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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I know honey can last forever, but can it go bad? I have some that I jarred several years ago, and I just opened one jar and it smelled almost alcoholic. Definitely not the sweet smell of honey I was expecting. If it's not sealed correctly, can honey spoil?
Thanks!
 

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First, the sugar in honey can fall out of solution and crystallize. This isn't "going bad" but it does look funny. I don't know if it can be warmed to dissolve the sugar again.

Second, it is my understanding honey can ferment. It is a function of the concentration of water present. The more water present, the shorter the shelf life.

Three, on some occasion I've opened a jar and stuck a spoon in to get a taste.... and then stuck the spoon back in for a second. That is probably not a good practice for something you're intending to last for more than a couple of weeks.

For all practical reason's I'd say a year shelf life. I am curious to see others opinions.
 

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It sounds like your honey is fermented, which will happen if the moisture content of the honey is too high. Extracting it before it is dry enough can cause it to ferment over time.

On this point I'm not positive, but am fairly certain that Honey will absorb moisture out of the air. If so, then living in a humid area without a good seal on the container might cause the moisture content to increase over time.
 

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if harvested at the proper moisture content it can last a very long time, decades.
if it fermented it had too high moisture content.
less that 18% water is I think a good target.

and yes as Ray point out honey is hygroscopic.

GG
 

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Agree that it sounds like the honey fermented due to high moisture. Do you see small bubbles or foam?
This does not mean the honey is bad to use as long as you tolerate a low amount of alcohol. I like a spoonful in lemonade J
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for all of the responses. I had a feeling it was fermenting, but wasnt sure. So I guess when I harvested it there must have been open cells filled with honey, but there was still too much moisture which is why the bees hadn't closed them yet. I lost a hive back some time, and so I just grabbed everything that was in the hive and harvested it. Guessing that's when this happened.

Yes, there are small bubbles and a little foam. It's still edible?! Alcoholic honey...sounds good to me. haha

Thanks again
 

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Honey that is high in moisture content can be pasteurized to help preserve it. Elton Dyce (Dyce Lab) studied this process heavily in the 1930’s and 40’s. Pasteurization kills the active yeast in the honey. Many beekeepers disfavor pasteurization because it requires heating the honey to kill the yeast. The heating process can kill enzymes in the honey thought to be beneficial or desirable. It can also discolor the honey and may alter the taste. Some of Dyce’s work focused on methods to pasteurize while causing the least amount harm to the honey.
 

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Honey with a sufficiently high moisture content will ferment. The yeast isn't brewer's yeast, and the taste is pretty bad I have heard.

Whenever you take honey from a deadout, it is likely to be high in moisture, because the bees keep the honey storage area of the hive hot and dry. When the bees are gone, the moisture level in the hive can become quite high. Whenever the relative humidity gets high, (above 50%) uncapped honey absorbs moisture from the air. This is also a problem if you pull supers and let them sit in a relatively humid space -think garage or basement.

Capped honey seems to pick up less moisture from the air.

If you harvest honey which is uncapped, put it in a room with a dehumidifier for a day or two. It will dry it if it isn't dry already. Most uncapped honey is properly cured when it is in the hive, but it picks up moisture really fast - hours not days.

About 2/3 of the honey I harvested this year was uncapped. After a few days in a room with a dehumidifier I extracted it. It varied from 15 to 17% moisture.

Honey which is marginal in moisture content can ferment after it crystallizes. When the glucose crystallizes out of solution, the remaining fructose-water liquid mix has a higher water content. This may be high enough for the yeast spores to germinate and ferment the honey.

Because honey is acidic, it tends to darken with age. A friend of mine has a jar of honey from when he started beekeeping 50-odd years ago. it is nearly black now. I suspect if he opened the jar, the honey would taste OK.

It isn't a problem to double dip in honey. Honey is naturally antimicrobial. Because it has such low water content it sucks the water out of any microorganisms and kills them. The only microrganisms that can survive in honey are spores, and they remain inactive. Not suggesting you double dip, but that isn't why it went bad.
 
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