Why does honey crystallize?
Crystallization (also known as granulation) is a natural process and this is not affecting the honey or it’s quality, other than color and texture. This process is different depending on the type of honey.
The main reason is the sugar concentration in it like 60-70% sugars/carbohydrates and less than 18-20% is water (rest of percentage 10% other natural sugars, and 2% are minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein). Sugar concentration is more than the water can hold/disolve, which leads to crystallization.
Fructose and glucose are the two principals sugars in honey. Their concentration depends on the honey type, which ranges from 30 – 44% fructose and 25 – 40% glucose. Percentage of each, determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly. Due to it’s lower solubility in water (glucose) has the effect of crystallization (=separation from water), on the other hand fructose is more soluble and will remain fluid.
Some characteristics of crystallization:
- may appear uniformly or in in layers, depending on the honey type (at the bottom of the jar is more solid, and more liquid on top);
- preserves flavor and quality of honey;
- the taste is richer;
- the color of solid form is more light than in liquid form;
- the size of crystals are different;
- the faster the honey crystallizes, the finer the crystals are;
- temperature, humidity, packaging could delay or hasten crystallization.
Crуѕtаllіzаtіоn can be dеlауed at coоlеr tеmреrаturеѕ (bеlоw 10°С), whеrеаѕ tеmреrаturеѕ frоm 10°С tо 21°С fаvоr thе рrосеѕѕ. The result of delaying can be achieved also at hіghеr tеmреrаturеѕ (21°С – 27°С), but соuld аffесt nеgаtіvеlу the quality of hоnеу (at long-term storage).
Is it normal?
It should be if it’s raw honey. Almost all pure raw honey crystallizes (acacia honey for example crystallization process goes slower).
Due to the lack of information, it is believed that consumers prefer honey that stays liquid for a long period of time and the one that is brilliantly clear and free of any cloudy substance. That’s why the raw honey from the markets is processed and it remains in liquid form for a longer time than normal/natural, as sugar crystals have been dissolved by heating process (pasteurization -> in this process enzymes could be damaged) and any particles and bubbles of air that leads to crystallization are removed.
Honey types and crystallization time
Percentage of glucose and fructose in different honey types, determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly:
- acacia crystallizes in 1 – 2 years;
- linden crystallizes in 3 – 4 months;
- rapeseed crystallizes in 3 – 4 weeks;
- sunflower crystallizes between 20 days – 2 months.