Granulation: a stirring experience
A friend of mine was told by another beekeeper that if he stirred his honey vigorously three times a day for five days, granulation could be averted and the honey would remain clear and liquid. My friend wanted to know my opinion.
My first thought was that frequent stirring might delay—but not prevent—crystallization by interfering with crystal formation.
Granulation occurs when solid particles of glucose precipitate (separate) from the supersaturated liquid honey. Honey is a supersaturated liquid because it contains more sugar than can normally dissolve in an equal amount of water at room temperature.
Crystallization occurs when the glucose molecules begin to arrange themselves in a crystalline pattern around a “seed.” A seed can be any small particle such as a speck of dust, a grain of pollen, or a tiny piece of wax. When the solution is “at rest” this can happen quickly. When the solution is in motion, it takes longer.
Stirring also causes friction between the molecules, and friction produces heat. Keeping honey warm can delay crystallization because all that molecular jiggling (caused by the addition of heat energy) keeps the molecules from arranging themselves into crystals. Imagine sardines trying to line up in a can while break dancing.
On the other hand, stirring exposes more surface area to the air. This increased exposure to air is going to speed evaporation which will, in turn, expedite crystallization as soon as the honey is at rest.
In truth, the rate of crystallization is dependent on the ratio of glucose to fructose in the honey. As the percentage of glucose increases, so does the rate of crystallization. Stirring, heating, and chanting are just delay tactics.
I suspect the beekeeper who “discovered” that granulation could be averted by stirring three times a day for five days was dealing with a batch of honey that was higher in fructose than his other batches. All that stirring probably made no difference.
What he needs to do is take a well-combined batch of honey, divide it in two, stir half of it three times a day for five days, and do nothing to the other half. My guess is he won’t see much difference.