The Brix scale is a scale or chart used to measure characteristics of sugar solutions. Specifically, it is used to calculate both the concentration and density of sucrose solutions. The Brix scale is most often used to measure the presence of sugars in wines, ales, carbonated beverages and foods. It is also used to calibrate equipment responsible for combining flavored syrups and carbonated water in specific proportions, most often to mix fountain beverages.
Adolf Brix developed the Brix scale in the mid-1800s. Forerunners included the Plato system and the Balling scale. The intent of all such scales is to measure the amount of sugar present.
The earliest uses of the Brix scale were in wine and mead production. Excess or deficient amounts of sugar in these beverages affected the taste, so brewers and vintners had an interest in knowing just how much sugar was present in each batch. The Brix and similar scales gave them the means to do this in a measurable, reliable way. This allowed them to maintain consistency within batches and between batches, and also to experiment with new flavors by adjusting the amount of sugar in the mix.
Brix, like similar scales, uses a degree system and is expressed metrically. For example, 1 degree Brix means that there is 1 gram (about 0.03 ounces) of sucrose per each 100 grams (about 3.52 ounces) of solution. The presence of other dissolved solids, however, can affect the system, causing a slight inaccuracy in the measurements.
While the Brix scale continues to be widely used in the wine industry, it is also a critical tool for manufacturers of fruit juice and honey. As with wine, the amount of sugar present in these liquids affects their taste. In addition, most countries require that the amount of sugar in honeys and fruit juices be listed on the nutrition panel.
The Brix scale is also an important tool for the fountain branches of major carbonated beverage manufacturers around the world. Fountain machines are often used in restaurants and convenience stores. These machines allow the syrup concentrate for each beverage to be mixed on site with carbonated water. If the two solutions are mixed improperly, the resulting beverage may taste overly sweet, bitter or even flat.
In order to maintain a consistent mix and provide the intended taste, these machines are regularly calibrated. Technicians use the Brix scale to determine whether the syrup or water pumps need to be adjusted. Within the industry, this is commonly referred to as "Brixing" the fountain.