Why Does Honey Turn to Sugar, What Causes Honey to Crystallize, and What Can You Do to Fix It?

Unopened jars of honey that have remained clear for years can, over the space of a couple of weeks, change into solid sugar while the jar remains motionless on its shelf.

Temperature does not seem to be a factor, the process can occur in winter or summer.

Beekeepers argue about this, as honeys from different sources behave differently.

Honey is a supersaturated solution of various proportions of sugars, mainly glucose and fructose, and is full of insect scales, pollen grains, and organic molecules that encourage or interfere with crystalization.

Glucose crystalizes readily, while fructose stubbornly stays in solution. Honeys like aloe honey, which is rich in glucose and nucleating particles, go grainy, while some kinds of eucalyptus honey stay sweet and liquid for years.

Unpredictably delayed crystalization means a nucleation center has formed by microbes, local drying, oxidation, or other chemical reactions.

Crystalization can also be purely spontaneous, starting whenever enough molecules meet and form a seed crystal. Some sugars do this easily, others very rarely.

By seeding honey with crystals, or violently stirring air into it, you can force crystalization.

Products made this way are sold as “creamed” honey. The syrup between the sludge crystals is runnier and less sweet than the original honey, because its sugar is locked into crystals.

Gently warm some creamed honey in a microwave until it dissolves, compare the taste of the syrup with the sludge, you will be astonished.

We have seen honey turn solid many times. The time before crystalization starts seems to depend on the source of the nectar the honey is made from.

Oilseed rape honey will crystalize within a week or two of the bees making it. Heather honey never seems to crystalize.

Fuchsia honey is extremely runny and, unlike any other I have seen, seems prone to fermentation, even when all the extracted honey comes from cells capped by the bees for storage.

Even this crystalizes after a year or two.

To turn solidified honey into its original state, place the jar in boiling water until it liquefies. No need to remove the lid.

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