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Why Does Honey Crystallise?

By December 10, 2023Honey Blog

Crystallized Honey

Raw Honey, nature’s golden elixir has been cherished for centuries for its delightful taste, numerous health benefits, and versatile uses. However, a common process which occurs in raw honey – crystallisation, often raises questions among honey enthusiasts. Does real honey crystallise, and if so why?

Many people consider crystallised honey to be spoiled or that there is sugar added to it. But let’s look into the science behind honey crystallisation, explore factors influencing this process and how you can navigate this natural occurrence in raw honey.

First the short answer: Honey crystallisation is a natural process that occurs in raw honey during which the honey changes its consistency from liquid to set and ultimately becomes crystallised. This process is entirely natural and does not indicate spoilage or adulteration. Crystallised honey is as good as runny honey and the change in consistency does not affect the quality of the honey.

Why does honey crystallise?

Honey contains natural sugars, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (grape sugar) and water. Depending on the type of honey, the content ranges from 30-44% fructose, 25-40% glucose, and around 20% water. The higher sugar content means the water in honey contains more sugar than it could naturally hold. When glucose crystallises and separates from the water, it takes the form of crystals. As the process progresses and more glucose crystallises, those crystals spread through the honey and change the consistency, ultimately becoming crystallised.

Factors affecting crystallisation in honey

Type of Honey

The type of floral source the bees produce the honey from is one of the main factors affecting crystallisation in raw honey. Different floral sources produce honey with varying glucose and fructose levels. So, honey with higher natural glucose content is more prone to crystallisation. For example, Rapeseed honey tends to crystallise very quickly due to its high natural glucose levels, while Acacia honey is among the slowest to crystallise due to its lower glucose content.

Filtration

The pollen in honey contributes to the crystallisation process. These tiny bits of pollen and other goods found in unprocessed honey provide a platform for the crystals to begin forming. Therefore, these goods speed up the crystallisation process, which is the reason they are filtered out during the pasteurisation process in most commercial honey.

Storing Temperature

Storing temperature is the next most significant factor influencing honey crystallisation. Lower temperatures encourage crystallisation. If you have ever placed honey in the fridge or cold pantry and found it crystallised, this is why. On the other side, higher temperatures delay the crystallisation.

Honey is best stored at moderate room temperature around 18°C-21°C (approximately 64°F to 70°F). This moderate temperature helps to maintain raw honey in a liquid state for longer.

If you prefer liquid honey and want to slow down the crystallisation, consider storing your honey at room temperature. Keep it away from direct sunlight, as exposure to light can degrade the honey’s quality over time.

How to de-crystallise honey?

If your honey has crystallised, but you prefer it in runny form, do not worry! You can easily turn crystallised honey back to runny by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water and cover it up with a towel.

Keep it for a good few hours, periodically topping up hot water to maintain the temperature high. Aim to maintain the water temperature around 45°C (113°F) as the glass will absorb some of the heat, so the actual temperature the honey will be exposed to is probably around 30-35°C (86°F-95°F). This temperature could be achieved in the bee hive on a normal summer day. So the honey would not be exposed to higher temperatures than would naturally be and ultimately will retain its taste and beneficial properties.

This method is recommended only for honey stored in glass jars, as some plastic storage containers may make a reaction in hot water.

Why Raw Honey is more likely to crystallise? 

Raw honey has not been heat-treated and filtered. So, as the honey retains its natural state and pollen is more likely to crystallise over time. Unlike most commercial honey which undergoes heat treatment and filtration process. Commercial honey undergoes this process primarily aimed at blending large volumes of honey from diverse origins to meet the quantity and price demands of mass-market sales.

In conclusion: Raw Honey has a natural tendency to crystallise over time. This is a natural process and a sign of quality and rawness. However, it is important to note that not all types of honey crystallise in the same way and at the same speed.

The factors explored above: floral source, temperature, and storage conditions can affect the speed and extent of crystallisation. While some people might prefer the smooth texture of liquid honey, crystallised honey is equally delicious and can be enjoyed in various ways. Moreover, it is easy to de-crystallise honey by gently warming it. But make sure the honey is in a suitable container for the purpose (glass jar) and do not use microwave or boiling water to do so. So ultimately whether prefer a liquid or crystallised honey, the choice is purely personal and as long as the honey is raw (nor pasteurised) and natural it offers numerous benefits.

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