Beekeepers looking to use an extractor may be weighing up whether to invest in an electric or manual honey machine. Choosing the right option for your honey room is essential for a successful harvest. This guide compares electric and manual honey extractors, examining their advantages and disadvantages.
Also check out what is a honey extractor if you’re new to this type of equipment.
Electric honey extractors
Price range: $200-$10,000+ | Best for: Commercial operations or serious hobbyists with numerous hives.
An electric honey extractor is a power-driven device designed to simplify the honey extraction process for beekeepers. Depending on the model, it can handle anything from 2-100 frames.
Electric extractors are ideal for commercial apiaries or serious hobbyists with a growing bee yard. It makes the task of large-scale honey harvesting a breeze.
Manual honey extractors
Price range: $150-$500 | Best for: Hobbyist beekeepers with 8 or less hives.
A manual honey extractor is a hand-operated tool for hobbyist beekeepers that have the physical capability to crank a handle. Its capacity typically ranges from 2-8 frames, best suited to operations with around eight or fewer colonies.
Despite requiring physical effort, honey extractors offer greater control over the extraction speed. They’re also cheaper, easier to use, quieter, and more eco-friendly than electric equipment.
Pros and cons of electric honey extractors
- High capacity up to 100 frames.
- Allows monitoring while spinning.
- Faster extraction process.
- Requires less physical effort.
- Higher costs.
- Potential for comb damage at high speeds.
- More challenging to clean.
- Requires a power source.
Pros and cons of manual honey extractors
- Easier to clean.
- Environmentally friendly (no power source required).
- Less maintenance.
- Control over-extraction speed.
- Quieter operation.
- Usable off-grid.
- More portable.
- Easier to store.
- Requires physical effort for operation.
- Limited frame capacity.
Comparison summary table
|Best for||Small hobbyists with eight or less hives.||Growing or large apiaries and anyone that doesn’t want to crank a handle.|
|Made from||Food-grade plastic or stainless steel||Stainless steel|
|Control of speed||Very good||Good|
|Frame placement||Tangential or radial||Tangential or radial|
Do electric or manual machines extract honey the fastest?
Electric honey extractors will generally extract honey faster than manual ones. They spin at a consistent, high speed, requiring less physical effort that can be maintained for longer.
Extraction times vary widely depending on factors like the type and size of the extractor, number of frames, honey viscosity, and room temperature.
Ballpark estimation: A manual extractor can process around 2-4 frames every half hour. Allow time to spin the frames, plus extra for uncapping and occasionally rests.
Industrial electric extractors can take up to 100 deep frames at a time, processing all of them in minutes. However, frame uncapping and loading time will take up the lion’s share of the work. Large commercial operations will often use a horizontal extractor that incorporates an uncapping machine.
As a full deep frame of honey weighs roughly 8 pounds, 100-frame electric extractors take minutes to extract 800 pounds of honey.
Commonly asked questions
What is a drill-powered extractor?
A drill honey extractor is a manual honey extractor powered by a drill. It’s a good option for small-scale beekeepers and offers a mid-way point between manual and electric models. They are an excellent compromise between cost and ease of use.
Do manual honey extractors work?
Although manual honey extractors take a little hard work, they are highly effective at removing honey from cells. Operators also enjoy greater control over the rotation speed, which could mean less damage to the honeycomb cells.
What size frames can I use?
Honey extractors take different sized frames depending on the specific model of the extractor. They usually allow for a range of sizes; for example, a machine may take nine deeps or eighteen medium or shallows. Most extractors can handle standard frames sizes. Get all the Langstroth hive dimensions here.
Can I harvest honey from frames with brood?
Avoid harvesting honey from frames with brood, as they contain the next generation of bees for your hive. Instead, gather honey supers placed for bees to store surplus honey.
Does the type of extractor impact the honeycomb?
Manual and electric extractors operate on the same principle of centrifugal force. However, beekeepers often find that starting electric extractors at full speed damages the comb.
Can I upgrade a manual extractor to an electric one?
Some manual extractors can be upgraded to electric ones with a motor conversion kit sold by the manufacturer. Some beekeepers make a DIY electric extractor by attaching their own motor, but you should only consider this if you have the right skills and experience.
Can manual and electric extractors handle plastic or wax frames?
Both types of extractors can process wax or plastic frames. Plastic frames are stronger and withstand the extraction process best.