How to Liquify Granulated Honey
One of the most bothersome aspects for a honey producer is crystallization. We’ve all had it happen at one time or another – but why does it happen?
Honey is made up of 2 main types of natural sugars, fructose and glucose. Fructose typically remains dissolved, but glucose has a much lower solubility and can cause faster crystallization. Different honeys crystallize at different rates and it’s all because of their fructose and glucose content. The higher glucose, the faster it will crystallize.
Although we as beekeepers know this is a sign of “real honey,” consumers aren’t as likely to know. To them, clean and “runny” honey seems good – Solid or crystallized honey has a connotation of being bad or spoiled. Attaching a label to your honey containers can go a long way in educating your consumer.
It will also keep them from throwing away perfectly good honey or even worse – thinking you sell a bad product.
Large scale beekeepers expect barrels and totes to crystallize and have measures in place to liquify on a large scale. For a small-scale beekeeper, preventing your honey from crystallizing prior to selling is ideal.
Think like a hive! The goal is to keep honey at “hive temperature”! Typically, a hive maintains 93⁰- 95⁰ and can even climb to temperatures just over 100⁰. Seldom do you see a hive with crystallized honey, although it can happen – it's more likely due to the glucose content and not temperature.
Knowing this is your optimum storage temperature, use that knowledge in determining your storage area and options.
Hot Box Method
Take an old (non working) chest type or upright freezer and simply run an extension cord through the door gasket with a 40-watt bulb attached. This will maintain a nice warm temperature (usually around 95⁰) and keep honey liquified. Another similar method is to simply build a “closet” type storage box. Same instructions, same results!
Photos Courtesy: Karen and Roy Morse
Photos Courtesy: Anita and Malcolm Stepp
Heating Pad Method
What do you do if bottled honey has started getting cloudy at the bottom of your container (crystallizing)?
Get a heating pad and place it in the bottom of a cardboard box with a thin towel between it and the honey bottles. Turn the heating pad on Medium and cover the bottles with another towel. It could take some time (3-4 hours or longer) depending on how crystallized your honey is and the size of the container.
Note: Most heating pads come with an “auto shut off” at 2 hours or even less sometimes. Restart accordingly.
Bucket Heater Method
For larger quantities such as 5-gallon buckets – the industry sells a Bucket Heater that simply wraps around the bucket; plugs in and warms the entire bucket of honey. Warning: This requires some stirring occasionally. Consider the heating element and that it is only heating that section of the bucket it's touching. Stirring will avoid scorching the honey.
Hot Water Bath and Microwave Method
Last but not least – Small amounts of crystallized honey can be placed in a “hot water bath” or the microwave. It’s long been thought the microwave is a big bad no-no but done properly can be used.
Place your glass (not plastic) container in the microwave without the lid. Run at 30 second intervals, stirring after each.
The secret is to not overheat any one part of the container. After 2 or 3 times (depending on how crystallized your honey is) you should be able to have it warm enough to put the lid on and sit it out on a hot pad to complete the reliquefying process.
- Don’t boil raw honey – it will degrade the beneficial ingredients in your honey
- Don’t overheat honey in plastic bottles. Not only will it melt the plastic – in doing so it will emit plastic contained chemicals into the honey.
- Don’t liquify honey over and over again. This will degrade the benefits of good raw honey.