What’s wrong with the honey, Honey!

 In Bee Health, Honey, New Beekeeper, Organic Beekeeping, Treatment Free Beekeeping

Is honey crystallisation spoiling your toast? 

Do you store your honey in a warm part of your house? Do you do this to avoid crystallisation? Well if you are keeping honey at room temperature then it is likely that you are going to have crystallisation occur faster than keeping it in a cool environment. First, we must understand crystallisation and the behaviour of honey.

What is crystallisation?

Crystallisation is a natural process where liquefied honey changes to a solid (crystallised) state over time. The crystals of sugar form around a particle of pollen or other impurity within the honey. Over time the honey will reach an equilibrium state where most of the change has occurred.  At this point it can remain in a stable condition for years. Besides the obvious textural change, the crystallisation process will probably result in a change of colour and clarity.

Why does this happen?

It does this because there is a combination of sugars that are in such high concentration that it makes it hard for the sugar to remain dissolved in the small amount of water that is in honey.  The tendency for a particular type of honey to crystallise and the rate at which it will change is largely a result of the ratio of glucose to fructose.  The crystallisation process could occur in a relatively short time (1-2 months) or up to several years.

How do I look after my honey to reduce the likelihood of crystallisation?

It mainly comes down to temperature control. Keep a constant, cool temperature and avoid sunlight.

Temperature – The lower shelves in your pantry/cupboard will be adequate for short-medium term storage. For long term storage consider a cool room or even a freezer. See more in the next section on the best temperature range.

Use food grade containers – glass is best. This will reduce the chance of plastics leaching in to your honey or metal containers that oxidise in the acidic environment created by honey.

Try different honey varieties – some varieties of honey will crystallise slowly. If you have your own bees then I guess you don’t have much choice if you keep them in the one location. If you buy your honey from a reputable supplier, then ask them what type would be best to avoid crystallisation.

The temperature debate

There are many resources which have contradictory information but the clear majority of opinions (including my own) is that if you want to minimise crystallisation then you should keep it cool.

  • Under 10° c = stable, crystals form slowly
  • 10°-20° c = less stable, ideal for crystallisation
  • 21°-27° c = crystal formation slows, some denaturing of the beneficial components
  • 28° c+ = damage to honey, honey will remain liquid

How do I store it for the long term then?

As previously stated keep it cool. Or perhaps freeze it. Store it well sealed in glass containers will give an outstanding long-term result. Leave an air gap for the expansion of the water to avoid breaking the container.

When it comes to using this honey thaw it slowly until it reaches a liquid state. This could take quite some time. If it was already part crystallised, then read on to see what to do once thawed.

How do I melt crystallised honey?

Never use the microwave – this will cause instant destruction of anything beneficial in your honey. Instead gradually warm your honey jar in a bowl of warm water. This could take some time. Alternatively put it in a warm part of your house for a few days and let it slowly return to a liquid state. Don’t forget to keep it out of the sunlight and don’t let the temperature get to high.

Final say…

Honey is a natural and somewhat dynamic product. The process of crystallisation is normal and has no ill effect on the quality of the product. Honey can be stored to minimise the likelihood of crystallisation, but it is virtually inevitable to occur at some point. Honey should not be allowed to get hot.  If you have honey and it crystallises then it is a great sign that it is probably unadulterated and you should enjoy every last drop!

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