Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Have you ever opened your cupboard to get raw honey and found that it looked different than the last time? If it’s been awhile since you used your honey chances are that it crystallized or formed solid crystals. Your honey may look strange, but don’t worry, it’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’s a natural process that occurs because of the composition of the honey and even in this state, honey can last on the shelf almost indefinably.
Honey is composed of different sugars and water, but not in equal parts. Honey is mostly sugar, but less than 20% water. This super-saturated sugar solution, which is unstable, over time will crystallize to form a more stable saturated solution.
Different Kinds of Honey
There are more than 300 different varieties of raw honey sold in just the U.S. The different types of honey, come from different types of plants that honey bees gather nectar and subsequently pollinate. Hawaiian Honeys commonly include Macadamia nut, Lehua, and Christmas Berry just to name a few of the local varieties. The name of the honey tells you what type of plant it came from, which is also why they taste different.
The Crystallization of Hawaiian Honey
In honey are two kinds of sugars, glucose and fructose. You can get an idea of how quickly your type of honey will crystallize if you know the ratio of these two sugars. Hawaiian Honeys with a high glucose-to-fructose ratio will crystallize more quickly and we find this to be true with floral honeys like Lehua. If the glucose-to-fructose ratio is lower, like with flowering trees such as tupelo and eucalyptus, then crystallization is much slower.
Why does this happen? The glucose in the honey separates from the water and forms the actual crystals, while the fructose stays as a liquid. The crystals are lighter in color than the liquid part because glucose crystals are naturally pure white, and crystallization also makes the honey thicker.
The temperature you store your honey will also affect its crystallization. Keeping it in a warmer area will prevent crystallization while colder areas will increase the rate of crystal formation. Honey left on the comb will also crystallize slower than honey that has been extracted from the comb. And the presence of any particles like pollen or dust grains will also speed up the crystallization process.
Different types of honey crystallize differently. The quicker crystallization happens the finer the crystals tend to be. Hawaiian Honey, like Lehua honey crystallizes quickly and has a smooth texture. Crystals also come in different shapes and sizes. Crystallization can be uniform or varied, and sometimes crystallization occurs in different layers within the honey.
How to Decrystallize Hawaiian Honey: 5 Simple Steps
If you want to decrystallize honey in a quick and efficient way, you can do so with a bit of hot water and a glass jar. Here’s a simple process you can follow to decrystallize honey in five simple steps.
- If your honey came in a plastic bottle, spoon out the crystallized contents into a glass jar and screw on the lid tightly to prevent any leaks.
- Place the glass jar of crystallized honey into a bowl.
- Heat water to a warm but not boiling temperature using a kettle, instant pot, or another method. Keep in mind that putting raw honey in boiling water will destroy beneficial enzymes and other properties.
- Pour the hot water bath into the glass bowl. Make sure the water line is above the level of the honey but below the lid of the jar to prevent any leaks.
- Leave the jar of honey sitting in the water, stirring occasionally, until the honey starts to decrystallize. The length of time decrystallizing honey takes ultimately depends on the amount of honey you’re liquifying.
Hawaiian Honey is a delicate, so you will need to keep the temperature of the warm water between 95-110 degrees. Above that will damage the beneficial enzymes and change the flavor, and darken the honey.