First of all, crystalised honey is absolutely fine and safe to eat!
We have had multiple occasions where our stockists have told us that their customers would not buy crystalised honey because customer think it has gone off. If stored right, honey can remain eatable for several thousands of years. Honey in Egyptian tombs was still regarded as safe to eat after its discovery in recent years.
If one mentions crystlised honey amongst beekeepers, one will be met with a few head shakes and shrugged shoulders. That’s just what happens. Raw, untreated honey will crystalise eventually. It is natural and should be seen as a batch of honor
Let’s look at this a bit closer.
When honey is taken out of it’s natural environment, the hive, everything changes.
First of all the temperature. A beehive usually has a stable temperature of about 36 degrees Celsius. So removing honey and storing it in a different temperature, it can potentially crystalise a lot quicker. No need to store honey in the fridge. Keep it at room temperature!
It all gets naturally blended. Studies have shown that bees store honey from different sources in separate spots in the hive. So the left top corner of the frame might contain a honey from a different plant than the bottom right. because we harvest honey by cutting off the wax cover and spinning it in the extractor, it will all blended.
Honey is bee food. Bees store honey as their winter or bad weather food supplies. So it is not intended to sit in the back of a pantry for month on end. Bees will periodically eat their stores and replace it with fresh honey, just like we do with our foods. As they cycle trough their store, older honey will be consumed first.
As honey is a natural product, it will change it characteristics over time, simply due to the chemical make up of water, enzymes and sugar.
Honey bought in the supermarket has usually been superheated and pasturised at temperatures over 60 degrees Celsius. This will generally destroy most beneficial enzymes and yeasts, so it will always stay liquid.
American Apiarist Bob Binnie hast done an excellent write up on why honey crystalises and how heat will effect beneficial enzymes in honey.
” Crystallization will occur in honey with a moderate to high percentage of dextrose.
A 20% content of dextrose, also known as D-glucose, in honey is considered low and 40% is considered high. Honey with a 25% dextrose content or lower will generally not crystallize. Fresh honey containing 40% or more will begin the crystallization process faster than you can read this article.
I was once extracting a crop of Canola honey (which is high in dextrose) only to come back after a weekend off and find it setting up in the sump tank, pumps, and pipes. If you’re not paying attention, honey like this can quickly crystallize in the comb and become almost impossible to extract. I learned this one the hard way.
Honeys high in dextrose will crystallize hard, and those with a moderate percentage will crystallize soft. A little lower percentage may give you a slurry or a thick, cloudy body.
Age can also have an effect on the consistency of crystallized honey. Over time, the percentage of dextrose in crystallized honey can decrease as it slowly converts to other sugars. This can give the appearance of honey that seems to have separated liquid from solid, with the solid on the bottom. Given enough time, some crystallized honey can actually go almost completely liquid again. Of course, this honey would be quite old and undesirable in my view because it will have deteriorated in other ways.
Examples of honeys low in dextrose are Black Sage, Tupelo, and Sourwood. Titi, Cotton, and Canola are honeys high in dextrose and because of this are sometimes considered bakers grade or industrial grade.
Crystallization is affected by temperature
The optimum temperature for crystallization is around 14˚C. Those producing creamed honey can use this fact to their advantage. The farther the temperature moves either above or below this range, the less apt honey will be to crystallize. Honey will not crystallize at or below 2˚C. Honey that has already crystallized will begin to soften at 30˚C and begin to liquify between 37˚C and 40˚C.
Heat is used to dissolve crystals in fresh honey that can initiate the crystallization process. Heat is also used to facilitate micro filtering which can remove particles that act as a platform from which the crystallization process can begin. Even a particle of dust can act as a starting point. Thirty minutes at 65˚C will dissolve all crystals.
If you need a long shelf life without crystallization, heat will probably be needed.
The effect of heat on an enzyme are commonly measured by the time it takes to reduce half of the enzyme’s activity. or it’s “half-life” at a given temperature.
The half life of diastase in honey is 1000 days at 20 degrees Celcius, 14 days at 50 degrees C and 30 seconds at 80 degrees.
Other Ezymes in honey are effect very much in the same way. Enzyme activity stops when honey is held at freezingtemperature, but will resume once it warmes back up. This does not happen once they are destroyed by super heating.”
If one prefers liquid honey, simply, gently heat the honey back up to 35 to 40 degrees and it will liquify again.