Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer Review

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Review Overview

Our Rating

The Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer provides consistently accurate readings of the moisture content in honey.

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Milwaukee Instruments has a number of tools and equipment for various every day uses. The accumulated expertise and experience of the company spans both electronic and non-electronic products. This is great assurance that the Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer is well built and does the job it is designed to do. It comes from a reliable manufacturer who has products such as a salinity refractometer, a cordless wet/dry vacuum and a high torque impact wrench. Let’s check it out.

About the Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer

Honey quality is evaluated based on its moisture content. The Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer is one of the available tools for beekeepers and honey quality inspectors to determine how good honey is. This refractometer measures in the Brix scale and can give values from 0 to 85% Brix. It has a resolution of 0.1% and comes with a long lasting battery. The refractometer has a height of 67 millimeters, a length of 192 millimeters and is 102 millimeters wide. It is roughly twice the size of your hand. There is no further assembly required upon purchase – it comes ready to use.

The Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer manages to provide quite accurate results about the sugar content of your honey. Once you get the result from the refractometer, subtract it from 100 and you have your moisture content percentage. Regulatory bodies have given a moisture content of 18 and below as the best for honey. Higher moisture content has the potential to lead to fermentation of honey. The refractometer is easy to use and has a nice digital readout display screen.

Using the Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer

  1. To test the honey’s moisture content, start by putting in a suitable battery in the refractometer and power it on.
  2. Wait for temperature registration to take place. You will see temperature readout on the display. The refractometer has automatic temperature compensation (ATC).
  3. If not calibrated, you may calibrate the refractometer at this point using some distilled or deionized water. Press the ‘Zero’ button to zero the refractometer to its baseline refractive index.
  4. Once calibration is done, take some 5-8 drops of your honey sample and place them on the sample lens. This is roughly equivalent to 1 ml of honey. The sample should cover the sample lens to the recommended depth of 1-2mm.
  5. Press the ‘Read’ button on the refractometer’s panel and wait for the result to display on the readout screen.

Things to Note

Make sure that the sample lens is clean before placing a honey sample on it for testing. In use, the refractometer can be switched between the Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature scales. Once you are done taking your readings, it is good to clean the sample lens. Swab the lens with an alcohol wipe if you have one and then rinse with water until the reading on the rinse is 0. If you do not have alcohol wipes, just use distilled water and a lint-free towel.

This refractometer requires a 9-volt battery for its operation. A single battery gives you up to 5,000 readings on the refractometer. Common names for the battery are 9-volt, or E size. It can also be designated as PP3 or E-block on the battery. Make sure to use a battery with enough juice every time you use the refractometer. When storing it, you may take out the battery to remove the risk of damage in case the battery leaks while in the refractometer.

The lens of the refractometer are easy to access and add a sample. It is set in the middle of a chrome ring on the upper side of the refractometer.

This refractometer can withstand relatively high temperatures in the sample under testing. This is testament to its durability. Normally, the temperature limits of the refractometer are not tested when working with honey.

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Pros and Cons


  • The refractometer does not need calibration between sampling the same product. All you need is to clean the sample lens and you are ready to go.
  • The refractometer gives you readings in Brix. This is a measure of the sugar content of a sample solution. One Brix is equivalent to a single gram of sugar dissolved in 100 grams of a solution.
  • The refractometer comes with 2 pipettes. Get into the habit of using one pipette and keep the second one for the rare event that you lose or damage the first one.


  • The casing provided can be rather inadequate. The casing wears rather easily and you may have to make or buy another protective casing for when you are storing the refractometer away.


Further Thoughts

This refractometer has impressive features that make it very much loved by beekeepers. It is easy to use by both experienced and amateur beekeepers that have just brought in their first honey harvest. The refractometer does not cause trouble to non-geeks who are not generally great around electronic gadgets. In addition to its intuitive use, it comes with an excellent instruction manual. If you run into problems using the refractometer, just consult the  manual and all should be well. If the challenge persists, reaching out to the easily contactable Milwaukee Instruments customer service should resolve your issue.


This refractometer is great for use by beekeepers in checking the quality of their honey and for general use. It is however not made for medical use. Specifically, do not attempt to check the refraction index of body fluid such as urine.

The Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer is a handy equipment for beekeepers making sure their honey has the right moisture content. Test honey from different super boxes of your hive, or your honey in general using this reliable refractometer. If your honey has been in storage for some time, make sure to mix it well. This is important because honey that has been standing for a time has varying moisture content at the top and bottom of the container. Additionally, make sure to store your extracted honey in airtight containers to prevent it from attracting moisture from the environment.

Do you own the Milwaukee Instruments MA871 Digital Brix Refractometer? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of it.

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About Michael Simmonds

Michael Simmonds is an American beekeeper with more than two decades of experience in beekeeping. His journey with bees began in his youth, sparking a lifelong passion that led him to start his own apiary at the tender age of 15. Throughout the years, Simmonds has refined his beekeeping skills and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge concerning honeybee biology and behavior. Simmonds' early exposure to beekeeping ignited a fascination with these pollinators, influencing his decision to establish BeeKeepClub in 2016. The website was created with the aim to serve as the ultimate resource for beginners interested in beekeeping. Under Simmonds' guidance, BeeKeepClub provides comprehensive information to novices, including the basics of beekeeping, the different types of bees and hives, the selection of hive locations, and the necessary beekeeping equipment. In addition, the site offers detailed reviews of beekeeping tools to help enthusiasts make informed decisions and get the best value for their investment​​. His contributions to the beekeeping community through BeeKeepClub are substantial, offering both educational content and practical advice. The website covers a wide array of topics, from starting an apiary to harvesting honey, all reflecting Simmonds' extensive experience and passion for the field. Simmonds’ approach is hands-on and educational, focusing on the importance of understanding bees and the environment in which they thrive. His work not only guides beginners through their beekeeping journey but also reflects a commitment to the well-being of bees. Michael Simmonds has dedicated a significant part of his life to bees and beekeeping, and through BeeKeepClub, he has made this knowledge accessible to a broader audience. His work undoubtedly embodies a blend of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in the realm of beekeeping.
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