Warming honey

With increasing regular customers I am having to develop a system of efficiently warming honey in 30lb honey buckets so it can be fine filtered and jared when needed.

It’s a natural process for honey to crystallise with sugar crystals forming in the honey and the result is a solid honey. Actually crystallisation is a sign of purity in the honey and should be welcomed. This crystallisation can happen very fast or can take many months depending on the particular nectars the bees have been foraging on.

By gently warming the honey it will turn back into a liquid honey and providing you don’t exceed 50*c you won’t damage the honey and the enzymes within the honey. Following this gentle warming the honey will in time recrystallise but sometimes slower than at first.

A lot of the cheap supermarket honey is heat treated up to 75*c and this damages the honey. Also at this temperature they force the honey through extremely fine filters removing all the tiny pollen grains . The result of the excessive heat and filtration is a honey (if we can call it that) that will seldom crystallise and is only a sweet syrup with little and no health benefits.

Some beekeepers jar all their honey and either sell the honey as naturally crystallised or warm the jars to turn the honey back to liquid or prefer to keep their honey in larger honey honey buckets for storage. I have decided to store my honey in large 30lb honey buckets and warm and jar when needed. I keep some jars of naturally crystallised honey as some customers, myself included like it.

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A 30 lb honey bucket of solid crystallized honey

To warm the honey most  beekeepers use warming cabinets with some sort of heating element and this can be something as simple as a 40w light bulb to an advanced heating mat thermostatically controlled. The cabinet itself can simply be a converted fridge or a diy built insulated box. These warming cabinets work great but it can take up to 48 hours to warm through a 30lb buckets of set honey.

My simple honey warming cabinet on my boat works a treat and easily softens a few jars of honey but way too small to deal with a big buckets of honey. Also the lack of 240v power on the boat is something of a disadvantage so I have to rely on a friend or two and in this case its my long suffering friend Guss who I call upon for yet another favour.

The thought of leaving a bulky warming cabinet in a friends kitchen turned on for up to 48 hours does not sit right with me and could stretch our friendship so I had to come up with something else and following some information from the internet I came across this simple efficient way to warm a 30lb bucket of honey.

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Very simply it’s a water heater/boiler that has  thermostatic controls. It was originally sold through the supermarket Lidl as a jam maker?? a bit odd as I find it hard to see how you would make jam in it. It’s made by Silvercrest in Germany who would not ship a single item to the UK so I had to get this one from Ebay and paid more for it 2nd hand than when it was new and reflects the demand for them and not just beekeepers but apparently the homebrew crowd like them also.

So how do you use it?

You place the honey bucket inside the heater and it sits on a wire shelf in the bottom to keep the bucket off the bottom and you then simply fill with water to approx three quarters up the side of the bucket and set the desired temperature and I like to set it at 40*c. It has an alarm that lets you know the temperature is reached that thankfully you can turn off. One thing you must do is ever so slightly break the seal on the honey bucket lid  otherwise pressure would build up and you could end up in a sticky mess.

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As the bucket is in water the heat transfer to the honey is very efficient and I have found a solid bucket of honey is warmed right through and runny in about four hours.

The lid gets wet from the small amount of steam generated and you have to wipe the lid before removing to check on the honey and to give it a stir. As you only slightly break the seal on the bucket you still get a slight pressure building up in the bucket causing a slight bulge in the lid and I see this as a good thing as it is still a good seal to keep any water vapour out.

Once the honey is fully warmed and liquid it quickly passes through a straining cloth into a bucket with honey tap, left overnight to settle the air bubbles on the surface removed and then it’s a simple process to fill the jars and label as per normal.

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Overall it works well but you have to check the temperature of the water against the setting on the heater as I found this one to be out and I was getting hotter water than the setting indicated but once I found the right temperature it was easy to mark the dial.

I think if my situation was different and I had the room I would make an all singing all dancing warming cabinet along with this water heater to cover all possibilities and who knows one day the situation may arise but for now I am happy.

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11 Responses to Warming honey

  1. hencorner says:

    If only I had enough honey to store in 30lb buckets!
    I hope you’ve saved a couple of naturally set jars for the NHS?

    • Lol Sara who knows this year could be the bumper crop. I am planning to jar some spring honey and see if it will crystallized in time for the NHS.

      • hencorner says:

        There didn’t seem to be many bees when I peeked in each hive on Tuesday… So may have to ditch the shook swarm plans!
        However, both queens were young, healthy & strong going into winter and could rapidly build up big colonies in a matter of weeks.
        My intentions, as always (!), are to keep a step ahead of the bees…. 😉

      • I think we all try to keep one step ahead but sometimes they are two ahead of us 🙂 hope you are pleased to see loads of bees in a few weeks time. Won’t be long now.

  2. I’ve taken to storing honey in buckets before jarring as well – it’s much easier to store and organise when short on time for jarring, then warm up slowly to coax into jars when needed. I’d like to have a proper warmer though. That would be lovely! 🙂

    • The buckets works very well for storing the honey Emma otherwise for me there would be 100’s of jars allover the place. It would be lovely if we had all the equipment we wanted but then there would be something else we would want 🙂

  3. davidbeekeeper says:

    I have one of the Lidl jam makers and use it in the same way. My honey tends to be OSR dominated so I heat it until soft and then use a potato masher to cream it.

    I have used a bin bag inside the warmer in the water (and hung over the sides), the buckets then sit in this and it means there isn’t condensation.

    Lidl don’t seem to have had them in recently, so I bought another from Amazon late last year which I intend to use to melt and purify wax.

  4. Emily Scott says:

    Hope you will be linking to this post from this month’s newsletter Tom 😉

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