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Hanna Instruments Australia
Sales: (03) 9769 0666   |    Mon to Fri: 8:30am – 5:00pm

Analysing the Colour of Honey

Bees use nectar to make honey; they collect nectar from a variety of plants, which means a variety of types of honey. Honey is a naturally produced functional food proven to have a positive effect on health. The advantageous properties of honey include antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, wound and sunburn healing, antioxidant, antidiabetic and antimicrobial activities.

Honey is characterised by many different traits, and colour being the most important physical one. From the colour of honey, one can determine the geographical origin as well as what variety of plants the honey originates from. Many factors have been found to affect the colour of honey, including minerals, phenolic compounds, and antioxidant activity. Darker honey has been found to have a higher antioxidant capacity and is often used in natural health regiments. Studies have proven how important antioxidants are in fighting disease, so an accurate way to quantify the antioxidants in honey is important. Including honey with high level of antioxidants in a diet has shown to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

The natural colour of honey presents many tonalities: from straw yellow to amber, from dark amber to almost black with a hint of red. In 1964, a standard system of honey grading using a Pfund Honey Colour Grader was introduced in Australia. It was modified in June 1981 to bring the Australian scale in line with the international scale:

Official Australian Grade Color Range Pfund Scales (mm)
Water White
8 or less
Extra White
Over 8 to 17 (including)
Over 17 to 34 (including)
Extra Light Amber
Over 34 to 50 (including)
Light Amber
Over 50 to 85 (including)
Over 85 to 114 (including)
Dark Amber
Over 114


A research scientist was comparing the physicochemical and antioxidant properties of honey and needed an accurate way to report honey colour. For his research four honey types were compared. Manuka honey was used as the standard in the study because of the known benefits and biomedical properties, as well as it has been widely studied for its antioxidant capacity.The scientist looked at many different characteristics of the honey: pH, EC/TDS and honey colour. He was already using Hanna products for pH and EC/TDS. Honey colour is obtained by comparing to an amber coloured standard and the results are expressed in distance within the sample. Previously he was getting these results by visually comparing the honey sample to a set of standards and found this to be subjective. He contacted Hanna about the HI96785, a portable photometer designed specifically for measuring the colour of honey.

The HI96785 gives results in mm, according to the Pfund scale. The HI96785 uses direct measurement to determine honey coloration ranging from 0 to 150 mm Pfund. This photometer has a tungsten lamp with a narrow band interference filter to isolate the 420 nm and 525 nm wavelength. All samples are measured in a square cuvette having a 10 mm light path and are compared to a glycerol standard. The percent light transmittance readings are directly displayed as mm Pfund. With its advanced optical system, the highly precise meter eliminates subjectivity to provide readings that are accurate and repeatable.

The scientist liked that the HI96785 was easy to use and gave direct measurement, which took away the subjectivity of comparing the samples to a set of standards.

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