Bead Mill Homogenizers vs. High Pressure Homogenizers

By Aimee O'Driscoll, 22 June 2021

Need to decide on a homogenizer but can’t decide which equipment is best for your application? In some cases, multiple technologies are suitable, but usually, one will be preferable over others. This is especially true when comparing laboratory bead mill homogenizers against high pressure homogenizers, as these two technologies have relatively few similarities and many stark differences.

Below, we provide an overview of each technology, including their advantages and drawbacks. We also provide a side-by-side summary of their features and list which applications they are most suitable for.

Bead Mill Homogenizers

Bead mill homogenization involves samples being placed in a tube along with beads. The homogenizer unit then shakes the tubes vigorously, causing the particles to collide with each other, the beads, and the tube walls. The sample is homogenized as a result of these collisions.


Bead Mill Homogenizers

Left to right: A BeadBug™, a Mini-Beadbeater, and a Bullet Blender®.

Pros of Bead Mill Homogenizers

  • Bead mill homogenizers can process liquid or solid samples.
  • Multiple samples can be processed concurrently, so they’re suitable for high-throughput use cases.
  • Tubes are closed so there is low risk of aerosolization.
  • Closed tubes also means that cross-contamination risk is almost non-existent.
  • Different bead types are available for a range of applications.
  • Some units can be used with infectious or otherwise hazardous material, further widening the range of applications this technology is suitable for.

Cons of Bead Mill Homogenizers

  • Laboratory bead mill homogenizers can only handle small sample sizes. Each tube can hold a few milliliters or grams of sample.
  • Due to the vigorous shaking of samples and resulting collisions of beads with each other and the tube, trace amounts of the bead material can transfer to the sample, which may be a concern in some applications.
  • Bead mill homogenizers are often quite loud.
  • Certain models require the use of proprietary tubes which can lead to high costs in the long run, particularly for use in high-throughput applications.

High Pressure Homogenizer

A high pressure homogenizer subjects your liquid sample to high shear forces. Models vary in terms of their inner workings, but in general, the sample is forced through a small channel, for example, a valve or membrane openings. High shear forces result, along with cavitation and a drop in pressure. Combined, these forces homogenize the sample. In some units, the setup involves the sample stream colliding with a plate, blade, or ring, which further homogenizes the sample.

One special type of high pressure homogenizer is a French Press. These are often used in cell lysis, one of the few applications which could reasonably be performed with either a bead mill homogenizer or a high pressure homogenizer.


High pressure homogenizer examples.

Left to right: A ShearJet® HL60 Electric Hydraulic High Shear Homogenizer, Micro DeBEE High Pressure Homogenizer, and a French Press G-M®.

Pros of High Pressure Homogenizers

  • High pressure homogenizers are ideal for processing large, liquid samples.
  • Processes are reproducible and suitable for scaleup.
  • These homogenizers are capable of achieving very small particle sizes.
  • Samples can often be continuously fed into the unit meaning there are no maximum sample volumes.
  • High pressure homogenizers are suitable for a broad range of applications due to their flexibility.

Cons of High Pressure Homogenizers

  • These units can’t handle multiple samples in quick succession so are unsuitable for high-throughput applications.
  • High pressure homogenizers take a long time to thoroughly clean.
  • These units are often heavy and cumbersome so cannot be moved around the lab or facility easily.
  • High pressure homogenizers are usually fairly expensive. For this reason, they are typically only used for processing large samples, or in situations where easy scale-up will be important.

Summary of Bead Mill Homogenizers Versus High Pressure Homogenizers

Both bead mill homogenizers and high pressure homogenizers are useful tools for a variety of applications. Typically, a bead mill is used for smaller samples, particularly where high throughput is required. Laboratory bead mill homogenizers can only handle sample sizes of 1 μL – 20 mL. While production-sized bead mills do exist, they are normally used for more traditional material milling and grinding rather than laboratory-style homogenization.

High pressure homogenizers tend to be used for processing large, liquid samples. Some units can handle volumes as low as 10 mL, but they are time-consuming to set up and clean so wouldn’t be frequently used for this sample size.

High pressure homogenizers can often allow for continuous feeding of the sample, which means they have no upper limit to the volume they can be used for. This makes them highly suitable for applications that need to be scaled up. That said, the time-intensive setup and cleaning of high pressure homogenizers make them unsuitable for high-throughput applications, an area where bead mill homogenization shines. 

Another key difference is that high pressure homogenizers aren’t suitable for solid samples, whereas a bead mill can handle either liquid or solid samples. Both are suitable for particle size reduction, although smaller sizes can be achieved with a high pressure homogenizer (~100 nm) than a bead mill homogenizer. (~500 nm).

One more important consideration is the heat sensitivity of samples. Bead mill homogenizers generate relatively little heat during sample processing whereas high pressure homogenizers generate a significant amount of heat. Both technologies often have options to provide cooling, but this is model-dependent.


Bead Mill Homogenizer

High Pressure Homogenizer

Particle Size

Min particle size: ~500 nm

Min particle size: ~100 nm

Sample Size

1 μL–20 mL

~10 mL and up (0.5 mL–35 mL for a French Press) 

Max. Viscosity

~ 100 cP

~ 100,000 cP (may require air pressure at higher viscosities)


Generally high



Not very suitable for scaleup

Highly suitable for scaleup

Heat Generated

Very little to some heat generated

Significant heat generated

Ease of Use

Simple to set up and ideal for multiple samples

Time-consuming to set up but good for large single samples


Usually uses single-use tubes so little or no cleaning is required

Cleaning can be labor-intensive or time consuming

The homogenizer technology you select will depend heavily on exactly what you’re trying to achieve. In the table below, we’ve listed some of the most common applications for bead mill homogenization and high pressure homogenization.


Bead Mill Homogenizer

High Pressure Homogenizer

Tissue homogenization

Cell lysis

Milling / Grinding

Tissue disruption / Cell isolation

Organelle extraction

Particle size reduction (small samples only)


Cell disruption (especially a French Press)

Particle size reduction (> 100 nm)

Organelle isolation