How to Store Honey

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Honey has a long shelf life. But, you still need to understand how to store honey properly to preserve its natural goodness. In fact, some of the things we do do to try to take extra care of it are detrimental. Whether your honey is raw, processed or flavored, proper honey storage is vital to protect the taste and texture that you expect.

Many small jars of honey stored on a table.

Due to a long shelf life, you will likely have a honey jar sitting around for a while. Unless of course you discover all the other wonderful uses for honey. Take care of it, you can do a lot of things with that sweet elixir.

Importance of Properly Storing Raw Honey

Known to have some nutritional value and possible health benefits, raw honey has become a popular item.

The difference between honey vs raw honey has to do with what happens after it leaves the beehive.

Honey in the “raw’ state has not been micro-filtered or heated. It is unprocessed, non-pasteurized and in the same physical state as when it was made by bees.

To preserve the pollen, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, storing raw honey in a manner that protects them is key.

After carefully selecting the perfect jar of raw honey, your first taste exceeds your expectations. Wow, this really tastes great.

But, you can’t eat the whole jar at one time… or at least you probably should not! Even though it is a special treat – remember it is still a sugar.

Now, what can you do with that jar of liquid gold to protect it and keep it fresh? You know what they say about “good intentions”?

Well, your best intentions may lead you to do the absolutely worst things for this precious food made by bees!

Expert Tips for Honey Storage

This task is really very simple – sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be. Here are the top rules for storing raw honey:

  • keep it in a tight sealing container
  • store your jar in a dark location (if possible)
  • keep in a warm location – it will crystallize slower
  • preventing crystallization

Best Containers for Honey

The best thing you can do for your honey is to store it in a tightly sealed jar. This protects it from ants and other creepy crawlies and from moisture.

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Honey is hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from the air! If the water content rises too high, your honey will ferment and spoil.

Glass, food-grade plastic or stainless steel are popular options. Ceramic honey pots are not the best choice unless they have a tight seal.

I found a nice dispenser with a tight sealing stopper and lid. It is one of my favorites and holds up well to repeated use.

You will love it – I keep mine sitting on my stove where it never gets hot but is in a warm environment.

Small containers (even honey pots) are a perfect companion to larger storage jars. It is a great way to serve smaller amounts.

Because it can absorb moisture and odors – please don’t re-use an old pickle jar. Unless of course, if you want to add a bit of pickle aroma to your raw honey, that’s your call.

Using large-mouth glass jars, is one of my favorite methods of storage for long term. You can spoon out as much as you need – even if it crystallizes.

Small honey jar with dipper.

Excessive Light Darkens Honey

Bee produce honey in a variety of colors because they use different nectar sources. However, all of it darkens over time – especially if the jar is stored in bright light (or direct sunlight).

This does not damage your raw honey but if you like the light color – keep it in a darker location.

Storage Temperature

Extreme temperature can affect the nutritional value and consistency of raw honey. But, storing honey in a very cool location can be a problem too. Strive for a warm (65°) dark cabinet when choosing a good spot to keep honey.

Stored jar of honey that has crystallized to a gritty texture.

Slowing Crystallized Honey

What happened? My jar has become solid! You may also hear the term “turned to sugar”. But, it does not mean that anything has been added-this is the natural process.

Crystallized honey is often thrown out – what a waste! You can still eat it. In fact, some people love it in the crystallized form.

You can even make your own – we call it creamed honey– and the crystals are small and smooth – not gritty.

The rate of crystallization depends on the nectar sources, storage temperature and other variables. A few types will never crystallize but most varieties of honey will do so over a long enough period of time.

If most natural honey “turns to sugar” in time, how can those supermarket bears be so beautiful and clear? How indeed?

The practices used to create a beautiful product for the grocery shelf are not necessarily kind to our nutritious raw food. It involves intense filtration.

To slow down the process of crystallization, keep your jar in a warm place. Cool temperatures below 57°F speed up the process.

Checking Honey for Spoilage

Pure honey does not go bad and has an indefinite shelf life-if protected from moisture. It does go through some chemical and physical changes. It may lose color and some flavor.

Honey is acidic with a low pH. This is one reason it never spoils – bacteria doesn’t grow well in it.

But this does not mean that you should not take precautions to keep it protected from environmental influences such a dust and moisture.

If water gets into the jar (or the honey is exposed to moist air), fermentation and spoilage can be the result.

When this happens, it will smell yeasty. This is part of the process of how mead is made but do not eat it.

Pieces of honeycomb ready to wrap.

Storing Honey in the Freezer

Honey can be stored frozen. Use these tips for freezing honey in small containers. Freezing protects the integrity of your raw product.

