When Honey Turns/Goes Solid: Structure and Properties of Honey

The case of “honey turning solid” (crystallization of the honey) is the event that the dextrose in the honey becomes granular and the honey loses more or less fluency. Honey turns solid based on its chemical and physical properties. Anyone who produces sells or eats honey has seen that honey crystallizes over time, meaning that it loses its fluidity and hardens. People use the wrongly confused statement that honey becomes saccharified. There are many different types of sugars in honey. People do not think that the sugars in the honey crystallize, but they think that such honey is made by mixing with additives or sugar, and they make a big mistake. This continues to be the most important issue facing buyers and sellers during honey marketing.

It is glucose sugar in honey that makes crystallization. Some of the crystallization depends on the glucose-fructose content and amount of water in honey. The amount of fructose in honey is generally more than glucose. If the amount of glucose from these two sugars approaches fructose relatively, then honey crystallizes quickly; If the difference gets bigger, it crystallizes late. Immature honey crystallize slowly since this honey has a higher percentage of sucrose and less glucose. But ripe honey contains a small amount of sucrose. Honey crystallizes the most at 14 ° C, crystallization begins at 5-7 ° C and when they are stored below these degrees, crystallization is delayed. Honeycomb honey crystallizes later than filter honey. The crystallization event defined in honey literature is a feature of honey. Only natural honey crystallizes.

Why Honey Goes Solid: Crystallization

In very saturated solutions, more substances are present in dissolved form than they would normally be. These solutions are not durable and, over time, return to their stable state as excess solids crystallize. Many honey types are included in this category depending on their glucose content and are balanced by excess crystallization of glucose (White, 1979, and 2003). In the combs, each cell ensures that honey is protected from moisture, dust, other contaminants, and other crystals. Therefore, honey does not crystallize in the honeycomb.

The crystal structure of honey usually depends on the presence of very small suspended particles that will form the nucleus for crystal growth. Although these particles are too small to be seen, they can also be found in clean honey. These may be tiny crystals, air bubbles, wax particles, pollen, dust from the air or the packaging of honey (Crange1980). The main causes of crystallization:

  • The type of flowers used in the formation of honey
  • Late or early intake of honey from the hive
  • Using old combs
  • Air bubbles contained in honey
  • Amount of pollen and other particles
  • The humidity and temperature of the honey where it is stored and the variety of packaging containers. (Hadorn 1974)
  • The optimum temperature for crystallization is 14 c.
  • Crystallization slows down under 10 c.
  • There is no crystallization above 26.5 degrees.

It is known that honey with a glucose/water ratio of less than 1.7, a fructose/glucose ratio of greater than 1.64 and a glucose-water / fructose ratio of less than 0.27, crystallize less.

Chemical Structure of Honey and Its Effect on Solidification

The chemical composition of honey varies depending on many factors. The most important of these factors is the natural composition of nectar and epidemic. In addition, the climate conditions and the bee’s ability to make honey also affect the chemical composition of honey. In terms of its chemical composition, honey is like dark, reducing, sugar aqueous solution with a high amount of fructose and contains a small amount of sucrose, dextrin, nitrogenous substances, enzymes, inorganic scented and dyestuffs, essential oils, organic acids, waxes, pollen grains. While the average values that provide general evaluation opportunity for the chemical composition of honey can be given, these values also vary depending on whether the source is secretion or nectar.

  • Carbohydrates in Honey

Honey is a carbohydrate substance and 95-99.9% of its solid content is sugars. Honey contains the most fructose and glucose, and it is known that these two monosaccharides (simple sugar), which give the honey its taste, are formed by inversion of sucrose, which is found in large amounts in plant juices, with invertase enzyme. The sweetness, moisture grabbing, energy value and other physical properties of honey come from these two sugars. In general, while the amount of fructose is high in all honey, the glucose ratio is higher in honey obtained from some plants such as rapeseed (Braspicanapus) and dandelion flower (Taraxacum Afficinale). Most of the remaining carbohydrates consist of oligosaccharides and a small number of polysaccharides, consisting of two or more fructose and glucose molecules.

