Refractometers are simple optical instruments for measuring the dissolved solids content of fruits, grasses and vegetables during all stages of growth.
Refractometers work on the principle of light bending when it passes from air into water.
The amount light bends is measured in degrees "Brix". There are values of degrees Brix for each fruit and vegetable ranging from poor to excellent. Due to dissolved sugars, minerals and other nutrients in fruit and vegetable juices, they are denser than water and bend light more.
The excellent level generally gives the plant immunity to disease and insects, and creates health in animals and people.
These plants also have increased frost resistance, and improved storability because they will dehydrate rather than rot.
The Brix indicates the level of balance of nutrient uptake and complexing into sugars or proteins in the photosynthesis factory the leaf.
If Brix is low, some element(s) are missing.
Ions, if present, have not been "complexed" into sugars or proteins.
Soil fertility needs may also be established from this reading.
Highest readings will be obtained where soil nutrients are in best balance.
The most effective means to increase Brix readings is to add nutrients such as trace minerals and humus to the soil.
Crops with higher Brix will produce more alcohol from fermented sugars and be more resistant to insects, thus resulting in decreased insecticide usage.
Within a given species of plant, the crop with a higher refractive index will have a higher sugar content, higher mineral content, higher protein content and a greater specific gravity or density.
This adds up to a sweeter tasting, more minerally nutritious food (maximum nutritional value) with a lower nitrate and water content and better storage characteristics.
Refractometers are used extensively in industry and research fields for measuring the concentration of all kinds of aqueous solutions, such as pharmaceuticals, tissue fluids in plants, and urine and blood protein. It is also used for checking the concentration of medicines,cosmetics, battery solutions, antifreeze, and processing solutions for plating, and quenching oils.
The food processing industry uses the refractometer extensively for measuring the sugar concentration of soft drinks, juices, colas, nectars, and lactic acid beverages. The device is also used for checking flavouring solutions of canned foods, sugar concentration of jams, marmalades, honeys, extracts, concentrates, and other sweet liquids.
Refractometers are used in the brewing and wine-making industry as well as to check the ripening stage of fruit and the sugar content of fruits and grapes.
Evaluating produce with a refractometer is an enlightening experience. Cosmetic visual signs often crumble in the wake of real evaluation.
The refractometer has virtually unlimited uses.
The refractometer can be used for fertiliser selection, large or small scale food evaluation (even milk), food processing, and a variety of other uses.