In fact, it can be frozen for several years. When you are ready to use, thaw at room temp in sealed containers.

Use silicone trays to freeze small portions. A great way to seek relief for sore throat pains or coughs, just pop out a frozen “cube” and put the lump of honey in hot tea.

Keep Honeycomb Fresh

Do you know that you can eat beeswax comb filled with honey? Some folks enjoy think it is the only way to enjoy honey.

First the bad news, if you have a piece of comb inside your jar (often called “chunk honey“) – it will crystallize faster. Solution? Eat it first! 

But, what if you have several pieces of comb that you want to save for later. Surprisingly, the freezer is a good place to store fresh honeycomb.

You can wrap the pieces of comb tightly in plastic wrap – or vacuum seal and freeze. I love my Food Saver for this purpose.

FAQs

Should you store raw honey in the refrigerator?

Please do not put honey in the refrigerator. It will not make it last longer or keep it fresher. But if you have already put your jar in the frig, that’s okay – it is still good. Just maybe a bit gritty!

Can you store honey in a honey pot?

Handmade pots are beautiful to use and make great gifts. However, do not leave a large amount of honey sitting out in them as most do not seal against moisture.

Can you dehydrate or make honey powder?

If you want to enjoy a new taste experience, you can use a dehydrator to make your own honey powder. I warn you this takes some practice and is messy but it can be done.

A Last Word

Take a good hard look at that jar of honey in your pantry. Is it in the best location? Good honey storage means you will be able to enjoy every last drop. No other food has such a long shelf life and offers as much versatility as this natural sweetener.

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36 Comments

  1. Just love your chats. Your easy way of chatting, your knowledge and tips.
    I curl up and read them immediately.
    Thank you Wonder Women Carolina.
    Bee ? blessed!!!
    Elle

  2. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Thank You that is so kind.

  3. I bought honey in West Virginia 3 years ago at least . Eat honey but thought this was gone so today I find it in pantry. It has crystallized and has no smell. Is it okay to use . It was opened prior to storage.

  4. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    As long as it does not have a fermented smell it should be fine. Honey stored in an air-tight jar will last for a long, long time. You dont have to refrigerate after opening.

  5. Iris Walter says:

    Dear Charlotte,
    I have a gallon sized can, not jar, of 100% pure honey. I was told at the time, that it would last forever. Is this true?
    It is approximately 45 years old. Have been keeping it for food storage, but noticed can has some rust on it. I need to move into jars, but don’t want to, if it is bad. (I know 20/20 hindsight tells me I should have done that many years ago.) I believe it has always been stored inside in moderate temps.
    From what I read in your article above, if it appears and smells good, it is ok. Am I understanding this correctly?
    Other articles I’ve read have said honey contains spores that can cause botulism, is this true?
    Thank you for any insight and advice you can offer.
    Iris

  6. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Yes, honey MAY contain those spores but so does any raw food. I would say that your honey is probably just fine. My only concern is that since it is in a metal can – have the acidic honey caused any problem with the metal? I honestly dont know. But if it smells good and tastes good you are probably okay.

  7. What are the changes that occur to raw honey when stored in the refrigerator?? In summer I often have ant issues and recently started storing my raw honey in the fridge to prevent the ants from getting to them.

  8. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Honey stored in the frig goes through the crystallization process faster. It wont “harm” your honey but it will (depending on the nectar source) crystallize faster in the frig.

  9. marianne fought says:

    What is the best way to remove honey from a fresh honeycomb? Once I remove the honey, then I need to put it In a sealed tight glass container like a Kerr pint canning jar with a lid and seal, right?
    We just had a hive removed from our yard last night, and the beekeeper, who did the removal, gave us 2 honeycombs filled with honey.

  10. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Oh that’s exciting! If you want to have the liquid honey instead of comb, look at my harvesting post as it gives some ideas for when you do not have an extractor.

  11. What about botulism with unfiltered and processed honey. How do you approach this topic with out freak out..I have found that most adults tolerate botulism because our intestinal tract is mature and allows the botulism to move through before toxin develops.

  12. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Following medical recommendations of course never give honey to babies under 1 yr of age. But all of the studies I have seen show raw honey to be safe. Botulism

  13. Charlotte Reed says:

    More than ten years ago my son went to Bulgaria and bought me a small clay pot of honey. The pot is very pretty. I have not even broken the seal. If I did would it still be good?? My ex and I had a bee hive many years ago. Thanks from one Charlotte to another!!

  14. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Hi Charlotte! As long as the honey is real honey and the pot is sealed against moisture – yes, it should be just fine. Now it may taste stronger but real honey doesnt spoil.

