Why does honey crystallize or “turn to sugar”? Honey lovers that keep jars for some time may discover a jar of gritty honey. It may even become solid. No worries, your honey is not ruined and you can fix it. Crystallization is a natural process of raw honey. Keep a jar on hand in the pantry -there are many ways to use honey. Don’t waste a drop.
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.
That jar of natural sweetness is now a clump of gritty, stickiness lodged in the bottom of the jar. What has happened to your jar of honey?
Your honey has crystallized – some people say the honey has “turned to sugar”. This is a natural process of pure honey and does not mean that the product has spoiled.
Pure Honey is Prone to Crystallize
Honey is an exquisite blend of many different sugars, enzymes, minerals, salts, proteins and other undefined substances.
However, honey is sugar and this plays are role in the crystallization process. The two main sugars in honey are glucose and fructose.
In fact, 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 (liquid nectar part) of the substance when in the warm environment of the hive.
We humans do not keep our hives (homes) as warm as a honey bee colony. Honey is prone to change form to a semi-solid and cooler temps promote that change.
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. Different plant nectar produces honey with different rates of crystallization.
Clover honey may crystallize in a short time. While Sourwood or Tupelo honey may never become solid.
Nectar source affects the color of honey, flavor, aroma and crystallization rate.
Overall, it is very common for a jar of honey to become gritty over a period of several months to a year.
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.
Why does Honey Crystallize Slowly?
In most cases, your jar of honey (even raw honey) will take some time to become solid. It usually takes several months for the jar to show crystals.
The reason for honey crystallizing slowly has to do with 2 factor. The first factor is the chemical composition of honey – that we talked about earlier. It is prone to become solid.
The second reason for a slow change has to do with temperature. A honey bee colony usually maintains a temp of near 95 degrees 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 will again become “comfortable” but different.
The process involves some of the glucose (the least stable sugar) coming out of solution and forming crystals.
This happens faster at cooler temperatures. As the process continues, your honey will become more and more “clumpy” until it is a virtual solid.
Is Crystallized Honey 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.
It is important to understand that this is a natural process of raw natural honey.
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 mason jar with attached dipper! This type of storage will protect your honey from absorbing moisture for the air.
Is Crystallized Honey Good For You?
Sure it is! Crystallized honey is as nutritious as liquid honey. In fact, 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.
Slow 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. 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. Pour or scoop (as the case may be) that honey into a glass container.
Now set the pot containing the water off the stove burner and sit your honey jar in it. You may have to repeat the process more than once.
Take care that you 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.
How to Fix Crystallized Honey in Plastic Containers
The easiest way to fix honey that has crystallized in a plastic container is to scoop, pour or shake it out into a glass jar. However, if you have a crystallized honey bear that is not usually possible.
In this case, put the container of honey in a very warm-but not hot water bath. You may have to repeat the process more times that you would with a glass jar.
Also, taking the honey bear to work with you on a warm day and leaving him in the car might do the trick too!
Final Thoughts on Understanding Honey Crystallization
- 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.