Is an electric or manual honey extractor better?

Honey extractors make short work of separating the golden effort of bees — honey — from the intricate wax comb that houses it. Bees work all season long gathering nectar that is placed, drop by drop, into hexagonal cells made of beeswax. After these cells are capped, bees use the honey as food to survive the colder months, but lucky apiarists can collect extra comb to extract the honey for use in baking and cooking. 

Because of the complex design of the comb, you’ll need a honey extractor. Available in electric and manual forms, honey extractors use centrifugal force to spin the honey out of the comb. 

Which honey extractor you choose is determined by how much honey you are processing and whether you have access to a power source to extract it. 

Electric honey extractor

Electric honey extractors are available most often in stainless steel bodies with clear lids. The lids let you see the progress of extraction and judge the speed of the spin. They can hold two to 100 frames of honey at once, depending on the size of the frames and the capacity of the extractor. 

As with manual extractors, frames are placed inside the extractor with either the face of the frame or the top bar positioned to the outside of the drum. Tangential extractors — the ones with the face of the frame directed toward the walls of the extractor — can only spin one side of the comb at a time. Radial extractors are more efficient, spinning the entire comb at once.

At the flip of a switch, the extractor begins to spin, forcing the honey out to the sides of the drum and down into the collection area at the bottom. A small tap at the bottom lets the beekeeper drain the collected honey into sterilized containers.

For beginning beekeepers, already awash in the start-up costs of building a few colonies of bees, an electric honey extractor may be too expensive. They range from $200-$800.

Electric honey extractor pros

Honey extractors that use electricity are remarkably easy to use. They help the beekeeper process large amounts of honey quickly — a bonus when you’re covering more than a backyard hive or two.

In addition, electric extractors can process many more frames of honey. Industrial bee operations can extract honey from 100 deep frames at a time. Considering that a full deep frame of honey weighs 8 pounds, an electric extractor makes it possible to extract 800 pounds of honey in just a few minutes. Manual extractors powered by a human just cannot handle that much weight.

Electric honey extractor cons

If you are keeping 10 or fewer colonies, or are just starting out, you won’t need an electric extractor. In the first season, most colonies will only produce enough honey to keep themselves alive over the winter. And the following season? You’ll likely get just a few frames of honey to harvest for yourself. There is no need to invest in an elaborate extractor.

Additionally, electric extractors require a power source. While many beekeepers harvest frames and bring them back to a workshop, this may not be possible in remote areas.

Electric honey extractors are also more difficult to keep clean. They must be disassembled and hand-washed to avoid damaging the motor.  And as with any machine with moving electrical parts, there is always the possibility of breakdown. 

Best electric honey extractor

Vingli Electric 4-Frame Honey Extractor

Vingli Electric 4-Frame Honey Extractor 

This features a sturdy drum with adjustable legs and an interior that holds up to four deep frames of honey. It comes with a lifetime warranty. 

Sold by Amazon

Happybuy Electric Honey Extractor

Happybuy Electric Honey Extractor

It uses variable speeds to gently extract up to three frames of honey at a time. The motor is powerful and durable for years of use. 

Sold by Amazon

Vivo Honey Extractor

Vivo Honey Extractor   

Its sturdy stainless steel construction features a clear plastic lid so you can monitor the spinning. It’s also large enough to fit shallow, medium and deep frames and comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty (and tech support). 

Sold by Amazon

Manual honey extractor

Manual honey extractors work in the exact same way as electric extractors, with one crucial difference — the power source is the beekeeper. These come with a crank handle that is used to carefully spin the comb.

Manual honey extractors are available in sturdy stainless steel, but also plastic and glass. Best for smaller beeyards or beekeepers on a budget, they cost $100-$300, depending on the material and size.

Manual honey extractor pros

Unlike electric honey extractors that may have only one or two speed options, a manual extractor lets you control the speed. This helps keep the delicate comb intact and may result in a clearer final product.

Manual extractors may also be easier to clean, because you don’t have to worry about damaging an electrical system. In some cases, the entire assembly can be hosed off or popped in a dishwasher.

Manual honey extractor cons

The major con of a manual honey extractor is that it requires more work than an electric extractor. Honey is heavy, and continually cranking until the comb is empty can be tiring and difficult for people with hand, arm or shoulder pain.

Additionally, manual extractors do not have the capacity to hold more than eight frames. This means more time spinning frames, which makes it impractical for beekeepers with more than 10 colonies to extract from.

Best manual honey extractor

Goodland Bee Supply Hardin Professional 2-Frame Honey Extractor

Goodland Bee Supply Hardin Professional 2-Frame Honey Extractor

Its has a solid design and built-in uncapping tool to make extraction easier. The double sieve at the dispensing valve catches stray beeswax for clear golden honey every time. 

Sold by Amazon

BestEquip Manual Honey Extractor

BestEquip Manual Honey Extractor 

It has an ergonomic handle that is comfortable to hold as you extract honey from up to three frames at once. It’s made of rustproof stainless steel and is easy to use and clean. 

Sold by Amazon

Honey Keeper Pro 2-Frame Stainless Steel Honey Extractor

Honey Keeper Pro 2-Frame Stainless Steel Honey Extractor 

The clear top lets see how extraction is progressing, and a honey gate manages the flow of the final product out of the valve at the bottom of the stainless steel drum. It’s a professional-grade extractor for beeyards with fewer than 10 colonies. 

Sold by Amazon 

Should you get an electric or manual honey extractor?

Because every apiarist (and their bees) is different, it’s challenging to say which extractor works best for you. If you’re looking to process large amounts of honey quickly, an electric extractor cannot be beat. 

However, if you only maintain a handful of colonies and prefer to take a more hands-on, old-fashioned approach, a manual extractor is the best choice for you.

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.