Honey lovers that keep jars of honey for some time may find that it has become a solid! Your honey is not spoiled – it has crystallized. Why does honey crystallize or “turn to sugar”? This is a natural process of raw honey and no cause for alarm. Don’t throw out crystallized honey – it is still good and can be fixed or used in the solid form.
Crystallization of Pure Honey
If you are a lover of natural foods such as honey, I am sure you have gone to the cabinet and found that something weird was happening with your jar of honey.
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That jar of natural sweetness is now a 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.
Of course, honey is a natural sugar but we are used to enjoying it in its liquid form. Or perhaps, eating a piece of raw honeycomb. Having a honey jar filled with a semi-solid substance can be rather upsetting if it is your first time seeing it.
Real Raw Honey Crystallizes Naturally
Honey is made by bees from plant nectar. In fact, each jar is different because of the millions of nectar sources used by the bees.
An exquisite blend of many different sugars, enzymes, minerals, salts, and proteins, there are still some undefined substances found in honey.
A common myth about honey is the belief that honey that crystallizes is not pure. This is not true. In fact, if you honey crystallizes that it is more likely to be the real thing.
The Chemistry of Why Honey Crystallizes
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 of pure 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 this in a container that is beginning to crystallize as it looks cloudy. This process continues until the honey chemistry becomes stable and the product is solid.
Honey Crystallization and Temperature
A honey 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. It becomes “comfortable” but different. Becoming less liquid and more solid to attain the balance.
How Long Does it Take Honey to Crystallize?
Most honey is not from a single nectar source but rather a mix of many types of plant nectar. Nectar source affects the color of honey, flavor, aroma and crystallization rate.
It usually takes several months for a jar of honey to crystallize. However, some honey varieties will thicken much quicker.
Clover honey may crystallize in a short time. While Sourwood honey or Tupelo 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.
Store Jars of Honey Resist Crystallization
It is not only the sugar ratios that affect the rate of crystallization in honey. The method of harvesting and bottling plays a role too.
Most honey that is bottled by large commercial companies is micro-filtered to remove tiny bits of wax, pollen, etc. This allows that jar of honey 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 honey. It is a trade-off that has to be made for a pretty product with a long shelf life.
Is Crystallized Honey Bad?
Crystallized honey is not a sign that it is bad. Honey does NOT crystallize because something has been added to it.
This is a common myth- that someone has added cane syrup or something to the honey and caused the honey to turn to sugar -not true.
Pure raw honey will usually crystallize much earlier than honey found in the large stores. Remember however, that by the same token: crystallization does not prove that your honey is pure either.
Can You Eat Crystallized Honey?
Yes, you can eat it. Solid or semi-solid honey is not problem. If your honey has a grainy, sour smell, it has fermented and that is a different story.
This happens if the honey has too much moisture. Honey is hygroscopic meaning that it can absorb moisture from the air.
That’s why honey should be stored in a sealed container. You might want to throw it out unless you want to make mead.
I love this honey dipper lid. This type of storage will protect your honey from absorbing moisture for the air.
Is Crystallized Honey Good For You?
Crystallized honey is as nutritious as liquid honey-but not more so. Some people enjoy crystallized honey in their coffee or tea. 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.
Slowing Down Honey Crystallization
You can not always stop your honey from turning to sugar. But, you can sometimes slow the process down. Learn how to properly store honey and this 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 warm place.
How to Fix Crystallize Honey
What to do when your honey turns to sugar? A lot of people throw away perfectly good jars of honey. It’s so sad and that is not what I want you to do.
If the honey 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 liquefy crystallized honey that is in a glass container. Learn how to decrystallize honey without damaging it. Do not overheat.
I do not recommend putting honey in the microwave as I feel it will damage some of the nutritional components.
Final Thoughts on Why Honey Crystallizes
- crystallized honey has not gone bad and is still safe to eat
- most pure raw honey varieties will crystallize in time
- crystallization is not an indicator that you have received tainted honey
Remember these key facts about honey and you will understand more about why honey crystallizes and how you can still enjoy it.