Pfund scale

A scale used in the honey industry to describe the color of honey. Measurements were originally made with the Pfund color grader, which consists of a wedge of amber-colored glass next to a wedge-shaped cell which is filled with honey. The instrument is read visually; the reading is the distance the wedge must be moved to make a match, and is expressed in millimeters. Symbol, mm Pfund/

Honey Colors¹
Color Name Pfund Scale,
Optical Density
Water White <9 0.0945
Extra White 9 – 17  0.189
White 18– 34  0.378
Extra Light Amber 35 – 50  0.595
Light Amber 51 – 85  1.389
Amber 86 – 114  3.008
Dark Amber >114
A few examples of honey colors
Honey Varietal Average color as mm Pfund
Citrus 14
Eucalyptus 58
Heather 96

Color is not a factor in determining grades of honey in the United States, but a color designation usually accompanies the grade. The Pfund color grader “is not the officially approved device for determining color designation when applying these United States grade standards for the color of honey.” Instead, transmittance is measured at a wavelength of 560 nanometers, through 3.15 centimeters of a freshly-prepared caramel-glycerin solution that matches the color of the honey, as compared with the transmittance of pure glycerin. The optical density², as given in the last column in the table above, is log to the base 10 of 100 divided by the percent transmittance.

1. From Table 1. United States Standards for Grades of Extracted Honey. USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service. Effective May 23, 1985.

2. AOAC.
Official Methods of Analysis. 15ᵗʰ edition.
Arlington, VA: AOAC, 1990.

Section 985.25 See also:
J. W. White, Jr.
Instrumental color classification of honey: Collaborative study.
Journal of the AOAC, volume 67, number 6, page 1129 (1984).


Photographs of a Pfund color grader are shown on this blog:

A Pfund color grader was formerly manufactured by the Koehler Instrument Co. of Bohemia, NY. They apparently currently manufacture a sophisticated electronic instrument for measuring the color of honey, but we have not been able to find a model number. Their web site:


Hanna Instruments makes the battery-operated HI96785 Honey Color Analyzer, which reads directly in mm Pfund (± 2 mm at 80mm), roughly 330USD.

the Hanna portable analyzer

Courtesy Hanna Instruments.

Alternatively, products are available that rely on visually comparing the color of honey in a standardized cup with printed color samples, like the color chips in a paint store:

California Code of Regulations (Last Updated: August 6, 2014); Title 3. Food and Agriculture; Division 3. Economics; Chapter 1. Fruit and Vegetable Standardization; Subchapter 6. Honey.
§ 1495.9. Means of Color Classification.
Latest version.
The color classification of honey as determined by means of the U.S.D.A. permanent glass color standards for honey as provided in the U.S. grades currently in effect shall be considered equal to the color classification of the Pfund color grader.
1. Editorial correction adding NOTE filed 8-23-83 (Register 83, No. 35).

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