All of us know that iron rusts if not painted, bread gets stale if left in the open, meat has to be refrigerated, and you will get sunburn unless you use sun protection. HONEY IS NO DIFFERENT! Honey requires proper care against fermenting, crystallizing, or flavor loss. The beekeeper MUST properly handle honey during and after extracting it from the hive.
Honey left in the open air will absorb moisture like a SPONGE. Honey is quite HYGROSCOPIC, which means that honey absorbs and condenses water vapor out of the air thereby increasing the water content of honey. Honeybees attempt to “ripen” honey by reducing the moisture content of the nectar down to about 16% before they CAP it; and honey with a water-content over 19% will probably CRYSTALLIZE in the bottle within a year, or even ferment and turn to vinegar. In the HUMID summer environment in Delaware, the bees often CAP the honey at 17%-18% water content, because they just can’t lower the water content any further in our high humidity.
Two things to remember to make sure you have the best, longest lasting honey:
First, you should NOT extract any frames of honey that are not around 90% CAPPED, because the uncapped honey is not fully “ripened” by the bees. Its HIGH moisture content will increase the overall moisture content of all the honey you extract.
This is why the honey judge at the Delaware State Fair tests your honey entry’s moisture content with a refractometer, and deducts show points for moisture content higher than 16% and possibly eliminating entries with a moisture-content of about 19%.
Secondly, and perhaps as important as extracting nearly fully capped frames of honey is the GREAT care you must give honey after it is extracted and before it is individually bottled. During extraction, the honey is “open” to the atmosphere, not sealed in a container. You must seal the extracted honey in an air-tight container as soon as possible after extracting.
After extracting the honey, I immediately put it into one-gallon glass jars with good metal lids after first filtering large debris out of the honey. Then I let the honey SIT and settle for three days until the FOAM and debris rise to the surface to be “skimmed off”.
It is a horrible shame to ask your bees to do all that work of nectar collecting and making honey, and you, by lack of knowledge or lack of discipline, let their wonderful honey get ruined by high moisture content.