Does Honey Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on December 21st, 2022

Honey never goes bad when properly stored. Honey will darken and crystallize, but it is still good to consume. Honey can oxidize in metal or plastic containers, and heat can alter its flavor. So, keep it away from any heat-generating equipment in your kitchen for the greatest results.


Storing honey in an airtight glass container is even more crucial to avoid fermentation. When scooping honey from the jar, use clean, dry equipment; moisture contamination will spoil the honey.

honey jar with honey comb

Bacteria cannot survive in honey due to its low moisture content. And, in the absence of microorganisms, honey does not spoil. Furthermore, honey is acidic enough to kill most germs and organisms that ruin other foods.

Furthermore, bees add their enzymes to honey, which make hydrogen peroxide. That is the same antiseptic that we use to heal wounds.

Honey has been utilized for every mental and physical condition throughout history because it is naturally antimicrobial. In the past, doctors on the battlefield would jam honey into troops’ wounds to prevent bacteria from forming. Even today, hospitals employ medical-grade honey to treat drug-resistant bacteria strains.

What Is Honey?

Although everyone is familiar with the sweet, sticky material that hangs around in supermarket squeeze-y bottles, what exactly is inside all that golden sweetness? Honey is commonly used as a sugar replacement, although it is far more chemically complicated and intriguing than basic sugar.

Honey is manufactured by bees from nectar collected from flowers, as most honey packaging will tell you. It is, however, more than simply basic sugar transformed into golden syrup for placing on toast or utilizing in sweets – it is a complicated, evolutionary weapon created for the survival of bees.

Bees can store their food throughout winter and avoid starvation by converting nectar into honey through repeated regurgitation and dehydration. Furthermore, it has many antimicrobial and health-promoting properties, implying that it is delicious and beneficial to your health.

Its distinct flavor is due to the specific ratio of fructose and glucose found in each flower from which bees collect nectar and other chemical variances across plants. All of this adds up to a one-of-a-kind, sweet product that is healthier for you than regular sugar and tastes far better. Honey is also a great drink addition and produces a great simple syrup.

Honey has a shelf life. How Long Can Honey Be Kept at Home?

This is most likely the question that most of us ask ourselves when we decide to save some honey for later usage.

Understanding raw honey’s shelf life is critical if we want the product to be used for longer.

Check out the chart for a quick summary of the situation.

 Pantry/CounterFridge
Raw honeySince it has natural impurities, the product will keep its qualities for a year and start spoiling gradually afterward.Even refrigerated, raw honey tends to get off with time due to its content specifics.
Store-bought honeyProperly sealed in the airtight tank, it will stay edible for many years safely.Refrigerated honey lasts the same length as its counterpart but may harden faster.
HoneycombWith wax or without, this natural sweet will stay consumable almost endlessly.Refrigerated honeycomb is also very durable though it may harden sooner than expected.

How Long Will Raw Honey Last?

The fundamental difference between raw and processed honey is that it still contains natural contaminants, making it more prone to spoilage. In essence, unfiltered honey will revert to its original state.

Best of all, about a year after it was collected, it began to spoil.

The filtered counterpart has a longer lifespan since its contaminants have been removed.

If maintained properly, it may last virtually indefinitely.

Is Honey Ever Out of Date?

It doesn’t, but only if we’re talking about the filtered product.

Honey stops germs from spreading and developing because it contains practically no water, has a very low pH, and has a significant amount of sugar.

That is, by the way, why honey acts as an antibacterial.

Keep honey on the counter in the original tank, securely closed, at home. If placed in a dark spot, it may appear older after a time, so keep this in mind.

Why Does Honey Last This Long?

To comprehend how honey goes bad, you must first understand what causes it to last. Honey’s extended shelf life is due to three primary properties:

Sugar content is higher than moisture content.

Bees generate antimicrobial enzymes.

Nature is acidic.

Honey Has More Sugar Than Moisture

Honey is made up of 80% sugar and 18% moisture. Its high sugar content inhibits the development and reproduction of microbes like fungi and bacteria.

Here’s how it works: honey’s high sugar content raises its osmotic pressure. As a result, an osmotic action occurs, causing water within microbe cells to flow out.

Furthermore, because the water concentration is so low, the high sugar content interacts with the water molecules so that microbes cannot survive. In summary, honey does not degrade due to its low water content.

Another thing to remember is that honey is too thick for germs to thrive and multiply because oxygen does not dissolve easily.

