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Why Does Honey Crystallize – {A Short Guide}

Have you ever gone to the pantry to find that your jar of honey has become a solid! Don’t panic-it is not spoiled – it has crystallized. Why does honey crystallize or “turn to sugar”? This is a natural process of that often occurs and is no cause for alarm. Don’t throw out crystallized honey – it is still good and can be fixed or used in the solid form.

Raw Honey is More Likely to Crystallize

Jar of honey undergoing crystallization image.

Let’s try to understand what has caused that clump of gritty, stickiness lodged in the bottom of the jar.  Whether you use the term crystallization or “turned to sugar”, no matter – they both mean the same thing.

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Each jar is made from millions of nectar sources that are gathered by bees. An exquisite blend of many different sugars, enzymes, minerals, salts, and proteins.

A raw product has not been heated or micro-filtered. This means it still contains all the natural components straight from the hive.

Small bits of beeswax, grains of pollen and other particles can serve as a starting point the crystallization process. That jar with a semi-solid consistency can be rather upsetting if it is your first time seeing it.

Crystallized honey in the bottom of a glass jar image.

The Chemistry of Honey Crystallization

Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution.  This is a fancy term to say that a larger amount of sugar can be dissolved in the water component of it – when in the warm environment of the hive.

This sugar/water ratio in honey becomes unstable in the cooler environment of our homes. Ripe honey averages a concentration of 80% sugar to 20% water.

At cooler temperatures, the unstable glucose separates from the water, and crystals form. You can see the stages of honey crystallization in a container that is just beginning to solidify – it looks cloudy.

This process continues until the composition becomes stable and the product is solid.

Honey Crystallization Factors

A bee colony usually maintains a temp of near 95° F inside the hive. At this temperature, the sugar and water balance is comfortable this is called a homeostatic condition.

When honey is removed from the warm hive environment to a cooler temperature (our room temp), the sugar/water balance changes again.

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The product works to become “comfortable” again. In many cases, this means becoming less liquid and more solid to attain the balance.

Key Factors that Affect Crystallization Rate:

  • nectar source – sugar ratios
  • filtering process
  • storage temperature
Bowl with honey that has solidified into crystals image.

How Long Does it Take Honey to Crystallize?

There are several factors that affect the rate of the crystallization process. Nectar source is one. It affects the color shade of honey, flavor, aroma and crystallization rate.

It usually takes several months for a jar to crystallize. However, some types of honey will thicken much quicker.

Clover honey may crystallize in a short time. While Sourwood or Tupelo honey may never become solid as they contain more fructose.

Overall, it is very common for a jar of honey to slowly become stable and form crystals over a period of several months to a year.

Gritty honey crystallizing in a glass jar image.

Storage Affects Crystallization Rate

It is not only the sugar ratios that affect the rate of crystallization. The method of harvesting and bottling plays a role too.

Most jars from large commercial companies are micro-filtered to remove tiny bits of wax, pollen, etc. This allows them to sit beautifully in a warehouse for months without changing form.

Of course, this ultra-processing always removes some of the flavor and natural goodness of the end product. It is a trade-off that has to be made for a pretty product with a long shelf life.

You can not always stop this process. But, you can sometimes slow the process down. Learning how to where to keep your jars of honey may help delay the change.

Temperature and moisture control is key. The best thing you can do to protect the integrity of your honey is to keep it in a dark room temperature location.  

Is Crystallized Honey Bad?

Crystallized honey is not a sign that it is bad. It does NOT crystallize because something has been added to it. 

This is a common myth- that someone has added cane syrup or something to it and caused the honey to turn to sugar -not true.

Pure raw honey will usually crystallize much earlier than that found in the large stores. Remember however, that by the same token: crystallization does not prove that it is pure either.

Small jar of granulated honey to be eaten on a biscuit image.

Can You Eat Crystallized Honey?

Yes, you can eat it. Solid or semi-solid consistency is not problem. Crystallized honey is delicious on toast, biscuits, a bagel or as a topping for oatmeal.

If your jar has a grainy, sour smell, it has fermented and that is a different story. This happens if the it has too much moisture. 

Honey is hygroscopic meaning that it can absorb moisture from the air.  That’s why it should always be stored in a sealed container.   

Raw honey that has crystallized or turned to sugar fast to form creamed honey image.

Is Crystallized Honey Good For You?

Crystallized honey is as nutritious as liquid-but not more so.  Some people enjoy using it in their coffee or tea. 

Some varieties develop small fine crystals that are more palatable for most consumers. The size of the crystals determines whether or not it tastes gritty on the tongue. I have even met a few people who prefer the gritty texture.

When honey is crystallized in controlled conditions, it becomes thick and smooth textured. This is called “creamed honey” – though there is no cream in there.

