Honey Extractors​ and How to Use Them

Honey extractors can be an invaluable tool. Even though there’s some debate as to their necessity, they can improve your honey harvests if you use them as intended. They may seem like complicated pieces of machinery, but putting them to use is simpler than you might expect.

Don’t be intimidated by them. I’m going to show you how easy it is to use a honey extractor. Just as with other pieces of beekeeping equipment, you don’t need a degree in physics to understand them. You might build some muscle though, but who’s complaining about that?

how to use a honey extractor

What Are Honey Extractors?

Honey extractors are simple machines that seamlessly harvest your honey without breaking or damaging your combs. They’re cylinders that work by means of centrifugal force. As they spin, they pull honey from your frames and collect it all.

This is where the arguments begin. If honey is extracted, it means that it’s been collected from different frames or combs and mixed together to form standard honey. It will taste exactly the same as any other jar of extracted honey.

This isn’t a bad thing, but some beekeepers prefer to keep their honey unmixed. If you keep your combs separate during harvesting, you’ll have different flavors and textures.

Honey extractors are best suited to beekeepers who have intentions of selling their honey commercially. This is emphasized by the fact that honey extractors can be costly. They aren’t always worth it if you’re not returning a profit, or if your honey harvest is low. Take a look at some of the best honey extractors here.

Honey extractors are useful to beekeepers who have to produce as much honey as they can, in the shortest amount of time, at the right time of year.

Utilizing Honey Extractors

How you use your honey extractor depends on the type and capacity of the machine itself. If you haven’t purchased a honey extractor yet, take some time to consider which one will be best for you. If you already have one, make sure you know its specs so that you can get your money’s worth when you put it to use.

How you operate your extractor will vary according to its type, size, and capability. All extractors will have the same premise though, so it’s easy to explain how to use them.

How to Use Honey Extractors

Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to using a honey extractor:

  • Start off by removing your capped frames from your super. It’s better to remove them one by one instead of all together.
  • Uncap your cells. Uncapping knives, warm knives, and hot air guns make this step easy.
  • Insert your frames into the extractor. Each extractor will have grooves that will hold them in place. More often than not, your frames will be placed vertically.
  • Close your extractor and power it on. If it’s motorized, this will be at the flip of a switch. Manual extractors will have a crank that you will have to rotate yourself. The harder you crank, the faster your extractor will spin. Try not to crank too hard, and keep an eye on motorized extractors to make sure that they’re not spinning too fast. You don’t want to damage your frames or ruin your honey.
  • Your frames should be depleted after 10 minutes, give or take.
  • Pour your honey into a container from your honey gate. If extractors are too full, they don’t work as well. It’s better to empty it out after every run.
Unfiltered honey flows from the extractor. Honey and wax are poured on a strainer.

It’s as simple as that. I have two tips for you to add to that, though. Read on.

Only extract warm honey. This allows the machine to run so much more smoothly. If you’re operating a manual machine, it will save you a lot of effort. Change the direction that your extractor spins in every couple of minutes. This also keeps things running smoothly.

Methods of Honey Extraction

Now that you’ve learned the basics of honey extraction, you can play around with different styles of it. The most important consideration here is the type of extractor you will use.

Radial Extractors

Radial extractors apply centrifugal force in the opposite direction of the gravity placed on your frames. They’re the standard in honey extraction and using them is somewhat easier than their tangential counterparts.

When using a radial extractor, you won’t change any of the steps above. The only thing to keep in mind is the placement of your frames. They’ll have to face outwards. Radial extractors pull honey from both sides of your frames simultaneously.

Tangential Extractors

As the name implies, these extractors use tangential force, rather than opposition as with the radial extractors. They pull honey from one side of your frames at a time. They’re not as common or preferred as radial extractors, but they work just as well.

When you’re inserting your frames into a tangential extractor, take care to balance them out. If necessary, use empty frames to fill the spaces in between. The method of extraction is much the same as the standard, but tangential extractors use the specialized 50-100-50 formula.

Begin by removing 50 percent of the honey on one side of your frame. Turn it over and remove all the honey from the reverse side. Then switch back and pull the remaining honey from the frame. This is to prevent too much weight on either side from damaging your frames when the machine gets to work.

Manual Extractors

If your honey harvest is small, a manual extractor will suit you just fine and could potentially save you some money. The only drawback is that you have to use manual labor to operate them. This won’t be too tedious if you’re producing honey casually or infrequently.

Since you power them, they don’t need electricity and can be set up anywhere. They make less noise and are far easier to control since you determine the force that’s applied to your frame.

One problem is that they’re slow. This makes them unsuited for large or in-demand harvests.

Motorized Extractors

Motorized, or electric, extractors are lifesavers if you’re producing commercial honey. They do most of the work for you and make a big difference in the time you spend extracting your honey. They’re much faster than manual machines and are designed to optimize honey extraction.

Even though they make life so much easier, they’re typically unnecessary unless you’re producing large amounts of honey or work on a tight schedule.

They tend to cost more, and there’s more risk of your frames being damaged (because they’re high-powered). They make a lot of noise and they require electricity to run.

They compensate for their drawbacks by being efficient. All they need is a push of a button and you can sit back and relax.


See? There’s almost nothing to honey extractors. So long as you handle the machines (and your frames) with care, you’ll have nothing to worry about. It doesn’t matter which type of extractor you choose, the idea behind them is all the same. Use them within your means and you’ll have no problem at all.

Remember that honey extractors aren’t a necessity to small beekeepers. They’re impressive gadgets that we all want to get our hands on, yes, but sometimes they’re not worth it. Contact your local beekeeper to find out if they’ll lend you one. That way you can have all the fun with none of the commitment.

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