Honey - Frozen in Time ... Or is it?
By: Nanette Davis - Master Beekeeper
Youth Mentor Director Montgomery County Beekeepers Association
With the exceptional winter weather and possible snow days at home, you may have started to wonder exactly what happens to honey at freezing temperatures. Then after reviewing all your information on techniques for storing this golden gift you might have questioned; does it even freeze at all?
We accept 32°F as the freezing point because that’s when water changes from a liquid to a solid. However, Honey is a liquid that achieves a brittle/solid state comparable to glass at temperatures below - 44°F and a near solid state with some flow at - 4°F.
Our refrigerator freezers typically have a default setting of 0°F. That means, technically, when we place honey in our freezer – it doesn’t freeze! Fun Fact: Honey’s anti-freezing property led innovators of the early 1900’s to use a mixture of honey as radiator fluid– Amazing!
Now that we are certain we won’t create a block of honey in our freezer, let’s explore some other features important to beekeepers and consumers like crystallization and quality.
The ideal temperature for honey to crystallize is 57°F. The further from this temperature, either higher or lower, slows formation of crystals.
Quality and freshness of honey are internationally determined by enzyme activity and low levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF).
We know that higher temperatures and time negatively affect enzymes and cause the formation of HMF from certain sugars. Conversely, honey stored in the freezer preserves the enzymes and is shown to create less HMF than honey at room temperature! While freezing pure honey won’t create a honeysicle, it will slow the formation of crystals and the degradation of your sweet treat over time. So that makes freezing the coolest way to preserve the quality of honey!