Science! Brix Sugar Test

By April 12, 2010Science

The strawberries in question

The other day at Terra headquarters, our chief scientist, Dan led us in a riveting science experiment to test the sugar content of two organic strawberry brands.  The rule of thumb is the higher the sugar content, the better the produce. But how does one determine sugar content?

Enter the Refractometer

No, the Refractometer is not some made up tool out of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (did I just date myself?), it’s a highly scientific, and delicately calibrated machine composed of hundreds of tiny computer processors. Okay, I lied about that last bit. The Refractometer is an instrument which measures an index of refraction or reflection of light. It can be used to determine the fraction of sugar (sucrose) content or Degrees Brix (which is sugar per 100 parts).

A standard Refractometer

Once the refraction of the fruit in question is determined, it requires a base scale to compare it to. which determines the quality of a fruit.

How does this experiment work?

Step 1: Select your strawberries. We picked a strawberry from each batch which was comparable in size and color.

Step 2: Squeeze liquid from one of the strawberries onto the Refractometer screen (or slice it, if you’re in no mood to squeeze strawberries).

Step 3: Close the Refractometer lid and hold the instrument up to some light. At this point you can glance through the viewing lens and take note of the readout.

Step 4: Clean lens and repeat with other test subject. (Note: this test works with a plethora of fruits, but we don’t recommend trying this with anything alive even if it’s a mosquito.)

Refractometer view

The Refractometer was passed around, we had our chuckles and we took our bets. Some of us were quite surprised to see which brand won the crown of Sweetest April Strawberry. John was especially surprised because he bet his car on the wrong horse. I’ll enjoy driving his Mustang to and from my car for the summer. Just kidding, I don’t know how to drive.

Besides getting to play with a funky scientific instrument, we also learned that the redder strawberries were not necessarily the sweetest, nor were the larger ones. That just goes to show that you should never judge a fruit by it’s cover…or color…or size. Just don’t judge fruit. It doesn’t do anyone any good.

Until next week, kids!


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