Filtering Honey

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On the journey from hive to jar, every beekeeper is faced with the process of filtering honey. This process helps ensure the quality of the finished product. Commercial honey filtration usually involves complicated machinery and techniques. However, backyard beekeepers can achieve great results through honey straining – instead of intense filtration.

Raw honey pouring into a honey filter strainer in a bucket.

Join me on a quick trip through the world of filtering and straining honey. This is the next step after honey extraction to make sure you have a quality product.

Why Filter Honey?

Honey is more than just a sweet treat. It is a complex substance with qualities that make it a staple in many kitchens. Filtering honey is done for a multitude of reasons – none of which are intended to take away from its beneficial qualities.

  • removes impurities
  • promotes clarity
  • slows crystallization

Removing Impurities

Bees make honey using plant nectar. During the process, bits of beeswax, pollen grains and even bee parts end up in the honeycomb. While these “impurities” are natural by-products of the honey making process, their appearance affects the visual appearance of the final product.

Enhances Clarity

Filtering honey helps improve clarity by removing particles that would be in suspension. Floating bits of wax, air bubbles, pollen etc – can make the honey look cloudy. Consumers do not want to see floating particles in honey jars.

Slow Crystallization

It is a natural tendency of honey to crystallize over time. These granules affect the texture and spreadability of honey.

Filtering honey can help delay crystallization by removing fine particles that act as nuclei for crystallization, thus preserving its liquid state for longer periods.

Commercial Honey Filtering

Commercial honey producers must process hundreds of pounds of honey at one time. Their products need to look good on grocery shelfs for months at a time.

Therefore, they must use sophisticated filtration methods that often include heating honey to force it through micro-filters. This produces a beautiful end product for the shelf.

But, this type of filtration removes some of the nutritious qualities in raw honey – including most of the pollen.

Commercial honey packer extracting and filtering honey.

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Straining Honey at Home

The proper term for filtering honey as performed by backyard beekeepers is – straining. Our honey is not forced through a filter with pressure. It is allowed to drip through a strainer that removes large pieces of wax and other undesirable substances.

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Tools & Materials

The beekeeper has many different choices for materials to use for honey straining. The basics are:

Gravity straining allows honey to drip from the extractor through a “strainer” into a food grade bucket. Filters of different mesh sizes are available – they fit into a 5 gallon bucket.

Personally – I do not prefer the cheap cone shaped filter bags, they hang too far down in the bucket. Though some beekeepers do use paint strainers – even though they are not food grade.

Honey tank and plastic honey filter with a food grade bucket and lid.

Common Honey Filter Mesh Sizes

  • 200 micron
  • 400 micron
  • 600 micron

The most common honey filter size used by beekeepers is the 400 micron. The medium sized holes will filter out most of the large pieces of wax. Pollen grains in the honey tend to flow through the filter because they are smaller.

If the beekeeper want a more intensive straining, the smaller mesh can be used. However, it is important to remember that the small the filter mesh – the quicker it will clog up and need to be replaced or cleaned to continue use.

Tips for Successful Honey Straining

1. Ensure that your equipment is clean before you begin. It is a good idea to have a couple of strainers and a couple of food grade buckets with lids.

2. Choose the correct honey straining material that allows honey to flow through freely – Cheesecloth, fine mesh strainers, or nylon filters.

3. Temperature – This is the tricky part. The viscosity of honey makes it flow better when it is warm. However, heating honey can destroy some of its natural qualities. To avoid having to gently warm the honey – try to do your straining when the temperatures are warmer.

Ideal honey temperature (95°F to 100°F) might be achieved with a bucket heater or similar if you are careful.

4. Filtering honey using gravity straining requires patience. Allow gravity to do its work and refrain from pressing or squeezing the honey through the straining material. Don’t force it through.

4. Double strain for clarity. If you need to remove all the impurities (as much as possible), you may choose “double straining”. Use a medium strainer first then strain again using a small micron filter.

5. Filter honey in batches. If you have a large quantity of honey to strain, work in manageable batches rather than attempting to strain it all at once. It is common for the strainers to clog and need cleaning.

Two bucket of honey with strainers.

FAQs

Why is honey filtered?

Honey is filtered to remove impurities such as wax particles, bee debris, and air bubbles, resulting in a smoother texture, clearer appearance, and extended shelf life.

How does honey filtration differ from straining?

Filtration typically involves using machinery and fine filters to remove microscopic particles from honey, while straining is a simpler process that utilizes materials like cheesecloth or fine mesh strainers to remove larger impurities.

Does filtering honey affect its nutritional value?

Filtering removes some pollen and trace nutrients. The primary purpose of filtering is to improve clarity, texture, and shelf life.

Can I filter honey without specialized equipment?

Yes, backyard beekeepers can easily strain honey using basic equipment such as cheesecloth, fine mesh strainers, and food-grade buckets. These simple tools can effectively remove impurities while preserving the honey’s natural qualities.

Final Thoughts

Every beekeeper can master the art of honey filtering – or honey straining at home. Whether you only want to remove the largest pieces of wax or go for a clearer product – the proper sized filters and a little patience is all you need.

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