What is wrong with this honey?!
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  1. #1
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    Question What is wrong with this honey?!

    2016-11-11_weird honey.jpg

    My friend bought this honey from a local beekeeper. I also bought some, although mine has a different problem, it smells awful. It started out okay, but by halfway through the jar it smelt a bit odd, and now with only a quarter of a jar left it stinks and tastes wrong. I'm not eating any more of it.

    But back to my friend's jar. When I called asking if hers smelled okay she said it did, but that it had turned from runny, like mine, to almost like firm creamed honey. After our call she put in the fridge. She took this picture the next day. I asked for a clearer pic but she sent shots more blurred than this, sorry. The final picture she sent is of the jar looking perfectly normal again having been left out of the fridge. I'll add that here too.

    I hope someone can shed some light on what is going on, it looks like bacteria growing in a petri dish!

    vics honey 4.jpg

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    I would say off hand from this distance that it was too high moisture and is fermenting.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    I think that was just crystallization.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    maybe its both that have been expressed or maybe the keeper is not very clean? Is it just from the type of honey it is? Ive had honey that has changed color,consistency and flavor. Have you contacted the local keeper about your concerns or questions?

  6. #5
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    Thanks for the quick replies. I haven't approached him with my concerns or questions yet, I was hoping to have some idea of what was going on before I did.

    Is it normal for fermenting or crystallizing honey to "grow" for want of a better expression in the jar like that?
    What part of the operation might cause that if it was about cleanliness?
    And what might be going on with my jar - it looks fine but smells terrible?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    I agree with JRG13. The crystals look like ice crystals. If you freeze honey it should never crystallize. It looks like the honey reabsorbed the water when it thawed out.

    I agree with Vance c also. You might wanna take it back to the guy so he has an idea of what's going on.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    >it looks like bacteria growing in a petri dish!

    Yes, and a fungus/yeast growth. It almost looks like the light may have accelerated it.

    The second one has a layer of bubbles on top suggests fermentation. I bet this one was kept in a dark cupboard and the other on a sunny counter?

    There are all kinds of natural fungi and yeast found in a hive, many are essential to the bees, a high moisture content in honey will enable these to grow.

    Many beekeepers use a refractometer to check the moisture content, honey with more than 18.5 percent moisture will ferment. Return the honey ask your beekeeper if they check their honey with a refractometer, ask them to give you a demonstration. Every beekeepers has had honey ferment one time or another. Amazon sells refractometers for 29 bucks (use to cost $200+), every beekeeper that sells honey should have one, no reason not too. JMO

  9. #8
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    Oh, yes, your jar of honey sounds like it fermented which meant water content was slightly too high. It should be about 17% or lower to prevent fermentation. Crystallization is more to do with the ratio of glucose to fructose in the honey. Since glucose is a straight chained sugar, it will crystallize easier so the higher the glucose content, the faster the honey will crystallize. Also, raw honey will tend to crystallize faster due to the solids etc.. which gives the crystallization process many anchors to start at versus ultra filtered/pasteurized honey you find in the supermarket.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    If honey is finished (dry enough) nothing much grows in it. If it's watered down about the only thing that lives in it at first is yeast. After the yeast is done if there is enough oxygen, then the acetic acid bacteria takes over and converts the ethanol that the yeast produced into acetic acid and you will have vinegar. I've never seen honey do anything else... None of these smell "bad" exactly. They smell like alcohol and yeast at first and then later like vinegar...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  11. #10
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    Quote Originally Posted by beesohappy View Post
    I agree with JRG13. The crystals look like ice crystals. If you freeze honey it should never crystallize. It looks like the honey reabsorbed the water when it thawed out.

    I agree with Vance c also. You might wanna take it back to the guy so he has an idea of what's going on.
    As far as I know the honey wasn't frozen, just refrigerated overnight. I will be seeing him about it, I just wanted to get a bit educated first :-)


    Quote Originally Posted by FlowerPlanter View Post
    >it looks like bacteria growing in a petri dish!

    Yes, and a fungus/yeast growth. It almost looks like the light may have accelerated it.
    The second one has a layer of bubbles on top suggests fermentation. I bet this one was kept in a dark cupboard and the other on a sunny counter?

    They're both the same jar of honey. The first photo is after a stint in the fridge overnight. The second photo is the following day after warming back to room temperature. I think what looks like bubbles at the top is just the background showing through, she didn't mention any bubbles. It looks (in the second photo) exactly as it did before being refrigerated.

    I will ask him about whether he uses a refractometer, thanks for that advice.



