Why Does Honey Crystallize?

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Honey has long been appreciated for its sweet flavor. But, one aspect that continues to puzzles honey-lovers is the process of crystallization. Honey crystallization is a natural process that changes liquid honey into a thick, semi-solid state. Understanding why does honey crystallize and the science behind it reveals the truly miraculous composition of this product.

Glass jar with honey that is crystallizing.

There is a bit of science involved in this transformation process but I promise it is not that difficult to understand. Every jar of honey is a little different. Whether regular honey or raw, the nectar source used to make it is the first factor that affects crystallization.

The Science Behind Honey Crystallization

You may call it crystallizing, granulation or “honey that turns to sugar” but the composition this product from the beehive plays a huge role the change.

There are many different types of honey due to the many nectar sources used to make it. But, let’s not forget – honey is sugar.

Sugar Composition

Honey is a mix of different kinds of sugars. The primary ones are glucose and fructose. The remaining components in honey are water, pollen, vitamins, salts, minerals, etc.

But, the fact that honey is about 80% sugar is a key to crystallization.

Ratios of Glucose and Fructose

Glucose is highly soluble in water. This means it mixes with and dissolves well with water. However, fructose is not as water soluble.

Each kind of honey varies in the percentages of these sugars. Those with a high glucose content are more likely to crystallize than one with a higher fructose level.

Saturation Point

Scientists classify honey as a supersaturated solution. With a high level of sugars and a low water content, there are more sugars in it than would normally be dissolved at room temperature.

This means that over time, the sugar concentration intensifies as the honey ages. Excess sugar crystals come out of solution and begin to form seed crystals.

These seed crystals interlock as the process continues moving towards a solid product. The texture and grain size of the crystals varies depending honey variety, temperature, and storage conditions.

Temperature and Crystallization

Temperature has a major influence on the rate of honey crystallization. This is why it is important to learn how to store honey properly if you want to encourage it to stay in liquid form.

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

The product works to become “comfortable” – becoming less liquid and more solid to attain the balance.

Very cool temperatures (in the refrigerator?) promote the formation of sugar crystals. Warmer temperatures slow down the crystallization process.

But, sudden temperature changes and cause crystal formation to begin. That’s why a warm stable location for your jar of honey is important.

Crystallized honey in the bottom of a glass jar image.

Role of Impurities

What one person considers any impurity may not be considered such by another. For instance, bits of beeswax and pollen are often found in raw honey.

With all other factors (sugar ratio, temperature etc.) being the same, honey with these substances will generally crystallize faster.

This is why pure raw honey is more likely to crystallize than pasteurized or micro-filtered honey.

Honey with seed crystals that are gritty and smooth creamed honey in a container.

Factors that Affect Crystallization Rate

There are several important factors that determine if your honey crystallizes and how quickly it may happen. Some of them can be controlled by us and some can not.

  • nectar source
  • filtering process
  • storage temperature

Bees visit millions of blooming plants to collect nectar. The chemical composition of that nectar varies from plant to plant.

The nectar source affects the shade or color of honey, flavor, aroma and crystallization rate.

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 without crystallizing.

Cool storage temperatures begin the process. You can see the stages of crystallization in a container that is just beginning to solidify – it looks cloudy.

This process continues with the crystals forming and growing until the composition (balance) becomes stable. Eventually the whole jar may become solid.

Reversing Crystallization

A lot of people throw away perfectly good jars of crystallized honey. It’s so sad and that is not what I want you to do.

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

Learn how to reverse the crystallization process or as we say in the trade – decrystallizing honey without damaging it.

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

Embrace the Difference of Crystallized Honey

Not every type of honey crystallizes in the same way. Some varieties develop small fine crystals that are more palatable for 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 crystallization occurs in controlled conditions, it results in a thick and smooth texture. You can buy crystallized honey.

It is sold under the names – whipped, spun or creamed. But, there is no cream in the product.

Or, 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.

Unless you have a jar of honey from a nectar source that resists crystallization – you can expect it to happen eventually.

Once you learn more about the composition of this awesome product, the magic of the beehive becomes even more impressive.

Container of honey with smooth seed crystals.


Is crystallized honey still safe to eat?

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

How long does it take honey to crystallize?

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

Clover honey is known to crystallize in a short time. While Sourwood honey or Tupelo (both considered some of the best honeys in the world) 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.

Can I prevent my honey from crystallizing?

This may be challenging as nectar source is one factor in the rate of crystallization. But, by storing it in a warm location, you can slow down the process.

Is crystallized honey bad or spoiled?

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.

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 use the honey in tea


If you have ever reached for your jar of delicious honey and found a gritty solid mass – you have experienced crystallized honey. This is a natural process and no cause for alarm. Don’t throw it out. It is still edible and can be transformed back to a liquid state if you prefer.


  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.

  31. Hi. I live in a area that bees frequent and am wondering if it is possible to start a hive? I haven’t really researched it but having this as a hobby would be cool.

  32. Chuck Butler says:

    Hi, I have 4 or 5 med frames from my hive that died over the winter. Several have crystallized both sides and several just the one side. Can i put them back in a honey super for resources for the colony for next winter, prior to closing up for the winter? They haven’t spun out very well, if at all. Looking for suggestions there is a lot of weight there.

  33. Charlotte Anderson says:

    Yes, I think so. Perhaps freeze them until then? Or put them out well away from your hives and let the bees rob them out.

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