How to decrystallize honey
Anyone that buys and uses honey on a regular basis will almost certainly have encountered honey crystallisation before. But why does honey crystallize? Has your honey had gone bad or spoiled? How do I decrystallize honey? In this blog, we investigate!
Most raw honey will naturally crystallize if it sits in your cupboard for any length of time. Sometimes you might just notice that your clear honey has become more opaque, if it's further along in the process it could turn grainy or gritty and if left long enough it may seem almost completely solid when you put your spoon in it (or try to!)
Thankfully this process is totally natural and actually the way that honey looks after and preserves itself! Crystallised honey is just as good as runny liquid honey and some recipes will even call for the use of crystallised honey. The crystals tend to multiply quickly once the honey has started the crystallisation process, but no, your honey is perfectly fine to use and eat in crystallised form and most definitely not ruined!
Why does honey crystallize?
Without getting too stuck in the science, it's actually fairly simple chemistry. In simple terms, we could say the crystals are the natural sugars becoming 'undissolved' in the honey. Honey is what scientists call a supersaturated solution; it's essentially sugars and water and there's simply not enough water in honey to keep all of its sugars dissolved permanently.
Honey contains two main types of natural sugars, fructose and glucose. While fructose tends to remain dissolved, glucose has a much lower solubility and so can crystalize much more easily.
Tiny crystals form in the honey when the glucose separates from the water. The crystallization will even be different in different kinds of honey depending on the nectar it was made from. Some form tiny, very fine crystals evenly dispersed through the honey. Others have larger gritty crystals. It totally depends on the water content of the honey compared the glucose, the more glucose, the quicker it will crystallise.
Why is raw honey more likely to crystalise than factory produced honey?
Raw honey also contains small particles of pollen, beeswax, bee glue and other nutrients. That's not a bad thing and they are largely responsible for raw honey's extra health benefits. But those tiny bits and pieces are perfect for the glucose to crystallise on as it becomes undissolved in the honey solution. Those little particles are the reason that raw honey is more likely encourage the formation of crystals over a pasteurised and fully processed product.
How to stop honey from crystallising
Where you store honey can make a big difference in how quickly it will crystallise. Low temperatures will encourage quicker crystallisation, so don't put our honey it in the fridge! There's really no need to keep honey refrigerated, stored properly in a sealed container honey has a shelf life that is well beyond anything else in your cupboard. Hot temperatures can cause honey to degrade though, so warmer is definitely not better. For these reasons, to slow down or avoid crystallisation it's always best to store honey at room temperature in a cupboard away from direct sunlight. Not only is it best for the honey but it's also the best way to keep it in its smooth liquid state.
If you want to avoid crystallisation completely, the best thing to do is to just eat your honey before it crystallises! On average honey will usually stay crystallisation free for at least a few weeks and possibly months after you buy it.
How to melt crystallised honey
As we've already said, there's nothing wrong with crystallized honey. You can sprinkle it on top of your porridge, or blend it with runny honey to create something known as 'creamed honey' which is excellent for spreading on toast. In fact, honey retains all of its flavour and quality in its crystallised form, so in most cases for cooking you can just continue to use it as you normally would.
However we also understand the desire to have it returned back to that lovely smooth golden honey that you had when you first bought it.
The method we recommend for Just Bee Raw Vitamin Honey is the warm bath method. We've read suggestions before that involved microwaves, boiling water and even putting the jar in a dishwasher! However all of these methods can expose the raw honey to extreme temperatures and we don't want to risk exposing our honey to those risk! Not only can it destroy the unique enzymes and natural nutrients in raw honey, it can also hurt the overall flavour.
How to decrystallize honey
To de-crystalise your honey, all you need is the warm water from your kitchen tap and a small bowl:
- Let the water run so it gets nice and warm,
- place your jar of honey in the bowl and add water until it's about three-quarters up the side of the jar.
- Using a teaspoon stir the honey gently and continuously, making sure not to splash water into your jar.
You will soon see the crystallising process start to reverse.
If you need a break from stirring it's fine to let it sit for a while in the warm water while your wrist recovers too! You may need to replace the water in the bath if it cools down too much but eventually your honey will return to its clear runny state. Depending on how far the crystallisation process has gone, it could take up to 30 minutes to completely dissolve all the crystals.
It may not be the fastest way to return your honey to its original and beautiful liquid consistency but it's the safest, both for all vitamins and nutrients in the honey and yourself. Providing your tap water isn't too hot, it's even something you can get the kids involved in!