Antimicrobial Enzymes are Found in Honey

Glucose oxidase is the microbial enzyme found in honey. To protect honey from microorganisms, bees inject enzymes into the nectar. When the honey is mature enough, the glucose oxidase enzymes transform the sugar to make hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid. Bacteria are killed by hydrogen peroxide.

Honey Is Naturally Acidic

Honey’s pH may be quite acidic, ranging from 3.2–4.5 and averaging 3.9. The acidic character of honey is due to gluconic acid, created as the nectar ripens after the bee secretes glucose oxidase.

Bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, and streptococcus cannot survive in honey due to their acidic nature.

Why Does the Honey Bottle Have an Expiration Date?

Honey may be eaten for years, even decades, but because it is a natural substance, it will alter with time. Changes in honey may include a darker hue, a thicker viscosity, and a distinct flavor.

Honey changes are positive signals (as long as they do not indicate fermentation). It demonstrates that your honey is of good quality and unpasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating honey to kill natural yeasts. It keeps the honey smoother for longer and may remove some natural dirt from the comb, but it isn’t required for food safety.

Expiration dates on commercially produced honey are more of a reminder for businesses to replenish their shelves with newer, fresher stock. Most honey will sell out far before that date, but if you buy a bottle with only a few months left on its “best-by” date, you can be confident that it will be OK for a long time.

What Is the Best Way to Tell if Honey Is Bad?

Honey does not decay in the normal context of food decomposition in fresh produce. However, it loses flavor and appearance due to physical and chemical changes during preservation.

You may notice that your honey supply darkens and crystallizes with time. The flavor and scent may also fluctuate somewhat. These are natural occurrences and are completely safe.

Don’t be alarmed if you notice your honey hardening or crystallizing. Your pantry may be a touch too cool to store honey. It crystallizes when the temperature is 50 °F (or 10 °C) or lower. There are a couple of fast fixes for this little problem.

  1. Place a honey jar or bottle in a hot (not boiling!) water dish. Also, do not boil it).
  2. If you need a tiny bit, measure it out and set it in a dish or container. Place the container in another bowl of boiling water, as you did before.
  3. You may also briefly heat honey in the microwave on the lowest setting for a short period (15-30 seconds). Overheating honey can cause it to darken.

Sugar-tolerant yeast is found naturally in honey. Because the heating procedure is avoided in raw honey, the yeast population is often greater.

Natural fermentation can occur when the honey has at least 20% moisture. This produces a sour flavor that completely degrades the natural sweetener. If you believe raw honey smells or tastes bad, it’s time to eliminate it similarly if you’re unsure.

The typical moisture content of commercial honey in the United States is 17.2 percent — a safe amount to minimize yeast activity. As previously stated, honey attracts moisture, especially if left in a humid environment or if the lid is left open.

If the fermentation is regulated, honey may be fermented into mead, a famous alcoholic drink made from honey fermentation that has been around for thousands of years.

Is It Possible To Become Sick From Eating Old Honey?

Eating old honey is unlikely to get you sick. In truth, mead, an alcoholic beverage, is made from aged, “spoiled” honey. Honey spoils due to the fermentation of sugars by yeast and water.

Honey is thought to be antibacterial by nature for a variety of reasons. Many germs cannot thrive in honey because it is acidic and lacks moisture. As a result, common microorganisms that cause mold or other evident issues are rarely detected in honey.

While it may taste awful, old honey is unlikely to bring you to the doctor. If consumed in significant numbers (which is doubtful considering the unpleasant flavor!), very sour and rotting honey may cause stomach distress. A teaspoon of old honey, on the other hand, is unlikely to make a significant impact.

Is It Possible To Catch Botulism From Honey?

According to the CDC, honey may contain germs that cause baby botulism in newborns under one. Infant botulism differs from foodborne botulism, which occurs after ingesting botulinum toxin. When Clostridium botulinum spores are ingested, they enter the digestive tract, increasing and creating toxins.

Is It Safe To Eat Crystallized Honey?

Yes! Because glucose granulates (aka crystallizes) more easily than fructose, the granulation rate is determined by the concentrations of glucose and fructose in the plants from which the honey was derived.

Because honey is a blend of glucose, fructose sugars, and water, it has the potential to crystallize spontaneously (about 18 percent ). Eventually, the glucose and water will separate to form crystals. To avoid crystallization from occurring sooner than it would normally, keep honey at room temperature and attempt to store it in glass, which is less porous than plastic.

Avoid keeping honey in the refrigerator since it hastens the crystallization process.

