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Honey questions


Hi all,

I harvested my first batch of honey today from the flow frame. I had opened the hive up about a month ago and it looked like they had filled a couple of frames, so today they were the frames that I emptied.

I notice that the honey is quite runny which I take it as meaning that it was harvested too early and there is still too much water in it.

so, two questions…

1 - Is there any way I can reduce the water content without destroying the taste? For example, if I sit is in the oven on a very low temperature for a few hours?

2 - How do you know when to harvest honey with the flow frames? I don’t want to have to open the hive up to inspect, and looking down the gaps between the frames from the back access panel doesn’t let me see much (even when I shine a torch in).




I wouldn’t do that, you may destroy a lot of enzymes and other beneficial properties of the honey. If you like the taste, and it is for personal use, you might choose to keep it. If you want to know whether it is “real honey” you could buy a cheap honey refractometer from eBay (should be less than $100) and if the water content is less than 18%, you can sell it as honey. Different nectars produce honey with very different runny-ness, for example, clover and acacia honeys are always very runny. The only way to check extracted honey is with a refractometer.

If you don’t want to do either of those (eat it yourself or test it), you could always feed it back to the bees - I would use an in-hive feeder if you do that in late Autumn, so that you minimize robbing behaviour.

I am afraid that the only way to be really sure is to open up the hive and look at the frame. If it is 90% capped or more, you are good to harvest.

Hopefully your nectar/honey tastes great, and you decide to keep it for yourself!



Hi Dawn,

I am keeping it for myself and giving it to friends. I am just worried about it fermenting.



Well, you could keep it in the fridge. It may crystallize, but that would certainly slow down the fermentation! :wink:

By the way, crystallization doesn’t affect the taste or quality, it just changes the texture a bit. As you probably know, you need below 18% water for most honey to prevent fermentation. Some are fine at 22% or higher, but they are special cases. If it isn’t concentrated enough, I would just refrigerate it and learn from the experience for next time. :blush:


you will find that maybe putting it in Jars for a couple of months will thicken it up if you want to avoid the stove or fridge treatment…


I have cut out my crown board leaving about an inch all round then put a clear polycarb panel on top, if you take your roof off you can then see inside without disturbing your bees.


Commercial guys do it. They can’t check every super so sometimes a batch will be too thin.
Put it in a shallow tray and play a fan over it overnight. Check with a refractometer.
I agree with Dawn. You have to take the frames out to check.

If you do that, it might crystallise. That won’t reduce the water content at all and might make it more likely to ferment.


I guess it will depend on how thin it is…

I’ve had thin honey before that’s thickened up over time in jars and is perfect…


@JeffH has a quick test here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh5-LAKL2lw


Yes it crystallises.
Putting in the fridge accelerates the process. That’s ok if your crystals are small. It’s how I make soft set in the summer. If you jar it and put it in the freezer it will stay runny.


Not all honey is thick - If it was 90% capped then it should be beyond fermentation stage as the bees will only cap ripe honey.

If you risk the oven there is no way to control the temperature accurately, some people have purpose built warming cabinets for the purpose of crystallizing but this wont really reduce the moisture.

Because Honey is Hygroscopic (ability to absorb or adsorb water), leaving the lids off will actually attract water to it , dilute it and then it will ferment.

So best bet is seal it up, store it, eating and enjoy


Hi Busso,

Thanks for the link, that was really helpful…

I did the same test that they did in the video and I am sure that I have harvested too early.

I am going to feed the honey back to the bees and let them finish the process.

We live and learn…


The thickness of honey is related to a lot of things including the type of honey, the temperature etc. The only REAL way to tell if it’s done is a refractometer… In my climate if it’s capped it’s good, but some places with higher humidity, that may not be true.


Looking for many suggestions. I live in a desert environment. Very dry, 3%-6% humidity almost all of the time and temps run 20-45 winter and 80-115 in the summer time. Lots of farming and nut orchards and a lot of flower growth and tons of natural blooming indigenous plants.

Anyone else live in these kind of conditions and could offer lesson’s learned food for thught about honey, bees, temp control, water, etc?


G’day Simon. If you harvest honey too early & you end with unripe honey, you can still use & enjoy it. We use a lot of unripe honey for ourselves as well as feed it to the birds. The important thing to remember is that you can’t store it very long, otherwise it will ferment. A good trick is to put it in the freezer with loose lids. I’m not sure if the loose lids are all that necessary because it doesn’t expand to the same degree as water. I’m just a bit over cautious.

I make a lot of lemongrass tea to consume chilled. I add honey to it once it’s cooled down quite a bit. Unripe honey works good for that purpose. In case your interested, here’s my video of lemongrass, turmeric tea.


Heating the honey has it’s risks. You can hold honey at pasteurization temperature (76.6 c) for 20-30 minutes to help drive off some of the moisture and pasteurize it at the same time. The more surface area exposed, the easier it’ll help the moisture evaporate. That, plus after 10 minutes, it’s pasteurized. Yes, it may drive off some VOC’s and aroma/flavor compounds but it really depends on what you want to do with the runny hunny. Worst comes to worse, make mead, like I do. :slight_smile:


If you heated it (honey) to that temperature here (UK) it is baker’s honey. Good Honey should not be heated over 40°C


That’s the best idea for a hobbyist.
Commercial guys have evaporators.


I saw a video on You Tube of honey going through the process of being evaporated. I can’t say I’m in favor of the idea. I’d rather let the bees do it.

It appears that the large operators take the whole boxes of honey regardless of whether it’s ripe or not, saving them the trouble of inspecting the frames before harvest. Then extract it all in a factory type situation before dewatering it.

Anyway that’s probably the honey that gets pasteurized & finishes up on supermarket shelves & never crystallizes.


I’d like to see a picture.