A common justification for the ultrafiltration of honey is “it lasts longer on the shelves.” In other words, the ultrafiltration process—which removes all debris, including any pollen grains—delays crystallization, making the honey more attractive on the store shelf.
In spite of that practice, you cannot assume that pollen causes crystallization. In fact, honey crystallizes based on the type of sugars that are present in the nectar. Honey high in fructose crystallizes slowly; honey high in glucose crystallizes quickly.
That said, crystals form more quickly when they have a nucleus or seed to get them started. The nucleus is just a foundation that gives the crystal a place to build. The seed can be another crystal (a principle used in the Dyce process for making creamed honey) or it can be a speck of dust or a grain of pollen.
But if your honey is very high in fructose, the pollen will not cause the honey to crystallize. Just ask the producers of non-crystallizing honey such as tupelo, gallberry, and chestnut. They’ve been producing honey for generations—since long before ultrafiltration was invented—yet their honey didn’t crystallize. I filter my own honey through a food mesh large enough for aphids to pass through, yet my honey doesn’t crystallize either. It’s all in the nectar.
However, if your honey is high in glucose, you can delay the crystallization process by removing all the pollen grains. With no platforms on which to build a crystal, the honey can remain stable and liquid for extended periods of time—or at least long enough to sell it.
Honey packers buy honey from many different sources and blend it in gigantic batches. Some of the honey will be high in fructose, but most will be high in glucose. Once mixed, the only effective way to slow the crystallization is to remove of all the particulates.
What is sad is the almost universal disdain for crystallized honey. By demanding clear liquid honey with no floaters, consumers have created a market for the over-processed, adulterated, pollen-free “honey” we see on store shelves. If only we could create a demand for the real thing.
I enjoyed how my barely-filtered honey turned out last year. Most of it stayed in liquid form until the winter and then began to crystallize. It didn’t turn rock solid, but creamy and easy to spread. The best of both worlds.
I’m not a honey snob, but the demand for constantly clear honey makes as much sense as the popularity of Wonder Bread. There are reasons people like to eat Formaldehyde-enriched, bleached white bread, but they’re not very good reasons.
The encouraging news is that healthier whole grain breads have become more popular than white breads in recent years. Maybe the same kind of thinking will catch on in the world of honey.
I have grown to prefer crystallized honey because it’s so much neater to use. Easy to spread on toast, scoop a spoonful to put in my tea mug, or just in my mouth. No dripping! I find with liquid honey, no matter how hard I try, I get it EVERYWHERE.
Very good information. Thanks for putting this up!
This is one of my problems, when my honey is crystallized, customer always says that “YOUR HONEY IS ADULTERATED”.. . Thanks guys, this information is a big help for me. PHILIPPINES BEEKEEPER, happy beekeeping to ALL.