When honey crystalizes?
Honey is typically in a liquid form when you purchase it, but all honey eventually returns to its natural, crystallized state. During crystallization, some of the molecules in honey escape from the liquid substance and form crystals that multiply rapidly, causing the honey to change into a solid form.
Temperature, air exposure, age, and florals all impact the crystallization rate. At Billy Bee, we use the florals Alfalfa, Canola, and Clover.
While many factors affect honey’s texture, most crystallization issues are linked to cold temperatures. If you’re storing honey in a cool cabinet or cupboard, try moving it to a warmer spot in the kitchen to slow down crystallization.
You’ll know that honey has crystallized when it starts to look grainy or feels harder to squeeze out of the bottle. If this happens to you, there’s no need to worry! Crystallization is a natural occurrence that only affects honey’s color and texture, and it’s easy to bring the honey back to a soft liquid.
Honey is used as a sweetener, so it’s unsurprising that it’s primarily composed of sugar. Approximately 70% is either glucose and fructose, 10% is made up of double or complex sugars, and about 20% is water, meaning that honey has more sugar than can remain naturally dissolved in water.
During Canadian honey farming, our natural honey is harvested fresh from the hive and is packed by Billy Bee without losing its flavour, aroma, or natural goodness. However, the delicate balance of sugar and water can’t remain forever, and the chains of glucose in the honey begin to break down. The glucose molecules fall out of the sugar-water solution and attach themselves to solid matter in the honey, then attach to each other.
Essentially, this all means that the crunchy substance that develops during the crystallization process is nothing more than sugar crystals! That’s why it’s so easy to turn honey back into its liquid state by heating it up. The heat simply melts the crystals and they are restored into the honey solution.
Many people believe that once their honey has crystallized, it is spoiled and is no longer safe to eat. This is false, as natural honey is one of the only foods that never expires (if sealed properly). Crystallized honey is completely edible- in fact, you can use it in the same ways you use liquid honey! Since the crystals melt easily, you can stir the honey right into your hot coffee or tea, or spoon onto breakfast foods like yogurt and oatmeal.
While Billy Bee honey products have a 24-month Best by Date, most bottles of honey will start to change texture after about 6 months of opening due to air exposure. The good news is that you always have the option to bring honey back to its original liquid state!
Simply place the bottle of honey in a hot water bath between 130F to 140F for a few minutes. The temperature of the water plays a crucial factor, as warm tap water won’t melt the crystals, while boiling water will overheat the honey and may change the overall quality. Once the honey has melted evenly, give it a good stir, and you’ve got liquid honey again!
Crystallized and liquid honey make great sugar substitutes in cooking and baking recipes, but can also be used in meat dishes, salads, pasta, soups, drinks, and so much more. Explore our wide variety of honey recipes here!
“Each variety of honey crystallizes differently. Some of them never crystallize, some crystallize very slow, some very quickly, some have fine crystals and some have bigger crystal grains.”
Why does some honey crystallize and some not?
It’s all to do with chemical composition and how this changes over time.
In fact, scientists have tried to predict crystallization behaviour with limited results. Even a difference in moisture content of just 1% can impact honey crystallization¹.
The key factors that can impact the crystallization process of honey:
But does any of this actually matter?
Is crystallized honey inedible or bad for you?
“ crystallization process will not cause any change in nutritional value if honey is properly crystallized, but improper crystallization will lead to increase in water activity and thus leading to fermentation.”
Nothing bad happens when honey crystallizes. But left long enough, it can begin to ferment, which might change its flavor.
Honey is hygroscopic. This means it absorbs water from the air, raising its moisture levels.
Honey will crystallize in the hive if the temperature goes below 50ºF (10ºC), and honey will crystallize in your containers if you have a cold cupboard cabinet. Finding a warmer spot to store your honey will slow crystallization.
It's fairly simple to turn your honey back into a smooth liquid again by heating it. The best way to do this is by to put your honey in a bowl of warm water and slowly letting it warm up. If you happen to have anultrasound machine that produces waves at 23 kHz lying around, that works too. Microwaving overheats the honey and doesn't heat evenly, so that's not recommended unless you are in a hurry.
The problem is, as soon as your honey cools down, it will begin slouching back to chunky again. The simplest way to deal with this is to embrace your lovely honey lumps, and acquire a taste for crystallized honey. After a few sessions of heating and cooling, your honey will loose that wonderful aroma of summer, and just become yellow sugary goop.
