Why does my honey have sugar in it? Has it gone bad? Why has my honey separated into solid and liquid layers?
These are some of the questions that we are commonly asked by customers trying raw honey for the first time.
You can’t blame them. Think of the last time you went to the “honey” aisle in a supermarket. Didn’t the “honey” look like a clear, thick, runny liquid? Not a single crystal in sight?
We say “honey” because supermarkets do not sell honey, they sell a processed sugary syrup that looks and tastes like honey… but it is not honey.
Why does raw honey crystallise?
Raw honey, which is honey that has not been heat-treated or filtered, is basically a solution high in natural sugars. The two main natural sugars in raw honey are fructose and glucose.
The ratio of fructose to glucose varies from honey to honey. Since honey is a natural product, honey from the same hive might have more fructose and less glucose one year and then the next year it might have less fructose and more glucose.
The balance of fructose and glucose in raw honey determines the speed and type of crystallisation of honey.
Glucose, which occurs naturally in raw honey, is what crystallises because it is less soluble than fructose. Fructose is more soluble than glucose so it remains fluid.
Honeys with a higher fructose content crystallise slower than honeys with a low fructose content.
So some honeys will always remain runny, some honeys always remain set and others are runny to begin with but crystallise later.
Why do some raw honeys separate into two layers?
Some honeys form fine crystals that swim around in the liquid honey. Other honeys form heavier, denser crystals which sink to the bottom separating the honey into two layers.
Honey with a high pollen content crystallises quicker, forming dense crystals. This is because as the natural glucose in the honey begins to crystallise it latches onto the pollen and begins to clump around it.
These honeys tend to be set or solid at room temperature.
So speedy crystallisation is sometimes proof that the honey is raw and unprocessed.
Why does supermarket “honey” stay runny for a long time?
Supermarket “honey” is not honey. It is a solution that was once honey but has been heat-treated and filtered to extract the glucose out of the honey. The fructose remains, which is highly soluble, and thus more likely to remain liquid.
Sometimes supermarket “honey” crystallises because remnants of glucose in the “honey” begin to crystallise.
Does crystallisation mean the honey has gone bad?
Crystallisation does not affect raw honey one bit except changing its colour and texture. All the beneficial nutrients and enzymes in the raw honey remain after crystallisation.
In fact, crystallisation actually preserves the taste of the honey and makes it easier to use. The crystals release different flavours as they melt in the mouth and it is easier to spread on toast or to eat straight from the spoon.
Does crystallisation mean that sugar has been added to the honey?
This is a question we are frequently asked. As explained above, honey is a solution of natural sugars. Quite why someone would want to add more sugar to something that is already sweet is something we have yet to understand!
How can I transform crystallised honey into runny honey?
Simply put the jar of raw honey into a container of hot water for a few minutes until the honey warms up and the crystals dissolve.
However, take care to ensure that the temperature of the honey does not exceed 37C (body temperature) otherwise you will start to kill off the beneficial living nutrients in the honey.
So next time you see a jar of raw honey that has begun to crystallise, or separate into two layers, treat it as a gift and take it as proof that it is in fact raw, unprocessed honey.
And if you are still not convinced that crystallised raw honey tastes better than the completely runny version, try our Raw Organic Rainforest Honey from Brazil or our Raw Organic Pink Lychee Honey from Mexico. Both have delicious crystals that release different flavours as they melt in your mouth!