  15. BeeKpr Charlotte
    When our honey crystalizes we were told to microwave it for a few seconds. We have been doing this for many years. After microwaving it does turn back to liquid and makes it usable. Are we damaging it by heating it to return it to the liquid state? Thanks glad we found your website

  16. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Fred, I would think that microwaving is very damaging to your honey. The way in which the unit creates heat would surely damage some of the nutritional properties. I know it is slower to have to do it the gentle way but it would be best.

  17. I have some honey frames with a mixture of capped and uncapped honey still in them. More uncapped then capped. Can I place in freezer and reuse in super in spring to start new honey season? Also how do you feel about reusing the comb on frames year after year. I see some people do and other start fresh each year. New bee keeper trying to learn what’s best!

  18. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Hi Linda. Yes, it is a great idea to freeze that honey and save it for new bees! Most beekeepers do use their honeycomb for more than 1 year. The majority of beekeepers that I know who do not- do so because they dont have access to an extractor. We dont want to keep older comb in the hive for years and years. I rotate my honey super comb out when it starts to darken. I am so glad you are striving to be the best beekeeper possible. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a “what’s best” in beekeeping 🙂

  19. I am thinking seriously about trying beekeeping. my question is on an average medium or large supper how much honey is generated average . and how often do you check the hives, besides setup and harvest how much work is involved on our part.

  20. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Hi Jayson, I hate to start my answer with – it depends. But, it does depend. In my region, after the first year (when we dont expect a harvest), a healthy hive may produce about 2 boxes (shallow-medium) of honey. Other regions of the country produce much more – it depends on how long the warm season is and the availability of nectar. I check my hives twice a month in early spring – monthly during the summer and fall. Beekeeping involves hard work – I wont mislead you on that. However, if you prepare yourself by learning about hive management before your bees arrive, your chances of success greatly increase. Best of luck.

  21. Hi Charlotte.

    I am a beekeeper in New Zealand, who works for a reasonably big company. I was fascinated by the apparent differences in beekeeping between America and NZ.
    Here in NZ, it can be the hobbyists who pose the biggest risk, as we have certain plants that make a honey that is fine for the bees, and toxic for humans if it is eaten in raw, comb honey.
    Also, the company I work for doesn’t “superheat” the honey; its merely a case of the pipes being heated somewhat so that the honey doesnt granulate in the pipes, but moves freely. And the creamed honey has nothing added to it, so it is still completely natural. I’m not sure how that differs between the countries, or even between individual countries.

    It is always interesting to hear other beekeepers viewpoints and experiences.

  22. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Yes, it absolutely depends on the company in question! I am sure that each one is processes honey differently and that some are much more concerned about the end product. Here we have creamed honey that is natural and some with flavorings – its quite good actually.

  23. Mavis Clerke - Fiji says:

    Absolutely great information and thank you for sharing it.

  24. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Thank you very much. Please join my email list.

  25. Your posts are really interesting and easy to read. Storing honey- a good read thanks
    I use your info for new beekeepers
    Steve( beekeeper in Engand for 40 years)

  26. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Thank you so much. You have no idea how much kind comments like this mean to me.

  27. Is it safe to keep honey in those cute yellow honeybee hive shaped ceramic containers with the cute honey dipper? And how long can we store them in these type of containers?

  28. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    The only danger is that the honey would absorb moisture from the air and ferment. You could smell the sour odor if that happens.

  29. Hi Charlotte: I want to transfer honey from larger containers into pint jars. Would I need to water bath seal them, or could I use a Food Saver to vacuum pack the pints for long term storage? Thanks for your answer.

  30. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Not at all. Just make sure your honey does not get water in it. It will keep just fine!

  31. Hi Charlotte. Is a glass jar with a cork lid safe for long term storage of honey? Thanks

  32. Charlotte Anderson says:

    If the cork lid fits tightly enough in the jar top to keep out moist air – I would say yes.

  33. Jeanne Glass says:

    Just for interests sake, honey in a vessel was discovered in a pyramid in Egypt . The honey was still completely edible.

  34. Charlotte Anderson says:

    Yes, I have read that too and I do believe it. But, I bet it tasted awful after all those years. We often read that honey can still be eaten after xx years of storage. But I can’t remember anyone remarking on how it tasted? LOL

  35. Can I put honey in mason jars and vacuum seal the lids or does that promote the growth of botulism since honey is not less than 10% moisture?

  36. Charlotte Anderson says:

    If the honey is ripe (low water content) I guess you can but it wont keep any better than just using an air tight lid.