If you really must have smooth runny honey, try heating a smaller batch, rather than the whole container. Honey also keeps best in glass, rather than plastic, and glass is much better for reheating.
Honey is a super-saturated solution of two sugars: glucose and fructose. The proportions of these two sugars are characteristic of the plants the bees fed on to make their honey. It's the glucose that crystallizes, so some types of honey are more resistant to crystallization because they have low glucose.
Alfalfa and clover honeys crystallize quickly; maple, tupelo, and blackberry honeys crystallize slowly. There really isn't an easy way for someone who isn't a honey foodie to know which honeys crystallize faster or slower, but this is a good excuse to experiment with the flavors and aromas of different plant honeys.
Pollen in honey is normal, and acts as a sort of honey provenance. Pollen in honey verifies what plants the bees are feeding on. Bees are fuzzy, so while they are drinking nectar to make honey, they get covered with pollen. It’s sticky stuff – but, you know, it is plant sperm. That junk gets everywhere.
Honey with pollen in it is great honey, but crystallization happens faster when there are small particles available to build on. Fresh, raw honey has a lot of those in the form of pollen grains.
Because Americans tend to be a bit paranoid about cosmetic defects in food, a lot of honey is now filtered to remove pollen. This does creates a more shelf-stable honey, and it is clearer and brighter in color. Basically, it’s cosmetic surgery to make your honey pretty.
The problem with pollen-less honey is you don’t know where it came from, or what kind of plants the bees were feeding on. Filtering has a shady side effect: it makes it easier for honey to be processed and shipped longer distances (like from China) and means that many different kinds of honey can be blended together undetectably.
Yes. I am talking about honey-laundering.
How can you get the best honey? Buy local. And by local, I mean look for honey that is not part of a chain store brand, but something from a beekeeper that is in your state, with a traceable address and name.
Embrace your crystallized honey. It's the result of a natural process.
Why honey crystallizes and how to prevent it
Honey crystallization the formation and growth of sugar crystals in a container of honey. Crystallization is a natural process and not a sign of adulteration or spoilage. Due to its physical properties, honey initially tends towards natural crystallization, as it is a supersaturated sugar solution. Honey is mainly comprised of two sugars: fructose and glucose.
The starting point of a crystallization depends on various factors. The main reasons involve the fructose/glucose ratio (F/G) and the glucose/water ratio (G/W). A high F/G and a low G/W generally have a slow crystallization process. When the level of glucose increases, it becomes insoluble in the water, and crystallization will happen.
Another common reason for crystallization involves the storage temperature, which contributes significantly to the formation of crystals. Ideally, honey should be stored in either a cool location (lower than 4°C) in order to reduce the mobility of sugar molecules or at a high temperature (greater than 25°C) in order to ensure the crystals liquify and the degree of the supersaturation of glucose decreases.
There are many further external factors influencing the tendency of a honey to crystallize. The treatment of honey during processing and bottling plays an important role for the crystallization behavior of the finished product. Even the packaging type and material affects the long-term stability of honey with regard to crystallization. Plastic bottles boost the process of crystallization more than glass.
Lastly, crystallization can also depend on how honey is processed. Raw honey with zero preservatives is a desired product, as today's consumers are becoming more aware of how their food is made and what may be added. But, when honey is sold raw, it can still have small, honey-typical particles that are present in the liquid, such as plant components, pollen, yeasts, sugar crystals, and beeswax. While these are all safe and edible, they provide starters to the crystallization process.
Unfortunately, crystallization is not a desired outcome. When honey crystallizes, it stops the ability for technological processing and increases the turbidity of the product. Even though crystallized honey is safe, a cloudy-looking jar of honey is more difficult to sell to consumers. Furthermore, a separation into a crystalline and a liquid phase reduces the microbial stability of the honey due to the elevated moisture content in the upper layer.
Intertek has developed Crystek, which offers the complete analysis spectrum for the determination of sugars and quality parameters in honey which are relevant for the crystallization process. Intertek is one of the world-leading experts in the analysis of honey and hive products and offers a comprehensive service solution to the food industry, providing customers with a tailored service, with practical advice and fast, reliable test results.
When honey crystallizes, it becomes thicker (if tiny crystals are forming) and cloudy as more crystals form). Some crystallization results in a coarse sugary texture and some in a creamy texture.