

One should know that the development of sugar content in fruit greatly depends on genetics, sunlight, temperatures, growing conditions, and a bit of luck. Once harvesting is underway and the fruit hits peak ripeness - the field workers being cutting in the early morning while still dark. Some believe in hand-picking, especially heirloom varieties, to help stimulate increased brix.

Brix Fruit Sweetness  -
Felix Instruments - Brix Estimates

Wrapping It Up

A Brix Refractometer is a tool not only used by farmers; it is crucial for chefs, winemakers, and beekeepers. It can measure the water content in soymilk and the sweetness in unripened mangos. For brewers and distillers, measuring alcohol content during fermentation and pre-fermentation helps assist them in calculating the percentage of alcohol by volume. The higher the number, the more sugar is present in the distillates. Which ultimately translates into a higher alcohol volume in the finished product.

22 views0 comments



bottom of page