    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Oh, yes, your jar of honey sounds like it fermented which meant water content was slightly too high. It should be about 17% or lower to prevent fermentation. Crystallization is more to do with the ratio of glucose to fructose in the honey. Since glucose is a straight chained sugar, it will crystallize easier so the higher the glucose content, the faster the honey will crystallize. Also, raw honey will tend to crystallize faster due to the solids etc.. which gives the crystallization process many anchors to start at versus ultra filtered/pasteurized honey you find in the supermarket.
    What's confusing is that our honeys are doing different things -- mine's fermenting, Vic's is crystallizing, the other friend's jar seems fine so far -- yet I'm pretty sure they all came from the same bucket of honey. I've put mine into the fridge but it hasn't changed appearance at all. The supplier runs a small backyard small operation, you walk in to his shed, choose whichever container size you want and he fills it for you while you're there. Or he has a few ready to go, but as he'd only just robbed the week before having been completely out of honey in the couple of weeks prior, I assume it's all the same batch, from the same bucket.



    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    If honey is finished (dry enough) nothing much grows in it. If it's watered down about the only thing that lives in it at first is yeast. After the yeast is done if there is enough oxygen, then the acetic acid bacteria takes over and converts the ethanol that the yeast produced into acetic acid and you will have vinegar. I've never seen honey do anything else... None of these smell "bad" exactly. They smell like alcohol and yeast at first and then later like vinegar...
    Ahh, that makes sense with what happened to my jar - the more I used, the more oxygen there would've been in the jar and faster the smell got unpleasant. I thought I liked the smell of yeast, and alcohol. Go figure :-) It doesn't smell at all like vinegar.

    Thanks to you all for your help. I'll pop back in and update you with what the supplier says. I'm about to rob my Flow Hive for the first time ever in a few days, I can see them capping off the two centre frames, so hopefully this will be the last time I have to buy honey for a very long time. It's all a pretty amazing learning process :-)

  12. #11
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    I cant see the full size picture but it looks like some sort of growth to me, honey is kind of a hotspot for that kind of stuff.
    Producing Honey and Goodwill at Bec's Bee Hive!

  13. #12
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    Please post a better picture. The responses are all over the place.
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  14. #13
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    The honey in the photo is simply crystallized. Sometimes there is air entrained in the process at it will look like that. That is one reason that creamed honey is done in tubs that are not clear. I do mine in glass jars and will get that look in some jars. The bad smelling honey is undoubtedly fermented. Could have had too much moisture content to begin with or you may have inadvertently introduced moisture while spooning it out, etc.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    Quote Originally Posted by JD111 View Post
    Ahh, that makes sense with what happened to my jar - the more I used, the more oxygen there would've been in the jar and faster the smell got unpleasant. I thought I liked the smell of yeast, and alcohol. Go figure :-) It doesn't smell at all like vinegar.

    Thanks to you all for your help. I'll pop back in and update you with what the supplier says. I'm about to rob my Flow Hive for the first time ever in a few days, I can see them capping off the two centre frames, so hopefully this will be the last time I have to buy honey for a very long time. It's all a pretty amazing learning process :-)
    I've started making my own Kombucha and Kefir--fermented sweet tea and fermented milk for the purpose of the probiotics / "healthy" bacteria in my diet. Now I can do the same with honey. Add water, stir and wait. I keep the Buch and Kefir in the cabinet until it's ready. I don't want to make mead because I stay away from alchohol, but I doubt there will be much in the honey if I give this a try. Kombucha is less than 1%, I believe.

    Let us know how the flow hive extraction goes for you. Very cool!
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  16. #15
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    The pictures are not really detailed enough to judge visually but I think if your honey smells funny and tastes funny, I would immediately suspect it is fermenting:
    http://www.kimesapiary.com/Fermentation.html

    Fermenting honey smells kind of "beery" or sweet/sharp. Crystallizing honey smells like normal honey.

    The beekeeper may have included too high a ratio of uncapped honey that was not sufficiently cured (dehydrated). This is always a danger if you are processing frames with uncapped cells. Honey can also gain moisture post processing when it absorbs moisture from the air: processed honey should be bottled asap.

    Most honey sellers test their batches of honey with a refractometer (they are pretty inexpensive these days) pre-bottling to ensure the honey is properly cured.

    I would return the honey and ask the beekeeper to check it out.
    Last edited by WesternWilson; 11-20-2016 at 12:03 PM.

  17. #16
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    >>>honey is kind of a hotspot for that kind of stuff.

    NO, honey is anti-bacterial unless it is too high in moisture.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    I agree, honey crystalizes dependant on what they have been foraging on , and also the two different sugars effecting them, the one that smells I would guess is fermenting as said too much un capped cells , just a thought has feeding started there yet if so it could be sugar feed in the honey

  19. #18
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    Default Re: What is wrong with this honey?!

    also why keep honey in the refrigerator should be kept out of cold just in pantry

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