Honey Crystallization BeeTribe

Why does raw honey crystallize in winters?

Crystallization of Honey is a natural phenomenon, which contrary to some misplaced and wrong beliefs, actually indicates the rawness and authenticity of natural and unadulterated honey! Unfortunately, many consumers of honey, especially in India, wrongly consider crystallization of honey as a sign of it being adulterated, which is exactly opposite to the reality! We as the promoters of raw, organic and pure honey at BEETRIBE, thus are presenting here a purview which would entail a detailed explanation as to how its perfectly natural for raw and pure honey to crystallize especially in winters when the ambient temperature goes down.



Fig1. In winters, raw and unadulterated honey would crystallize, it is its natural behavior.


The obvious question to begin with should be, how and why does raw natural honey would crystallize in winters at all? Let’s try and answer this question next.

Honey is the most important product of beekeeping and is the natural sweet substance produced by honeybees from the nectar of flowering plants which is transformed by them in the honeycomb. Honey is an intermediate moisture food (imf) having a moisture content of around 18% and water activity of 0.6. These properties along with the high osmotic environment do not support microbial growth, thus making honey shelf stable.

Any solute present in a solvent above its saturation will crystallize out, same is the case with honey. Crystallization is a natural process because of honey’s supersaturated nature. The supersaturated solution is mainly composed of a complex mixture of carbohydrates (Saxena et al., 2010). Glucose is the principal component that crystallizes in honey as it exists in a supersaturated state (Costa et al., 2015). Glucose precipitates as glucose-monohydrate during crystallization (Berk et al., 2021; Shafiq et al., 2012; Zamora and Chirife, 2006). The process in which crystalline lattice structure is formed from the liquid phase is crystallization.

Crystallization involves four steps which includes generation of supersaturated or supercooled state, nucleationformation of crystalline lattice structure, growth-increase in the size of nuclei until the equilibrium phase volume is reached and recrystallizationreorganization of the crystalline structure to lower the free energy further.
Nucleation is of two types: primary and secondary. In primary nucleation, there is absence of pre-formed crystals and for the formation of new nuclei, it must overcome and energy barrier whereas secondary nucleation occurs only in the presence of pre-formed crystals. The guided or induced static crystallization follows secondary nucleation principle i.e., seed crystals are introduced to the system to act as primary crystallization nuclei. The problem with this type is that it can lead to unpredictable changes in texture and cause crystallization defects. Dynamic crystallization is the process of performing guided crystallization with slow manual or automatic stirring. This process will produce a spreadable and creamy honey product. This creamy and spreadable honey, formed post controlled crystallization, is actually in high demand in foreign markets. 


Fig 2. An image of creamed wild flower honey prepared after controlled crystallization.


Crystallization of honey may affect the shelf life as the non-crystallized portion of honey will contain higher moisture content, that makes it vulnerable to yeast growth. The rate of Nucleation and crystal growth are dependent on temperature. Crystallization also occurs faster at lower temperatures. 

Honey stored at very low i.e. -20°C and close to ambient (20°C) temperatures results in fine crystals and coarse grains, respectively. While storing it in mild temperature range (4-10°C) results in mixed size crystals. Lower temperature resulted in small crystal sizes due to limited mobility of the molecules (Costa et al., 2015). Zamora and Chirife (2006) reported that optimum temperature for crystallization is between 10-15 degrees celsius.

The crystallization process does not alter the chemical or nutritional value, it is still less valued and to retard crystallization honey is heated, which affects the nutritional profile of honey adversely. Uncontrolled crystallization during storage makes the product cloudy and is not desired by consumers (Conforti et al., 2006). The higher the heating longer will be crystallization process in-check! That is why many companies in India, often heat honey, to give it an aesthetic appeal as often demanded by the customers, but this degrades honey making it much less pronounced in its health-giving properties. We at BEETRIBE, thus make sure that our honey is very minimally heated and minimally strained, just enough to bottle it, while retaining all of its crucial nectar-ly properties, that positively impacts your health.

Let us now look at, what are the major factors influencing honey crystallization? The time for honey crystallization is dependent mainly upon the F/G ratio (ie. Fructose by Glucose ratio). Samples having the ratio greater than 1.58 has no tendency for crystallization (Venir et al., 2010), and that with value greater than 1.33 does not crystallize for a long time (slow crystallization) (Dobre et al., 2012), whereas samples with the ratio less than 1.11 crystallizes quickly (Escuredo et al., 2014; Smanalieva and Senge, 2009). Due to higher content of less soluble glucose blossom, honey crystallizes faster. In honeydew however, generally, this process is slower because of the higher presence of fructose, and lesser glucose. Bottom line is, greater is the presence of natural glucose as compared to natural fructose in raw honey, faster it will crystallize.

Another important factor affecting honey crystallization is G/W ration (Glucose to water ration); So, higher is the glucose, lower is the moisture or water content in the raw honey, faster the honey will crystallize. Research suggests that raw Honey samples having G/W ratios lesser than 1.7 exhibit slower crystallization. While, honey samples having G/W ratios greater than 2 have faster crystallization tendencies. Research also suggests that G/W ratio is a considerably good parameter for predicting honey crystallization.


One way to deal with this problem (of crystallization) is to put your honey jar in hot water (Not boiling), till the time all crystals melt away. Putting the honey jar in sun light for some time would also help! This melting away will homogenize the moisture content of the honey, bringing it back to the ideal 18%, precluding any nefarious yeast related activity, thus boosting the shelf life of Honey while restoring its texture...”


Another factor impacting honey crystallization would be the presence of nucleating centers in Honey. In natural and raw honey, the ample presence of the nutritious pollen would act as centres for the beginning of crystallization. Research also suggests a strong correlation between absolute pollen count in the raw honey with its crystallization tendency. Obviously, higher number of nucleating centres will promote faster crystallization. It is no wonder than, that raw unadulterated and minimally strained natural honey will crystallize faster, because of much higher presence of nutritious pollen, unlike the honey that is processed and strained heavily to devoid it of larger concentration of pollen nuclei.

Honey crystallization lowers the glucose concentration in the liquid phase leading to an increase in water activity (Zamora and Chirife, 2006). Thus, it may cause yeast proliferation that leads to honey fermentation. Natural yeast present in honey (osmotolerant) will act on the glucose and fructose producing ethanol and CO2. Ethanol also gets converted to acetic acid and water which produces the sour taste. This is one risk associated with crystallization which should be managed properly, especially in summers when the temperatures shoot significantly higher across India. One way to deal with this problem is to put your honey jar in hot water (Not boiling), till the time all crystals melt away. Putting the honey jar in sun light for some time would also help! This melting away will homogenize the moisture content of the honey, bringing it back to the idea 18%, precluding any nefarious yeast related activity, thus boosting the shelf life of Honey.

To conclude, Honey crystallization is a natural phenomenon, occurring due to its composition. Most of the consumers prefer liquid honey and consider crystallization an undesired process. Glucose is the principal component that crystallizes in honey due to its supersaturated state and fructose is more soluble than glucose. The fallacy that crystallization of Honey shows that its impure, is perhaps a nutritional conspiracy hatched by those big players involved in the honey industry, who operate on industrial scale, and make most of their money by over processing of honey! We as consumers need to learn this fact, that honey crystallization is more likely a proof that its authentic, raw and unprocessed, than otherwise. I hope, this information helps you clearing out all the wrong notions about raw and unprocessed honey.



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