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Why does honey crystallize?

All honey will eventually crystallize and turn into a solid. In this blog post, we explain why honey crystallizes, how to store it to slow the crystallization process, and how to turn it back to liquid honey if you prefer it that way (it's one reason we use glass jars).


Why honey turns solid

Bees make honey from nectar, by adding enzymes and evaporating as much water as they can from the nectar. The bees are so efficient at this process that they condense the nectar to the point that it becomes a supersaturated solution - a solution that contains more natural sugars from flowers than a liquid can technically hold. During the summer while it is warm, the honey stays liquid, but as the temperatures cool in the fall, it will even crystallize in the beehive.


The same is true for jars of honey. When honey is first harvested from frames of honeycomb, it is a golden sticky liquid. Over time, the natural sugars in honey will start to precipitate into small solid crystals. At first, the honey will seem thicker than usual and perhaps a bit grainy. As the crystals spread through the liquid honey, the whole jar will become solid honey.

Why some honey crystallizes faster than others


Some types of honey crystallizes more quickly than others, depending on the natural flower sugars it contains. Flower nectars vary in the amount of glucose and fructose they contain, and as a result honey made from different nectars will crystallize at different speeds. In general, honey varieties with higher glucose content (such as fall wildflower or goldenrod honey) will crystallize more quickly than honeys with higher fructose content (like linden honey or acacia honey).


Some years, depending on the harvest, wildflower honey will crystallize quickly and other years more slowly. In dry summers, wildflower honey will contain proportionally more clover and goldenrod nectar than during warm wet summers, when we often have more linden nectar in wildflower honey.


The texture of crystallized honey also varies. Certain honey will crystallize with a very smooth crystal, that makes it a creamy delight. Other times, crystallized honey may have a grainier texture with sharper crystals.


Storing honey to slow the crystallization process


We recommend storing honey in your pantry at room temperature, or slightly above. Cooler temperatures (like the fridge) will speed up crystallization.



My honey has crystallized - now what?


Crystallized honey is still perfectly good to eat. In fact, it is the only food that never spoils! This is because it is naturally antibacterial due to its high sugar content and its enzymatic production of hydrogen peroxide. As a solid, it is delicious stirred into coffee and tea, and spread on toast.


That said, if you prefer your honey liquid, you can bring it back by melting it. We recommend gently heating the honey in its glass jar in a pot of hot (not boiling) water. The honey will slowly melt back to a liquid. While warm, it will be runny but as it cools it will go back to its typical thick honey consistency. This is one of the reasons we prefer to use glass jars over plastic jars. Not only is it better for the environment, but you can also heat them without worrying about heating the plastic into your honey.


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