Monday, September 8, 2014

Dealing with Crystallized Honey

After storing your honey for several months it now appears cloudy. Do not be alarmed, your honey has crystallized. Crystallization is not an indication of your honey worsening or deteriorating. Crystallized honey is not harmful or expired. Crystallization is the natural process of honey when it leaves the hive. Honey can even crystallize in the hive if your colony is unable to sustain hive temperature in honey super.

You will find that some honeys will crystallize faster than others. Honey is a highly concentrated sugar solution with more than 70% sugar and less than 20% water. Fructose and glucose are the two primary sugars found in honey. Glucose will crystallize faster due to its low water solubility. The ratio of these two sugars will determine how quickly your honey will crystallize. This is why some honeys will last months or years without crystallizing while others will crystallize within weeks of extraction. 

Other factors which affect how quickly honey crystallizes include:

  • Temperature. Storage temperature has a huge influence on the crystallization process. Storage temperatures between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal temperatures for crystallization. Temperatures below 50 degrees will slow down the crystallization process as the honey becomes thicker. Honey will resist crystallization at higher temperatures above 70 degrees. Crystals will dissolve when temperatures exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Particles. During extraction particles of debris are caught by the honey. Pieces of beeswax or pollen grains will act as a base for the glucose crystals. Unfiltered honey contains a higher number of particles; therefore, it will crystalize faster than finely filtered honey. Also consider the particles in air and be sure to allow your honey to settle before bottling to allow air bubbles to be released.

Honey can be returned to its lucid form if it becomes crystallized. Gently warm the honey by placing the bottle into a water bath or, depending on size of container, a sunny window. Do not heat honey beyond 104 degrees or it will destroy enzymes, begin to caramelize the sugars and alter the flavor. Heat the water bath slowly and bring the temperature of honey up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating must be done with care if the honey is to retain its nutritional value. If you have left your honey in pails, use a melt belt to bring the honey temperature up to a safe range or use a honey bottler & liquefier as a double boiler.

Some honey enthusiasts enjoy honey in its crystalized state. It is easier to use in cooking and will spread better on toast. See what your customers prefer.