Honey really is amazing stuff- and crystallisation is a fascinating process, all thanks to its unique composition. But not all honey is the same, so here’s a quick guide to what is means when your honey crystallises, how it actually happens and what you can do de-crystallise- and restore it back to its former gooey glory.
Why does Honey Crystallise?
Put simply, honey is a ‘supersaturated solution- meaning that it is basically (and we’re talking very basic here!) made up of sugars and water. The runny consistency of honey is down to the fact that the water is able to keep the sugars in a dissolved state.
Crystallisation occurs when there is not enough water to keep the sugar permanently dissolved.
Why do some honeys crystallise more quickly than others?
There are two main types of sugar in honey: fructose and glucose.
Fructose has a tendency to stay in a dissolved state more easily, while glucose is less soluble, so is able to crystallise more easily.
This means that honey with higher levels of glucose will crystallise more easily, while honey with higher levels of fructose will take its own sweet time to get there.
Raw honey can behave a little differently, due to the fact it contains small amounts of pollen, beeswax and other nutrients. Not only does raw honey carry a few more health benefits due to its composition, but its also more likely to crystallise too. This is because the glucose can use the tiny particles of pollen and beeswax to hold on to, a little life a life saver!
Does the manufacturing process affect crystallisation?
There are also some external factors that play a role in the crystallisation of honey. As explained above, raw honey with no added preservatives will crystallise a lot more quickly than honey that has been filtered. Likewise, the bottling process can have an affect too- plastic tends to aid crystallisation due to the fact that it’s more porous than glass.
How does Crystallisation happen?
So we know why, but how does crystallisation occur? Its nothing short of amazing, actually- but we’d expect nothing less from our bee-rilliant bees!
As the sugar in the honey separates from the water, the sugar molecules join together to form tiny crystals that are spread out through the honey. The size of the crystals can vary- from tiny and fine to larger and ‘gritty’.
As the crystals form, the honey becomes thicker and cloudy- but again, there are variations in the texture of the honey overall. Some honey will end up coarse, with a sugary texture while others will become almost creamy.
How the colder months can affect honey
Just as honey will crystallise in the hive during the colder winter months, honey stored at home in cold temperatures is more likely to form crystals too.
We always recommend you store honey at room temperature- never in the fridge!
What to do if your honey crystallises
So you’ve opened your jar of honey and it looks a little, um, odd. It’s thicker than normal, you can’t dip your spoon as you normally would, and it seems kind of clumpy. Wait! Don’t even think about throwing it away.
Crystallised honey is perfectly fine to eat. Its appearance and texture does not in any way affect its taste or suitability for human consumption! But we get it. It’s not what you were expecting- which is why we’re sharing our top tips for de-crystallising honey.
How to de-crystallise honey
Luckily, restoring your honey to its former glory is fairly easy, but there are some Dos and Don’ts to follow if you want to do it right.
De-crystallising is as simple as applying gentle heat to warm the sugars, so that the crystals are dissolved and the honey becomes runny again. But this needs to be a gentle process.
Don’t use the microwave, as this could heat the honey unevenly.
Don’t boil your honey, otherwise you risk destroying precious enzymes.
Don’t heat honey in a plastic container. There’s a chance the plastic could melt and end up in your honey!
Don’t try to de-crystallise over and over again. Repeated warming will destroy the colour and aroma of your honey over time.
Do use a glass container to warm your honey.
Do warm small amounts at a time- just enough for your porridge, and save the rest for next time.
Do place your jar of honey in a small bowl of warm water and stir every now and then.
Do be patient- it can take up to 30 minutes to dissolve all the crystals- but we’re sure you’ll agree it’s worth the wait!
What you should know about de-crystallised honey
While it’s an easy process, de-crystallisation is not a permanent fix. Your honey will return to it’s previous state as crystals once more begin to form as it cools down again. This is another reason why just warming enough each time is recommended.
How to prevent your honey crystallising
While crystallisation is completely normal for honey, there are some things that you can do to prevent it happening so quickly.
As already mentioned, we always recommend you store honey at room temperature and never in the fridge. We also recommend that you make sure the lid is on tightly- and once opened, continue to store like this.
Ideal temperature for honey
Just like us, honey likes to be not too hot, but not too cold. So while it’s a great idea to avoid really cold temperatures, it’s also worth noting that being too warm is not great for honey either. High temperatures won’t cause your honey to crystallise, but it can cause it to degrade.
Your honey’s shelf life
Crystallisation is a process that occurs over time, so the best way to avoid it is to eat your honey as quickly as possible! Although we do give a sell-by date here at Hilltop, honey doesn’t really ‘go off’ thanks to its sugar content.
The bottom line on crystallised honey
Crystallised honey is delicious, safe to eat and perfectly natural. There are some honeys that will form crystals a lot more quickly than others, so if you prefer to keep yours runny, look for honey that has a higher fructose content. Our Acacia Honey is a great choice.
Although all honey will crystallise over time, there is a way to get it back to a liquid state- but it does require patience. Follow the steps outlined here to safely and easily dissolve the crystals, but be warned that they can- and will- return!
Here are Hilltop, we recommend digging in without hesitation. Whether your honey is runny or crumbly- it tastes the same, and has all the same health benefits too!