Honey – Processing, Quality and Grading

Orange Blossom Honey
Orange Blossom Honey

Yesterday we learned how honey bees make honey, and we also talked about a few of its uses, but to get the most out of your honey-experience, it’s often helpful to know a little about honey processing, quality and grading.

Honey can be processed in a wide variety of ways. The following has been collected to give you a quick reference as to the types of processing honey may undergo:

Raw honey – eaten with minimal or, ideally, no processing. This is honey that has been extracted from the hive and then is allowed to settle without adding heat.

Crystallized honey – also known as “granulated honey,” this honey has undergone the spontaneous crystallization of some of the glucose.

Pasteurized honey – is honey that has been heated in a pasteurization process. This reduces the moisture level, destroys yeast cells, and liquefies crystals in the honey.

Dried honey – has the moisture extracted from liquid honey to create a completely solid, non-sticky honey.

Strained honey – honey which has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material without removing pollen, minerals or valuable enzymes.

Ultrasonicated honey – honey that has undergone a non-thermal processing which destroys most of the yeast cells. Remaining yeast cells can not grow which reduces the rate of honey fermentation.

Whipped honey – honey that has been processed to control crystallization. The honey contains small crystals which prevents the formation of larger crystals.

Ultrafiltered honey – honey processed by an extra fine filtration under high pressure and high heat. Due to the use of high heat the sugar seed crystals are broken down, the shelf life is extended and the honey becomes very clear.

After the honey has been processed it is graded for quality based on fragrance, taste and consistency. It is said that high-quality honey that is ripe and freshly collected should flow from a knife in a straight stream without breaking into separate drops. In jars, this honey should appear to be a consistent fluid and should not set in layers.

The quality of the honey is then voluntarily graded according to USDA standards including soluble solids, water content, flavor, aroma, clarity, absence of defects, and color. The scale used to grade the honey is as follows:

  • Grade A – Good
  • Grade B – Reasonably Good
  • Grade C – Fairly Good
  • Substandard – Poor, Failing

No matter what your favorite honey selection is, be sure to try a variety of different flavors. Keep in mind that the flavor of the honey is derived from the source of the nectar. With this knowledge you should be able to select the best product for you!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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