As the average of many analyzes, flower honey contains 70-80% invert sugar, sucrose up to 5% from trace amount, 7.3% reducing disaccharides (Maltose, Isomaltose, and others) and 1.5% dextrin. Secretion honey contains lower invert sugar (60-70%) and a higher amount of sucrose (5-10%) compared to flower honey while reducing disaccharide and dextrin amounts are approximately the same as flower honey. According to various studies, honey contains disaccharides such as sucrose, maltose, isomaltose, nigerose, melibiose, lactose, galactose, and oligosaccharides such as raffinose and melezitose.

The high amount of sucrose (8% and above) is related to feeding the bees with excess sugar. As a result, honey forms in an undefined taste and odor in a matte color. The main purpose of keeping the amount of sucrose to a certain limit is to prevent the production of honey by feeding the bees with sugar or to prevent the subsequent mixing of the honey directly with sucrose. The amount of sucrose in honey varies according to the degree of ripening of the honey and the composition of the nectar, while the immature honey harvested very early contains a large amount of sucrose.

  • Proteins in Honey

Nitrogenous substances are approximately 0.3% in flower honey and around 1% in secretion honey. The high levels of nitrogenous substances in flower honey show that they are mixed with secretion honey. Determination of proteins in honey is important in terms of whether it is natural or artificial and in terms of nutrition. Approximately 15 amino acids were detected in honey. While tyrosine and tryptophan are found in dark honey, they are not detected in light honey. It has been reported that the amount of proline, lysine and glutamic acid are highest in honey respectively. These are followed by histidine, arginine, threonine, serine, glycine, valine, methionine, leucine, alanine, phenylalanine.

  • Vitamins in Honey

While it was thought that there was little or no vitamin in honey, as a result of recent chemical and biological researches, it was determined that there are various vitamins in honey. While there is no vitamin A in honey, there are B group vitamins (B1, B4) and vitamins C, E and K. Various amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, niacin, biotin, and folic acid were determined in honey. In their study, Watt and Merril reported vitamin B1 in traces in honey, vitamin B2 at 0.4 mg/kg, and vitamin C at 10 milligrams/kilogram.

  • Minerals in Honey

The amount of mineral substances in honey varies between 0.02% – 1.0%. Honey contains the most potassium, calcium, phosphorus and, to a lesser extent, sodium, chlorine, sulfur, magnesium, silica, manganese, copper, iodine iron and zinc.

  • Enzymes in Honey

Honey is very rich in enzymes. The main known honey enzymes are amylase (diastase), invertase (saccharase), catalase, phosphatase, as well as glycosidase enzymes that increase glucose with ascorbic acid. Some of the enzymes are made up of nectar and the secretion left by the aphids on the leaf, and the majority of them are from the salivary gland secretions of the bees.

Amylases in honey are divided into two groups as alpha-amylase and beta-amylase. Alpha-amylase acts on starch, breaking down alpha 1,4 glycoside bonds, dextrin, and very little maltose. At the end of prolonged action, dextrin breaks down into maltose and isomaltose. Beta amylase hydrolyzes alpha-1,4 glycoside bonds from the non-reducing end of the polysaccharides to form a maltose unit each time. The optimum pH of alpha-amylase was determined as 5 at 22-30 degrees and 5.3 at 45-50 degrees. The optimum pH of the Beta Amylase was 5.3 at these temperatures. Accordingly, the optimum pH of honey diastasis has been accepted as 5.3. In the researches, it has been determined that the source of honey amylase is the bee.

The invertase enzyme is responsible for most of the chemical changes in the conversion of nectar into honey, which allows the conversion of sucrose in the nectar to fructose and glucose. There are two general types of invertase, fructose invertase, and glycose invertase. These have different activities. Glucosidase, one of the important honey enzymes, acts on glucose and forms from hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid. The antibacterial effect of honey is also caused by hydrogen peroxide. While the acid formed here acts as a preservative for honey, the catalase enzyme in honey converts hydrogen peroxide to oxygenated water.

Heat negatively affects the activities of invertase and amylase. While the efficiency of these enzymes decreases with heat, the content of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) increases. Enzyme activity varies within wide limits even in fresh, pure honey. According to the food regulations, the number of amylases (number of diastases) is less than 8, but it is defined as the milliliter of 1% starch solution that can be hydrolyzed by the enzyme in 1 gram of honey per 1 hour at 40 degrees.

