Why Does Honey Crystallize?

You have perfectly stored your honey but after some time, you find it has solidified forcing you to use a heavy spoon to scrape it out of the jar. Don’t worry when you find such a situation. It is just the honey has crystallized.

Experts say that crystallized honey is the best. Because it does not have any added water.

Crystallized honey has a grainy texture and is somehow chewy. To add to that, it is delicious. This is a normal phenomenon and this article will inform you how it happens. You will also know what causes crystallization and the best way to make the honey fluid again.

Chemistry Behind Honey Crystallization

Honey is a saturated sugar solution whereby it has 80% sugar and 20% water. Hence this amount of water cannot hold the big sugar content. There are two main types of sugars in honey. These are fructose which is fruit sugar and glucose which is grape sugar. These sugars vary in different types of honey. And the balance of these sugars causes honey to crystallize.

In general, honey has 30 to 44 percent of fructose and 25 to 40 percent of glucose. The relative percentage of these sugar determines the rate of crystallization.

Glucose is the sugar that crystallizes because it has a lower solubility rate. And remains fluid because it is more soluble than glucose. The insoluble glucose forms small crystals that spread through the honey-making it thick/crystallized.

Factors that Affect the Rate of Honey Crystallization

1. Temperature

The temperature inside a beehive is maintained at 95F. This temperature ensures the sugar and water are in balance. This soluble state of honey is called the homeostatic condition. But when you harvest honey, you move it from a warm environment inside the hive to a cooler environment in your house. Any temperature below 50F will make the sugar-water balance change.

So try and store your honey in a warm place or a warm room and it will remain fluid for a long time. Honey crystallizes at lower temperatures because it is trying to be comfortable at lower temperatures.

2. The sugar ratios (nectar sources)

All types of honey have two principal sugars: glucose and fructose. But the concentration of these sugars is different in every honey. The concentration of these sugars depends on the nectar source. Some plants have a higher concentration of glucose than fructose making honey crystallize faster than vice versa.

Any honey that is resistant to crystallization has a low content of glucose. Research shows that clover and alfalfa have nectar with high glucose content. Other plants like blackberry and maple have high fructose content making honey resistant to crystallization.

3. Pollen content

Bees use nectar to make honey but as they drink nectar, pollen sticks on their bodies. This pollen is then deposited on the honey. Honey with a high concentration of pollen will crystallize faster than vice versa. However, pollen in honey is used to determine what plant bees were feeding on while making honey.

Nowadays people filter out the pollen. This makes honey have a brighter color and stable for commercial purposes. But this technique is being used by tricky businessmen to launder honey. Because without pollen authorities cannot trace the source of honey. Leading to different types of honey being mixed and sold all over the world.

How to De-crystallize Honey

The difference between beehive temperature and the storage area temperature is what causes sugar and water imbalance. So the best way to de-crystallize honey is to maintain the hive temperature of about 95F. Below is a procedure you can use to do so.

What You Need

  • Cooking pot
  • A glass jar
  • Thermometer
  • Heavy spoon
  • Stove

Step #1. If you had initially stored your honey in a plastic container, use a heavy spoon to transfer it to a glass container.  This is because plastics can crumble due to excess heat.

Step #2. Pour water into your cooking pot. Do not fill it up, halfway is enough. Then place the glass jar with honey inside the cooking pot. Make sure the water reaches halfway the glass jar. This will prevent it from spilling inside the honey.

Step #3. Place the cooking pot on the stove and allow the water to heat up for some time. Periodically place a thermometer in the water to see the temperature.

Step #4. Once the temperature hits 60F open the glass container and start to stir the honey. Stirring will break the crystals. Make sure the water temperature does not pass 95F. Maintain the water temperature between 40F and 95F. This temperature range will keep the nutrients and enzymes inside the honey.

Step #5. Once you see the honey is fluid enough, remove the glass container from the water. You can now store or use the fluid honey.

The Best Way to Store Honey and Prevent Crystallization

1. Use an appropriate container

Honey is one of the long-lasting products. So honey can stay in any container. You can use a plastic container, glass jars, and mason jars. Make sure your container is not damaged or leaking. Avoid metallic containers because they easily absorb heat or cold. The cold will make honey crystallize while heat will kill natural enzymes and nutrients.

2. Choose a room with consistent and stable temperature

Honey will remain fluid in a room of 50F to 70F. The storage area must have a stable temperature range. Because a big temperature variation will make honey lose flavor and even darken. Experts recommend you store your honey in the kitchen pantry. And avoid the stove and the fridge areas because such places have sudden temperature variation.

3. Tightly seal the storage container

A tightly sealed container protects the honey from the air. Air affects the flavor of honey. And sometimes exposed honey can absorb moisture lowering the quality. Excess water content changes honey’s flavor and color.

Conclusion

From the basic science of states of matter, with low temperatures, liquid changes to solid. This also happens with honey crystallization. Honey is a saturated sugar solution that remains fluid in the temperature range of between 50F and 95F. Once you store it in lower temperatures, the insoluble glucose will start to crystallize.

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