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Measuring sugar in the beverage industry

Written by Janice M on . Posted in Food & Beverage


Beverage and brewing companies often need to measure the amount of sugar in solution during the production process, in order to maximise quality control and flavour.

Manufacturers that would like their finished product to be consistently up to standard, track this data along the production line. Potential costly problems can be avoided and reliable quality attained, resulting in all round cost saving and a consistently pleasing end result!

5 Different Sugar Measurement Scales

  1. Brix – a sugar scale that determines the sugar content of an aqueous solution. Most commonly used scale for measuring fruit juice, honey, wine and carbonated beverages. Further information on measuring brix
  2. Plato – a scale that expresses the density of beer wort as the percentage of sucrose in a liquid. Practically, it measures the ratio of water to fermentable sugar and is specific to beer making
  3. Balling – a hydrometer scale that registers the percentage by weight of soluble solids in solution, eg. sugar in grape juice or wine
  4. Oechsle – a hydrometer scale that measures the density of grape must which gives an indication of the sugar content / grape ripeness in wine making
  5. Specific Gravity – the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a reference substance

Each scale is measured in degrees, except for Specific Gravity, which is measured in g / ml.

5 Applicable Sugar Measurement Instruments

There are a few instruments that are able to measure sugar / dry solid content in a dissolved solution. When choosing an instrument, you need to consider the size of your operation, the level of accuracy required (this is usually related to the amount of decimal points and the consistency of the instrument), your budget and, often, the standards required by your company.

  1. Refractometer – handheld basic
    A simple, economical choice, measures up to one decimal place, less water resistant and durable than the others
    View Atago Master series

  2. Refractometer – handheld digital type
    Most popular type, easy to use and rinse off, only a few drops of sample are required
    View Atago Pocket Pal Series

  3. Saccharometer / Brix Hydrometer
    A more delicate "thermometer type" of glass instrument that is also economical; often during the production of alcohol products. A greater sample size is required and can be less accurate
    View Saccharometers – Brix Hydrometers

  4. Refractometer – benchtop
    A more sophisticated instrument for more precise and accurate laboratory testing, measures up to 5 decimal places with internal temperature control and programmable scales
    View RX-5000∝-bev

  5. Refractometer – In-line
    An in-line refractometer is incorporated into the piping of factory systems to continuously measure the brix of a liquid. This allows precise control over mixing and concentration of liquids.
    View Atago PRM-100

What is the Difference between a Refractometer and a Saccharometer?

A Refractometer measures the density of a liquid by measuring to what extent light is bent by the density of a solution. View diagram

A Saccharometer / Hydrometer measures the specific gravity of a liquid by how much a weighted stem / bulb floats on the solution. A higher sugar content will make the solution denser and cause the bulb to float higher.


All instruments should be calibrated on an annual basis to ensure that they are still performing correctly.

Selectech calibrates all types of refractometers.

Why do you need to calibrate your testing instruments?


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