Is your honey crystallised? No worries!
Crystallisation of honey is a completely natural process for honey that is pure and raw! Honey that is crystallised hasn’t gone bad and sends you a sign that it hasn’t been adulterated. Crystallisation happens naturally over time and it affects most (but not all!) types of honey at different time points.
Crystallisation doesn’t affect at all your honey’s biological, nutritional, or other values; it only temporarily changes its texture and colour.
Crystallisation is a process that occurs only if honey is pure and raw, not in honey that has been “boiled” or processed in high temperatures and also not in mechanically filtered honey. It’s a completely natural process that turns honey from a liquid to a solid (or semi-solid) state. In fact, if your honey is crystallised you can be happy, since for most types of honey it actually serves as proof that they are pure and raw!
Some consumers might actually prefer honey that is crystallised, since it is easier to spread on bread or toast without dripping and also, because of its semi-solid state, it has a richer and sweeter flavour. Some special machines cause crystallisation by mixing part of liquid honey with part crystallised, making a product called “honey cream”. You can enjoy our honey as you prefer!
Types of crystallisation
There are two types of crystallisation depending on the type of honey: crystallisation with fine-grained crystals (which has a butter-like appearance) and crystallisation with coarse-grained crystals (which appears solid on the bottom and on the sides and liquid on top).
Why does my honey get crystallised?
Honey is a dense solution of natural sugar (natural fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose). It comprises over 70% sugars and, generally, less than 20% water (moisture). Since there are way more sugars in honey compared to water, the water cannot naturally hold the amount of sugar it contains. This creates a chemical tension that makes the honey unstable - in other words, honey “wants” to be crystallised as it would be more stable through sinking the surplus amount of sugar in it.
How fast will my honey get crystallised?
The two predominant sugars in honey are natural fructose and natural glucose. The content of each in your honey varies depending on the type of honey. Generally speaking, fructose ranges from 25% to 40% and glucose from 30% to 45%. The balance between those two is the main cause that will lead to the crystallisation of honey and the original percentage of each will determine how fast or slowly your honey will become crystallised (higher content in glucose will cause honey to crystallise faster, such as with all flower honeys, thyme honey, orange honey, eucalyptus honey, heather honey etc., whereas higher content in fructose will help the honey to stay liquid even for years, such as with fir honey, pine honey, oak honey, vanilla-fir honey etc.).
Fructose is more soluble in water than glucose and will remain liquid. Glucose, on the other hand, in crystallising, it separates from water and obtains the form of tiny crystals. As crystallisation advances, crystals form a lattice that spreads throughout the honey, immobilises all other ingredients in it and makes the honey look more thick and solid.
Crystallised honey tends to be more light-coloured than its liquid form. This is because glucose gets dehydrated when crystallised and its crystals tend back to their natural white colour. Darker honeys maintain a brown appearance when crystallised.
Crystallisation differs among different types of honey. Some types get crystallised within weeks after they have been extracted from the honeycombs, others stay liquid for months or years and one type of honey, that of the acacia, is the only one that never gets crystallised.
Factors that affect the speed of crystallisation
A number of factors determine how quickly your honey will get crystallised:
- The source of the nectar collected by the bees (which affects the synthesis of sugars in your honey).
- The way it has been processed (honeys that have been filtered, boiled or processed in high heat don’t crystallise as they lose most of their natural qualities).
- The presence of catalysts such as grains of pollen and microscopic pieces of honey wax. Those particles function as cores for the crystallisation of honey. That means that honey which has been artificially processed will stay liquid since it has lost those catalysts; whereas pure, raw, unfiltered honey will get crystallised.
- Water: accepted honey moisture regularly varies between 14% and 21%. Perfect moisture is between 14% and 17% and that drives honey to get crystallised faster.
- The temperature in which it is preserved. Lower temperatures accelerate crystallisation.
At what temperature should I store my honey?
If you store your honey between 10oC an 18oC it will get crystallised faster. Such temperatures favour the crystallisation of the honey.
At higher temperatures, over 25oC and even between 30oC and 40oC, honey becomes more resistant to crystallisation. Ideal conditions of storage are at 22oC to 28oC.
Do not store your honey in the fridge, since this will speed up its crystallisation. If you want to store it for months (or even years!), you can store it in the freezer. In the freezer it doesn’t get crystallised, it keeps all its qualities and once you take it out, it will return to its liquid state in a small amount of time.
How should I store my honey?
Honey should always be kept in a shaded, cool and dry place, in temperatures lower than 45oC. Also, you should always keep you honey jars closed tightly, since honey has the ability to absorb moisture (which affects its quality) as well as various smells from its surroundings.
How can we reverse crystallisation and bring honey back to its liquid state?
If you prefer to have your honey in a liquid state, you can follow one of the following methods:
The traditional method: Bain-marie
Bain-marie method is a method we follow when we want to heat materials that are really sensitive to high temperatures (most commonly temperatures higher than 55oC) and, in general, materials that are sensitive to sudden change of temperature.
There are bain-marie devices for professional use, but you can easily do it at home. Pour some water in a metal pot (2-3 glasses, depending on the size of the pot and the volume of the material), bring it to boil and then lower the heat. Place a second metal or glass pot (your honey jar) on top of the first one. The top pot must come at bare minimum contact with the first one, and not in contact with the water in it so it can heat up on low temperature using the hot water steam. Place your honey jar in the upper pot and leave it to liquefy (or reach the texture you want!), occasionally stirring.
The simple method: the oven
The easiest way to liquefy your honey throughout the year is to put your jar (with its lid closed!) in a preheated oven at 45oC to 55oC and leave it there for 1 to 3 hours (depending on the type of the honey and the size of the jar). Check regularly to see when it has become liquid again. Be careful though! Your oven’s temperature should never be over 60oC, not even for a few minutes, as the honey will be overheated and lose its qualities.
The low maintenance method: your radiator
You can always place your honey jar on top of a radiator or heater and leave it there to liquefy again while you heat your house up!
The incorrect method: not in the sun!
In hotter summer days, you might think that you could liquefy your honey easier by placing at a sunlit spot. Don’t do that! Direct sunlight destroys honey’s qualities (which is also why you should store your honey in a shaded place anyway).