After harvesting the honey and filling the jars we see in some of the jars that the honey looks strange.
Please have a look on the picture attached.
It looks like it may be fermenting. Does it smell of alcohol? The other possibility is crystallization, especially if it has been kept in a fridge.
It does have a little smell of alchohol
Also, why is it fermenting?
It wasn’t kept in the fridge
If you harvest honey with a water content higher than 18.6%, it can ferment. That usually happens if you harvest uncapped honey. Frames of honey which are more than 90% capped are usually lower water content than that.
Usually honey is shelf-stable with up to 20% water, but above that, the risk of fermentation increases. The reason is that yeasts live in every bee hive, and unless there is very little water in the honey, they can ferment it. That is how mead is made - one of the earliest alcoholic beverages made by mankind!
You can buy a honey refractometer (make sure it is calibrated for honey) and test the water content of your honey in about 10 seconds at home. In the US, Europe and Australia, they are pretty cheap - about $30 to $60 US dollar-equivalent. Amazon and eBay both have them if you have access to their products. They work well and give you peace of mind about the shelf stability of your harvest.
So what do I do if the honey I have has this high percentage of water? It’s already in a jar☺️
- You can eat it yourself, if you like the taste. It isn’t toxic.
- You can freeze it to slow the fermentation. You can then eat it over time. It will ferment more, every time you defrost it, so the taste will change.
- You can turn it into mead for drinking as an alcoholic beverage. There are several threads on this forum if you use the Search tool at the upper right of the screen, you can find them.
Wishing you all the best!
I recently purchased a refractometer on Amazon for 23 dollars free shipping. For this same reason Dawn had mentioned.
What I am seeing is definitely fermenting honey seeing the light foam on the top 1/3rd, crystallizing honey doesn’t foam like in your pic. The lighter colored honey in the bottom is crystallized honey if it is not just refracted light.
The reason for the fermenting is that you extracted honey of to high a water content, it is important to only extract honey that has been capped. If your hive is a Flow Hive the sensible thing to do is to remove the flow frames so that you can visually see that the frame is capped. Looking thru the window is not really seeing enough to be sure the whole of the frame is capped and certainly not an indication to the rest of the frames.
Thank you all so much.
So beside extracting honey that had been capped, should I test each frame for water percentage before extracting it?
If it is less than 90% capped, yes you should test it. Otherwise, you don’t need to test it, and it should be fine. That is how we used to do it in the old days (more than 20 years ago). Just wait for capping of the cells and you will get shelf-stable honey.
thanks you. i bought the honey refractometer, and i will test my jars.
Excellent! I am sure that you will find it very useful. I never realized how helpful they are until I bought one 3 years ago. Now I test every batch of honey - it is very reassuring to know what the quality is, and then be able to decide how to store the honey. If it is over 18.6% water, I freeze it and eat it quickly or give it back to the bees during a nectar dearth. They won’t eat it if it is fermenting, but if it is just high water content, they take it happily and can dehydrate it further if they want.
Following the lead of ,(I think) @Martha I pasteurised the uncapped honey from the last extraction before Winter. It was at about 22% water and I brought the honey up to 70 deg C for about 30 minutes and then jarred it.
Could not claim it to be “natural” any more but did not ferment.
If you only extract frames that are capped you will know the honey is of a low enough water content that it won’t ferment. Frames that are not capped can be left on the hive till they are. so I’m wondering if a refractometer is needed at all. I bought one after honey I assumed was fully capped and it fermented, so I adapted the idea of checking all of the frame before extracting and since I have adapted that principal my refractometer has not needed to be used.
There is a Youtube video that @JeffH made on testing honey with water in a shallow dish/pot Ripe Honey vs Unripe Honey
I have used this and checked with a refractometer and his method is really quite accurate.
Thanks for the link to Jeff’s video, I had seen it before. He explains it so well as to when honey has a low water content or not. Thanks Wilfred.
Can you blend the higher water content honey with another batch ( different frames) to lower the water content?
Yes you can, if the lower water honey has not fermented yet. As long as you end up with a final water content of 18.6% or less, it will be fine.
Bees cap honey when it is down to the 18% range, I have never heard of honey under 16% so it would take a lot of honey to blend with yours if it is ‘wet’ but you haven’t said what the water content is. If it hasn’t started to ferment all ready I would feed it back to the bees and only extract frames that have been capped. There is no gain in extracting for honey if it is not yet capped and is honey.
If it is already fermenting then make mead from it.
You could of course, if you are convinced it is not fermenting, try simmering it in a saucepan to steam off some of the water, as a last resort.