You can learn how to make your own creamed honey at home. Put it in a pretty jar, add a little powdered cinnamon and you have a special gift idea.

How to Fix Crystallize Honey

What to do when your honey turns to sugar? A lot of people throw away perfectly good jars of this wonderful gift from the bees.  It’s so sad and that is not what I want you to do.

If the it has been stored in an airtight container and no moisture/water has gotten inside, you can certainly save your investment.

It is very easy to return it to a liquid form if it is in a glass container. You will find tips in my article – decrystallize honey without damaging it. I do not recommend putting it in the microwave as I feel it will damage some of the nutritional components.

Unless you have a jar of honey from a nectar source that resists crystallization – you can expect it to happen. Once you learn more about the composition of this awesome product, the magic of the beehive becomes even more impressive.

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30 Comments

  1. michelle mink says:

    This has never happened to the honey that my Grandpa buys but there is always a first time for everything. I would have never thought about honey being able to turn to sugar.

  2. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Hi Michelle, It does also depend on nectar source. Sourwood or Tupelo honey is slow to crystalize (if ever) and Privet, Orange Blossom & Clover will crystalize faster !

  3. Paula Smith says:

    Thanks for this post! I didn’t know it was still ok! You can bet that I won’t be getting rid of any more of it.

  4. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Absolutely, we dont want to throw away good honey. !

  5. Dennis Winter says:

    Thank you for this post Charlotte. I didn’t know there was a honey that didn’t crystallize, I would have thought it was fake if it didn’t.
    I am currently doing a study to see if bees will even survive in my area so we can out in a hive or two.

  6. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    You are most welcome. I have some Sourwood that is 4 years old and still clear. I hope you will be able to have bees !

  7. Richard Morrison says:

    I put crystallized honey in the dishwasher with the dishes and it works fine. The honey is in a sealed preserve jar.

  8. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    A neat idea I havent thought of !

  9. Robert Raymer says:

    The dishwasher ‘s water temperature gets too hot to liquify crystallized honey.

  10. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    I agree 100% to my way of thinking. But then we all get into that argument of how hot is too hot. I like to gently warm mine in a hot water bath.

  11. Ronald Mundy says:

    Thank you. I’ve always wondered why the honey from my hives has never crystallized

  12. Putting the jar in your closed up vehicle for a few hours on a sunny day will liquify it also.

  13. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    I do know some folks that have done so. No problem as long as it doesnt get too hot.

  14. So thankful for this information, so well explained . Bees are a wonderful!

  15. hey hi thanks
    charlotte i did not know about this!!!
    i did not know you could use honey for things besides CHICKEN NUGGETS!!
    🙂

  16. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    LOL Yes you can, isnt that great! But of course, do continue to use them on the nuggets!

  17. Jim McCormac says:

    I read many articles on honey and honey bees; this, by far, is the most interesting, fact filled article I have ever read. I’m a new keeper (2yrs), trying to learn all I can. Thank you so much. Keep em coming. Would love to meet up with you one day at a bee convention.

  18. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Thank you so very much. I try to create useful content and I hope the info helps people. So glad you liked it, hope to see you someday.

  19. So glad to see an article like this. I try to tell people about raw honey and crystallization etc. You explain it so thoroughly. Thankyou.

  20. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me. 🙂

  21. I recieved a small glass jar of what looks like and smells like molasses. Its thicker then tree sap, gritty like sand and practically solid. When I got home and tasted it I was blown away. It tastes like the richest boldest flavored honey on planet Earth (as far as im concerned) Have you had an experience like this or could it be that flavours (like molasses) were added to this jar?

  22. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Most likely it is crystallized honey and the flavor has grown bolder over time. This certainly can happen. The popular story you will hear that says “Honey 2,000 yrs old was found in King Tut’s tomb was still edible !..” Well, they didnt say what it tasted like. I would imagine it was quite bold! LOL

  23. I love to stir crystallized honey in a cup of hot tea! Yummy

  24. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    That is yummy

  25. How many times can you liquefy honey from a sugary state before it becomes a non_ressurective product?

  26. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    I think you could indefinitely and it would be slower to crystallize. But you don’t want to overheat it. Beyond a couple of times, you might begin to affect the integrity of the honey but it would not be noticeable.

  27. When I heat the chrystalized honey in the pot of water will it become clear again or just liquified.

  28. Beekeeper Charlotte says:

    Heat the pot of water and then place a jar of honey in it. Don’t not heat the water with the jar in there. You may have to stir it several times – don’t get water in it though. And it will eventually return to the same color as before.

  29. Ebrahim Nana says:

    Thank you for the information. Is there any additive one can add to honey to prevent it crystallising without spoiling the honey.

  30. Charlotte Anderson says:

    No, this is a natural process of most varieties of honey. Some types may store for years without crystallization but most regular honey does eventually crystallize.

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