LITTLE UNDERSTOOD. The crystallization of honey is little understood by the consuming public. Many assume that crystallized honey is adulterated or an unnatural state.
This is not so.
In fact, the crystallization process is natural and spontaneous. Most pure raw or unheated honey has a natural tendency to crystallize over time with no affect to the honey other than color and texture.
What's more, the crystallization of honey actually preserves the flavor and quality characteristics of your honey. Some honey users even prefer it in this state as it is easier to spread on bread or toast without dripping off—and, the taste is richer.
The crystallization of honey is actually an attribute of pure and natural honey. Why? Honey is a highly concentrated sugar solution. It contains more than 70% sugars and less than 20% water. This means that the water in honey contains an extra amount of sugar than it could naturally hold. The overabundance of sugar makes honey unstable. Thus, it is natural for honey to crystallize since it is an over-saturated sugar solution. The two principal sugars in honey are fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (grape sugar). The content of fructose and glucose in honey varies from one type of honey to the other. Generally, the fructose ranges from 30- 44% and glucose from 25- 40%. The balance of these two major sugars is the main reason that leads to crystallization of honey, and the relative percentage of each determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly. What crystallizes is the glucose, due to its lower solubility. Fructose is more soluble in water than glucose and will remain fluid.
When glucose crystallizes, it separates from water and takes the form of tiny crystals. As the crystallization progresses and more glucose crystallizes, those crystals spread throughout the honey. The solution changes to a stable saturated form, and ultimately the honey becomes thick or crystallized. Some honeys crystallize uniformly; some will be partially crystallized and form two layers, with the crystallized layer on the bottom of the jar and a liquid on top. Honeys also vary in the size of the crystals formed. Some form fine crystals and others large, gritty ones. The more rapid honey crystallizes, the finer the texture will be. And crystallized honey tends to set a lighter/paler color than when liquid. This is due to the fact that glucose sugar tends to separate out in dehydrating crystals form, and that glucose crystals are naturally pure white. Darker honeys retain a brownish appearance.
Bottom line? Crystalization of honey is a gift of nature.—The Buzz.