  • Acids in Honey

The most common acid component in honey is gluconic acid, which results from the activity of the glucosidase enzyme. The source of other acids is not known much. While the acidity of honey increases its stability against microorganisms, bees help form honey to maturity by adding formic acid to honey. It has been reported that the amount of acid responsible for the low pH of honey comes from the formic acid that bees inject into these eyes from the sting of the bees before the honey eyes are glazed.

Honey usually shows an acidic reaction, the pH is between 3.5 and 5.5. The determination of high acid value in honey shows that it has fermentation in time and as a result, alcohol turns into acetic acid with bacterial effects. Honey contains acetic, butyric, citric, formic, lactic, malic, succinic, gluconic, oxalic, capric, tannic, tartaric and valeric acids. The source of other acids present in honey, with the exception of gluconic acid, is not exactly known. The acidity degree of honey was calculated in terms of malic acid, and it was found that it generally varies between 0.1-0.4%. Honey with an acidity of more than 0.4% has been reported as suspicious.

  • Moisture content in honey

Fermentation does not start when the sugars that provide the sweetness and health suitability of honey are in high enough concentration. When the water rate is 18.5% and higher, fermentation may occur, and when it is below this value, the possibility of fermentation under normal conditions also decreases. Since acetic acid and carbon dioxide formed as a result of fermentation spoil the taste and color of the honey, the maximum water rate in the honey was determined to be 21%. In general, mountain honey contains less moisture than plain honey, while excess moisture indicates that the honey is not ripe or water is added from the outside, which poses the risk of surface fermentation of honey.

  • Other Substances in Honey

In addition to the above, while hydroxymethylfurfural is formed as a result of the heat effect in honey, some toxic substances, lipids, carbonyls, esters, and microorganisms with biological activity (especially yeast spores) can be found.

Physical Structure of Honey and Its Effect on Solidification

  • Color of Honey

It varies from light to dark brown depending on the plant origin, storage time and conditions. The clarity and transparency of honey depend on the density of pollen and other substances in it. The sunflower and citrus honey are light yellow, chestnut reddish, eucalyptus honey grayish brown and pine honey dark greenish and brown.

  • Viscosity of Honey

Viscosity also called the structure of honey or its ability to counteract fluency is closely related to the ratio of water in honey. Dark, slow-flowing honey has a high viscosity, and light-colored and loose-bodied honey have a low viscosity.

  • Turning the Light

Whether the honey turns the polarized light to the right and left depends on the sources of the honey. Nectar honey rotates the light to the left, and secretion honey to the right. Tea sugar called sucrose also turns the light to the right. This feature helps to recognize fake honey.

  • Hygroscopic Feature of Honey

Honey is a hygroscopic substance and has the feature of absorbing moisture from the air. The absorption of moisture from the air depends on its special structure, sugar and water content.

  • Crystallization of Honey

The crystallization of honey is the event that the sugar in the honey reaches a saturation point and collapses to the bottom. Flower honey crystallizes over time. Crystallized honey does not mean false or fraudulent honey. Crystallization can be eliminated by heating the honey in the water bath. Crystallization is related to the water content of honey and the ratio between fructose and glucose sugars. Usually, fructose in honey is more than glucose. As the fructose/glucose ratio grows, the tendency of honey to crystallize decreases. As unripe honey contains more sucrose than glucose, crystalizing is slow. Honey with low water content crystallizes later. Therefore, crystallization begins late or not at all in honeycombs.

  • Honey Fermentation

This refers to the degradation of honey. In honey with a high water ratio, sugar-resistant yeast breaks down the sugar, forming alcohol and carbon dioxide and foaming. The most important way to prevent fermentation is to harvest the honey after it has ripened. Because ripe honey’s (glazed) sugar concentration is high, and the water rate is lower.

  • Taste and Smell of Honey

The taste of honey is related to the amount, type and ratio of sugars in the structure. Its scent also varies depending on the source it is taken from. Processes applied to honey can change its taste and smell. Therefore, in applications such as heating, processing, storage, it is necessary to avoid wrong processes that will impair the unique taste and smell of honey.

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Savaş Ateş

I like eating honey a lot. We have a huge interest in bees and how they make honey. I have visited honey farms. I have talked to a lot of honey sellers. I read a lot of books about them. I want to share my knowledge with you.

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