Tangential vs Radial Honey Extractors

Honey extractors are revolutionary tools for beekeepers, helping them harvest honey from honeycombs without damaging the delicate comb structure. Extractors use centrifugal force to spin the honey out of the comb, allowing it to be collected and bottled.

In this article, we'll look at the two most common types of honey extractors: tangential and radial extractors. Both have their pros and cons, and the choice between them largely depends on the needs and preferences of the beekeeper.

Tangential Honey Extractors

How Tangential Extractors Work

Tangential extractors hold honeycombs vertically, with one side of the comb facing outward. As the extractor spins, honey is flung from the outer-facing side of the comb. Once the honey has been extracted from one side, the comb must be flipped to extract honey from the other side. This process can be time-consuming for beekeepers with many frames of honey to process.

Pros and Cons of Tangential Extractors

Tangential extractors are often more affordable than radial extractors, making them an attractive option for small-scale beekeepers or hobbyists. They are also available in various sizes and can be manually or electrically powered.

Unfortunately, tangential extractors can be less efficient than their radial counterparts. Because they require the beekeeper manually flip the combs to extract honey from both sides, it takes time to harvest honey from dozens of hives.

Radial Honey Extractors

How Radial Extractors Work

Radial extractors, on the other hand, hold honeycombs vertically, with the top bar facing outward. This configuration allows honey to be extracted from both sides of the comb simultaneously as the extractor spins. Since the honey is flung out of the comb from both sides, radial extractors are generally faster and more efficient than tangential extractors.

Pros and Cons of Radial Extractors

Radial extractors offer several advantages over tangential extractors. Their design allows for more efficient honey extraction, separating honey from both sides of a frame concurrently. This can save time and effort, especially for large-scale beekeepers. Additionally, radial extractors often have a larger capacity than tangential extractors, allowing for more honeycombs to be processed at once.

Radial extractors are generally more expensive than their tangential counterparts, which makes them unsuitable for hobbyists or those with limited budgets. Radial extractors work best with standard-sized, evenly-drawn honeycombs. Foundationless frames where the comb is unevenly distributed can break off when using radial extractors.

A Cost Comparison of Tangential and Radial Honey Extractors

In general, tangential honey extractors are more affordable than radial extractors. However, there are trade-offs in terms of efficiency. Though more expensive, radiation extractors can save time and effort during the honey extraction process due to their ability to process both sides of the comb simultaneously.

When comparing costs, consider the long-term value and potential for growth. If you plan to expand your operation, investing in a radial extractor may be more cost-effective in the long run due to its greater capacity and efficiency.

The Impact of Honey Extractor Design on Honey Quality

Tangential extractors, which require flipping the combs, can cause more agitation of the honey during extraction. This agitation may introduce more air into the honey, affecting its clarity and long-term storage quality. In contrast, radial extractors allow for gentler extraction resulting in clear, higher-quality honey.

Proper handling and storage of honey after extraction also play a significant role in maintaining its quality.

Which Type of Extractor is Easier to Clean and Maintain?

Generally, tangential extractors may be simpler to clean and maintain due to their less complex design. With their larger capacity and more intricate mechanisms, radial extractors may require more effort to clean and maintain.

When choosing an extractor, look for models with easy-to-disassemble parts and those made from high-quality, food-grade materials such as stainless steel. 

How to Choose the Right Honey Extractor for Your Beekeeping Needs

When selecting the best honey extractor for your needs, consider:

  1. The scale of operation: The size of your beekeeping operation will impact your choice of extractor. Small-scale beekeepers or hobbyists may prefer tangential extractors for their affordability and simplicity, while larger-scale beekeepers may benefit from the efficiency and capacity of radial extractors.
  2. Budget: Tangential extractors are generally more affordable than radial but may be less efficient and time-saving.
  3. Type of honeycombs: The design of radial extractors works best with standard-sized, evenly drawn honeycombs. If your combs are irregular or of varying sizes, you may face challenges using a radial extractor, making a tangential extractor a better choice.
  4. Cleaning and maintenance: Some designs may be simpler to disassemble and clean, while others may require more effort or specialized tools.


When deciding between a tangential and radial honey extractor,  consider your budget, the size of your beekeeping operation, and the type of honeycombs you typically work with. Tangential extractors are often more budget-friendly and suitable for small-scale beekeepers or hobbyists, while radial extractors are more efficient and better suited for commercial operations or those who prioritize efficiency.

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