Crystallization is an indication that your honey is unpasteurized and raw! Honey is only pasteurized or cooked to a specific temperature to decrease the crystallization process. However, this removes all beneficial minerals and vitamins. So, buy raw honey if you want to reap all the advantages.

However, whether the honey is raw or pasteurized, the end effect is the same: pure honey (unadulterated, with no added sugars or glucose) will not deteriorate.

How Can One Go About Recrystallizing Honey?

Warm the honey over low, continuous heat. Avoid overheating since it will lose its original flavor. This is not to say you can’t microwave it, but the hot water approach (see below) is more trustworthy for consistent heat distribution and flavor preservation. However, a word of caution: the honey must be heated sufficiently to melt the crystals, or it will begin to crystallize anew as it cools.

The Method Involving Hot Water

Place the jar (lid off) in a saucepan of boiling water on the stove to heat up and liquefy the honey. Heat the honey carefully, occasionally stirring, without bringing it to a boil. When the crystals have dissolved, remove the container.

What Can I Do To Avoid Crystallized Honey?

Honey will naturally crystallize, but there are a few techniques to halt the process:

  1. Maintain a tight seal. Moisture and particles enter honey due to air exposure, hastening crystallization. Scoop honey from a jar with a clean spoon, keep the rim clean and dry, and carefully close it between usage.
  2. Place it in the freezer (if you aren’t going to use it straight away). Honey crystallization usually takes place between 5 and 25 degrees. The temperature at which it crystallizes the fastest is 14 degrees. As a result, the freezer is your best alternative for optimal lifespan (food safety regulations suggest fridge temperatures be set at around 4 degrees, but the actual internal temperature can vary by season, shelf, or quantity of food in the fridge.) Honey’s low water content prevents it from solidifying in the icebox.
  3. Place it in a glass jar to keep it safe. Not only is glassless more porous than plastic, but it will also be easier to reheat honey using hot water (if it crystallizes before the jar is empty).

How to Properly Store and Handle Honey

Store it properly to get the most out of your honey’s long-lasting characteristics.

Moisture management is an important aspect of storage. If there is too much water in your honey, the danger of fermentation increases, and it may spoil.

Here are some excellent storage practices suggestions:

  • Store in an airtight container, such as a store-bought jar or bottle, glass jar, or stainless-steel container with airtight covers.
  • Keep honey in a cool, dry place: Honey should preferably be stored below 50°F (10°C). However, storing it at cool room temperatures ranging from 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 20 degrees Celsius) is normally safe.
  • Refrigeration: If you want, you may keep honey in the refrigerator, although it will crystallize faster and become denser.
  • Reheat if crystallized: If honey crystallizes, gently warm and stir it to restore it to liquid form. Overheating or boiling it, on the other hand, can ruin its color and flavor.
  • Prevent contamination: Use clean equipment, such as knives and spoons, to avoid contaminating honey with germs, yeasts, and molds.
  • If in doubt, toss it out: If your honey tastes odd, is frothy, or has a lot of free water, it’s best to discard it.

Keep in mind that various varieties of honey may appear and taste differently. Refer to the directions stated on the label of your specific product for precise storage recommendations.

Conclusion

Honey is a tasty, sweet meal that comes in various tastes and hues depending on where it is produced.

Honey may last for years, decades, or even centuries due to its high sugar, low water content, low pH, and antibacterial qualities.

However, it may go wrong or lose its attraction under some conditions.

Bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and molds can contaminate honey, although they seldom multiply in considerable numbers. It may also include hazardous substances derived from specific plants, or it may be contaminated with low-quality sweeteners or processing.

Furthermore, honey that is improperly preserved will not survive as long. As a result, it’s critical to store it in an airtight container in a cold, dry environment.

Honey may be safely enjoyed for many years by getting it from reliable vendors and storing it properly.

Questions and Answers

Is raw honey the same as organic honey?

There are differences between raw and organic honey. Raw honey undergoes fewer processing steps than conventional honey, such as omitting the heating process. Meanwhile, organic honey should follow organic production practices, such as not coming into touch with pesticides or other harmful chemicals.

Is it okay to eat raw, unfiltered honey?

Absolutely! Because processed products frequently have additional sugar, the raw product may be more helpful than its processed equivalent.

How can you tell if honey is raw or processed?

Just by looking at it. Because of the added element, the raw one seems hazy and slightly opaque. However, the treated one will be clear and brilliant.

How long can honey be refrigerated?

If it is a filtered product, it will remain edible virtually indefinitely.

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Editorial Staff

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